Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Conversation with Mystery Author Eileen Brady

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with Eileen Brady
with Eileen Brady

We are delighted to welcome mystery author Eileen Brady to Omnimystery News today.

Eileen's debut novel Muzzled (Poisoned Pen Press; May 2014 hardcover, trade paperback, large print and ebook formats) was the winner of the 2013 Discover Mystery Award from Poisoned Pen Press.

We recently had the opportunity to talk with Eileen about her new book.

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Omnimystery News: Muzzled is your debut mystery. Why did you choose to write it as the first in a series?

Eileen Brady
Photo provided courtesy of
Eileen Brady

Eileen Brady: Reading a series with a recurring character is like sitting down with an old friend. I find that's what I like in crime and mystery fiction, so when I decided to write the Kate Turner, D.V.M. series it seemed like a natural fit. When Muzzled, starts, we don't know a lot about Kate. Each new book will reveal a little more about our heroine, her past, her aspirations and her core values. She is a fun character to write.

OMN: Into which mystery subgenre would you place Muzzled?

EB: That's a good question. My book has been labeled a smart cozy, a pet noir, and a cross-over mystery/cozy. I think the advantages of labels are mostly for the readers — for example, I know my sister doesn't enjoy thrillers. Classifying books helps her find the genre that she is comfortable with. On the other hand, I think part of the fun of reading is discovery. Who knows? Try a different genre. You might be pleasantly surprised.

OMN: Tell us something about the book that isn't mentioned in the synopsis.

EB: I've had readers tell me they laughed out loud throughout the book, which is what I intended. My mystery is funny, with an intriguing plot. There are plenty of animal stories with lots of quirky clients, plus a heaping helping of practical veterinary advice.

OMN: You have training as a DVM as does your series character. Are any of the characters or events in the book based on your personal experiences?

EB: I have over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian, and I also worked as a veterinary technician before going to medical school — so I've interacted with hundreds of pets and their owners. My characters are fictional, with a sprinkling of real experience to flavor the mix. Almost all of the veterinary house call experiences are drawn from real cases I worked on, but the situations are fictionalized for entertainment value. Just for fun I've named some of the animal characters after our family pets. Jazz and Jewel were our beautiful standard poodles, and they pop up in the book happily romping under the trees.

OMN: Where do you most often find yourself writing?

EB: My office writing environment would scare most people. It is creatively messy. I seem to build up books and research notes like a cocoon around me. I've always got one or more cats trying to sleep on my keyboard, or drink from my water glass, or share my office chair. Under the desk one or both dogs are snoozing and having noisy doggy dreams. I've got various souvenirs hanging off cabinet knobs from my travels — a red good luck tassel from China, a glass Turkish anti-evil eye, even badges from past writers conferences. Scattered around are a purple parasol from Thailand, a piece of driftwood, a hand puppet from Cambodia and family pictures and drawings, everything dusted with a gentle film of Arizona sand and pet hair.

OMN: How do you go about researching the plot points of your stories?

EB: Most of my fact-checking takes place over the internet, but I also run different scenarios past experts in the field. In Muzzled I also used plenty of first-hand experience, especially in the behind-the-scenes animal hospital setting. In the next book, tentatively titled Unleashed, I've had to broaden my research, using lots of newspaper and library sources. It's been fascinating and I hope it shows in the plot line.

OMN: Tell us more about the setting for Muzzled.

EB: The setting I've chosen is the fictional town of Oak Falls, in upstate New York. For almost ten years I lived in a small town called Olivebridge, near Kingston and the famous village of Woodstock. Yes, that Woodstock. Much of the town I describe is a composite of many small towns in the Hudson Valley. Weather played a huge part in day to day life and I try to emphasize that in my book.

OMN: If you could travel anywhere in the world, all expenses paid, to research the setting for a book, where would it be?

EB: It's funny you should ask this — because the third book in the series takes place in Italy, specifically, Rome, Florence and Venice. I'd love to eat at fabulous restaurants, explore picturesque streets and markets, all in the name of research. I met my husband, Jonathan Grant, also a veterinarian, in Italy, so that country holds a very special place in my heart. I'd love my fictional veterinarian, Kate Turner, to explore it too.

OMN: What are some of your outside interests? And have any of these found their way into your books?

EB: Cooking is a passion, and my favorite cuisines are Italian, Thai, Chinese and good old American. We also have a large organic garden — yes you can grow herbs and vegetables in the Arizona desert — in addition to Martha Washington geraniums and showy bougainvillea. In my younger days I was an actress/singer and I still sing around the house and act like a diva periodically. One thing I love to do is learn something new. If I see a class that strikes my fancy I sign up. I've taken a glass working class, one in figure drawing and learned all about composting. Strangely enough my heroine doesn't have time to cook — instead she is the queen of take-out.

OMN: What is the best advice — and harshest criticism — you've received as an author? And what might you say to aspiring writers?

EB: The best advice was from my friend and fellow writer, Betty Webb. "Just finish the book. You can fix it in rewrites." I've been writing for fifteen years, and when I first started I thought every sentence had to be perfect. Now I know that a first draft, in fiction, is for getting the story down. Rewrites are for everything else.

My harshest criticism — "This is a big mess. You need to clean up your grammar." Much as I hate to admit it that observation was right on the money. I think I slept through GRAMMAR 101, 102, 103 … etc. Now before I submit anything I have my grammar police friends read through the book.

My advice to aspiring authors would be to go to a writer's conference and see what it's all about. Join a critique group, there's usually one or more that meet at the local library. No two writers write the same way. Find out what works for you. Only by writing will you learn how to write.

OMN: Complete this sentence for us: "If you are a mystery author, you are also …".

