A Conversation with Janet Finsilver
What makes your books different than others in this genre?
My series features dogs with special abilities. Fred, a basset hound, trots his way through Murder At Redwood Cove. He was taught to detect cancer but failed his test and was given to a young boy as a pet. Murder At The Mansion, releasing on June 7, provides a place for Jack and Jill, two beagles, to display their talents. They are trained to find bedbugs and termites and expand their abilities during the course of the book to include dry rot. A retired hearing assistance dog, a Chihuahua named Princess, shows she has a feisty side in spite of her jeweled collars and fancy coats in book three, tentatively titled Murder At The Fortune Teller’s Table.
What kind of research do you do?
As I mentioned above, each book has dogs with special abilities. I research these on the Internet and, whenever possible, observe them in action and talk to people who work with the type of dogs I’m writing about.
Murder At The Mansion has a lot of antiques in it. I enjoyed learning online about apostle spoons, traveling trunks of the 1860s, and silver snuff boxes to name a few of the items I looked into. In addition I’ve explored a number of mansions built during that era.
Each book in the series has a festival in it. They are based on real events that take place in or near Mendocino, California. That’s research I really enjoy! I’ve attended Winesong, the Mendocino Whale Festival, and a fundraiser called Chocolate, Wine, and Ale. Since accuracy is important, I’ve attended all of these events more than once!
During the series, a cheesemonger and a wine sommelier discuss their products. After visiting a few specialty cheese shops, I learned to appreciate the exquisite taste and unique flavors of artisanal cheeses. Being near wine country provides me the opportunity to sample and discuss wines with winemakers.
Pinterest has proven to be very useful for providing images for my stories. I’ve created boards for each book with photos reflecting different scenes and characters. I recently discovered the perfect dog purse for carrying Princess in book three!
My main character was raised on a combination cattle and guest ranch. I ride western style and have taken a couple of trips to similar places. I discussed with the owners what their life was like throughout the year. It’s been fun weaving in similes, metaphors, descriptions, and vocabulary based on these visits.
Did you make any major changes in your series after you started it?
I originally was going to use Mendocino in the book and list real places, events, and items from the area. I wanted it to be something of a travel guide and thought people would enjoy visiting places and having experiences mentioned in the book such as eating at a particular restaurant. After a couple of conferences where panels discussed whether or not to use real places, I decided to go fictional. I plan on putting information specific to Mendocino on my website and on Facebook.