Today Annette Dashofy is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Under the Radar, her latest novel in the Zoe Chambers mystery series.
Welcome, Annette. Let’s get started, shall we?
Tell us about your novel. Is it part of a series? If so, please tell us about the series too.
AD: Under the Radar is the 9th in the Zoe Chambers Mystery Series, which follows a paramedic/deputy coroner in rural southwestern Pennsylvania. Zoe is a caregiver at heart and fights to save the lives of her patients. If she fails at that, she fights to find them justice. In Under the Radar, she responds to a shooting and discovers her longtime friend, Horace Pavelka, has gunned down a man who’d bullied him mercilessly for decades. Ruled self-defense, no charges are filed. When another of his tormentors turns up dead in Horace’s kitchen, Police Chief Pete Adams questions the man’s innocence in both cases…especially after Horace and his girlfriend go into hiding.
Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from?
AD: I have a very vague memory of someone I went to school with—a quiet, gentle soul—retaliating against a bully near his home. This happened years ago but stuck with me. My imagination took over from there.
Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it?
AD: As you can probably guess from my previous answers, bullying plays a big part throughout the story. In these troubled times, bullying has become so prevalent in our society, I wanted to address the topic in some way. I didn’t get to delve as deeply into it as I’d hoped (my stories often start in one direction and take off somewhere I don’t plan or expect), so I’ll probably revisit the topic in a future story.
How do you create your characters? Do you have favourite ones? If so, why are you partial to them?
AD: In a series such as mine, I have a cast of regular characters as well as the new ones introduced in each book. I spend a lot of time writing stuff that readers will never see, letting the character talk to me on the page. I want them to be “real.” The bad guys aren’t completely bad and feel justified in their actions. The good guys have flaws and insecurities. Everyone is the hero of their own story, so I like to learn as much about each of them as I can. It gets to the point where my favourite character often turns out to be the villain, as they’re often the most complex.
How do you bring to life the place you are writing about?
AD: My setting, while fictional, is heavily based on the area where I’ve lived all my life. I know it so well, though, that I sometimes have to step back look at things around me with fresh eyes. I try to include not only sights but smells and sensations too. If my story is set in the winter, I go outside during that season or that type of weather and observe what’s going on around me. And the real trick is to do more than simply describe the setting, but have the characters interact with it.
What research do you do to provide background information to help you write the novel?
AD: I love research! I worked in EMS for several years and owned horses for over 25 years, so that part of Zoe’s world is ingrained in me, but I’ve never worked in the coroner’s office and never been a cop. However, I’ve taken citizen’s academies with the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, the Pennsylvania State Police, and the FBI. I’ve also attended Writer’s Police Academy twice (and plan to go again this summer!) I’ve done ride-alongs and have experts in forensics, law enforcement, and the legal system ready and available to answer questions that arise.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book?
AD: For those who have read my earlier book Cry Wolf and wonder about that big WOW moment at the end, you will finally get some answers about Zoe’s family in this one.
Thanks for answering my questions, Annette, and good luck with Under the Radar, the latest book in the Zoe Chambers Mystery series.
The novel is available at the following online retailers:
About Annette Dashofy: She is the USA Today best-selling author of the Zoe Chambers mystery series about a paramedic and deputy coroner in rural southwestern Pennsylvania. A former EMT and lifelong resident of the area about which she writes, Annette lives with her husband and one very spoiled cat on what was once her grandfather’s dairy farm. UNDER THE RADAR (February 2020) is the ninth in her series.