Kathy: The majority of cozy protagonists are women in their late 20s through their 30s. There's also a rising popularity of older female sleuths. Meg Reed, on the other hand, is quite young. One reason for this choice for this series is the lack of experience and need to find employment, yet an older woman could also face those same challenges. Why did you decide to make Meg so young?
KDS: I wrote Meg in her early twenties because I think it’s such a pivotal time in our personal development. She’s just graduated from college and is experiencing so many firsts. That’s what the twenties are all about—your first job, first apartment, first love. It’s a time when you’re learning who you are in the world, and I think that’s so rich in terms of writing a character. Meg’s a bit naïve, and I wrote her that way intentionally because she’s really trying to figure out who she is. She’s going to make a few mistakes in the process, but I think we all can all relate to that. I’m so excited to watch her grow and develop as the series continues, and I hope that readers will appreciate being part of her evolution.
Kathy: Meg makes quite a first impression on the man who will become her boss. Have you ever made a similar first impression?
KDS: Sadly, yes. I’m pretty outgoing and effusive which can be an asset, especially in social situations. I enjoy meeting new people and popping in and out of conversations. However, as Gam would say, “there’s always a balance.” Which for me means that I also have a tendency to just say the first thing that comes to mind without thinking. I was at a dinner party a few years ago and chatting with a nice gentleman about writing. He asked me about what I was working on and I gave him my quick pitch about the series, leading off with “Well you know newspapers are dinosaurs, they’re a dying breed…” Huge emphasis on how archaic newspapers were. Then a few minutes later the woman next to me asked him what he did, and he smiled at me, winked, and said. “I publish a newspaper.” Insert foot into mouth.
Kathy: Meg exaggerates her athletic abilities in order to land a job with Northwest Extreme magazine. Do you think that a good number of people embellish their resumes?
KDS: Absolutely. And for Meg I think exaggerating her athletic ability speaks to what we were talking about in terms of her learning to step into herself. Sometimes that means trying on different personas to see what sticks. Meg’s doing that, and is in over her head. But at the same time, by embellishing her skill set, she’s also forcing herself outside of her comfort zone. I love that! I think that we really grow when we do something challenging—physical or otherwise.
Kathy: I'm more apt to take a stroll around the neighborhood than a hike in the woods, especially a hike requiring specialized boots and a backpack! Are you an experienced hiker, a neophyte, or an armchair hiker?
KDS: I love hiking. It’s a favorite weekend activity for me and my family. We live just a quick drive from all the places highlighted in Scene of the Climb, and one of the best things about writing the book was going out to hike for the sake of “research.” However I’m not an adrenaline junkie like the rest of the crew at Northwest Extreme magazine. You won’t find me free climbing or attempting to summit Mt. Everest. I’m strangely fascinated by that culture though. I watched documentaries about climbers who live on the edge and interviewed a number of serious mountain climbers while working on the book. There’s something addictive about the rush that comes with doing something dangerous, and I really want to explore that more from Meg’s perspective as the series develops.
Kathy: Although I'm more of a wine and hard liquor drinker, I do enjoy a beer on occasion. Meg enjoys drinking craft beers with her friends. Are you a beer drinker? Do you have any favorite craft beers?
KDS: If you live anywhere near Portland, Oregon it’s almost a requirement. Portland has more brew pubs per capita than any other city in the world. It really is part of our culture, and good beer pairs perfectly with a good hike. I do like craft beers, although unlike Meg, I’m also a fan of Oregon’s famed Willamette Valley wines. In terms of picking a favorite? That’s tough! We have some favorite neighborhood pubs that we frequent, and then whenever we travel in the region we always like to discover new favorites. IPAs and Red Ales are my favorites. For beer fans, I’m hoping to connect readers with many of the Pacific Northwest’s brew houses throughout the series.
