Margaret Mizushima is the author of the critically acclaimed Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries. Her books have garnered a Reader’s Favorite gold medal and have been listed as finalists in the RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards, the Colorado Book Awards, and the International Book Awards. Margaret serves on the board for the Rocky Mountain chapter of Mystery Writers of America, and she lives in Colorado where she assists her husband with their veterinary practice and Angus cattle herd. She can be found on Facebook/AuthorMargaretMizushima, on Twitter @margmizu, on Instagram at margmizu, and on her website at www.margaretmizushima.com.

Book description: Burning Ridge is set in a fictional place in the Colorado Rockies. Redstone Ridge is a place of extraordinary beauty, but this rugged mountain wilderness harbors a horrifying secret. When a charred body is discovered in a shallow grave on the ridge, officer Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo are called in to spearhead the investigation. But this is no ordinary crime—and it soon becomes clear that Mattie has a close personal connection to the dead man.Joined by local veterinarian Cole Walker, the pair scours the mountaintop for evidence and makes another gruesome discovery: the skeletonized remains of two adults and a child. And then, the unthinkable happens. Could Mattie become the next victim in the murderer’s deadly game?

When did you decide you wanted to become an author?

I worked as a speech pathologist for twenty-five years, and during that time I often yearned to write fiction. But working full time and raising kids doesn’t leave much time for a new venture. Around the year 2000, I sold the rehab company that I’d developed and attended my first writing conference. I was hooked.

Do you have another job besides writing?

I work part time with my husband, managing our veterinary clinic and Angus cattle business. I reserve mornings for creativity and writing, and afternoons for logic and bookkeeping. So far, it has worked out well for both of us.

Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.

Burning Ridge is the fourth book in the Timber Creek K-9 mystery series which features Deputy Mattie Cobb, her K-9 partner Robo, and veterinarian Cole Walker. These characters sprang from experiences in my past, and I love them all. Mattie comes to the series with a lot of baggage, which she has been unpacking slowly throughout the first three episodes, but her past threatens to overtake her in Burning Ridge. My publishing team came up with the title during a brainstorming session for

book three, and though it wasn’t a fit for that episode, I decided to write a story to match the title for book four.  So it’s safe to say that this book was inspired by a title and Mattie’s character arc.

How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?

When I first started to write, my work style was strictly writing by the seat of my pants. The manuscript for Killing Trail, the first book in the Timber Creek K-9 series, took me almost five years to complete. I was also getting input from a critique group during those days and doing lots of revisions while I wrote my first draft. After I signed my contract, I knew I had roughly twelve months to deliver a revised manuscript for my second book, so I learned how to outline. I call my outlines “lacey,” because they have lots of holes in them. This seems to satisfy my characters’ desire to surprise me while still keeping me on track. And so far, I’ve been able to stick to a rigorous schedule of releasing a book each year. 

Did your book require a lot of research?

Yes, the entire series has required a lot of research. I’m so very fortunate to have police officers, K-9 trainers and handlers, and veterinarians who act as consultants for the series. I’ve shadowed K-9 teams and trainers, attended police dog

competitive trials, and trained a couple of our own dogs in search and rescue. And I have over thirty-five years experience observing and assisting my husband in his practice as a veterinarian.

What was your goal when writing this book?

I like to explore themes related to family and social issues in my mysteries, and Burning Ridge is no exception. Mattie Cobb was abandoned as a child and raised in foster care, leaving her with trust issues, and she hopes to reconnect with her mother someday. When I began to plan this fourth episode, I wanted to create an action-packed mystery that utilized setting as a character, and I wanted the mystery to reveal things about Mattie that would come as a complete surprise to her.

Who is your target audience?

Adults who enjoy outdoor mysteries combined with social issues, but many say the books cross over well for young adult readers.

Do you get along with your muse? What do you do to placate her when she refuses to inspire you?

I think that a quote attributed to Agatha Christie describes my take on dealing with my muse: “There was a moment when I changed from an amateur to a professional. I assumed the burden of a profession, which is to write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you’re writing, and aren’t writing particularly well.” By my second year into the series, I became a great believer in showing up at the keyboard every morning, whether I was inspired to write or not. I fix a cup of herbal tea, climb the stairs to my office, and light a candle. Some mornings my muse chooses to join me, and the manuscript speeds right along; others, I have to slog through it alone, often needing to revise most of what I’ve written. But I’ve learned that you must have written something in order to revise it, since it’s impossible to revise a blank page.

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

The best advice I received was from friend and fellow outdoor mystery writer Mark Stevens. He said the pathway to writing and publishing a series is a slow journey and to enjoy every step along the way. I try to remember this when I’m trapped in the mire of a first draft!

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