IN HER BONES by Kate Moretti

In Her Bones: A Novel Cover ImageI’ve been really excited about the resurgence of the psychological thriller—while I read all over the crime fiction genre, I especially enjoy reading about authentic women trapped in desperate situations (of their own making or not)—but they can occasionally be formulaic. The reader brings certain expectations, and for me those were blown out of the water with Kate Moretti’s latest, In Her Bones.

The story revolves around 30-year old Edie Beckett—a state employee with just a tenuous hold on sobriety and an unhealthy relationship with her brother.  The latter is the only one who knows that their shared history includes a mother who lives on death row, the convicted killer of 6 women. As Edie tries to exist outside the spotlight of her mother’s infamy, she fights a growing obsession—an unhealthy fascination with the families of her mother’s victims. One night she crosses a line and a man ends up dead—and suddenly Edie has become the prime suspect for his murder, with the detective who arrested her mother (and who has taken a keen interest in Edie) hot on her trail. She decides to go underground to find the real killer and clear her name but as she runs into dead ends, she starts to question whether perhaps she has more in common with her mother than she thought, and wonders if she too might be capable of murder.

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea that you could change your hair color, throw on glasses and different clothes and go underground. I’m also fascinated by the amount of information you can dig up on the internet –it’s truly disturbing how little privacy we have. Moretti takes these concepts and weaves a twisted tale of a young woman trying desperately to escape a childhood of trauma. This was one of those page-turners that kept me up way past my bedtime (but only for the one night it took to finish!)

Kate Moretti is the New York Times bestselling author of 6 previous novels, most recently the critically acclaimed The Blackbird Season. Her style has been compared to that of Ruth Ware and Megan Miranda, so anyone who likes the darker side of the domestic thriller won’t want to miss this one.

 

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SUPPORTING THE BLUE: REAVIS WORTHAM TALKS ABOUT WRITING, THE ADVANTAGES OF AGE, THE LAW, & HIS LATEST NOVEL

Reavis Worham’s latest in his Red River mystery series, Gold Dust, has the folks who keep the law in nineteen sixties Central Springs, Texas, and their families off in different directions with plots involving a CIA experiment, modern cattle rustles, and a fake gold rush. On October 9th Reavis will be at BookPeople with Melissa Lenhardt (Heresy) to discuss their books, but we grabbed him ahead of time for a few questions.

Image result for reavis worthamMysteryPeople Scott: What aspects of the sixties did you want to explore in Gold Dust?

Reavis Wortham: The initial idea came from the true story of a CIA experiment in 1950 called Operation Sea-Spray, in which a supposedly benign bacteria was sprayed over the city of San Francisco in a simulated biological warfare attack. A number of citizens fell ill with pneumonia-like illnesses, and at least one person died as a result.

So as usual, I wondered, “What if?” What if something similar happened to the tiny northeast community of Center Springs at the end of the 1960s, that complicated decade full of war, civil unrest, and space travel? As in all my novels, I thrust normal people in abnormal situations and watch how the characters respond to an unexpected world of challenges. What happens if someone starts a gold rush in Northeast Texas while at the same time cattle rustlers murder a local farmer in a completely separate incident? How does law enforcement separate these crimes that might be connected?

I’ve heard stories of gold buried and lost in Lamar County, and after the novel came out, I learned of a real gold mine near Chicota, Texas.

So after wandering around a bit with this answer, the truth is I wanted to explore the ultimate question of what Constable Ned Parker would do if his family faces this personal danger from a government he trusts, while at the same time an entire world of mystery swirls around the community. I honestly didn’t know he’d load up with an old friend and head for Washington D.C. to find out who was responsible for nearly killing Top, but I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised.

Gold Dust (Red River Mysteries #7) Cover ImageMPS: You’re near the end of the decade. How has it affected Center Springs?

RW: Small towns are like small pools or stock tanks, with little exposed on the surface, but if you could peer underwater you’d find an entire hidden world full of beauty and danger. I think of that tiny community as a vortex, the swirling center of situations that involve the characters that have grown through the seven Red River novels. We’re all impacted by our decisions, and oftentimes, the decisions of others.

