My interview with Sheila:
Tell us about yourself.
I'll assume that you want the abridged edition! In short, writing and animals have been enormously important all my life. I wrote my first book when I was 8, and it was about--surprise!--a dog. I just always thought of myself as a writer, and I read all sorts of books from childhood on. I plowed all the way through Moby Dick in the fourth grade! (And let me tell you, I was really disappointed that it wasn't really about the whale!) Anyway, I showed horses in my teens and twenties. That stopped when I went to graduate school, and I spent five years studying and working overseas, then came back and taught at universities here for a while. In the early 1990s I started writing full time, starting with feature stories in various magazines and moving to books. I've published 17 nonfiction books about dogs, cats, and animal rescue, six of which won major awards from the professional associations for dog and cat writers. I also started showing dogs around the same time, and got very involved with both hobby breeding and rescue. I started a rescue program and co-founded another, and also bred highly competitive Australian Shepherds for a while. I've also always had at least one Lab in the house since 1988, and have fostered and trained a variety of other breeds. And of course we've had cats, cats, cats through the years! At the moment my husband Roger and I live with two beautiful doggy girls--Lily, a 7-year-old Lab we brought home at 7 weeks, and Sunny, a 12-year-old Golden we adopted last November from a rescue group. They help me write!
What was the inspiration for writing this book?
Inspiration comes from many sources, and that's certainly true for The Money Bird. Because this is the second book in the Animals in Focus series, I already had my main characters and a few continuing secondary characters, and I already had the general setting in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and surrounds. I often begin a story with a first line, and that was true for the first book, Drop Dead on Recall, and this book. I could see and hear and smell the whole opening scene, and that translated into the first line and then the first chapter. So I would say that my initial inspiration was visual and based on my own experiences being out training and playing with my dogs over the years.That got me started, but I needed a critical issue to inspire murder, and that came from material I've read and documentaries I've seen about wildlife trafficking, particularly Spix's Macaw: The Race to Save the World's Rarest Bird by Tony Juniper. The rest of the story unfolded from there.
What are you working on next?
I always have several projects in the works, and now is no exception. But for the moment I'm focused on the third book in this series, tentatively titled Catwalk. Each of the books in the series features an animal-centered sport or activity, and an issue of some sort. I can't say too much yet about #3, but Leo, my "protagcat," and his friends will have a bigger-than-ever part to play in this one. The dogs will also be there, of course - Leo loves his dogs!
What was the easiest and hardest thing to write about this book?
Wildlife trafficking is a brutal, ugly business, but this series is essentially cozy, so I had to plant some ideas without giving graphic details. I also had to keep my own emotions in check as I did the research, and that wasn't easy. The easiest thing about this whole series is spending time with Janet MacPhail, the 50-something animal-photographer-cum-amateur-sleuth,, her Australian Shepherd Jay (based on my own Aussie Jay), her cat Leo (based on my Leo and Malcolm), and her various friends. I hope my readers enjoy being with them as much as I do!
If you could have a dinner date with any character in any book, who would it be and why?
Oh wow, just one? And I suppose she or he has to be human? Okay, I think it would be Elspeth Huxley as the young girl she was in The Thorn Trees of Thika. I loved that book, and would like to know her better.
This is my first book I have read by Sheila and I must say that I really liked it! Her characters are vivid and vibrant and enjoyable. Janet is very Likeable and Jay will win your heart! This is such a great read, you won't want to miss it!
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