Kathy: Your Timber Creek K-9 Mystery series features Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo. Have you met any K-9 officers?
MM: I’ve been fortunate to meet quite a few K-9 handlers and trainers, and I acknowledge those who spend the most time helping me in the acknowledgement sections of my books. One I’ll mention here is K-9 Officer/Trainer Beth Gaede, (Ret.), who moved to Colorado after retiring from the Bellingham, WA, Police Department. Beth let me shadow her while she trained dogs for AKA tracking certification, and afterwards we sat and visited while she told me wonderful stories about her late police service dog, Robo. He’s the inspiration for the Robo character in my series.
Kathy: Are you a dog person? Do you have a favorite breed?
MM: Yes, my husband is a veterinarian and we are definitely dog people. We have 3-4 dogs at a time, and I don’t have a favorite breed. Over the years (35 to be exact), we’ve shared our home with mixed breeds, labs, rottweilers, German shorthair pointers, border collies, Australian shepherds, and terriers. Years ago, we trained our rottie and one of our Austrailian shepherds in search and rescue. Right now we have a German shorthair named Hannah, a border collie named Tess, and a yellow lab named Lily. And oh yes, I must not forget to mention my writing assistant, a cat named Katy! She nestles in her spot beside my laptop every time I sit down to write.
Kathy: In STALKING GROUND, the second book in the series, Mattie and Robo get caught in a snowstorm. Living in Western New York, I’m familiar with blizzards, but fortunately, haven’t been caught out in one. Have you experienced blizzard conditions? Do you enjoy the snow?
MM: I’ve been in many a blizzard. Since we live in the country, there’s not much to block the wind, so snow coming in horizontally is a familiar winter sight, and we always need to go out there and feed the cows, no matter what. When you’re battling five to six foot snowdrifts, it’s great to be able to get inside and warm up. Poor Mattie, she didn’t have that luxury.
When our youngest child was a newborn, we had a springtime blizzard that knocked out the electricity to our house. We hunkered down in the family room and kept a fire burning for the few days it took to restore the power. Our five-year-old thought it was a great adventure. I do love watching snow fall, even when it’s howling. But the aftermath and ranch work are not a fun combination, so it’s a mixed blessing. And I don’t go outside to ski and snowshoe in it like I did when I was younger.
Kathy: What first drew you to mysteries?
MM: I think my love of mysteries started during my childhood with the Nancy Drew series. As an adult, crime fiction is my favorite genre to read, so writing mysteries and suspense came naturally.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
MM: Yes and no. Prior to getting a contract to write this series, I’d written romance, mainstream, and historical manuscripts – but none are published.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
MM: The Timber Creek K-9 mysteries are about K-9 handler Deputy Mattie Cobb, her dog Robo, and the newly-divorced veterinarian Cole Walker. Together they solve crimes in their mountain community, Timber Creek. The first book is called KILLING TRAIL, and it introduces the characters as they try to solve the murder of a teenage girl, a friend of Cole’s teenage daughter. The second book is STALKING GROUND. It delves further into the lives of the Timber Creek characters as they search for a missing woman and then find her buried up in the wilderness prior to the onset of a blizzard. A love interest sparks between Mattie and Cole in this second episode.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
MM: I love them all. Mattie is a spunky officer, age twenty-eight, newly paired with the county’s first K-9, Robo. She’s the product of a tough childhood, raised in a variety of foster homes, and quite a rebel during her teen years until her last foster mother, Mama T, took her in and put the smack down. Mama T appears in KILLING TRAIL and is still an important part of Mattie’s life. Workaholic, veterinarian Cole Walker is trying to put his life back together after his wife left him and his two daughters; he tries to keep up with his busy practice as he learns how to be a single parent. (Just between you and me, he reminds me a little bit of my husband, so I love him, despite the fact that he’s not quite as evolved and family-engaged as my Charlie.) And then there’s Robo. He’s what the handlers call a high drive alpha male, but he’s highly trained, obedient, and courageous. What’s not to love about Robo?!
