Tuesday, January 05, 2016

A Conversation with Mystery Author Colleen J. Shogan

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with Colleen J. Shogan

We are delighted to welcome author Colleen J. Shogan to Omnimystery News today, courtesy of Great Escapes Book Tours, which is coordinating her current book tour. We encourage you to visit all of the participating host sites; you can find her schedule here.

Colleen's first mystery in her Washington Whodunit series is Stabbing in the Senate (Camel Press; November 2015 trade paperback and ebook formats) and we recently had the chance to talk with her about it.

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Omnimystery News: Introduce us to the lead characters of your Washington Whodunit mysteries. What is it about her that appeals to you as an author?

Colleen J. Shogan
Photo provided courtesy of
Colleen J. Shogan

Colleen J. Shogan: Kit Marshall is a spunky woman in her early 30s trying to make her way within the cutthroat world of Washington, D.C. politics. She's idealistic but realistic at the same time, believing that people should use politics as a force for good in the world. She has her eyes opened after the murder of her boss and realizes high stakes deals can prove deadly. She lives with Doug Hollingsworth, her long-time boyfriend and professor of American history at Georgetown. Doug doesn't like Kit's sleuthing! He's cautious and tries to keep Kit out of trouble. Her best friend Meg is the exact opposite. She's impetuous, flirty, and bold. The three of them make an unlikely yet quite entertaining brood to solve mysteries in our nation's capital.

OMN: How do you expect these characters to develop over the course of the series?

CJS: The basic personalities of the main characters won't change. But life happens and that means your characters have to grow and develop. So relationships will change and so will their respective outlooks on life. I definitely don't want to create characters that do the same thing each book with no variation. That gets old and boring. I stop reading a series when it becomes predictable.

OMN: Into which genre would you place Stabbing in the Senate?

CJS: My books are considered "cozy mysteries" because Kit Marshall is an amateur sleuth and there are no excessive violence or sex scenes in the writing. Cozy mysteries used to take place only in small towns but that's changed. The genre has expanded and I see nothing wrong with setting a cozy mystery in a big city. Politics isn't really "cozy" so I may push the limits of the genre somewhat in that respect.

OMN: How would you tweet a summary of the book?

CJS: After discovering her boss's lifeless body, Capitol Hill staffer Kit Marshall learns the hard way that politics is murder!

OMN: Where do you most often find yourself writing?

CJS: I love writing outside in the spring and summertime, especially in the evening. When I come home from work, my dog and I head outside to our backyard deck and I write for an hour before dinner.

OMN: How much of your own personal or professional experience have you included in the book?

CJS: All of my characters are fictional. However, I've worked on Capitol Hill for ten years and I've met a lot of congressional staffers and Members of Congress. I know how it works and what makes those who work on the Hill tick.

OMN: How true are you to the setting of the series?

CJS: My books are set in a real place: Washington, D.C. The first two books in the series take place on Capitol Hill and involve Congress. Subsequent books in the series will incorporate other D.C. locations. I do not take liberties with my setting. This is where I live and work. When I write a scene, I make sure I spend enough time in the particular setting so that I get it right when I describe it. People who live in D.C. have said that my books have a realistic edge to them, as much as an amateur detective series can!

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

CJS: I love dogs, particularly my dog, Conan, who is a beagle mutt we got from a rescue organization. So I wrote him into the novels! He does so many crazy things, he supplies me with an endless number of funny scenes to write. In the books, his name is Clarence.

OMN: How did you come up with the title for Stabbing in the Senate?

CJS: Actually, when I came up with the plot for the book, I had to decide the way in which I would kill the Senator. Since it was taking place in the Senate, "stabbing" was an obvious choice. I love alliterations. The next one is Homicide in the House so I'm keeping up the trend.

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

CJS: I loved reading mysteries as a child. I read Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, Encyclopedia Brown, Trixie Belden, and the Hawykeye Collins/Amy Adams series. Reading those books was enormously influential. I would never dream of writing fiction that wasn't a mystery! I also think it's important to create strong female characters. Nancy Drew is about a girl having adventures more than anything. That really can shape the outlook of a young female reader.

OMN: What's next for you?

CJS: Finishing up the edits on Homicide in the House, which is the second book in the Washington Whodunit series. Then I move to writing the third installment. Kit, Doug, and Meg have many adventures ahead of them and I'm thrilled that readers want to continue the adventure with them.

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Colleen J. Shogan Book Tour

A political scientist by training, Colleen J. Shogan has taught American politics at Yale, George Mason University, Georgetown, and Penn. She previously worked on Capitol Hill as a legislative staffer in the United States Senate. She is currently the Deputy Director of the Congressional Research Service at the Library of Congress. Colleen lives in Arlington, Virginia with her husband Rob and their beagle mutt Conan.

For more information about the author, please visit her website at ColleenShogan.com and her author page on Goodreads, or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Stabbing in the Senate by Colleen J. Shogan

Stabbing in the Senate by Colleen J. Shogan

A Washington Whodunit

Publisher: Camel Press

Amazon.com Print/Kindle Format(s)BN.com Print/Nook Format(s)iTunes iBook FormatKobo eBook Format

Life is good for Kit Marshall. She's a staffer in D.C. for a popular senator, and she lives with an adoring beagle and a brainy boyfriend with a trust fund. Then, one morning, Kit arrives at the office early and finds her boss, Senator Langsford, impaled by a stainless steel replica of an Army attack helicopter. Panicked, she pulls the weapon out of his chest and instantly becomes the prime suspect in his murder. Circumstances back Kit's claim of innocence, but her photograph has gone viral, and the heat won't be off until the killer is found.

Well-loved though the senator was, suspects abound. Langsford had begun to vote with his conscience, which meant he was often at odds with his party. Not only had the senator decided to quash the ambitions of a major military contractor, but his likely successor is a congressman he trounced in the last election. Then there's the suspiciously dry-eyed Widow Langsford. Kit's tabloid infamy horrifies her boyfriend's upper-crust family, and it could destroy her career.

However, she and her free-spirited friend Meg have a more pressing reason to play sleuth. The police are clueless in more ways than one, and Kit worries that the next task on the killer's agenda will be to end her life.

Stabbing in the Senate by Colleen J. Shogan

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