#MTW Interview with Margaret Mizushima

Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions for us for MTW.

Being an official reviewer for MTW is one of the most exciting things we can do as a blog site and as is our primary goal we love to READ! REVIEW! PROMOTE! That being said; I am also excited to interview authors whether I have read their books or not because it is an excellent opportunity to get to know the person behind the book and to get a lot of information about writing.

Comments:  Thanks so much for the opportunity to visit with you and your TBBSupporters! Authors love to talk about their books, the writing process, and the writing life, and I appreciate sites like yours that support our work.

As our TBBSupporters know; I don’t like to dilly dally about before getting to the questions so please please please tell us about your book?

I write the Timber Creek K-9 Mystery series, and we have two episodes out so far: KILLING TRAIL (Dec. 2015) and STALKING GROUND (Sep. 2016). The series is about a K-9 officer, Deputy Mattie Cobb, her dog Robo, and veterinarian Cole Walker. In the series opening, Mattie and Robo have been recently paired to combat drug traffic through their mountain community in Timber Creek, Colorado, and newly-divorced, workaholic Cole Walker is trying to put back together his life while on the fast track to learn how to be a single parent. In KILLING TRAIL, Mattie and Robo find the body of a teenage girl, who happens to be a friend of Cole’s older daughter, and they must piece together clues—from Cole and others—to track down the killer. In the second episode, STALKING GROUND, a woman goes missing and Mattie and Robo follow a tip that leads them into the high country, where they find her body right before a blizzard hits. While Cole rides up into the mountains to bring supplies that will protect them from the storm, Mattie and Robo guard the body. Cole becomes involved in helping solve the case, but before an arrest can be made, they all find themselves trapped in a killer’s stalking ground.

Taking a look at your biography on your website I can see you have led a very interesting and certainly adventurous life – between studying; starting and selling your own company; to becoming a writer and running a veterinary clinic. It’s quite obvious you have a love for animals and I’m curious to know if Robo is loosely based on any of your dogs?

Answer: I love to observe dog behavior, and our dogs give me plenty of that to color Robo’s ways. But the Robo in my series was inspired by a real police service dog named Robo. He belonged to a friend of mine, K-9 Officer/Trainer Beth Gaede (Ret.) when she worked for the police department in Bellingham, WA. After Beth retired, she moved to Colorado and allowed me to shadow her while she trained dogs for AKC tracking trials and evidence detection. Afterward, we’d sit in her car and she would tell me stories about her late partner’s prowess; he was an amazing dog, and I could tell how strong their bond was, even long after his death due to old age. I asked her if I could use his name for my Robo character, and she said yes. Many of her tales are woven into the mysteries, giving me lots of ideas for what Mattie and Robo should do.

What would you say was the hardest part about publishing your book? Did you run into any major problems?

No major problems, but it took a very long time. It took me several manuscripts before I had one that was good enough to attract an agent. And then, my agent and I worked for a few years to find a publisher who was willing to take on the story. During this time I continued to go to writing conferences to take classes on the How-To’s of writing. I revised the KILLING TRAIL manuscript many, many times. I’ve heard some instant success stories in this business, but the “It takes a long time, so hang in there” stories outnumber them by far. It took a lot of persistence and willingness to accept critique in order to make revisions that would help me find my place with my publisher.

How are you finding MTW so far? Are you enjoying the posts and the comradery that has formed? Would you participate again?

It’s wonderful to see all the great books out there and to meet the authors. Yes! I would definitely take part in MTW again.

Do you have any strange writing habits that you think are you unique to you?

I wouldn’t classify any of my writing habits as strange, but then who would when analyzing self-behavior. I try to write each day and set goals for 5000 words/week when writing a first draft for a book. If I meet my word count goal, then I can take a day off on a weekend. I like to write first thing in the morning and want a cup of Yogi-brand licorice tea at hand. I used to create a manuscript by just letting the characters take me where they wanted to go. I took about four years to complete my first mystery this way. Since signing a contract to write one book each year, I’ve learned to make a very loose outline (subject to change) so that I can meet my deadlines. This way, I can get the job done in about seven to nine months.

What is the best advise you would give an aspiring author with writer’s block?

Set aside an hour each day to sit with your story. Even if you can’t write that day, brainstorm your plot or develop features to enhance your characters. Then sit with your hands on the keyboard or a pen/pencil in your hand and start writing. Don’t worry how bad that first draft might be. You can always revise it, but you can’t revise nothing. Another good block-buster is to go to a writer’s conference. This experience always gives me a boost.

Which was the hardest character to work with in your book?

Definitely Deputy Mattie Cobb. She’s my favorite, and I want to make sure I show her and the work she does in the best way I can. Mattie had an abusive childhood and was raised in foster care. Since I don’t share her background/history and I’ve never been a police officer, she has been a challenge; however, my work as a speech therapist made me familiar with issues facing abused children and my police consultants help me with law enforcement procedures. So I’ve found ways to work through the challenges, but it takes a lot more revision to write in Mattie’s point of view than it does in Cole’s. Being married to a vet for 35 years and helping him with emergencies and after hours work, as well as having several dogs in our household at any one time, makes it easier to get into Cole’s character. And my past experience with training a couple of our dogs for search and rescue helps out with the dog handling aspect.

Are you working on a new book? And could you tell us a little about it?

Book three in the series, HUNTING HOUR, comes out August 8, 2017.  At the beginning of the book, Mattie is in a dark place and has withdrawn from Cole and his family to work on issues from her past. But when she and Robo are called to track a missing junior high school student, they find the girl dead on a hillside behind the high school, and Mattie feels compelled to go break the bad news to the Walkers. That’s only the start of trouble in Timber Creek, because soon another girl goes missing—and this time it’s one of Cole’s daughters. Searching for the child’s scent, Mattie and Robo lead the community in a hunt to find the kidnapper before it’s too late; but when they do catch her scent, it leads them to information that challenges everything they thought they knew about the case.

If I had to come into your house on a day you were reading; which author would I most likely catch you reading and why?

Last night I was reading THE TRESPASSER by Tana French, for her fantastic choice of words and dialogue. Last week, THE WOMAN IN BLUE by Elly Griffiths, for her delightful protagonist Ruth Galloway, who is a forensic archeologist, and her skill in weaving an eerie mood in a fascinating setting. I could be reading the latest by Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, Harlan Coben, Lee Child, Margaret Coel, Tess Gerritsen, Sue Grafton, Nevada Barr—the list could go on and on—because they’re all such great mystery writers. The possibilites for entertainment are endless!

We would just like to take a moment to thank Margaret Mizushimafor taking the time to answer the questions to our interviews and we wish her the absolute best in her writing.

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