Mistress of the Dog Lover’s Mystery

Susan Conant with Django
Susan Conant with Django

I’m delighted to share my site this week with the terrific author Susan Conant. A seven-time winner of the Dog Writers Association of America’s prestigious Maxwell Award, Susan is the author of the Dog Lover’s Mystery Series. Since publishing A New Leash on Death in 1990, Susan’s given us years of enjoyment as we followed the adventures of dog writer and dog trainer Holly Winter and her Alaskan Malamutes. This year, she’s published Sire and Damnthe 20th in the series, and she’s here to discuss the series and her work as a writer.

Be sure to bookmark the site and return later this week when Susan will return to discuss changes in the publishing industry and talk about the writing process. Leave a comment here or on Facebook (links provided at the end of the post). When you post a comment, we’ll enter your name in a drawing for a Kindle edition of Sire and Damn to be sent to you (or the gift recipient of your choice). Now here’s Susan, talking about her series and what’s next:

Along a range of say, lighthearted cozy to dark mystery, how would you describe the overall atmosphere of the series?

Although some of my books deal with serious subjects, my writing is lighthearted. My narrator, Holly Winter, is an extroverted optimist. The same could be said about her malamutes. She loves the world she writes about: she loves the dogs and the dog people. Her affection is, I hope, infectious.

You’ve been writing about Holly Winter (dog writer, trainer, and amateur sleuth) for many years. How has she changed over time?

She has become less judgmental and less naive over the course of the series. Also, in the early books, she is fiercely independent and never intends to marry. As it turns out, marriage suits her well.

Like most professions, the dog world has its own vocabulary, with much of it unfamiliar to people who don’t breed, show, or train dogs. How do you decide what (and how much) to include for readers unfamiliar with dog shows, breeds, or canine behavior?

What’s enough but not too much? It’s essential not to blather on in jargon that will make many readers feel left out, but it’s equally essential not to bore readers senseless by explaining terms they already know or don’t care about. Oy veh! Well, I always explain anything that’s necessary to understand the story. Not every reader will know that frozen means frozen semen! And canine semen at that.

Because I’m inviting readers to visit the world of dog training, breeding, and showing, I also try to make the invitation welcoming to anyone who is a stranger in that world. Furthermore, I love having fun with the eccentric language of the dog world: He bred to her. She has bad fronts. He threw woollies. I love that language. Fortunately, so do the people who are fluent in it!

Do you have a personal favorite in the series?

I’m particulDogfather Susan Conantarly fond of The Dogfather because I have happy memories of writing the entire book in longhand. It was an utterly impractical way to write a book. I’m not recommending it, and I hope never to do it again. I did it because I had some irrational sense that it was how the book wanted to be written. In my illegible handwriting! But the story flowed, and I had fun.

 What’s next?

I now have my first sheltie, Tori, who is my first herding breed and my first small dog. She is certainly a contrast to my malamutes and to the other dogs I’ve owned. I am so crazy about her that I owe her a book. I haven’t decided whether my sheltie story will be a Holly Winter mystery, a stand-alone novel, or the beginning of a series. I have a lot of scrawled notes about the book. Sooner or later, the story will come to me. I am waiting impatiently.

Susan with Tori
Susan Conant with Tori

Where can fans buy your books?

I own three Kindles, and I have Kindle apps on my Mac, my iPhone, and my iPad. I subscribe to Amazon Prime and Kindle Unlimited. Amazon offers incentives to authors who decide to make their books Amazon exclusives.  Amazon has taken over my life. Oh, the question. You can buy my books on Amazon.

Sire and Damn

Okay, readers and fans: it’s your turn! Leave a comment here, or drop by Susan’s Facebook page, or you can leave a comment on my own Facebook page. If you’ve read the series, let us know if you have a favorite. You’re welcome to ask questions, too! We’ll draw the winner of the Sire and Damn on Saturday, so be sure to leave your comment before then.

37 thoughts on “Mistress of the Dog Lover’s Mystery

    1. Thanks for coming by, Shelley! Susan tackles all sorts of interesting subjects in her mystery series. I read her latest in one sitting–didn’t want to put it down!

    1. Barbara, I love reading about dogs too! Ever since I lost my sweet spaniel Alix, people keep trying to give me dogs. On good days I’m amused by their persistence–and their choices! From Yorkies to Labs and a half-dozen breeds in between. For now, I’ll stick to the fictional sort. Thanks for coming by!

