KATHLEEN DONNELLY – Chasing Justice with a K-9

Award-winning author Kathleen Donnelly is a K-9 handler for Sherlock Hounds Detection Canines—a private narcotics dog company. She enjoys using her K-9 experience to craft realism into her fictional stories. Along with working dogs, Kathleen loves horses. She owns two horses and a bossy yet adorable pony. Kathleen’s love of the mountains inspired her setting for Chasing Justice. She enjoys escaping to the high country to hike and photograph the scenery and wildlife. Kathleen has a B.A. in Journalism from Colorado State University and formerly wrote for The Berthoud Weekly Surveyor, where she won a Colorado Press Award. Kathleen lives in Colorado with her husband and all their four-legged friends.

Please tell us about your upcoming release: Chasing Justice

After losing her military K-9, Marine Maya Thompson swears she’ll never work with dogs again. But when she returns home to Colorado and accepts a job with US Forest Service law enforcement, fate brings K-9 Juniper into her life just as another tragedy unfolds.

Chasing Justice is a must-read for dog lovers and crime fiction lovers alike.” ~Margaret Mizushima, author of the award-winning Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries, including Hanging Falls

Thanks so much for having me on your blog today, George! I enjoyed answering questions about my path to publication and inspiration for Chasing Justice, my debut novel and the first in a series. Stay tuned to my social media channels and newsletter for more information about future books.

How long to get it published? I started writing Chasing Justice in 2016. However, the idea had been rattling around in my brain for a couple of years. I knew I wanted a female protagonist who would be a K-9 handler. Once I had the concept figured out, I started writing. In 2017, Chasing Justice (then titled Free Base) was a finalist for the Claymore awards, but I hadn’t completed the book yet. However, being a Claymore finalist gave me a confidence boost, and I finished the book over the next few months.

I then entered the book into the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Contest, where it took second place. I thought this would lead to immediate publication, but it received rejections when I sent the book out. I decided to send the manuscript to an editor who had just started freelancing. She’d previously worked at St. Martin’s Press, and the genres she specialized in included mystery and romance. Her edits showed me that while I had the possibility of a good book, I still had a lot to learn. I knew I had to start over except for the first three chapters.

I did just that and continued to study other books along with reverse engineering books that I liked. I started to understand what the editor was telling me. I went back to doing an outline, and I rewrote the entire book finishing it in the spring of 2020. I started querying my novel, and by July of 2020, I had a request to read the full manuscript from my agent Ella Marie Shupe who’s part of the Belcastro Agency. After reading the full manuscript, we talked on the phone, and soon after, Ella Marie offered me representation. We spent the fall of 2020 editing, and in January of 2021, Ella Marie started submitting to publishers. By spring, we had an offer from Carina Press, and I signed the contract a few months later. The rest, as they say, is history.

 We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave, or do they run the show? I would love to say that my characters behave, but they just don’t! They seem to have a mind of their own. I do an outline, and we have long talks during that process where I tell my characters to speak now or forever hold their peace. Most of the time, they listen. I have one character in Chasing Justice (I won’t say who because that would be a spoiler.) that started out completely different in previous drafts. I wanted this character to be responsible for certain actions, but in the end, that character won out and got their way.

Maya, my main character, is quite strong-willed and stubborn. We have had many discussions, but what I love about her is how honest she is and how much she wants to do the right thing. She has been a fun character to work with.

Then there’s my fictional K-9, Juniper. While Juniper’s character developed from K-9s that I’ve worked, she can definitely change course and do her own thing—especially if it involves ripping up her dog bed. When you read Chasing Justice, you will see Juniper loves to get her way and keeps Maya on her toes.

Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? Chasing Justice has a subplot that I left somewhat open for future stories. There are some small subplots within the novel as well. I used my outline to make sure the subplots made sense in the storyline and blended well with the entire arc of the novel. The freelance editor was very helpful in teaching me about weaving in subplots. The biggest lesson I learned was that you need to have a strong core of the story—one that can be put into a sentence. Once you have that core, you can develop subplots that go with that storyline. For example, Maya comes home to Colorado after being in the military but isn’t speaking to her grandfather. This plays into the main story, but the reason she and her grandfather aren’t speaking is a subplot.