EB: If you are a mystery author, you are also, like me, depressed, ecstatic, tired, energized, really would like to stop and have a drink, focused, flighty, still dressed in your pajamas — but most of all — creative.

OMN: How did Muzzled come to be titled? And were you involved with the cover design?

EB: The original working title of my book was Dog Shows Are Murder, but after reading it through my editor, Barbara Peters, decided to change it. When they ran it past me I realized Muzzled sounded better, short and sweet.

The art work on the cover is fantastic, but I can't take any credit. My suggestions for the cover were pretty uninspired. The best thing to do is let the professionals do their jobs. Marketing is a whole other world.

OMN: What kind of feedback have you received from readers?

EB: I've got my first fan letter impaled on the corkboard in my office. I love to hear from readers. The best feedback I've had so far was from a woman who took her cat to the vet because of symptoms she read about in my book. My reviews have been wonderful and I'm proud of the great blurb from James Rollins, also a veterinarian like me.

OMN: Suppose Muzzled were to be adapted for television or film? Who do you see playing Kate Turner?

EB: Anyone who has read the book knows the answer to that question. Kate has a resemblance to the young Meryl Streep, which is kind of a running joke throughout the book. In the next book in the series she uses that to her advantage. Before I started writing Muzzled I came across an old photo of Meryl Streep from Kramer vs Kramer. That image of beauty and sharp intelligence stayed in my mind.

OMN: What kinds of books did you read when you were young?

EB: I read everything I could get my hands on, including swiping my Mom's library books. As a child I also read the local newspaper each day, as well as the National Geographic and Time Magazine. However, when I got to veterinary school I devoured a mostly steady diet of mysteries and thrillers. Since my brain was so busy memorizing medical facts I needed something completely different to divert my attention. First and foremost was Agatha Christie. I've read every book she's written over and over, noting how she slides her clues so smoothly into the storyline. I think that's why I gravitated to that genre. I also liked her sly sense of humor.

OMN: What do you read now for pleasure?

EB: I'll have to confess that I still read mysteries and thrillers for pleasure. In particular, I like to see how the writer develops their characters and plot.

OMN: Do you have any favorite series characters?

EB: Jack Reacher, from the Lee Child books, is definitely one of my favorites. I'd love to have lunch with lawyer Bennie Rosato, written by Lisa Scottoline. Dirk Pitt and Al Giordino, Clive Cussler's wonderful characters, are old friends. I'd like to watch Gabriel Allon restore a painting, thanks to writer Daniel Silva and hang out with James Rollins's dog Kane and the SIGMA force or Kay Scarpetta in the Patricia Cornwall books. I could go on and on.

OMN: Create a Top 5 list for us on any subject.

EB: Since my husband and I have been working on our "Bucket List" of places to see, I think I'll tackle Top 5 places you should visit.

1. Machu Pichu (Peru);
2. Venice (Italy);
3. Angkor Wat (Cambodia);
4. Cappadocia (Turkey); and
5. Grand Canyon/Monument Valley/Canyon de chelly.

OMN: What's next for you?

EB: I'm finishing my rewrites on Unleashed, the second book in the Kate Turner, D.V.M. Mystery series. I'll be doing a Q & A and book signing at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona on June 21 from 2-5pm. My youngest daughter is getting married in September, so we are all caught up in wedding craziness at the moment. I'll be attending Bouchercon 2014 in Long Beach, California this November with several of my writer friends, so be sure to say "Hi".

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Eileen Brady lives in Scottsdale, Arizona with her husband and two children. The daughter of an US Air Force officer, she grew up on bases in the States and overseas. By the time she reached her teens she had lived in New York, the Philippines, Arizona, Yugoslavia, France, and Wisconsin. In college she worked at WAER and WOLF radio and performed on stage with the Syracuse Repertory Company. After graduating from Syracuse University she headed to New York City to find fame and fortune as an actress. To pay the rent she had many non-acting jobs, singing radio jingles, working in an architect's office, waitressing and luckily, working at the Animal Medical Center in Manhattan. Always an animal lover, being a veterinarian seemed like an out-of-reach goal. But the more she learned from observing those dedicated doctors, the more she became convinced that this was her calling. She applied and was accepted into veterinary school in Bologna, Italy. Not only did she get her doctor of veterinary medicine degree, but she picked up a husband on the way, and learned how to cook a mean dish of pasta! In practice for over 20 years with her husband, Dr. Jonathan Grant, together they owned Rosebank Veterinary Practice in Staten Island, Olive Animal Hospital in upstate New York and currently, The Scaredy Cat Hospital in Scottsdale, Arizona. Eileen confines her veterinary work to practice management now so she can concentrate on her writing.

For more information about the author, please visit her website at EileenBradyMysteries.com or find her on Facebook.

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Muzzled by Eileen Brady

Eileen Brady
A Kate Turner, DVM Mystery

On a house call one wet spring morning, veterinarian Dr. Kate Turner rescues a family's hamster from a vacuum cleaner, then visits an estate whose owners breed champion Cavalier King Charles spaniels. Instead of sharing traditional tea with the couple, she confronts a bloody scene of bodies and twenty-seven blue-ribbon dogs running wild.

Police initially suspect a murder-suicide, but when Dr. Kate proves the famous best-in-show champion is missing, a darker reality intrudes. She remembers her grandfather saying that there are two motives for murder — love and money. While treating local pets, Dr. Kate discovers suspects and motives everywhere in this charming town filled with people who wanted the couple dead.

Was the couple murdered for money their champion could bring to another breeder? How is their daughter, anxious to rid herself of the pampered dogs, handling the wealth she inherits? Would the celebrity filmmaker living nearby kill to end a multi-million dollar lawsuit? Did long-buried personal secrets cause the deaths? And what's going on at the office behind her back? Is Dr. Kate now in danger?

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