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Author's main character parallels herself

November 16, 1997

Author's main character parallels herself

By LISA GRAYBEAL

Staff Writer, Chambersburg

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - In a lot of ways, Valerie Malmont and her main fictional book character, Tori Miracle, are one and the same.

Miracle has the same background as her creator, who is the daughter of a World War II Navy veteran-turned- government worker who grew up on a military base in Okinawa, an island southwest of Japan.

Like the character, Malmont moved around with her family and lived in places like Indonesia, Vietnam and Laos.

But the single Miracle, with her natural curiosity as a former investigative reporter from New York, is much more daring than Malmont ever thought to be.

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"She's much braver than I. Tori (Miracle) goes into caves and things like that. I wouldn't do that. She's a little foolhardy," Malmont said.

Malmont, a wife and mother of three who's lived in Chambersburg for the last 20 years, is the author of two books, the most recent one published in August called, "Death, Lies, and Apple Pies."

In it, Tori Miracle comes back to the small fictional Pennsylvania town of Lickin Creek, where, in the first book, "Death Pays the Rose Rent," she helped solve the murder of her best friend's husband.

In the second book, Miracle gets romantically involved with Lickin Creek's police chief and serves as a judge in the town's annual apple recipe contest, Malmont explained.

But she soon finds herself thrown into the middle of a fight against a proposed nuclear waste dump site near the town and can't help but snoop around when a rash of so-called accidental deaths break out, Malmont said.

Scenes in Malmont's books like the apple festival and the small town, and even the way the fictional people are portrayed, should seem familiar to native Cumberland County residents, since most of the author's inspiration came from the area.

Attracted to its "charming" small town feel, Malmont and her husband, Bruce, moved to Chambersburg with their three children permanently after living in Taiwan for five years, she said.

"I love it here. I felt at home immediately," Malmont said, relaxing in her living room filled with art work, memorabilia and books from her many homes and trips.

So does her character, Miracle, who is drawn to Lickin Creek from her hectic New York life. Eventually, Malmont plans to send Miracle back to their native Okinawa possibly in search of stolen art treasures.

"I have the background to write about a lot of things," Malmont said, including the ability to speak a little bit of a lot of languages.

Since she was a child, Malmont said knew she wanted to be a mystery writer.

"I was one of those little girls who read Nancy Drew. Nancy Drew got me hooked on mysteries," she said.

Growing up on Okinawa, Malmont's fervor for reading prompted her mother to start a tiny library on the military base using books donated by sea captains. It was then that Malmont formed her taste for traditional mystery novels.

But it took years before she put her own ideas on paper.

Malmont went to college at the University of New Mexico, where she got her bachelor's degree in anthropology. Then she went to the University of Washington to get her master's degree in library science.

It took a writing conference she attended in Maryland to inspire her to sit down and start her first book instead of talking about it, advice she now gives to aspiring writers.

Malmont's books are available in bookstores nationwide.

She is holding a book signing at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Fendrick Library, 20 S. Main St., Mercersburg, Pa.

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