As I said earlier, the 1960s were packed with significant events that come in from the outside world and involve people who only want to live their lives with as little trauma and drama as possible. When outside influences impact those farmers who live off the land, they respond with force. Center Springs wants to be left alone, but when the world intrudes, it changes the community a little at a time, drawing them into life beyond Lamar County.

The community is scarred from those intrusions, but holds on to the past in many ways, because these were people who survived the Great Depression, WWII, Korea, and are enduring Vietnam. They still raise their own crops, slaughter cattle and hogs for food, and often wear the same style of clothes year after year. They’re hardened even more by the end of the decade, but still hold dear those same senses of family and community they’ve always possessed.

MPS: You brought retired Texas Ranger Tom Bell back. What does he bring to the ensemble?

RW: I left Tom Bell wounded and dying in Mexico at the end of The Right Side of Wrong. Since then, I haven’t been to a signing or speaking event that someone didn’t ask if he was ever coming back. Tom proved to be a favorite character who has his own following and I realized he needed to return from the dead.

He has many of the same moral values as Ned Parker, but he’s darker, more experienced in the outside world, and will step over that gray line between right and wrong when necessary. He’s tough, smart as a whip, experienced in more ways than we have yet to realize, and full of surprises. Tom is that guy who watches, waits, and when necessary, responds in a way that most true Texans appreciate, dispensing justice without remorse, because it’s the right thing to do.

MPS: Ned and Tom, the oldest characters, handle themselves the best. What does age give them over the younger folks?

RW: They handle situations due to their experience as lawmen. The younger characters are on a learning curve, and sometimes hesitate to make dramatic decisions, whereas Ned and Tom will do what’s necessary to protect family and freedom. They’ve already made the mistakes younger people are yet to experience, and operate with that knowledge in the back of their minds.

MPS: You have at least four plots running that the reader follows without any problem. How did you approach those spinning plates?

RW: There are four? Dang. I hadn’t thought of it that way. Honestly, I write these novels without an outline, and simply follow the characters as they stumble through life. When a plot line diverges, I’ll follow it to see what happens. Each chapter is a surprise for us all. I guess if I had to examine what I do, I’ll simply say that by the time I finish a chapter that follows one character or plot line, I want to see what the rest are doing, so I’ll just “change the channel.” It’s satisfying to know that readers can progress without getting lost. That means I’ve done my job.

MPS: Many of your characters are in law enforcement. What do you want to get across about that profession to the reader?

RW: I have a simple philosophy. If you don’t break the law, you won’t find yourself in opposition with those who wear a badge.

Growing up, my grandfather, Joe Armstrong, was the constable in Lamar County Precinct 3. I heard from my parents and grandparents from day one that law enforcement officers were my best friends. I know friends and family members who have been police officers, sheriff’s deputies, U.S. Marshals, and judges. They are all that stands between us and anarchy.

Just look around and see how quickly things can go bad. I support the blue, and though there are always bad apples, or terrible mistakes, these men and women who wear badges have my utmost respect.

 

INTERVIEW WITH SARA GRAN

We are excited to have Sara Gran join us at BookPeople tomorrow. She is a first class author, creating one of the most unique detectives in crime fiction today, Claire DeWitt, who fits the Nancy Drew mold, with a lot of dark undercurrents, — a young woman who grew up to be a professional private detective. In her latest, Infinite Blacktop, someone from Claire’s past is out to get her and it is tied to two other mysteries in her past, one being the disappearance of the teenage friend she solved mysteries with. Sara was kind enough to sit through an interrogation with us earlier.

MysteryPeople Scott: Usually a series detective character is entrenched in a city, but you have moved Claire DeWitt about in each book. Is there a particular reason for that decision?

Sara Gran: I keep moving! Life certainly takes you in strange directions, literally and metaphorically. Also, given that place is always a big character in detective fiction, it makes sense to push my character (Claire) up against these other characters (different cities and places) and see what comes from the meeting.

MPS: The Infinite Blacktop is a detective mystery that looks at the idea and concepts of mystery and detection. What did you want to explore in those ideas?

SG: I think the idea of the mystery that needs to be solved is a very central metaphor for our time. You’ll notice that when storytellers — writers, newscasters, politicians, doctors — want to interest their audience in something, they will often frame it as a whodunit. I also think the linguistic and historic link between mystic and mystery is not to be underestimated.

