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: