Today at Ascroft, eh? we’re talking to the authors of To Fetch a Scoundrel, four fun ‘tails’ of murder and mystery.
Welcome, everyone. 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.
Heather Weidner: The Mutt Mysteries is a anthology of four, dog-themed mysteries by four cozy mystery authors. Each story has a spunky canine that helps solve the mystery.
Jayne Ormerod: Mutt Mysteries is a series with each book comprised of four fun “tails” of mutts, mayhem and murder. “Pawsitively Scandalous” is my contribution to the 2nd Mutt Mystery, To Fetch a Scoundrel. Plans for the 3rd installment are in the works.
Rosemary Shomaker: “Ruff Goodbye” is my contribution to the To Fetch a Scoundrel novella collection. Scoundrels abound at a local funeral home when good guy Curt’s visitation is held the same time as that for local crime boss Lionel Winks, Sr. Curt’s miniature poodle Cloud moves in the background, clueing in Curt’s best friend Len and window Sharon to friends and foes. The Mutt Mysteries showcase amateur sleuths abetted by canines.
Teresa Inge: To Fetch a Scoundrel is the second book in the Mutt Mysteries collection. The first book, To Fetch a Thief, was published in 2019 and To Fetch a Scoundrel in 2020. Each book in the series includes “Four Fun Tails” of mysteries. Teresa Inge, Jayne Ormerod, Rosemary Shomaker, and Heather Weidner are the featured authors and collaborators in the series.
Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from?
Heather Weidner: We have a local racetrack, and I thought a small town track would be a great setting for murder.
Jayne Ormerod: An incident from my childhood. I overheard my parents whispering about a town official who was arrested by the FBI. Quite scandalous! I never knew the circumstances, but it sparked an idea for this story.
Rosemary Shomaker: The mystery central to “Ruff Goodbye” stems from recent funeral home visitations I’ve attended. I was struck by the long memories of attendees and their varied views of the deceased. I took the idea of bad seeds form the past and wove that into a story in which multiple characters have historical secrets. In “Ruff Goodbye,” no character is faultless and several are motivated by greed, revenge, shame, or pride.
Teresa Inge: In the first book, To Fetch a Thief, and my story “Hounding the Pavement”, I created the main character, Catt Ramsey, a dog-walker and business owner of the Woof-Pack Dog Walkers to have flexibility to get her out and about to solve murders in between walking her dogs Cagney and Lacey and her clients’ dogs. This profession would eliminate her from being stuck behind a desk to solve crimes. I continued writing about Catt Ramsey and her dog walking service in the second book, To Fetch a Scoundrel, and in my story, ”A Doggone Scandal.”
Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it?
Heather Weidner: Cassidy Green is my amateur sleuth. She was a marketing specialist who left her day job to run the Amelia Race Track when she inherited from her father. She and her Rottweiler, Oliver, work hard to keep the business afloat.
Jayne Ormerod: Cozy mysteries adhere to the basic theme of good triumphs over evil. In our stories, we incorporate our canine companions to insure that happens.
Rosemary Shomaker: I wanted to stress a theme of second chances. All characters have foibles and faults in “Ruff Goodbye.” Sins of the past can be mitigated. We are more than the worst action we’ve taken or worse thought we’ve had or most damaging words we’ve uttered. I write about that as part of my journey towards being a less judgmental person.
Teresa Inge: The theme is to write about Catt Ramsey and her dogs Cagney and Lacey and all the crimes, murder, and trouble they get involved in to solve the mysteries.
How do you create your characters? Do you have favourite ones? If so, why are you partial to them?
Heather Weidner: I plot out my stories, and the characters, their quirks, and names come as I write. I write the Delanie Fitzgerald series. Delanie is a sassy private investigator with a computer geek sidekick, Duncan Reynolds. I love writing about these characters because they get in all kinds of humorous situations. This series also has an English bulldog, Margaret. She’s Duncan’s shadow and rules the office.
Jayne Ormerod: For me, the story comes first. I think of the worst thing that can happen, and then I plop a female least able to handle the situation right in the middle of the mayhem. From this comes conflict, and often humor. Is an author allowed to have a favorite character? It’s like a mother having a favorite child. But just between us, I relate the most to Ellery Tinsdale in my Blonds at the Beach series, The Blond Leading the Blond and Blond Luck. I think she is my evil twin.
