qnofdnilesblog is the winner of a copy of Fogged Off. Watch for an email from Wendall! I met Wendall when she was moderating a panel I was on titled Rolling in the Aisles. Wendall is a fantastic moderator and kept us all laughing. I’m so excited to introduce you to her and her funny Cyd Redondo mystery series. The third book, Fogged Off, released on Tuesday. Look for the giveaway at the end of the post!
Reptiles and Tigers and Mice, Oh My!
Everyone loves pandas. Everyone loves dolphins. But what about the Visayan warty pig, the numbat, or the gastric brooding frog?
Not all of the fifty most endangered animals on the planet are cute –well, numbats are pretty cute—but they’re all vital to their individual ecosystems and to the planet overall and they’re disappearing, if I may misquote Annie Lamott, “frog by frog.”
When I decided to set the first Cyd Redondo mystery in Tanzania and began researching crime there, it opened up my mind up to the sinister world of endangered animal smuggling and the broader issue of wildlife extinction. Despite watching David Attenborough on PBS, I was still woefully ignorant on this issue and a bit embarrassed about taking on such a serious topic in what was, essentially, a beach book.
To my surprise, Sgt. Ian Knox of Scotland Yard’s Wildlife Crime Prevention Unit put my mind at rest. He was a big fan of the “spoonful of sugar” approach, saying a book like mine might make someone who hadn’t thought about these issues think twice about buying python boots or tortoise shell barrettes, or inspire them to join the World Wildlife Fund.
So he and his team took me through their horrifying evidence room, told me a million stories, put me in touch with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the theme for my series was born. I’d never imagined myself writing animals as characters, but remembering the beloved books of my youth like Black Beauty, The Yearling, or The Jungle Book gave me the courage to try.
After spending time with the wildlife agents, I was determined to focus on animals that didn’t normally get attention, animals that might make Cyd, or us, uncomfortable. Like my character, I am utterly freaked out by most reptiles, so I figured I would start there for maximum conflict and a real learning curve for her, and created Barry the Madagascan chameleon as her first sidekick. As soon as I imagined him taking out her false eyelashes with his tongue, I was off.
The choice for Drowned Under was easy, as Tasmania has one of the most famous “functionally extinct” species ever—the thylacine or Tasmanian tiger. Even as babies, they’re fierce creatures with very sharp teeth and a strange, keening bark, so I knew Howard would make things more complicated and funnier for Cyd, while still offering insight into the world of wildlife crime.
Researching my newest book, Fogged Off, I happened upon an irresistible rodent—the highly endangered hazel dormouse. The species had its “fifteen minutes of fame” in Alice in Wonderland, but my eco-enthusiast character, Grey Hazelnut, insists these creatures are underappreciated. “When he’s motivated in mating season, that little guy can jump ten meters. . . They sing to the females at night with this trilling kind of sound. And their pheromones are so strong that humans can smell them.”
They also sleep curled up with their tails held over their faces and make a distinctive, snuffling snore which is unbearably cute— unless it’s coming out of your purse. Bruce, the dormouse, allowed me to highlight how loss of habitat contributes to wildlife extinction, and how important it is to use Tupperware when you travel.
Readers, do you have a favorite animal character from your childhood, or from books you’ve read since? Wendall will give away one copy of Fogged Off to someone who leaves a comment. (US only)
BIO: Wendall Thomas teaches in the Graduate Film School at UCLA, lectures internationally on screenwriting, and has worked as an entertainment reporter, development executive, script consultant, and film and television writer. Her Cyd Redondo series has been nominated for an Anthony, a Macavity, and two Lefty awards.
When travel agent Cyd Redondo’s client and Jack the Ripper expert Shep Helnikov is found dead in London, she navigates the cutthroat worlds of research librarians, unemployed actors, embassy underlings, rodent smugglers, and more to find his killer and bring his body back home.
WEBSITE ADDRESS: www.wendallthomas.com