I'd like to welcome Susan J. Kroupa and the Bad-Mouthed Tour! Susan writes the Doodlebugged Mystery series featuring Doodle, a bed bug sniffing labradoodle. Bad-Mouthed is the fourth in the series.
Kathy: Doodle works for works for “the boss,” Josh Hunter of Hunter Bed Bug Detection. (I've actually seen bed bug dogs at work. Dogs are amazing!) How did you choose bed bug detection as the career?
SJK: I needed a dog career that would give me lots of material without being too grim, as these mysteries are aimed at dog lovers of all ages. So I knew that dogs trained to sniff out things like narcotics or weapons were out. And then, fortunately for me and sadly for him, one of my sons, who happens to live in Arlington, VA, had the misfortune of getting bed bugs in his apartment. The exterminator sent by the manager used a dog to search out the bugs. My son was impressed and told me about the visit in great detail, and I ended up not only with a career for Doodle, but a location for the books’ settings as well.
Kathy: Doodle is described as an "obedience-impaired labradoodle". Is he based on a real dog?
SJK: Oh, my, yes! We rescued Shadow, a labradoodle puppy, in 2008 and had no idea what we were getting into. That little bundle of cuteness turned out to be a highly energetic, super smart furball that felt no obligation to listen to anything we had to say. Ever. The first year with Shadow (aka The Barkster , Boing Boing, Hyperdrive, Motor Mouth—you get the idea) was difficult, but we learned a lot about how to handle and train a high drive, independent dog. (Sort of.) There’s a reason that so many sniffer dogs are rescues. High drive dogs have too much energy and independence to make good family pets without good and consistent training. But they’re eager, often compelled, to work, to do a job. So they make good working dogs.
That said, as smart and as trouble-prone as Shadow is, Doodle is smarter and even more trouble-prone, and like most fictional characters, is a composite, with a background and a personality uniquely his own. I think simply writing about one’s pet might quickly get boring. J
Kathy: Doodle creates quite a scene at a Christmas pageant. Have you ever witnessed a Christmas pageant gone bad?
SJK: Sad to say, I’ve never seen a pageant with a dog in it, much less one that chases a rat in the middle of a performance. I’m a musician (flute, piano) and have been in lots of pageants and music programs, but the most dramatic disasters I’ve faced have been with bad mikes, crackling speakers, or tuning problems.
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
SJK: I have loved mysteries and particularly cozies since high school, many eons ago. I started out with Erle Stanley Gardner’s Perry Mason books—not exactly cozies, I know—and moved on to Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham, Patricia Moyes, Dorothy Cannell . . . gosh I could use up my word allotment here just listing authors I love. I like the wide variety of settings, the fact that the (often) amateur detectives are drawn from all walks of life, the puzzle of who-done-it, and the fact that I know a cozy won’t plop me down in a gritty world filled with scenes of graphic violence. There’s a lot to be said for that.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
SJK: I got started writing science fiction and fantasy, and while I didn’t publish any novels in that genre, some of my short fiction—most of which is available online—won literary awards and was published in professional magazines such as (the now sadly defunct) Realms of Fantasy. Many of those stories were set in a post-apocalyptic time on the Hopi and Navajo reservations, where I lived for some years, while others, such as my Christmas stories have modern setting with a whimsical fantasy element.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
SJK: The Doodlebugged mysteries have been called, “. . . the perfect blend of mystery, suspense, and laugh-out-loud doggy observations,” by best-selling author Virginia Smith. The books are aimed at a wide age-range. Kids like the surface story and identify with Doodle and Molly. Adults like all the subtext—there’s a lot going on that will go right over kids’ heads, as it does Doodle’s much of the time. There are lots of adult issues in the background: immigration, single-parenting, racism, and the importance of family, but Doodle’s narration keeps the tone light.
The series starts with Bed-Bugged, where Doodle first gets adopted by the boss and Molly. He finds bed bugs in a strange place that ends up putting him and Molly in danger. While the characters’ relationships develop through the subsequent books, each book is a standalone and can be read independently.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
SJK: I try to be a good parent and love all my characters equally, but, in truth, the adult part of me loves “the boss” Josh Hunter, with his struggles to be a good single parent, which I was for a few years. The grandmother part of me loves Molly and her passionate, inquisitive spirit, something the parent part of me couldn’t love perhaps quite as much because Molly gets into so much trouble! And the writer part of me loves Doodle, for his good heart, and for his sarcastic voice and metaphor-impaired understanding of humans and human conversation.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
SJK: An indirect inspiration was my mother’s death in 2010, the year before I started the books. After her death, I found I couldn’t write anything at all dark without sinking into depression. I stumbled upon—or perhaps got bitten by?—the idea for the Doodlebugged books while searching for something light and humorous that would still have something to say.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
SJK: Definitely Dorothy L. Sayers and C.S. Lewis, although I’d be intimidated to be in the same room with them and would feel vastly undereducated and thick-brained in the presence of their keen minds. But it would be worth it to hear their conversation! I’d also invite Mary Stewart whose books have had a huge influence on me, and one of my favorite nonfiction authors, Laura Hillenbrand, author of Seabiscuit and Unbroken.
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
SJK: G.M. Malliet’s Wicked Autumn—Malliet’s so very witty. Death of a Cozy Writer cracked me up. I’m finishing Cat Warren’s excellent book, What the Dog Knows: the Science and Wonder of Working Dogs, and, as a reward for finishing several writing projects, Galbraith/Rowling’s The Silkworm. I absolutely loved Cuckoo’s Calling.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
SJK: I’m an amateur photographer and have the good fortune to live in an extremely beautiful area, the Blue Ridge Mountains in southwestern Virginia. You can see some of my favorite photos on my webpage, http://www.susankroupa.com/photos.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
SJK: Butter, garlic, yogurt, and cheese. Oh, and wine. But that’s five. J
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
SJK: I have the first book in a new series, TreeTalker, due out in the spring of 2015. TreeTalker blends Celtic and Hopi myths in a contemporary fantasy. And, yes, it has dogs! I also have a new Doodlebugged mystery scheduled for the fall of next year. If you sign up for my newsletter (links on my webpage and in the backs of the Doodlebugged books), you can be the first to know when new books are released.
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
SJK: Living in the worlds of the stories and getting to know the characters. And I love it when I get the words right.
For a chance to win an e-book copy of Bad-Mouthed simply leave a comment on this blog post telling us about any "obedience-impaired" dog you know or a Christmas pageant mishap. Please also leave your e-reader format and an e-mail address so that I may contact you should you win. Also, be sure to enter the Rafflecopter contest for a print copy as well!
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