Hi! Liz here, and today I’m welcoming the lovely Carolyn Mulford to the blog. Carolyn is another writer I’ve known from the beginning of my time in the mystery community, and I’m delighted to see this fabulous series getting such great attention. (You can read the first chapter of each of the books on her website.)Today she’s talking about one of my favorite topics: Dogs in books. Carolyn, take it away!
I’m a planner. When I wrote Show Me the Murder (Five Star, 2013), I spent a lot of time developing three contrasting major characters: Phoenix, a wounded former CIA operative who returns to her Missouri hometown; Annalynn, a civic leader whose husband just died in a sleazy motel; and Connie, a struggling singer/music teacher.
I didn’t plan a fourth character, a Belgian Malinois called Achilles. He arrived on my screen as a plot point, the only witness to a crime. Phoenix finds him shot, starved, and tied to a tree. She identifies with him, saying, “Some of us don’t die so easily.” By the end of the book, she is his human for the series.
Achilles poses some challenges to me as a writer. One is revealing his personality when he can’t talk and comes with no bio except being a DEA K-9 dropout. No big deal. He can’t tell, but he can show. For example, when Phoenix leaves him alone, he howls until she comes back. When she takes him into the backyard, he protects the hummingbirds from cats skulking at the feeders. When he meets Connie, he offers a paw for her to shake.
In each book, he—like the other characters—reveals more of himself. In Show Me the Deadly Deer (Five Star, 2013), he refuses to get out of the car when rambunctious four-year-old twins want to play with him. Later, when the children face a tragedy, he allows them to maul him with affection. In Show Me the Gold (Five Star, 2014), he barks a reproof when Phoenix raises her voice to Annalynn.
A persistent challenge is giving Achilles bits of action so readers knew what he’s doing. Is he sticking by Phoenix’s side, sniffing around, standing by the car to tell her he wants to go home?
Having Achilles as a major character also offers some unanticipated advantages. He exposes the softer side of the tough, cynical Phoenix. His nose and intelligence contribute to every investigation. In Show Me the Deadly Deer, he indicates that the murder didn’t take place where Phoenix found the body. In Show Me the Gold, he warns her of a booby trap. She soon learns to use him to disarm innocents, terrify bad guys, and back her up.
He also delights readers. At every book signing, someone says, “I love your dog.”
So do I.
Carolyn Mulford worked as the editor of national and international magazines and a freelancer before writing the award-winning Show Me mystery series. Harlequin Worldwide Mystery released a paperback edition of the first, Show Me the Murder, in June. Five Star will issue the fourth, Show Me the Ashes, in hardcover in December.
Carolyn, I can definitely relate to the dog-taking-over-as-a-character syndrome! Readers, what about you? Fave dogs or cats that make a series even better?