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
MM: Two inspirations occurred serendipitously when I was planning to write my first mystery. My friend Beth Gaede, mentioned above, moved to Colorado, and I spent quite a bit of time with her while she trained dogs. Also, my husband’s client, Police Chief Joe Clingan of Nunn, Colorado, who trains patrol and protection dogs, came into our clinic for a health exam on a dog he was transferring to a forest ranger. He mentioned that rangers were purchasing his narcotics detection dogs to combat drug trafficking through the national forest. My husband came home for lunch, told me what he’d heard, and a premise for my series was born right there at my kitchen table! In the series opener, KILLING TRAIL, the mountain community of fictional town Timber Creek, Colorado, has bought a narcotics detection dog to combat drug traffic through their town.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
MM: All my life, I’ve loved to read, and I especially love novels that take me out of my life and give me a mini-vacation. I wanted to write that kind of fiction and hoped to give readers that kind of experience. I met my acquiring editor, Matt Martz of Crooked Lane Books, at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers conference in Denver in 2014. This led to an offer for me to revise and resubmit and then to a contract for my first two books in the series. We’ll continue to work together now to release book three in 2017 and book four in 2018. We’ll see where we go from there.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite four authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
MM: It’s hard to limit to four, but four of my favorite authors are Lee Child, Michael Connelly, Tess Gerritsen, and Sue Grafton. I have others that I would love to include like Margaret Coel, Robert Crais, and Tana French. I could go on and on, but I’ll stop there. My dining room is not very big.
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
MM: THE WOMAN IN BLUE by Elly Griffiths. This is the most recent episode in Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway mystery series set in contemporary England. Ruth is a forensic archeologist who digs up more trouble than she can deal with as she consults with Inspector Harry Nelson to solve murders both new and ancient. I love the way Griffiths constructs her mysteries and sets a chilling mood.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
MM: I love to read and can’t seem to find time to get enough of it nowadays. I also love to hike and until 2014, I spent a day each week in Rocky Mountain National Park, hiking up to high altitude mountain lakes at or above timberline. After I started writing on deadline, I set this interest aside for a bit but plan to get back into it this year. There is nothing like a day in the high country to clear your head!
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
MM: Yogi-brand licorice tea, almond milk, gluten free flour, and baby carrots. Sounds very healthy, doesn’t it? But the little country store that supplies me with chocolate is only a quick trip into town away. I like to pretend that if chocolate hasn’t spent time in my pantry, it doesn’t have calories.
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
MM: The third book in this series, HUNTING HOUR, will be released by Crooked Lane Books on August 8, 2017, and book four will release about a year later (Fall, 2018). I can’t wait to show you what next lies in store for Mattie and Robo!
Kathy: What’s your favorite thing about being an author?
MM: There are many things that I enjoy, and communicating with readers via email (email@example.com) is definitely one of them. I strive to answer each one. But the surprise of seeing each new cover that my publisher sends to me is also up there at the top of the list. It’s like opening a birthday present.
Thank you, Kathy, for the opportunity to visit with you for Mystery Thriller Week. I’ll be hosting an hour on Facebook Live for MTW on February 15 from 6:00-7:00 EST. I invite readers to join me there to talk more about the books!
Margaret Mizushima is the author of the Timber Creek K-9 mystery series, which includes Killing Trail (Crooked Lane Books, 2015) and Stalking Ground (Crooked Lane Books, 2016). She has a background in speech pathology and practiced in an acute care hospital before establishing her own rehabilitation agency. Currently, she balances writing with assisting her husband with their veterinary clinic and Angus cattle herd. She enjoys reading and hiking, and she lives on a small ranch in Colorado where she and her husband raised two daughters and a multitude of animals. She can be found on Facebook/Author Margaret Mizushima, on Twitter @margmizu, and on her website at www.margaretmizushima.com.