Rosemary Shomaker: My characters are amalgams of people I’ve seen or known or read about. The main point of view character is a personality type I can understand in some way, so I can see and feel plot events through him/her. I like my male characters. I was raised almost solely by and around women, so having a husband and a son has introduced me to the male psyche and its challenges and viewpoints in a way I never considered as a child and young woman.
Teresa Inge: I always create strong female characters who are business owners. They have more at stake in losing their business when accused of murder. I set them on a journey in each book to solve murders and crimes since they want justice and are nosey in general.
How do you bring to life the place you are writing about?
Heather Weidner: I always write where I know. I’ve lived in Virginia all my life, so all my stories, novellas, and novels are set in the Commonwealth.
Jayne Ormerod: It takes a village. Seriously. I pepper the story with lots of interesting and quirky characters, and it’s their interactions with the shopkeepers, the waitresses, the dog walkers, and the park-bench sitters, that breath life into the setting.
Rosemary Shomaker: Bringing life to a story’s, or a scene’s, setting is about the little details and little moves. For example, the scent of ammonia in the busboy’s spray bottle, the pattern on the tablecloth, and the sticky patch on the floor at a restaurant all conjure for the reader aspects of that environment. At a park, how a woman lifts a child, that a man pushes a dog away, and how a child bounces up or cries after a fall lend reality to a scene and give a reader insight into characters.
Teresa Inge: Since Catt Ramsey’s dog walking service is located in Virginia Beach, I use the boardwalk, ocean, and beautiful scenery as the backdrop and character for the location.
What research do you do to provide background information to help you write the novel?
Heather Weidner: Actually, a lot of research goes into writing contemporary mysteries. For my story, “The Fast and the Furriest,” I had to make sure that the race terms, cars, and equipment were accurate. I also set the fictional track in Amelia County, Virginia, so I had to make sure that my locations were correct, too. While it is fiction, there are a lot of real places, and I want my writing to be as accurate as possible.
Jayne Ormerod: In fiction it isn’t so much research as it is planning. I layout a grid for my town and consult it often so as not to make any wrong turns. One aspect of my research I take seriously is the vehicles. Fortunately, I have friends with cars. The Porsche ride was exhilarating (it would have been better if I’d been allowed to drive!), but my favorite was fitting a large woman into the backseat of a small mini-cooper. I practically wet myself watching that. Thanks friends! You are the best!
Rosemary Shomaker: Written details and descriptions of locations, actions, job duties, personality types, etc., must be legit, or some or many readers will notice and lose faith or interest in an author. If I write about a baker, I’ve read a lot about bakers, visited a few bakeries, and talked to bakery staff. These days, one can virtually “visit” locations online, and that’s handy—if the map or videos are up to date. Whenever I wonder if I have detail right, I’ll check online and/or with people who can verify the detail. It pays to check—write once, verify twice! That said, it’s a great superpower to go anywhere and ask anything by prefacing with, “I’m a writer, . . .” Doors will open, people will talk to you, and maybe even trespassing will be forgiven?
Teresa Inge: I do lots of research! It’s my thing to make sure I get the city, town, location, characters, and profession accurate. I usually visit the location and conduct interviews of someone in the profession that I am writing about. I also do extensive online research to get it right.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book?
Heather Weidner: The Mutt Mysteries are fun collections for cozy mystery and dog lovers. I love the variety of the stories and the locales. This is such a fun project to work on.
Jayne Ormerod: Four fun “tails” of scandal and murder! What more do you need to know?
Rosemary Shomaker: Support local authors. Read a mystery. Comment on social media about what you liked about a story, book, or author event. Post short reviews on bookseller websites about local authors’ books.
Teresa Inge: Well, if you love dogs, animals, or just want to read good mysteries, then check out the Mutt Mysteries Collection, To Fetch a Thief and To Fetch a Scoundrel. Additional books in the series are in the works.
Thanks for answering my questions, everyone, and good luck with To Fetch a Scoundrel, four fun ‘tails’ of murder and mystery.
The novel is available at the following online retailers: