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Amy has graciously answered some questions for me about her book and her writing. In addition, check out the various other blogs participating in the tour for a chance to win a copy of this delightful book.
A mysterious contagion will shatter countless lives unless a service dog and his trainer find a missing cat . . . in 24 hours. A STALKER hides in plain sight. A VICTIM faces her worst fear. AND A DOG seeks the missing—and finds hope. Eight years ago, animal behaviorist September Day escaped a sadistic captor who left her ashamed, terrified, and struggling with PTSD. She trusts no one—except her cat Macy and service dog Shadow. Shadow also struggles with trust. A German Shepherd autism service dog who rescued his child partner only to lose his-boy forever, Shadow’s crippling fear of abandonment shakes his faith in humans. They are each other’s’ only chance to survive the stalker’s vicious payback, but have only 24 hours to uncover the truth about Macy’s mysterious illness or pay the deadly consequences. When September learns to trust again, and a good-dog takes a chance on love, together they find hope in the midst of despair–and discover what family really means.
Here’s a glimpse at what others are saying about this intriguing story: “Recommended for anyone who likes a 'bite-your-nails, hold-your-breath' kind of thriller." -- Dr. Lorie Huston, Cat Writers Association President
Please join me in welcoming Amy.
Mason - What are the advantages and disadvantages of writing stories involving animals so heavily?
Lots of Pet Lovers. As an animal behavior consultant and former vet tech, I have a wealth of information at my “furry” fingertips. For a thriller writer with a bent toward medical plots, this offers a familiar yet new “twist” on the medical thriller genre, and ramps up the tension and interest for that 60 percent of Americans who share their life with a beloved pet.
Built In Audience. From that perspective, I have a built in audience, as well as carry-over readers from my two dozen or so nonfiction pet care and behavior books. Writing fiction with real animal characters (and not fantasy talking critters) offers a new way to reach readers with good, solid veterinary and behavior information—but without being preachy. I call that info-tainment, I’ve had a number of reviews that make comments to the effect that, “Oh, so THAT’S why my dog/cat does that…”
Wow, imagine making a positive difference in a pet’s life just by having a reader enjoy a fiction story. How kewl is that?
Great “Weird” Material. There are so many different animal-centric weird and scary diseases that have parallels in human medicine that readers may not know about. But I get to make stuff up, too, so my plots may be based on reality but taking just a step further or twisted in an unexpected way. For example, in HIDE AND SEEK, the critters suddenly appear to have Alzheimer’s symptoms and in fact, our dogs and cats can suffer from cognitive disease issues that are very similar to the human condition. Who among us hasn’t had a shiver at the thought of a loved one (or ourselves) losing the ability to think and interact with their loved ones? What if this was instead something you could “catch” and the contagion jumped species to people—of all ages? Yikes!
Behavior Expertise. I also love the opportunity to write from the dog viewpoint in a unique, very dog-centric way. My character Shadow doesn’t talk to other animals, doesn’t speak in dialogue, and instead interacts with his world the way I image a real dog does. Based on my background in dog (and cat) behavior, I do my best to inhabit the mind and emotions and motivations of Shadow. What would he notice in his world, and how would he react to these things? Rather than sight, a dog likely would be more attuned to smells and sounds. The things he sees would be different than what’s important to a human. And he could detect a person’s state of mind by the chemical scent changes given off by his or her body—so in a way, I have a very real character with super-hero-like abilities. The advantage to this, of course, is that nobody can contradict me since no one has been inside the doggy head. J And as a behavior expert, I give my protagonist September the expertise to understand much of these external signals, too, so their partnership is quite unique.
Non-Pet Audiences. The disadvantages I suppose might be that some readers may not have cats or dogs and possibly think the story wouldn’t appeal to them. I like to think that HIDE AND SEEK and the first book LOST AND FOUND stand up well as suspense/thrillers in their own right, without that “dog centric” caveat. Yes, there’s a service dog viewpoint character, and yes there’s a trained cat. But even those who are not pet-fanatics can enjoy the storyline.
Warm & Fuzzy—Not! Another disadvantage might be that readers have come to expect “pet” fiction to be warm and fuzzy, or to have talking critters. Or, they don’t want to read a story where the dog/cat is killed (NEITHER DO I!!!) Now, there’s nothing wrong with having a talking dog or cat character but that’s not what I’m about in my THRILLERS WITH BITE. These are not cozies, although I do want them to be emotionally satisfying and to resonate with readers. And I don’t read books in which the dog or cat dies, and won’t write them, either. So there!
Insider Only. I’ve been writing about pets for more than twenty years. In that time, I’ve learned to write not only for the lay-expert who already knows a great deal about cats and/or dogs, but also to make that information and language accessible to those who have only very basic background. I don’t want to “write down” to anyone, but do want to provide well researched, solid information—and entertainment. There’s nothing wrong with writing a “dog show mystery” that appeals to those who show dogs, but I want my audience to be open to all kinds of readers. One could easily fall into the trap of writing for such a narrow audience that those outside the world of cats/dogs just wouldn’t “get” all the insider references, and stopping to explain all those details would slow and get in the way of the story.
BEST OF ALL WORLDS …
In my case, writing about animals is an advantage. While I’m an animal expert and so have research at my fingertips, readers don’t have to know a lot about dogs and cats to “get” the books and enjoy the thrill ride. Those who love pets, though, may gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of their own special companions. In my books, story comes first. The dogs and cats are just one part of the story that moves the plot and/or are characters that have their own loves, lives and motivations.
Amy, thanks for sharing this look at the pros and cons of adding animals to your story. As an animal lover myself, I’m always happy to read stories where animals are included.
Now let me share a bit of background about Amy.
Amy Shojai is a certified animal behavior consultant, and the award winning author of 26 bestselling pet books that cover furry babies to old fogies, first aid to natural healing, and behavior/training to Chicken Soupicity.
She is the Puppies Expert at puppies.About.com, the cat behavior expert at cats.About.com, and has been featured as an expert in hundreds of print venues including The New York Times, Reader’s Digest, and Family Circle, as well as national radio and television networks such as CNN, Animal Planet’s DOGS 101 and CATS 101.
Amy brings her unique pet-centric viewpoint to public appearances. She is also the author of the critically acclaimed dog viewpoint thriller LOST AND FOUND.
Hi, I'm Mason Canyon and I love reading and that is why I do reviews. I post them here, as well as several other sites such as Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If you are an author who would like for me to review your book or you would like to guest blog here, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org These reviews are done for the love of a good book, not for monetary rewards.