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SunLit Interviews

Interview: Author Margaret Mizushima confronts mental health through characters

Heroine Matty Cobb deals with repressed memories as she helps solve the series' self-contained mysteries

Margaret Mizushima is the author of the critically acclaimed Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries.

Her books have garnered a Reader’s Favorite gold medal, a TopShelf Indie Book Award nomination, and have been listed as finalists in the RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards, the Colorado Book Awards, the International Book Awards, and the Silver Falchion 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.

What inspired you to write this book?

Because the over-arching theme in “Hunting Hour” is mental health, this is a book of my heart and one that I wanted to write early in the series.

It features several characters, including heroine Mattie Cobb, who are dealing with various mental health issues, some faring well and others not so well. Although each Timber Creek K-9 episode includes a self-contained mystery and can stand alone in that respect, Mattie’s character arc unfolds throughout the series as she learns more about herself and struggles to deal with repressed memories that come to light.

By the opening of this third episode, Mattie is in a dark place but is working hard in therapy to move on with her life.

Unfortunately, a killer who wants some of the same things Mattie wants has come to Timber Creek, disrupting her progress and snatching someone whom Mattie and her friend Cole Walker love more dearly than life itself.

Who are your favorite authors and/or characters?

I love so many different authors and characters that it’s hard to single out only a few.

I enjoy author Lee Child’s work and his hero, Jack Reacher, whose form of vigilante justice is particularly satisfying.

The late Sue Grafton created a whole alphabet (minus one) of great mysteries along with her protagonist Kinsey Millhone, whom I loved watching piece together her very complex emotional backstory over the episodes. And another favorite character is Ruth Galloway, a forensic archeologist created by Elly Griffiths, who is a master at weaving together setting, tone, and plot to achieve a story the reader can’t put down.

Margaret Mizushima is the author of the critically acclaimed Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries. (Provided photo)

Why did you choose this excerpt to feature in SunLit?

I chose this excerpt because it provides an example of the emotional and physical fatigue that Mattie deals with in this book as well as the type of work she does with her dog Robo.

In all the Timber Creek K-9 mysteries, Robo plays a role in finding things: people, evidence, and clues. He’s a significant character in this book and the entire series.

What was the most fun or rewarding part of working on this book?

In each book, I try to interweave subplots that involve Mattie, her dog Robo, and Cole Walker, Robo’s veterinarian who happens to be Mattie’s love interest.

Each of them plays a role in discovering clues and solving the mystery. It’s fun to plot scenes that give readers pieces of the puzzle while also developing the relationships among the characters.

What was the most difficult section to write in this book? Why?

I’m attached to the characters in the series, and when both Cole and Mattie bottomed out emotionally, so did I. I found myself struggling with depression during the summer I wrote the first draft, and I had to work—along with Mattie—at keeping a positive outlook.

Cole faces one of the hardest challenges a parent can face in Hunting Hour, and I suffered right along with him.

What was one interesting fact you learned while researching this book?

Despite Hollywood’s infatuation with creating bad guys who are schizophrenics, the majority of folks who are diagnosed with this illness are law-abiding citizens and never attract the attention of law enforcement.

But at the same time, Crisis Intervention Training for police officers can be most helpful in bridging the gap between identification of those who struggle with mental health issues of all kinds and facilitating referral into community mental health systems for help.  

What project are you working on next?

“Burning Ridge,” the fourth Timber Creek K-9 mystery, released September 11, and I’m working on the fifth episode, which will release fall of 2019.

Buy: “Hunting Hour” at Book Bar.
Excerpt: “Hunting Hour” by Margaret Mizushima.

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