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
KDS: I’ve been a mystery fan since my early reading days when I devoured Nancy Drew and Trixie Bleden. My grandmother hooked me on my first official cozy series when I was in my late teens, and I’ve been a huge fan of the genre ever since.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
KDS: My first book was a memoir. Very different and very serious. It was the story of becoming a mother for the first time while losing my mom to young onset Alzheimer’s. Writing it was a challenge, but I’m so glad that I stuck with it because not only did it help me in my grieving process but it really opened me up to writing mysteries. I’ve said that was the book that I had to write. Now I’m writing what I want to write.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
KDS: The Pacific Northwest Mysteries feature Meg Reed, a young journalist who bills herself as an intrepid adventurer in order to land a job writing for Northwest Extreme magazine when in reality her idea of sport is climbing onto the couch without spilling her latte. Meg gets sent out on a variety of assignments in the ruggedly beautiful Northwest where she finds herself out of her league and in the middle of a murder investigation.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
KDS: That’s tough. I like them all! That sounds cliché doesn’t it? Okay if I have to pick, I really enjoy writing Gam, Meg’s eccentric grandmother. I like the relationship between the two of them. I think there’s something really special about the connection between grandparents and grandchildren. Gam is a grounding force for Meg. She’s very wise and serves as a spiritual advisor for Meg, but at the same time is fun-loving and young at heart. That connection between the generations is so important. They both have something to offer the other. Meg brings out Gam’s playful nature, and Gam has wisdom of years to pass down. Plus, I’d really love to hang out in Gam’s shop and nosh on one of her homemade cookies.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
KDS: I spent a semester in college in New Zealand and Australia on an eco-tourism program. Basically that meant that a bunch of twenty-year-olds spent a few months backpacking, hiking, whitewater rafting, and going on every other outdoor adventure imaginable. A number of my friends on the trip opted to do things like bungee jump off a bridge—I skipped that activity and watched from the comfort and safety of the ground below. A few months before I started writing Scene of the Climb I was hiking Angel’s Rest and saw a young woman hiking in a pair of hot pink boots. She was my initial inspiration. I kept thinking back to that trip I took to New Zealand and Australia in my early twenties, and the story came together from there.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
KDS: I read mysteries prolifically, and am always on the hunt for a new series. I figured there something a little unique about Meg and setting a cozy here in the Pacific Northwest. I really enjoy culinary cozies, and I thought it would be fun to use that format of including recipes, but with a different angle. Scene of the Climb includes adventure tips and a scenic loop that readers can actually bring along with them the next time they visit this part of the world and follow Meg’s loop.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
KDS: Maud Lovelace—her series Betsy-Tacy is my all-time favorite read from childhood.
Willa Cather—I think I read O Pioneers twenty times in high-school.
Agatha Christie—I’ve read every single book, and would love to pick her brain on how she kept cranking out mystery after mystery for all those years.
Jane Austen—Because, Mr. Darcy. Need I say more?
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
KDS: Bill Bryson’s At Home. I love his work. He finds a way to make the most mundane details or historical information burst into life. I usually laugh out loud when I’m reading his books. When I’m working on a manuscript I don’t read any fiction (which is a bummer) because I don’t want another character’s voice getting in my head. I read a lot of nonfiction when I’m drafting. I feel a little like I’m cheating when I read Bryson because his voice is so distinct, but he definitely isn’t writing mysteries or fiction so he’s always on my reading list.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
KDS: I’m a swimmer. I spent my summers in high school and college lifeguarding and teaching swimming lessons. I love the pool—even the smell of chlorine on my skin! We already touched on the outdoors, but I do spend a lot of time (especially in the summer and fall when it’s not raining twenty-four seven) walking, hiking, or in the water. I love to cook and bake. There’s almost always something homemade in my kitchen. Unless I’m nearing the end of the manuscript and then it’s take out burritos.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
KDS: Hummus, Cilantro, Chocolate chips, Apples
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
KDS: Meg’s next adventure (Slayed on the Slopes) comes out in April. She’s heading to Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood to cover a new high-altitude guiding team. While she’s done some training to try to get more geared up for her job with Northwest Extreme, she’s hoping she can conduct her interviews next to a crackling fire inside the lodge. However when she arrives, she learns that she’s being sent a thousand vertical feet up the Silcox Hut, a remote mountain cabin. She finds herself stuck outside in a blizzard and from there things just get worse.
I’m working on book # 3 as we speak. Meg’s going to be in high water in her third adventure as she covers a windsurfing competition in Hood River, Oregon.
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
KDS: Making up stories and characters in my head and having people read them. I mean when I step back and think about that it’s just amazing and really humbling.
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