The Infinite Blacktop: A Novel Cover ImageMPS: As with many of your books, Claire is dealing with her past. What draws you to people with damaged histories?

SG: I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone without some damage in their history.

MPS: What I enjoyed about these books is that they are somehow both gritty and ethereal, like we’re on the edge of reality. Did that come to be as an attempt to build the mood or simply grow from Claire and her world?

SG: Thank you for a really interesting question I’ve never been asked before.  The answer is both: the two desires — the desire to build a specific, evocative, slightly magical world that hopefully provokes some thought and emotion in the reader about their own world, and the desire to be absolutely true to this character as she presents herself in my brain — inform each other and work together to create the world of these books.

MPS :As a writer, what has made Claire DeWitt worth coming back to as a character?

SG: Everything that fascinates me in life is wrapped up in this series, so both the character and the world are more interesting to me all the time. Originally I thought I’d stop after four books, but now I think I’ll write this series for the rest of my life.

 

SCOTT BUTKI’S INTERVIEW WITH TOM SEIGEL

Tom Seigel has come up with a great concept for his first novel, The Astronaut’s Son. It’s an engaging, fascinating work.

The Astronaut's Son Cover ImageJonathan Stein is, as the title suggests, the son of an astronaut, an Israeli man who died in 1974 before he was able to fly into space, the apparent victim of heart problems. Now Jonathan is ready to go into space himself with NASA, its first trip to the moon in 30 years, except he’s hearing rumors and stories suggesting his dad was killed to protect NASA secrets, possibly relating to former Nazis who worked for NASA.

And Jonathan thinks the reclusive Neil Armstrong, who Jonathan has been writing to his whole life without ever hearing a response, may know the answers to his many questions. Some of the questions Jonathan is encountering is coming from people who believe the moon landing was fake.

This is an especially impressive debut novel for someone who got an MFA in fiction writing after 20 years as a litigator. Tom served as both deputy chief and chief of the justice department’s Brooklyn Organized Crime Strike Force, prosecuting members and associates of La Cosa Nostra.

He agreed to let me interview him via email.

Scott Butki: How did you come up with this story?

Tom Seigel: The Astronaut’s Son was born in tragedy. It was 2003, and Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut, had died in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. I was struck, as I’m sure many were, by the fact that both Ramon and Judith Resnik, the first Jewish American in space, suffered the same terrible fate in two separate shuttle accidents. It felt like more than just a sad coincidence or very bad luck. It felt like an atavistic curse: “Let there be no escape.”

Then the notion that “flight” contained elements of both adventure and escape took hold, and I asked myself a question: “If the exodus story can serve as a metaphor for liberation of the oppressed, could the unique, peripatetic story of the Jews serve as a metaphor for the future of humanity in space?” Are we exploring the cosmos as mere intellectual pastime or because we know that another exodus will be needed? As I began to research, I learned about the secret government program (Operation Paperclip) that brought Nazi engineers to the United States after the war to work on rocketry. Many ended up at NASA. The idea of juxtaposing Germans and Jews at NASA captured my imagination, and after more years than I care to admit, my novel is finally ready for launch.

Scott: Which came first, the plot or the characters?

Tom: At least the protagonist came first. I wanted a Jewish entrepreneur (Jonathan Stein) to attempt a return to the moon, and I wanted him to wrestle with the ghosts of his past—his late father, a fictitious Israeli astronaut in the Apollo program, and the ex-Nazis his dad would have encountered. Questions about his father’s untimely death allow us to look back at that time through Jonathan’s eyes. I was not sure when I started writing what he would find, or whether he would make it to the moon. I also wanted Neil Armstrong to be a looming presence in Jonathan’s mind—a reluctant hero, a long-distance father figure and a one-way pen pal. Armstrong’s reclusive behavior and relative inaccessibility created space (no pun intended) for mystery and intrigue. The other characters also took shape before I had the plot finally worked out.

Scott: I realize this is fiction but I have to ask a question I am sure some readers will ask, namely, “Does NASA indeed have a checkered past, any employees who were former Nazis?”