My editor with Carina Press, Mackenzie Walton, also helped me figure out how to weave in and refine the subplots. Mackenzie’s edits on Chasing Justice were fantastic, and she did a great job of pushing me to become a better writer.

How do you raise the stakes for your protagonist—for the antagonist? I love the “what if” game. I spend time brainstorming and mind mapping ideas. I was lucky enough to take some classes from best-selling author Grant Blackwood. He showed us how mind mapping can help tweak the stakes for your character.

I considered ideas such as how a drug-running militia living in the mountains might work. I asked, who are they? Why are they doing this? What type of drug should they be making and trafficking? For most of us, meth and marijuana are the first drugs that come to mind. I wanted something different. I started googling and mind mapping different ideas for drug production. (So far, neither the DEA nor FBI have shown up at my door, after all, my googling. Phew!) I found out about a drug called Krokodil. It’s not common here in the United States. Having an unusual drug upped the stakes for my characters and their investigation.

One thing I learned along the way is to not raise the stakes by adding another plotline. That may sound simple, but I think that happens a lot with new fiction writers. Keep the main plot, and then figure out how you can make things more difficult for your characters. Even with the dog work, I thought, okay, if I’m working a dog in the mountains, what makes things more difficult? Often, in real life, it’s the environment, so I raised the stakes by adding weather issues such as wind and dangers in the forest like trees with broken branches called widowmakers. The “what if” game is a ton of fun!

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional? I created a fictional National Forest for my book. It’s loosely based on the location of the Roosevelt and Arapaho National Forests. I did this because many Coloradoans know the national forests well, and I didn’t want to worry about whether or not there really was a lake near a trailhead. I also thought that by creating a fictional national forest and towns, I would have more fictional leeway for the story.

 Do you have any advice for new writers? If you love writing, just stick with it! Learn all you can. Attend conferences and be open to feedback. Conferences allow writers to receive critiques from best-selling authors and editors with extensive backgrounds. Take notes, ask questions, and learn everything you can from them. I have so many published authors to thank for their help as I worked towards publication. I met most of them at conferences. Writing a novel and getting it published is a lengthy process with a big learning curve. Most importantly, enjoy the journey.

How do our readers contact you?

Readers are welcome to reach out anytime via email at: kathleen@kathleendonnelly.com

Here are more ways to connect with me:

Website: www.kathleendonnelly.com

Newsletter Sign-up: https://kathleendonnelly.com/#newsletter

Social Media:

 

Facebook@AuthorKathleenDonnelly 

Twitter–@KatK9writer

Instagram–@authorkathleendonne lly

Goodreadshttps://www.goodreads.com/author/show/22280955.Kathleen_Donnelly

Where to Purchase Chasing Justice: https://kathleendonnelly.com/chasing-justice/

 

 

20 Comments

  1. Rhonda

    Great interview, Kathleen! Looking forward to the great read!

    Reply
  2. Madeline Gornell

    Great meeting you, Kathleen, and LOVE your LOVE for animals. All the best!

    Reply
    • Kathleen Donnelly

      Nice to meet you too, Madeline! I definitely do love all animals! They are just amazing! Thanks for reading my guest post and wishing you all the best! 🙂

      Reply
  3. Barbara Nickless

    Thanks for a terrific interview! Kathleen, I love reading about your journey. And–just a thought–maybe you could teach a class on how to reverse engineer a novel as part of the ongoing learning-to-write process. 🙂

    Reply
    • Kathleen Donnelly

      Thanks so much for stopping by and reading the post, Barbara! That’s a great idea for a class…I’ll definitely think about it! I have to give credit to Grant Blackwood for teaching it in the class I took from him, but it would be fun to dig deeper and do a longer course on reverse engineering. Thank you! 🙂

      Reply
    • George Cramer

      Barbara, I second your suggestion that Kathleen teaches a class about reverse engineering a novel.

      Reply
      • Kathleen Donnelly

        Thanks, George! I’ll definitely consider it. Reverse engineering would be fun to teach. I know it really helped me out and I still plan on doing it as I write more books. 🙂

        Reply
  4. Lisa Towles

    What a wonderful interview. Kathleen’s background and book sound so intriguing, can’t wait to read it!

