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SunLit Interviews

A Colorado author’s novel is full of mystery, but also a narrative that explores all types of love

Margaret Mizushima more fully develops protagonist Mattie Cobb and her trust issues. She also had to create a new villain when the first draft shed a too-sympathetic light.

Author Margaret Mizushima.

Margaret Mizushima is the author of the award-winning and internationally published Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries.

She serves as president for the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, was elected the 2019-2020 Writer of the Year by Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and is also a member of Northern Colorado Writers, Sisters in Crime, and Women Writing the West. She can be found on Facebook/AuthorMargaretMizushima, Twitter @margmizu, Instagram at margmizu, and her website at www.margaretmizushima.com.

The following is an interview with Margaret Mizushima.

UNDERWRITTEN BY

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? 

“Tracking Game” is the fifth Timber Creek K-9 Mystery. It provides an outdoor mystery with plenty of action for the reader while further developing the relationship between the two protagonists, Mattie Cobb and Cole Walker. 

Abandoned by her mother at age 6, Mattie has trust issues, and despite her deepening feelings for Cole, she has doubts and hesitates to commit. So I was inspired to weave the theme of love into this book and, through scenes, show Mattie different kinds of love—family love, mature love, parental love, love of animals, love of the land, the love between friends, and romantic love—in hopes that she would figure things out by the end. 

The mystery itself and some of the secondary characters were inspired by my past, being raised on a cattle ranch in Colorado, and my experience as a speech therapist. I brought more of myself into this book than any of the others in the series. 

“Tracking Game” by Margaret Mizushima.

Place this excerpt in context. How does it fit into the book as a whole and why did you select it?

This excerpt was taken from Chapter 12, well into the book. I chose it because it depicts the teamwork of Mattie and her K-9 partner Robo. It’s also the turning point in the story when Mattie first hears the roar of an animal that she can’t identify while up in the mountains outside of Timber Creek. 

This creature is not what it first appears to be, and its presence in Colorado is at the heart of the mystery. As the investigation progresses, it leads the Timber Creek County Sheriff’s Department to team up with Colorado Parks and Wildlife on a high country hunt intended to not only rescue the animal but also to catch a killer.

Tell us about creating this book: any research and travel you might have done, any other influences on which you drew?

I’m fortunate to have a variety of consultants who help me with research and the technical aspects of the story. The premise of this mystery is based on wildlife trafficking, so I spent time with a friend who’s a retired wildlife manager to determine which species I could utilize. 

She was able to suggest an animal that is trafficked more through other parts of the United States, although it doesn’t take much of a stretch of the imagination to bring that problem into Colorado. 

From there, it was a matter of reading various articles and weaving in what I already knew about using dogs to track both animals and humans. Thus, “Tracking Game” came to life, with Robo tracking the human villains in the story and a new dog character, a Rhodesian ridgeback named Moose, tracking the animal that’s in jeopardy.

What were the biggest challenges you faced, or surprises you encountered in completing this book?

When I was finishing up the first draft of “Tracking Game,” I was surprised to find that I had too much sympathy for the villain to leave the story as planned. I couldn’t bear for that person to be arrested and thrown in jail. 

So I had to start over and re-plot, developing a different villain and a different ending. In fact I had to write the ending many times before I was satisfied with it. 

TODAY’S UNDERWRITER

Walk us through your writing process: Where and when do you write? What time of day? Do you listen to music, need quiet?

I write in the morning, and I need quiet. I isolate myself in my upstairs writing cave with a cup of tea, and I light a candle. I set a goal to write at least 1,000 words per day when creating a first draft, and if I can write more, that’s a very good day. 

Sometimes I have a lacey outline with lots of holes in it to fill; other times I just sit down and write. Both ways get the job done, but the second method involves more surprises and is more fun.

What’s your next project?

I’m putting the finishing touches on book six in the series, “Hanging Falls.” It’s scheduled for release September 8, 2020, and folks can read the book description on my website at www.margaretmizushima.com if they’re interested.

I’ve also started writing book seven, which is yet untitled, though I’m sure the title will come clear as the story develops. This seventh adventure featuring Mattie, Robo, and Cole will come out fall of 2021.

Buy “Tracking Game” at BookBar

Read an excerpt from “Tracking Game


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