Margaret Mizushima is the author of the critically acclaimed Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries. Her books have garnered a Reader’s Favorite gold medal and have been listed as finalists in the RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards, the Colorado Book Awards, and the International Book Awards. Margaret serves on the board for the Rocky Mountain chapter of Mystery Writers of America, and she lives in Colorado where she assists her husband with their veterinary practice and Angus cattle herd. She can be found on Facebook/AuthorMargaretMizushima, on Twitter @margmizu, on Instagram at margmizu, and on her website at www.margaretmizushima.com.
Mayra Calvani: Please tell us about Burning Ridge, and what compelled you to write it.
Margaret Mizushima: Burning Ridge is fourth in the Timber Creek K-9 mystery series which features Deputy Mattie Cobb, her K-9 partner Robo, and veterinarian Cole Walker. Since I’ve been married to a veterinarian for decades, I wanted to create a mystery with a male vet as a character. I planned to write a police procedural instead of an amateur sleuth mystery, and since I wanted a love interest for the vet, it made sense to create a crime-fighting duo of a female K-9 handler and her dog to round out the cast. The plot for Burning Ridge was inspired by Mattie’s past, and I imagined this twist in her character development while writing book three in the series, Hunting Hour.
M.C.: What is your book about?
M.M.: Burning Ridge is the fourth book in the Timber Creek K-9 series, and it’s an action-packed adventure featuring Deputy Mattie Cobb, her dog Robo, and local veterinarian Cole Walker. When Cole and his two daughters find partial human remains up on Redstone Ridge, a beautiful place in the Colorado mountain wilderness, Mattie and Robo are called to investigate. After Robo finds a man’s burned body, Mattie soon realizes that she has close personal ties to the victim and she’s determined to learn the truth behind his death. But the perpetrator has other plans, and Mattie finds herself the target of a sadistic killer. Cole and Robo search for the missing Mattie while a forest fire blazes on the ridge and time runs out.
M.C.: What themes do you explore in Burning Ridge?
M.M.: I explore themes about relationships, family, and what ties a family together. Family themes are woven throughout the entire series, and Burning Ridge forces Mattie to examine some special considerations about hers.
M.C.: Why do you write?
M.M.: Above all, I want to be a storyteller. I want to create stories about good people going through tough times who learn something valuable in the process. At the same time, I strive to entertain folks and give them the type of story that offers a mini-vacation.
M.C.: When do you feel the most creative?
M.M.: Definitely in the morning. I try to dedicate that time of day to my writing and save the afternoon for appointments and my day job.
M.C.: How picky are you with language?
M.M.: This is a great question. My primary goal is to provide a smooth read that flows. I want plenty of action that propels the mystery investigation forward, and I want to make sure that my subplots interweave with my main plot. I like to use language that is easily accessible to a wide variety of readers, and even to people who don’t particularly like to read. I’m thrilled when I get an email from someone who says they don’t usually read, but they love my books. Makes my day!
M.C.: When you write, do you sometimes feel as though you were being manipulated from afar?
M.M.: Good way to say it! I like to begin writing a scene with specific goals in mind, but about half the time, the characters take a turn I never expected!
M.C.: What is your worst time as a writer?
M.M.: The hardest time is slogging through the first draft of a new book. I try to write every day for a four-month period. It can be a tough climb! As I’ve heard novelist Peter Heller say, “Writing a novel is a marathon, not a sprint.” And after completing the first draft, there is that rugged road called revision.
M.C.: Your best?
M.M.: I think my favorite time is when I receive a new cover from my publisher. Crooked Lane produces fabulous covers, and each time it’s like opening up a birthday present!
M.C.: Is there anything that would stop you from writing?
M.M.: I suppose I’ll always be writing something.
M.C.: What’s the happiest moment you’ve lived as an author?
M.M.: When I was offered a contract for my first two books. I had the flu and was driving home from a medical appointment when my agent called. She told me to find a place to park, and after I did, she gave me the news. Illness forgotten! Party on!
M.C.: Is writing an obsession to you?
M.M.: If having a story play out in your mind almost any hour of the day or night and thinking of character development, plot, and the perfect way to word something is an indication of obsession, I would have to say yes.
M.C.: Are the stories you create connected with you in some way?
M.M.: Even though Timber Creek is fictional, it reminds me of my hometown. The small town and rural lives the characters lead have many elements that are similar to mine, and Cole’s mixed animal veterinary practice is similar to my husband’s. But Deputy Mattie Cobb is a creation all to herself; except for the search and rescue work she does with Robo, her characteristics and work come strictly from my imagination and research.
M.C.: Ray Bradbury once said, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” Do you agree?
M.M.: I feel that the business of writing is not for the faint of heart. It’s best for me to stay focused on what’s important—my writing—and to try to keep all the other stuff in perspective.
M.C.: Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about you and your work?
M.M.: My website is at https://margaretmizushima.com/ Readers can connect with me there for my blog and to sign up for my newsletter. Thanks so much for hosting me here on your blog today, Mayra!