Interview with cozy mystery author Eileen Watkins

Cozy
mystery author Eileen Watkins is here
today to share a little bit about her new novel, the third in her Cat Groomer
Mysteries series, Feral Attraction.
Bio:
Eileen
Watkins specializes in mystery and suspense fiction. In 2017, she launched the
Cat Groomer Mysteries, featuring “cat whisperer” and amateur sleuth Cassie
McGlone. The series, from Kensington Publishing, includes The Persian Always Meows Twice and The Bengal Identity; a third book, Feral Attraction, comes out this month.
The Persian Always Meows Twice won the David G.
Sasher Award for Best Mystery at the 2018 Deadly Ink Mystery Conference, and
received a Certificate of Excellence for 2017 from the Cat Writers’
Association, Inc. Eileen previously published eight novels through Amber Quill
Press, most of them paranormal suspense, as “E. F. Watkins.” These included two
Quinn Matthews Haunting Mysteries; the first, Dark Music, also won a David
award at Deadly Ink 2014. Eileen is a member of Mystery Writers of America, the
Liberty States Fiction Writers, Sisters in Crime, and the Cat Writers’
Association, Inc. She serves as publicist for Sisters in Crime Central Jersey
and also for the annual Deadly Ink Mystery Conference. Eileen comes from a
journalistic background, having covered art, architecture, interior design and
home improvement for New Jersey’s two largest daily newspapers. She also has
had lifelong interests in animal training and rescue. She is seldom without at
least one live-in cat and pays regular visits to the nearest riding stable.
Welcome, Eileen. Please tell us about your current release.
My Cat
Groomer Mysteries feature amateur sleuth Cassie McGlone who operates a grooming
and boarding business—catering strictly to felines—in a small town in
northwestern New Jersey. Feral Attraction is the third book in the series. To
help out her best friend, Dawn, Cassie agrees to speak up at a contentious
meeting about feral cats causing problems at a local condo community. She meets
resident Sabrina Ward, an aging but feisty eccentric who argues for a
trap-neuter-return solution to the problem. Sabrina has agitated for underdog
causes all her life, and Dawn has known and admired her for years. Cassie likes
Sabrina, too, so she also is shocked when Dawn finds the older woman dead in
the woods bordering the condo community, near the cats’ feeding station.
Technically, Sabrina had a heart attack, but did something, or someone,
frighten her to death? Dawn persuades Cassie to help her investigate, though
this arouses resentment among certain community residents. It seems that, due
to Sabrina’s history of rabble-rousing, quite a few people could have wanted to
“euthanize” her, for reasons that went beyond her fondness for the ferals.
What inspired you to write this book?
A friend
of mine who lives in a condo community encountered a less extreme type of
pushback when she began feeding a cat that lived in the nearby woods. She soon
found out that a few other community members also were working with the ferals,
in a more organized way, and had been harassed by residents who just wanted the
cats hauled away. I looked into the topic and found this is a common problem in
many neighborhoods these days. It seemed like a perfect cat-related topic for a
murder mystery—I just had to find a way to get Cassie involved.
Excerpt from Feral Attraction:
Leaning
on the kitchen table, Dawn buried one hand in her thick, wavy hair. “Sabrina
didn’t deserve to die like that. Alone, in the dark, in the snow. Like some old
bag lady.”
The pain
in my friend’s voice wrenched my heart. “Bonelli actually thought she’d
strangled on her scarf?” I knew the police detective was pretty sharp, and
didn’t usually jump to conclusions about the cause of a death.
Dawn’s
amber-brown eyes blazed as they met mine. “It looked that way, but I think it
was made to look that way. The end of the scarf was wrapped around a low branch
a couple of times. How does that happen by accident?”
“The
wind—?” I suggested, weakly. She brushed away that theory with a sweep of her
hand. “Cassie, you heard those residents at the board meeting talk about
Sabrina. A few of them absolutely hated her. Hell, Mike Lawler even said
somebody ought to ‘euthanize’ her!”
“Now,
Dawn.” I began to wonder if she should have stuck to herbal tea, after all.
“That doesn’t mean…”
“Somebody
did try to poison the cats. That’s a fact. I think maybe one of those folks got
riled up after the meeting and decided the only way to get rid of the ferals
was to get rid of Sabrina.”
It might
be a stretch, but I’d learned over the past year that sometimes murderous
conflicts could simmer beneath the surface of our seemingly peaceful and
picturesque little town. “I sincerely hope that didn’t happen. If it did,
though, Angela Bonelli will get to the bottom of it. She’s very good at her
job.”
“Maybe. A
couple of times, she’s gotten some major help from you.” Dawn gazed across out
my kitchen window, where nearby street light illuminated the falling snow, but
her focus had turned inward. “Do you know, when I found Sabrina’s body, that
black cat was sitting on a rock just a couple of yards away? The one she called
Omen. He ran off right after I came. It was like he’d been standing guard over
her.”
* * *
What exciting story are you working on next?
For my
fourth Cat Groomer book, Gone, Kitty,
Gone
, Cassie takes part in a weekend cat expo at a hotel/convention center.
The guest stars are Jaki Natal, a major pop singer, and her YouTube-famous cat
Gordie. Lately the star has received mysterious threats from a stalker, so
extra security is put in place. Still, shortly after she arrives at the hotel,
Gordie is stolen. The anonymous cat-napper demands to meet with Jaki alone, and
the death of a security guard suggests that the stalker means business. Her
handlers warn her against such a meeting and the local cops concentrate on
investigating the guard’s death. When Jaki learns about Cassie’s experience
with crimes as well as cats, she begs the groomer to find and rescue Gordie
before he pays a high price for her fame—and before the end of the weekend
expo. Cassie sympathizes and wants to help, but with thousands of cat lovers
and others passing into and out of the hotel complex, it could be like finding
a whisker in a haystack!
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I wrote
pretend “books” in grade school and takeoffs on Nancy Drew and spy stories in
high school. My freshman year in college, I wrote a short story that won a
college-wide contest, much to my surprise. That probably was the first real
confirmation I received that this was something I did well. Senior year in
college, I wrote my first novel—Dark Shadows fan fiction—just for my friends,
and right after I graduated I started my first original novel. At that point I
had my first newspaper job, but I was always determined to write and publish
fiction.
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s your work
day like?
If not,
what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write? I found time
to write before and after hours during my 40 years of working full-time, mainly
at newspapers. I managed to retire a bit early, so now fiction is my job. I
still tend to get most of my actual writing done in the morning and after
dinner at night. In the shank of the day, there are too many other errands and
appointments to take care of. At least now I often can write into the later
morning—when I’m pretty sharp and energetic—which is something I couldn’t do
when I had an outside job.
What would you say is your interesting writing
quirk?
When I’m
brainstorming about a character or a plot twist, I fall back on longhand,
writing on a legal pad. It frees up the creative side of my brain. Also, I’m
very visual and will hunt online for pictures of a certain type of character or
setting, to get a feel for them and how to describe them.
As a child, what did you want to be when you
grew up?
A fiction
writer, absolutely. But I also loved theater, music and art, so I probably
fantasized at times about doing one of those things for a living. All very
practical, financially secure professions, of course!
Anything additional you want to share with the
readers?
Cozy
mysteries that involve cats in some way abound these days! I try to take a
distinct approach by including practical information about cat care and
behavior in each book, and in ways that relate closely to the mystery. My
sleuth Cassie isn’t just a cat lover and owner—she works with them for a
living, and she takes her responsibility to her clients and their pets very
seriously. She also has a strong sense of justice that brings out her fighting
spirit. These qualities sometimes get her in over her head, but like her feline
friends, Cassie seems blessed with nine lives!
Links:
Thanks for joining me today!

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