  1. Laura Pescador

    Love Susan Conant’s mysteries. When we adopted Misha, our mystery mutt a few years ago everyone insisted her black and silvery tan markings and pretty black eyeliner were GSD but I was certain from the descriptions of Holly’s life with her malamutes that an arctic breed had jumped that fence. Sure enough, when we finally got a DNA breed test done on her it came back a quarter Malamute.

  2. What a great interview! Susan (Conant–lots of Susans here!), I’ve really enjoyed reading your Facebook posts about Tori. It’s a sea change sometimes to get a different breed of dog. When we got Shadow, our labradoodle (or perhaps standard poodle), he was so unlike any dog we’d ever had. He was so. . .unbiddable. 🙂 And so high energy. He’s now grown into a sweet, delightful dog, who will work for treats but not so much for praise, because, after all, what does he care what _we_ think? And now that we’re used to Shadow, we’ve ended up adopting a beagle/?? mix stray who turned up in our area, and all she wants to do is please us every second of the day. We feel a little bipolar. 🙂

    1. When I first had Tori, she was less food obsessed than she is now. I suspect that she has absorbed some malamute DNA from her surroundings! It’s so interesting to have dogs that differ radically from one another, isn’t it!

    1. Robyn, it was great to have Susan Conant as a guest here. She’s been a favorite author of mine for years, and I love her stories.

      Be sure to check back this weekend when we announce the winner! (And even if you don’t win, I hope you’ll check out her Amazon sales page.)

  3. Linda Smith

    I have enjoyed all of Susan’s books and am looking forward to one with a shelti. Hope it’s a mystery too

    1. Thanks for coming by, Linda. If you follow Susan’s FB page you can keep up with Tori’s adventures now. We’ll keep our fingers crossed that there’s a sheltie story in our future.

  4. nhreader58

    Big fan of Susan’s mystery series. Living in NH it’s fun reading books set in the New England area, I might even recognize a place I’ve been to. I got to meet Susan and one of her Malamutes years ago in Portsmouth NH. She was doing a book signing at a now closed mystery bookstore and I got to meet her and her dog and get a signed book. Best day trip ever!

    1. Sounds like you had a great day! It’s a shame the bookstore’s now closed, but let’s hope you’ll be able to visit with Susan at another signing one day soon.

  5. Jeanne Thomas

    I’ve loved the entire series, and read them all. It’s hard to say which is my favorite. The first few dealt more with competition obedience than later books in the series, and obedience is my sport … so I’m tempted to pick those. But I also loved the one that dealt with puppy mills (I can’t recall the name of that one), partly because it involved Goldens (my breed). I’m so looking forward to Sire & Damn

    1. Yes, it was Bloodlines. Competition obedience has become more and more difficult to write about because it’s become so complicated: many, many titles, classes, rules, and so on. Most of my readers don’t want a set of regulations. They want a dog story.

  6. It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Susan’s books. I love the fact that she has always included a responsible dog ownership message in each book, right from the beginning. Here’s a mystery for you: why has it taken until now for me to find this blog?!

    1. Darlene, I’m delighted you found the blog! When I first started publishing fiction, I knew I wanted a blog to connect writers and readers who love dog-related stories and information. I also wanted a site that would let me showcase some of the fabulous regional photographers, bloggers, and storytellers here in the Ozarks. I hope you’ll come back often and see what’s new.

  7. Oh, I am so glad that Susan is still writing. Since I have had much trouble with brain fog, I can’t remember which books I have read. Usually I give them away, saying this book is so much fun you have to read it and pass it on. It is difficult for me to read novels because if I put the book down for a few days, I can’t remember and have to start over. By the time I finished Black Ribbon, I had 5 book marks. You know what they say about how people don’t remember so much of what you say but they do remember how you made then feel? Well, I do remember that when I read Susan’s books, I do so with a smile on my face. Thanks you, Susan, for so many fun reads.

  8. Pat, I can certainly empathize with brain fog! I’ve tried keeping a list of titles as I read, but of course I forget to do that and end up reading something again–which fortunately I really enjoy.

    You might enjoy reading Susan Conant’s short stories featuring Holly Winter. Find those at her Amazon sales page.

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