Tom: The short answer is yes. In the 1960s and 1970s, Wernher von Braun was Director of the Marshall Space Flight Center, and Kurt Debus was Director of the Kennedy Space Center. Both men were not only Nazi party members but SS officers. And there were others. A few fairly recent nonfiction books detail this shady history of Operation Paperclip. Among them, I would recommend Michael Neufeld’s Von Braun: Dreamer of Space, Engineer of War and Annie Jacobsen’s Operation Paperclip. For years, the government whitewashed the history of its German rocket contingent. Their influence was so great that even today, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center (the official visitor center for Marshall), has a biergarten on Thursdays in the summer referred to as “Stein and Dine.” I have been amazed that more people are not troubled by the honors given to some of these (opportunistic to say the least) men.

Scott: What kind of research did you do and how did that go?

Tom: I read books about Operation Paperclip in general and the more prominent German scientists and engineers who were part of it. I also read about NASA’s history and astronaut training. Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time  helped me get a grasp of basic concepts in cosmology. The more entertaining research included surfing the Internet for outlandish lunar landing conspiracy theories. And of course, I watched Capricorn One. (Yes, I believe we landed on the moon, and so does Jonathan.)

Scott: I was glad you referenced Richard Feynman, someone I find fascinating. What do you think of him?

Tom: Richard Feynman is an American original, a Nobel laureate in physics with a thick outer borough accent who liked to play the bongos at strip clubs. He had a unique ability to explain physics to the uninitiated, much as Leonard Bernstein explained classical music to children. Feynman was charming, irascible and possessed of an insatiable curiosity. He, along with Neil Armstrong, served on the Rogers Commission, which investigated the Challenger disaster. I actually had something in an earlier draft that was meant as an inside joke about Feynman’s fascination with breaking dry spaghetti, but alas, it was left on the cutting room floor.

Scott: Why did you decide to get an MFA in fiction writing and write this novel?

Tom: I had the proverbial eighty pages in a drawer for years. I pulled them out sporadically and tinkered without much progress. I think the MFA program, in addition to improving my writing, served as source of concrete deadlines. I was also in my forties and ready for a career change.

Scott: How has your past work, including as a litigator, helped you as you made that switch?

Tom: I think being a former prosecutor has been very helpful to me as a writer. Prosecutors are storytellers. They have a cast of characters (witnesses) and have to construct a compelling and credible narrative for a jury. A prosecutor is also always on the lookout for the perilous plot hole. If you have one in your case, you can be sure that a defense lawyer is going to stick a finger in it and make sure the jury sees just how big the reasonable doubt really is. Having an imagining adversary (editor) on my shoulder while writing comes as second nature. Continuity, foundation and authenticity are important elements of any successful prosecution, and they’re pretty good for novels too. A challenge, on the other hand, is the artful use of nuance—great for fiction writing, deadly for a closing argument.

Scott: What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

Tom: Of course, I want them to be entertained, and while the book has its serious side, I would be delighted if they were to laugh out loud at least once or twice. The Astronaut’s Son is not a traditional whodunit. I won’t spoil the ending, but I hope they come away with meaty questions to chew on—about history, progress, ethics and the future. Small subjects like that.

Scott: What are you working on next?

Tom: As a former mafia prosecutor, more than a few people have suggested I write a book about mobsters. I’m in the middle of writing a second novel that is not about the mob, but it might have a few unconventional wise guys. I think the traditional mob genre, like the mob itself, is mostly played out, but there’s still room for a colorful goodfella or two.

 

INTERVIEW WITH SCOTT VON DOVIAK

Scott Von Doviak’s Charlesgate Confidential is a one-of-a-kind read, with three storylines of different periods in Boston’s Charlesgate building that affect one another. Von Doviak binds them together with a liberal use of the city’s history and lore. Scott will beat BookPeople along with Edwin Hill (Little Comfort) Saturday September 22nd at 6pm to discuss and sign their books. He was kind enough to take some questions from us earlier.

Charlesgate Confidential Cover ImageMysteryPeople Scott: Charlesgate Confidential  is a very unique book. How did the idea for it form?

