Mystery author Kathleen Kaska is helping me wind up the week with a conversation about her new book, Run Dog Run.
Kathleen Kaska is the author two awarding-winning mystery series: the Sydney Lockhart Mystery Series set in the 1950s and the Classic Triviography Mystery Series, which includes The Sherlock Holmes Triviography and Quiz Book. Her first two Lockhart mysteries, Murder at the Arlington and Murder at the Luther, were selected as bonus-books for the Pulpwood Queen Book Group, the largest book group in the country. Her latest Sydney Lockhart mystery, set in Austin, Texas, is Murder at the Driskill. When she is not writing, she spends much of her time with her husband traveling the back roads and byways around the country, looking for new venues for her mysteries and bird watching along the Texas coast and beyond. It was her passion for birds that led to the publication The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story (University Press of Florida).
Welcome, Kathleen. Please tell us about your current release.
Run Dog Run was my very first attempt at writing fiction. I wanted to write a story that was not only engaging, but made people think about animal rights issues, a cause I am passionate about. I had to rewrite the manuscript several times. My first attempt was too heavy-handed and I realized I preached and editorialize too much.
My protagonist, Kate Caraway, is an advocate for animal rights. The story begins with a major disruption in her life. She was forced to leave her elephant project in Africa and return to the US. She returns to Texas to recover and becomes involved with a prominent, but shady character who raises and trains greyhounds.
What inspired you to write this book?
I have a passion for animals. I used to be a member of Wildlife Rescue, Inc. when I lived in Austin, Texas. I rehabbed and raised orphaned wildlife with the goal to release them back into the wild if possible. It was a very rewarding experience. I chose to write about the world of greyhound racing after I discovered the appalling conditions that occur behind the scenes. I want people to be aware of the issues involved and to consider adopting one of these beautiful dogs.
Excerpt from Run Dog Run:
She’d been foolish and gone off alone, now she might have to pay the ultimate price…
The rocks along the bottom of the creek bed seemed to disappear. Kate felt the ropy, gnarl of tree roots instead.
The cedar break. She was approaching the road and soon the water would pass through the culvert. She knew that she would not make it through the narrow tunnel alive. Her lungs screamed for air. With one final attempt, she grabbed hold of a long cedar root growing along the side of the creek bank and hung on. Miraculously, it held. She wedged her foot under the tangled growth and anchored herself against the current. Inching her way upward, she thrust her head above water and gulped for air. But debris in the current slapped her in the face, and leaves and twigs filled her mouth, choking her. Dizziness overcame her ability to think—exhaustion prevented her from pulling herself higher.
She must not give in. Fighting unconsciousness, Kate inched her way up a little farther, and at last was able to take a clear breath. Her right arm hung loosely by her side, the back of the shaft had broken off in the tumble through the current, but the arrow was lodged in her arm. Numb from cold water and exhaustion, she lay on the bank as the water swept over her, and then, as quickly as it had arrived, the flow subsided and the current slowed. If she could hang on a few moments longer, survival looked promising. As thoughts of hope entered her mind, Kate feared that her pursuer might not have given up the chase. Perfect, Kate Caraway, just perfect. You screwed up again, she chided herself as the lights went out.
What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m finishing my fifth mystery, Murder at the Menger, in the Sydney Lockhart mystery series. The setting is the 1950s and each story takes place in an historic hotel. The Menger Hotel is located in San Antonio, Texas.
I’ve just completed a hardboiled detective story, Death Without Dignity. It takes place in Manhattan in the early 1940s. This was a stretch for me, but I had great fun writing it.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I started off writing travel articles. My first article was published the Club Mex newsletter. It was about my trip to Cabo San Lucas.
Do you write full-time?
I am a retired teacher, which allows me to spend most of my time writing. When I’m not writing for myself, I write for a publishing company, Cave Art Press. I am also their marketing director.
If so, what's your work day like?
I get up at 5:20, work on my own projects early, and then usually go for a run. On Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, I work at the publishing company.
What do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I spend time birding, running, and enjoying my time with my husband. I started running marathons a few years ago. This is an activity I do with my three sisters and two nieces.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I have a personal editor whom I’ll call Evelyn. She resides in my subconscious and analyzes what I’ve written while I sleep. Sometimes she wakes me up in the middle of the night to let me know I misused a word. For example: “Are you sure you want to use the word cockatoo? You can’t drink a cockatoo, but you can drink a cocktail. I’m just saying.” Or she’ll suggest a way to fix a writing problem. “You should consider shortening the first chapter by leaving out the bird-watching story. You can use that later.” Sometimes the message I receive is a reminder. “Did you send the new cover-image for your guest blog post to Leslie?” Evelyn is never wrong. I often wonder why she doesn’t tell me about all my errors and make even more suggestions; then I realize that if she did, I’d never get any sleep.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
The list is long: a ballerina, and artist, a marine biologist, a teacher, an actress, a world traveler, and an automobile mechanic.
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Cave Art Press is looking for submissions. We published nonfiction in the areas of military history, adventure travel, memoir, and nautical and nature. You can check us out at www.caveartpress.com.
Thanks for being here, Kathleen!