Sunday, July 23, 2023

Q&A with Tracy Carter




Tracy Carter is the author of the novel Dogged Pursuit, the first in her Veronica Kildare K-9 Mystery Series. She lives near Santa Fe, New Mexico.


Q: What inspired you to write Dogged Pursuit, and how did you create your character Veronica Kildare?


A: Mysteries have always beguiled me, from the moment I opened my first yellow spine picture cover Nancy Drew, purchased at the local department store for $1.50! I savored the dramatic cover art first, wondering how a peacock or dancing puppet factored into the story. Mary Stewart mysteries became favorites as I got older and my reading tastes evolved.


Mysteries have a unique element to them; they ask you to test yourself against the puzzle created by the author. Can you wade through the red herrings and misdirection and spot the culprit, or deduce the motive for the violent act central to the book?


Being proved right in your suspicions as the reader gives you a thrill—or a tip of the cap goes to the writer if they have managed to fool you until the big reveal.


I finished university and began a career as a legal assistant (drafting mountains of motions, complaints, and judgment entries), but began to crave the challenge of writing fiction.


Devising a compelling mystery series which pulled readers into a world with a strong female character who had a heartwarming relationship with her father and was bolstered at every turn by the love of a great dog became my goal.


And I wanted to introduce a strong cast of secondary characters for readers to invest in and follow through each successive book. Oftentimes, they can be quite fascinating in their own right! Michael Fletcher has proved to be extremely popular, and I have big plans for him moving forward.


As I entered my 20s, I began working as an assistant trainer for a highly-respected dog obedience school, and then added training in rally and agility to the mix.


My goal for the series transformed once I extensively researched the varied ways dogs can be of service to people, and I sought to define this series in a very particular way.


Dogged Pursuit is not simply a mystery in which the protagonist owns a dog. The featured dogs are never on the sidelines, but interwoven through every facet of their humans’ lives, just as my wonderful retrievers have been in my life.


My main character, Veronica Kildare, took shape quickly once I ascertained that she would be traumatized but tough, relying on the steadfast love and close bond she shares with her dog to forge a new career as a dog trainer in a new state.


She gradually overcomes a violent and traumatic incident at her former workplace with the assistance of Leda, her Chesapeake Bay Retriever, who becomes her highly trained search and rescue and drug detection dog.


Veronica trains every future service dog entrusted to her with love and prepares them to enhance the lives of the owners needing their assistance.


Q: Without giving anything away, did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: I actually knew how the book would start, and end, right from the beginning of the process. It was the middle that surprised me once I started writing it!


A pivotal scene set at one of the nature centers in Rocky Mountain National Park came to me just as I was falling asleep one night, necessitating a hurdle over my Llewellin Setter slumbering by the bed, and a dash to the notepad on my desk, so I could get that idea in writing while it was still fresh in my mind.


The final action sequence of the book and the epilogue resided nearly unchanged in my head for years before I started writing in earnest.


But I did make slight changes to the area in which the last events occurred once I consulted a topographical map of the national forest with a massive magnifying glass. Quite a while had passed since I hiked that spot and I needed the terrain to work with, and not against, my main character.


Also, forest fires which ravaged certain locations in Colorado “in real life” caused minor shifts in settings.

Q: The novel is set in Colorado--how important is setting to you in your writing?


A: When it came time to decide where to set Dogged Pursuit, beautiful Colorado was the natural choice of setting. I lived near Boulder previously and enjoyed the plethora of trails suitable for hiking, jogging, and biking that crisscross the state.


The restorative power of the mountains, wildlife, and scenery there are crucial in Veronica’s journey toward healing. And, as Leda is a talented search and rescue dog, a location where people do get lost in the wilderness fairly frequently was essential to the tale.


Q: The Kirkus Review of the book calls it “A mystery with a nice mix of tenderness, humor, and excitement.” What do you think of that description?


A: I was so pleased that the Kirkus Review focused on the “humor, tenderness, and excitement” aspects of the book. That is the exact dynamic I was hoping to convey, and it felt wonderful that it had been perceived as such.


It was vital to me to convey the power of the love between humans and their dogs, and the ways they make us happy and make us laugh. And a caring and protective relationship between the main character and her father was the linchpin of the book.


Once I resolved to have those relationships threaded throughout the story, it was time to make the adventures of Veronica and Leda as exciting as possible as they searched for a missing scientist in the wilds of Colorado!


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I have just completed the second book in my Veronica Kildare K-9 Mystery Series. It will be released later in 2023.


As Lawyers, Dogs, and Money unfolds, Veronica joins her search and rescue partner, a deputy sheriff for Boulder County, in trying to ascertain the source of threats against Kadri Ilves, a co-worker of Sgt. Donovan’s daughter at a high-end import/export business.


The woman being targeted is a native of Estonia and has a long history of advocating for social justice issues. Veronica's father assists the investigation by researching Kadri's background, including her work to end racial disparity in prison sentencing, and legal claims she has filed relative to disputed lands in Estonia—a cause which may have put her in the crosshairs of the California branch of the Russian mafia.


The book concludes with a stunning showdown involving all the main characters, and a shocking final twist related to the central mystery.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Thanks very much for interviewing me about my book. (I have promised my cat-loving friends that a cat will enter the world of Veronica Kildare and that does take place in the next book.) Nearly every dog in the series is based on a real dog owned by me or my friends. I have shamelessly plundered their dogs’ names and touching stories with their permission.


My own Leda was an abuse and neglect case who had been seized by the county dog warden in horrible physical condition. I adopted her for a whopping $19 on the very day she was scheduled for euthanasia and set about restoring her to good health and building her confidence.


Leda grew into a gorgeous, strapping, self-assured girl who repaid my devotion to her by saving me from an attempted middle of the night home invasion just weeks after I moved to a cabin in Boulder, Colorado. There never was a better dog, real or fictional.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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