Scott Von Doviak: Several ideas came together. I’d been wanting to write about the Charlesgate building in Boston for some time, both because of its fascinating history and because I’d actually lived there in the ‘80s when it was an Emerson College residence hall. I wanted to come up with a story that could encompass several different eras in the building’s history, but I also wanted to write a crime novel rather than a ghost story (which would have been the obvious way to go, given the building’s haunted reputation). Incorporating a fictionalized version of the Gardner Museum heist solved some problems, especially once I decided to move the heist back in time from 1990 to 1946. I really liked the idea of telling the story in a nonlinear way, by rotating through these time periods, sort of like solving a Rubik’s Cube twist by twist. At first you wouldn’t see any connection between the stories aside from the building, but as you go along, all the pieces slide into place.

MPS: How did you handle juggling the three time periods?

SVD: I didn’t have a spreadsheet or a True Detective wall with note cards and string or anything like that. It was all pretty intuitive. It was more fun that way because I would leave myself a little cliffhanger at the end of a 1946 chapter and then I’d move on to 1986 and 2014, which would give me time to think about what should happen next back in the ’40s. The way the time lines dovetail was kind of tricky, because I had to time all the revelations just right and make sure I didn’t give certain things away too early. So there was some trial and error involved, but that made it exciting for me.

MPS: Was there any Boston history or lore you wanted to get in there but couldn’t?

SVD: I considered some other things, notably the Coconut Grove fire in 1942, but in the end I felt like I had enough for this story. I flirted with incorporating the Red Sox 2004 World Series run, but that would have felt like overkill. There’s certainly plenty to explore, though. I don’t know that I’ll ever write a sequel, since this novel is very self-contained, but one idea would be to explore some different eras in the Charlesgate’s history, which stretches back as far as 1891. I’d need a good story to pull it together, though.

MPS: So many great crime novelists come from Boston like Robert B. Parker, George V Higgins, and Dennis Lehane. What makes the town such a hotbed for crime fiction talent?

SVD: Well, the city does have a noir-ish quality, particularly in the fall when the temperatures drop and the nights get longer. There are plenty of famous crimes and criminals—the Brinks Job, the Boston Strangler, Whitey Bulger. But I attribute most of it to Higgins. The Friends of Eddie Coyle is the ultimate Boston crime novel (and movie), and along with his follow-ups Cogan’s Trade and The Digger’s Game, really set the template for Boston as a crime town teeming with colorful characters. Higgins was a huge influence on Charlesgate Confidential, particularly the way in which story and character emerge from dialogue in his books.

MPS: What is the biggest misconception about the city?

SVD: Well, first of all, not everyone has that accent! I think our pop culture has become over saturated with one particular slice of Boston. You’d think everyone who lives there is either a criminal or an obnoxious sports fan, and sure, there are plenty of those. The friends I still have there are nothing like that, though. They’re artists and professionals and they don’t sound like Casey Affleck in that SNL Dunkin’ Donuts sketch. I confess, though, I do love the accent (maybe because I don’t live there anymore) and I’ll have a hard time not lapsing into a bad version of it during my reading.

MPS: What are you working on now?

SVD: I have a few things in various states of completion, and I’m not sure exactly what comes next. I definitely want to stay in the genre, and one thing I’m working on would be a series of books set in Austin that would sort of chart all the changes that have been going on here through the lens of crime fiction. I don’t know whether that’s my next project, though—a lot depends on how things go with Charlesgate Confidential. Meanwhile, you can still find me at The Onion’s AV Club writing about your favorite (or maybe not so favorite) TV shows.

MEIKE’S REVIEW OF GREEN FEES

Green Fees: A Merit Bridges Legal Thriller Cover ImageAustin attorney Manning Wolfe has brought her considerable legal expertise to the crime fiction genre, and the result is a smart, fast-paced thriller series featuring Texas Lady Lawyer Merit Bridges.

In her latest, Green Fees, Wolfe spins a story of lies and treachery that reflects the perfect blend of humor and chills.  Austin is terrorized by a serial killer named The Enforcer who continues to elude law enforcement, but Merit is distracted when her predilection for younger men leads her to  become involved with the much-younger golf pro Mark Green. When Mark accepts help to pursue his PGA dreams, he becomes indebted to the wrong person—Russian loan shark Browno Zars—and comes to Merit for help. She uses every legal trick she can think of to loosen Zars’ grip on Green, not realizing that her actions have brought her to the attention of The Enforcer. As she’s captured and held against her will, facing certain torture and death, Merit has to dig deep within to confront pure evil.

