By and large, villains are the characters that readers love to hate. It takes greater skill for a writer to create a character who can inspire pity or compassion. Anna George (The Lone Child) and Gabriel Tallent (My Absolute Darling) are two authors who have drawn unsympathetic characters to compelling effect. In conversation with Elizabeth McCarthy, they discuss how they bestowed redeeming qualities on disturbing characters and the vital role of empathy in storytelling.

Anna George (Australian)

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Anna George has worked in the legal world as well as the film and television industries. Her first novel What Came Before was short listed for the 2015 Ned Kelly and Sisters in Crime Best Debut Fiction awards, and long listed for the 2016 International Dublin Literary Award. Her second book The Lone Child was published in 2017.

Gabriel Tallent (International)

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Gabriel Tallent was born in New Mexico and raised on the Mendocino coast by two mothers. He received his BA from Willamette University in 2010, and after graduation spent two seasons leading youth trail crews in the back country of the Pacific Northwest. His debut novel, My Absolute Darling, was one of the 2017 BookExpo Book Editor’s Buzz Books, which name the six authors and titles that are expected to be the biggest books of the year. The Guardian called My Absolute Darling "the year’s most talked about novel". Tallent lives in Salt Lake City.

Elizabeth McCarthy (Australian)

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Elizabeth McCarthy is a Melbourne-based radio producer and presenter who currently produces the Breakfast show at Australia’s biggest independent broadcaster, 3RRRFM (Triple R). Her book reviews can be heard on Breakfast. From 2013–2017, she anchored Triple R’s flagship books and writing show, Multi-Storied. Elizabeth has produced and presented interviews and documentaries for ABC Radio Melbourne, ABC RN and ABC TV. She has written about books and music for several publications, and from 2002–2006 was the drummer and co-lyricist for Melbourne swamp-rock grrrl band, The Muddy Spurs.