    Reply
    • Kathleen Donnelly

      Thanks so much, Lisa! I hope you enjoy Chasing Justice! 🙂

      Reply
  5. Peg Brantey

    This interview is fantastic! I love the questions, George. Kathleen, I appreciate your candor, and wish you every success. You deserve it!

    Reply
    • Kathleen Donnelly

      Thanks so much, Peg! I really appreciate all you’ve done to help me and all the encouragement along the way! 🙂

      Reply
  6. Margaret Mizushima

    Wonderful interview, Kathleen and George. I appreciate the hard work you’ve done to get this debut ready for the world, Kathleen. Loved reading about your journey!

    Reply
    • Kathleen Donnelly

      Thank you so much, Margaret! And thank you for your help along the way!

      Reply
  7. Michael A. Black

    Great interview, Kathleen. It sounds like you’ve worked really hard to perfect your writing and now you’re reaping the results. Congratulations on your success and best of luck with Chasing Justice.

    Reply
    • Kathleen Donnelly

      Thanks so much, Michael! It’s been a lot of hard work, but a lot of fun along the way. 🙂

      Reply
  8. Donnell Ann Bell

    Terrific interview! Love that you added the weather as a potential antagonist. Colorado certainly perfect… beautiful one moment, two feet of snow the next, dry one second, fire season the next. Can’t wait to dig into Chasing Justice, Kathleen. Thanks, George!

    Reply
    • Kathleen Donnelly

      Thanks so much, Donnell! And thank you for all your support in this journey. I do love the mountains as an antagonist. I remember driving up Hwy 34 to Estes the year after the floods as this story was starting to develop in my mind. There was a combo of devastation and beauty. This juxtaposition really stuck with me and made me think about how the mountains can be their own character. Hope you enjoy Chasing Justice!

      Reply

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MARGARET MIZUSHIMA – Award Winning and Internationally Recognized Author

Margaret Mizushima writes the award-winning and internationally published Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries. She serves as president of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America and was elected the 2019 Writer of the Year by Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. She lives in Colorado on a small ranch with her veterinarian husband, where they raised two daughters and a multitude of animals.

Margaret’s the Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries, are police procedurals set in a small town in the Colorado high country. Married forty years to a veterinarian, Margaret enjoys setting up puzzling crimes for her protagonists to investigate—Deputy Mattie Cobb, her K-9 partner Robo, and veterinarian Cole Walker. Together these three heroes battle murder and mayhem in the fictional town of Timber Creek, Colorado.

Margaret’s seventh book in the series is now available. In Striking Range, the past and present collide when Deputy Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo are torn between investigating her father’s cold case and the death of a young mother whose body is found near Timber Creek. As a deadly storm batters the area, taking its toll on the investigative team, Mattie and Robo search for the woman’s missing infant, hoping to find the baby before it’s too late. But Mattie soon realizes that a killer, who may be the mastermind behind it all, is within their midst, ready to strike again.

What brought you to writing?  It seems like I wanted to write and publish a book for most of my life, but I needed to help my husband earn a living and raise our two daughters first. As soon as I retired from my first career as a speech pathologist, I began studying the art and craft of novel writing. I wrote several books before trying my hand at mystery writing. My first book in the series, Killing Trail, was picked up by Crooked Lane Books (New York) and released in 2015. We’ve been launching a new book together every year since.

Where do you write? Tell us about your writing process.  After my daughters moved away from home, I converted an upstairs bedroom into my office. I’m a great believer in having one’s own writing space. When I’m writing the first draft of a new book, I try to go upstairs and get started by 8:00 a.m. each morning. I scan my email, answer any that need immediate attention, and then switch from business mode to creative.

I usually light a candle and set a timer for forty-five minutes. During that time, I let nothing interrupt me. (Distractions in the form of social media and phone calls are all around, but unless from family, I do my best to ignore them.) After forty-five minutes, I take a break for fifteen, get up and stretch, answer any messages I need to, and then sit back down for another forty-five-minute stretch. Called the Pomodora Method, these short sprints of giving full concentration to a task help hold my attention best. Unless I have an appointment or something scheduled, I keep up these cycles until I’ve reached 1000 words. Using this method, I can usually write the first draft of a book in about four months. Then I revise several times before sending it to my editor.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? Figuring out the plot. In every episode, I need to weave in my character arcs, a homicide or two, a social issue that I want to spotlight, work that my veterinarian character has to do that helps solve the crime, work that my K-9 character Robo has to do to turn up clues and work that my K-9 handler Mattie has to do. I love developing the premise of each book, choosing the theme, and working out the series arcs for my characters. It’s the nitty-gritty details of the puzzle, the clues, and the red herrings that are hard to wrestle into submission.