The award-winning Wolfe strikes all the right notes with this series. Merit is surrounded by complex, relatable characters–like Betty, Merit’s colloquialism-spouting, Ann Richards-hairdo sporting office manager. Merit is mostly serious (she has an illustrious legal career and is a devoted mother to her dyslexic son Ace), but she also knows when to let her hair down and just go after that young man while sipping on some fine red wine. There’s a satisfying variety of characters that operate on all points of the spectrum spanning right and wrong. And as a bonus for those of us here in Austin, Wolfe’s deep love for the city shows in her meticulous and glowing descriptions of our town’s scenery.

A Borrowing of Bones: Interview with Paula Munier

Some authors I interview, including one I’m questioning later this month, write a novel after a career with no connections to the publishing world.

A Borrowing of Bones: A Mystery (Mercy and Elvis Mysteries #1) Cover ImageThat’s not the case with Paula Munier, who has written advice columns for other writers, worked as a literary agent and had other jobs related to publishing before writing this new novel, the start of a series. Paula, also a former journalist, also wrote or co-wrote more than dozen books.

As befits an author in the industry, even the story on how this book came to be is a good yarn, as you can read in the interview.

Paula was kind enough to let me interview her about this engrossing, engaging new book, A Borrowing of Bones, about soldier Mercy Carr. Mercy lives with Elvis, a bomb-sniffing dog who belonged to her fiancé, Martinez.  Martinez got killed and Mercy got shot while serving overseas. Martinez’s last words to Mercy were “Take care of my partner.”

As the book begins, Mercy and Elvis are in Vermont on a hike when they come across human bones and an abandoned baby. They work with a game warden, Troy Warner, and his search-and-rescue Newfoundland, Suzie Bear, as this discovery takes them in unexpected places.

Scott Butki: How did this story come together?

Paula Munier: I was writing a book for Writer’s Digest Books called The Writer’s Guide to Beginnings. And I needed a first chapter of a novel that I could use for exercises over the course of the book. While I was using a lot of short opening snippets from celebrated works, I couldn’t use one of those for this. So I needed to write one of my own. I had just been to Leo Maloney’s fundraiser for Mission K9 Rescue, a wonderful organization that rescues bomb sniffing dogs from bad situations. Many of these working dogs are not Army dogs, but are rather procured through defense contractors, and when they come home they are often abandoned in shelters.

Meeting all of these dogs and their dog handlers was wonderful. I’m grateful to Leo—a fabulous thriller writer, by the way—for allowing me to meet these great dogs and their handlers. Soldiers and bomb sniffing dogs, as well as law enforcement and their working dogs. I feel in love with the dogs and the handlers, and so when I had to write this sample chapter, I figured I’d write about these dogs and handlers. Never dreaming that this sample chapter would become the first chapter of the first book in my new mystery series.

Scott: Which came first for you, the characters or the plot?

Paula: First came the dogs. I based Elvis, the sniffer dog, on a Belgian Malinois that I met at the fundraiser. I based Susie Bear, the search-and-rescue dog, on Bear, the sweet Newfoundland Retriever mix we rescued a couple of years ago. I also wanted to write about a veteran, having grown up in the military and having enormous respect for our military men and women. And I wanted to write about a game warden and the forest in Vermont, because I love game wardens and I love Vermont. At the time I had no intention of making this opening into a novel, so I just made up anything I wanted.

Scott: Was the plan, when writing this, always for it to be the start of a new series or did that thought come later?

Paula: As I’ve explained, there was no thought of a book, much less a series, at the beginning. That said, my agent read The Writer’s Guide to Beginnings in manuscript and said, “Boy, I like that chapter, you should keep on writing that.” Once she said that, I knew I had two great series characters in Mercy Carr, the female veteran, and Elvis, the Belgian Malinois sniffer dog. So I dreamed big.

Scott: I take it, considering you also wrote about dogs in Fixing Freddie and other books, that you’re a dog person. What do you think is the best way to have dogs be characters in books?

Paula: There are so many ways to write about dogs. In novels, dogs can be part of the family, dogs can be part of the plot, dogs can even be the protagonist. In a book like The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, the dog is the point of view character. In Spencer Quinn’s Chet and Bernie series, Chet is also the point of view character, the sidekick and smarter half of the private investigation team, supposedly headed by Bernie.

