Margaret Mizushima is the author of Burning Ridge, the latest of the critically acclaimed Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries series. 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 at her website.
Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Burning Ridge: A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery. Tell us all about it.
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.
What type of challenges did you face while writing it?
I strive to get details right when I write about subjects that I’m unfamiliar with, and Burning Ridge was no exception. The killer uses some powerful wildlife sedation drugs in the book, which required research on my part. Fortunately my husband is a veterinarian, so he could help. He also put me in touch with a vet who specializes in the research and development of these types of drugs, a wonderful resource for me.
I combine animal topics with crimes against humans in my books, and it’s always a challenge to weave the two together. And although Robo, the dog character in my series, frequently faces danger, he comes out on top. And he always will.
What do you hope readers will get from your book?
First and foremost, I want to give readers a fast read and an entertaining story that will give them some respite in their day. Years ago, when I was working full time as a speech therapist and raising two daughters, I would search the paperbacks at the grocery store to find the perfect story that would sweep me away during the weekend. This inspired me to write, and I hoped I could entertain readers someday.
Did your book require a lot of research?
The Timber Creek series in general has required tons of research as well as a great deal of life experience. I’ve been married to a veterinarian for over thirty-five years, so Cole Walker, the vet character in my books, is fairly easy to write and his scenes flow naturally. We’ve also trained dogs in obedience and search and rescue, so that experience has come in handy.
But I’ve never worked in law enforcement, and therefore I’ve depended on consultants, shadowing K-9 officers, attending K-9 dog trials, and reading wonderful K-9 training books that I’ve collected through the years. I hope that all of this work combines to provide a technically accurate read with lots of dog action.
What do you do when your muse refuses to collaborate?
I show up at the computer keyboard anyway. When I wrote the first Timber Creek book, Killing Trail, I wrote when I felt like it, taking almost six years to revise, revise, revise, and then polish the book. But when I signed my first contract, I knew I’d have to have book two in the series ready within a year. Fortunately, even on the days I don’t feel like writing, if I sit down and get started, my muse almost always shows up!
Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about your work?
I have a website and there is a tab on my site that will take you to my blog. I hope you’ll join me there. At my website, please sign up for my newsletter. You can also catch up with me on Facebook at AuthorMargaretMizushima, on Twitter at @margmizu, and on Instagram at margmizu. I hope to connect with you soon!
Where is your book available?
Burning Ridge and the other Timber Creek K-9 mysteries can be found on a variety of online booksellers, including Amazon. It can also be found at many Barnes and Noble stores and if your favorite indie bookstore doesn’t have it on the shelf, they should be able to order it.
The other three books in the series are (in order): Killing Trail, Stalking Ground, and Hunting Hour. Each book is written so that the mystery stands alone, but if you want the full effect of the characters’ life stories, you might want to start with Killing Trail and read them in order.
What is your advice for aspiring authors?
Take the time and invest the money in attending a good, regional writing conference that focuses on writing craft and the business of writing. This is where you can learn all about writing, network with other writers, and meet agents and editors. I’m lucky to have several of such here in the Rocky Mountain region, and this is how I met both my agent and my acquiring editor. Practice your writing, participate in critique groups, and persist.
George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”
Oh, I love this quote. I’m still not entirely sure what drives me to write fiction. As a speech therapist, I did a lot of technical and professional writing, but even though I’d wanted to be a storyteller since I was a child, I began to study the art and craft of fiction writing only after I retired from my first career. And I love it—when the story flows. When it doesn’t, well — Orwell says it best.