We hear about strong-willed characters. Do yours behave, or do they run the show? I think having characters strike off on their own is part of the challenge, but it’s also part of the fun. When one of my characters takes off in a direction I didn’t plan, I have to pause and ask if this direction will serve my overall plot or is it going to lead me to a dead end. Sometimes I’m surprised when a character finds a clue I didn’t know was there. For example, in the second episode in the series, Stalking Ground, the detective and Mattie find the victim’s diary under the passenger seat of her car. I had no plan for that and was as surprised as they were. But what a happy turn it took in the story, and what a wonderful vehicle for giving my investigative team more evidence to work with!

How do you come up with character names? I give my series a western flavor, and so I tried to come up with names that are more common here in the west. I actually listen to the names of participants in rodeos and keep a running list. Cole Walker, the veterinarian in the book, has a name that resonates with the west. Mattie, my K-9 handler, was the name of one of my classmates. (We attended school in a small town in Colorado.) And the dog’s name, Robo? His was inspired by an actual K-9 partner that one of my consultants had when she worked in law enforcement in Bellingham, WA. Her Robo was a wonder dog, just like the Robo in my books. He could do it all, from tracking a fugitive or a missing person to finding narcotics or gunpowder to finding evidence after a crime. The stories I heard about the real Robo inspired the skillset that my fictional Robo demonstrates in every book.

What are you working on next? I’m working on the eighth book in the series, as yet unnamed. It will launch in the spring of 2023. I invite readers to get to know Mattie, Robo, and Cole—each mystery stands alone, but if you want the full effect of the character’s stories, start with Killing Trail.

Thank you for hosting me on your blog today, George. I appreciate the opportunity to talk about my writing process and the Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries.

You can find Margaret at:

Website: https://margaretmizushima.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorMargaretMizushima
Twitter: https://twitter.com/margmizu
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/margmizu/

11 Comments

  1. Madeline Gornell

    Great meeting you. Margaret! I’m unfamiliar with your series, but now very interested. Much success! I need some of your discipline(smile)

    Reply
  2. John Schembra

    Sounds like an interesting series. I will give it a try! You have a very disciplined writing process. Mine’s more chaotic. Congrats on you writing success!

    Reply
    • Margaret Mizushima

      Thanks for checking in with us today, John, and thanks also for giving my books a try. I hope you like them. I have to be disciplined to get anything finished! But right now, my life is so chaotic that I’m having trouble getting started on book eight. Must put my nose to the grindstone soon. Take care and hope all is well with you and your writing process!

      Reply
  3. Donnell Ann Bell

    Love this author, George. thank you for spotlighting her. Interesting processes, Margaret. Can’t wait to read your latest!

    Reply
    • Margaret Mizushima

      Thanks, Donnell! So nice of you to stop by, and thanks for reading the books!

      Reply
  4. Michael A. Black

    This sounds like a fascinating series. Your disciplined approach is obviously serving you well. Best of luck to you with your writing. I’m looking forward to checking out your books.

    Reply
    • Margaret Mizushima

      Thanks so much for your comment, Michael. I’m afraid I have to be disciplined or I will never get things done. 🙂 I hope you enjoy the books. Take care and happy reading!

      Reply
  5. vicki batman

    So nice to get to know you and your books.

    Reply
    • Margaret Mizushima

      Vicki, thanks so much for visiting George’s blog today. I appreciate your comment and hope you’re finding time to read this summer. It’s hard to believe that fall is just around the corner! Take care.

      Reply
  6. Rhonda Blackhurst

    Congratulations Margaret! It’s such an awesome series with fantastic characters!

    Reply
    • Margaret Mizushima

      Thanks so much, Rhonda! I appreciate you and your support so much! Hope to see you at SinC-Colorado book club this Saturday to hear you talk about your book, Abby’s Redemption. Hugs!

      Reply

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