There are all kinds of dogs and all kinds of dog books, and I tend to love them all.

Scott: How did you go about researching this book?

Paula: I started with Mission K9 Rescue, and working dogs and their handlers. I talked to lots of people in Vermont, and of course I went to Vermont, which is one of my favorite places to go anyway. I talked to dog trainers and game wardens and security experts and explosive experts, and both active and retired military and former law enforcement. I met the dogs and I met their handlers, and I met with the people who work with these dogs and train them as well. Bear and I did our obedience training with a fabulous trainer who also trains dogs for search and rescue as well as law enforcement.

I also read anything and everything I could about working dogs and dog handlers, from Roger Guay and Kate Flora’s A Good Man With a Dog (a memoir about Roger’s time as a game warden in Maine and the dogs he trained to help him do his work) to Sergeant Rex, which is a true story about an amazing sniffer dog.

Scott: Where did the idea come from to have the book published on 9/11?

Paula: That was the publisher’s idea. I had nothing to do with that. That said, one of the things I wanted to do in writing the book was to honor all working dogs and their handlers. And the book is dedicated to them, as well as to my father, to whom I attribute my love of dogs.

These dogs and their handlers do military and law enforcement work, but they also are often first responders, doing search-and-rescue and recovery. Good work and in honoring this work, I hope to honor all such efforts, from 9/11 and beyond.

Scott: What do you hope readers will take away from this book? Did you want them to learn that animals can have PTSD?

Paula: First, I wanted to tell a good story. But I also wanted people to understand the length working dogs and their handlers go to in the name of keeping the rest of us safe and secure. I do think it comes as a surprise to many that animals involved in this dangerous work may suffer from PTSD. I think it’s good to know. When they retire, they need patience and care and love in safe forever homes.

Scott: How has your prior work in journalism, literary and publishing fields, helped you in writing this book and getting it published? Can you talk about some of your jobs in those fields?

Paula: I started off as a reporter a million years ago, and went on to write and edit for magazines and newspapers. I got my first job in book publishing as a managing editor on the production side, and then went on to a career in acquisitions. Acquisitions editors are those editors who acquire projects for publishing houses. Over the course of that time, I did a lot of writing and editing and acquiring and developing book projects, etc. I loved every minute of it. Eventually my own agent, Gina Panettieri, founder of Talcott Notch Literary Services, asked me to join her agency. Being an agent was something I’d never considered doing. But I have to say, it’s my favorite job of all.

All of my experience as a writer and an editor and a publishing executive really help me an agent and an author, if only because I understand everyone’s perspective at the table. I think the most important things I learned along the way were the elements of storytelling and the nuts and bolts of publishing. And I suppose it taught me patience if nothing else, because I learned firsthand how protracted the process can be—that is, going from word one to books in stores.

I also learned through working for Disney and WGBH and other media companies that there are lots of ways to tell a story. When I first started out as a writer and a reporter, I thought of writing really as wordplay, not as drama. I had to study how to dramatize scenes, and learn to tell stories in scenes. Which has been of course essential for me as a novelist.

I’d advise anyone who wants to become a writer to explore all avenues and all formats until they find their sweet spot. It took me way too long to figure out that dogs are my sweet spot, although the signs were there all along.

Scott:  What’s it like getting early praise from such masters as Lee Child and Lisa Gardner?

Paula: I have been blessed certainly and honored by Lee Child and Lisa Gardner and lots of other fabulous writers who have supported my work early on: not just Lee Child and Lisa Gardner, but also Hallie Ephron, Hank Phillippi Ryan, William Martin, Jane Cleland, Spencer Quinn (aka Peter Abrahams), Larry Kay, among others.

As I told Lee Child, I’m going to have his review of A Borrowing of Bones – “a compelling mix of hard edges and easy charm” — engraved on my tombstone. Or maybe tattooed somewhere.

Scott: What are you working on next?

Paula: I’m at work on Book Two in the Mercy and Elvis series right now, which everyone says is the hardest book you’ll ever write. Let’s hope I get through it.

Thank you so much for inviting me to chat about A Borrowing of Bones. It’s been lovely!