Margaret Mizushima is the author of the internationally published and critically acclaimed Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries, including “Burning Ridge,” named a Best Book of 2018 by Kings River Life.
She lives in Colorado on a small ranch with her veterinarian husband where they raised two daughters and a multitude of animals. She can be found on Facebook @AuthorMargaretMizushima, on Twitter @margmizu, on Instagram at margmizu and on her website at www.margaretmizushima.com.
The following is an interview with Margaret Mizushima.
Each week, The Colorado Sun and Colorado Humanities & Center For The Book feature an excerpt from a Colorado book and an interview with the author. Explore the SunLit archives at coloradosun.com/sunlit
What inspired you to write this book?
“Burning Ridge” is fourth in my Timber Creek K-9 mystery series, and its title inspired the book’s plot. I often collaborate with my publishing team at Crooked Lane Books when I’m deciding on a title for a book I’ve completed. During the naming process for book three, someone suggested the title Burning Ridge, but it didn’t fit that book’s storyline. My publisher liked the title, though, and asked if I might consider using it for book four. I liked it too, so I agreed.
We all wanted the story to have a forest fire for the cover, but I knew I wanted something else burning up on that ridge besides trees. This led me to the idea of a ridge used for burning bodies. I also wanted to advance the character arc of my main protagonist Deputy Mattie Cobb, and one thing led to another. Mattie finds a charred body up on the ridge, she learns she has a personal connection to the victim, and then the villain comes after her—straight out of her past.
Who are your favorite authors and/or characters?
I have so many, and my favorite authors and their characters walk hand in hand. I’m partial to Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone, Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, Robert Crais’s Joe Pike, and Tess Gerritsen’s two protagonists, Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles. I also love Elly Griffith’s writing and her character, Ruth Galloway.
Why did you choose this excerpt to feature in SunLit?
I wanted to show how Deputy Mattie Cobb and her K-9 Robo work together. When partial human remains are found up on Redstone Ridge in the Colorado mountains, Mattie and Robo are called to help find the rest of the body. This excerpt depicts the end of their search.
What was the most fun or rewarding part of working on this book?
I always enjoy the research involved for each book in the series. There are a few scenes in “Burning Ridge” that involve drugs used for wildlife sedation and how those drugs affect humans. I enjoyed digging into the symptoms they cause and the antidotes used as reversal agents—so much so that I included a scene where the veterinarian in the series, Cole Walker, goes online to do the research, too. His research is done against a ticking clock though, because he has an animal in his clinic that he needs to save.
And it’s always a pleasure to collaborate with and learn from my police officer consultants. Though I’ve participated in training dogs for search and rescue, I don’t have a background in law enforcement. I owe a lot to the officers who’ve volunteered to help me make sure that Deputy Mattie Cobb knows what she’s doing.
What was the most difficult section to write in this book? Why?
When Mattie becomes the target of the killer, she has a very tough time, and the struggles that she and her partner Robo had to endure sometimes brought me to tears. I do promise my readers one thing, though. Things might get rough for Mattie and her K-9 partner, but there’s one thing I won’t let happen: Robo will never get permanently injured or die while on my watch!
What was one interesting fact you learned while researching this book?
One of the wildlife drugs used in this story is thiafentanil oxalate, brand name Thianil, which is used for tranquilizing large animals such as water buffalo. It’s quite dangerous for humans, and people who handle it should use gloves and protective respiratory masks to avoid accidental contact or inhalation. This drug is related to fentanyl, a powerful opioid used by physicians to treat intractable pain for cancer patients but is often abused by drug addicts. Narcotics detection dogs have inhaled this dangerous drug during narcotics searches, which can cause death if not treated immediately. Most K-9 handlers now carry Narcan, an antidote that reverses the symptoms, so they can save their dog’s life in the case of accidental exposure.
What project are you working on next?
I’m in the process of proofreading “Tracking Game,” the fifth book in the Timber Creek K-9 series, which will be released November 12, 2019. And I’m also writing book six, which is scheduled for release in fall of 2020.
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