Several years ago, I met Kendra when I spoke at an RWA chapter in Washington. I honestly can’t remember which came first, meeting her or judging her contest entry in the Daphne. Or maybe it was another contest. (This was 2006. Or 2007. I’m over 40. Forgive my memory loss.)
What I didn’t forget was her story. Of course I didn’t know it was her at the time! And I don’t know if I signed the scoresheet (something I rarely do) or if I she finaled in a contest and I saw her name attached to the title and remembered the story, but whichever it was, I told her to get thee an agent! I thought it was edgy and dark and very, very good. It was an opening that had stuck with me.
When she sold, I read the entire book and offered a quote because the rest of the book was just as good as the beginning. I don’t remember the old title, but it was published as HIDDEN.
I happily invited Kendra to blog with us today, and was thrilled when she brought a friend with her! Especially this friend, Melinda Leigh, whose debut novel SHE CAN RUN finaled for Best First Novel in the Thrillers sponsored by the International Thriller Writers. So clap your hands and welcome Kendra and Melinda, talking about two of my most favorite things: writing and dogs.
On Writing and Dogs
Melinda Leigh and Kendra Elliot are Montlake romantic suspense authors who discovered they share a love of dogs, writing, and vodka. Today they’re talking about the first two topics…but are always happy to go off on tangents about the third.
MELINDA: Animals have always been a big part of my life. I was a dorky kid, an undersized bookish misfit. My best friend growing up was my border collie. Peanuts and I had many adventures together. She was Godzilla to a Lincoln Log town. G. I. Joes rode on her back. (I had an older brother, and G. I. Joe was way better than Barbie. Her stupid legs didn’t bend. How the hell were you supposed to do anything with her?) My dog was my buddy and playmate and confidant. I carried this connection into adulthood. I’ve never been without pets. To me, a house without a few furry family members isn’t a home.
KENDRA: I’ve always been a cat person. We had an Irish Setter until I was twelve, and I always felt sorry for her, because she slept outside in a cold doghouse. I didn’t live with another dog until my husband insisted on getting a dog two years ago. My husband’s a big guy with a dozen tattoos, but he has a mushy spot for small animals. He picked out a tiny fluffy Pomeranian, Max, who my girls immediately loved, and I was happily transformed into a dog person.
MELINDA: In She Can Run, one of my characters, a police dog reject, struck a chord with readers. In fact, Henry nearly stole the show from my hero. When I wrote the book, I had no idea how much my love of dogs would influence his character. Nor did I anticipate how much readers would fall in love with him.
KENDRA: The first dog I wrote about was in Chilled. The heroine is a search and rescue team member and always has her dog with her. The Alaskan malamute helps draws my hero out of his shell and has a key role in the black moment. In Buried, I use a cadaver dog. I loved researching these dogs. Did you know some can smell a corpse hidden below 20 feet of water?
MELINDA: My kids gave me endless grief that I wrote a fictional dog into my book when we had two perfectly good dogs in our house. They suggested (read: demanded) that I write one of our dogs into my next book. I accepted the challenge. Bandit received a starring role in She Can Tell, the loose sequel to She Can Run. Bandit is a dog of many breeds we rescued from the local animal shelter two years ago. There’s a large dog trapped inside his small body, a Rottweiler crammed into a spaniel’s skeleton. At a mere 18 pounds, he would fight to the death to defend the ones he loves. He might be small in stature, but his heart and soul are enormous. Bandit is devoted to his family and hates strangers with equal passion, just ask the USP man or those people who came to deliver a religious pamphlet last week. He scared the bejeesus out of them. I had a blast writing him into the story while keeping his quirky personality true to life.
Now, of course, my kids insist our aging collie, Sunshine, get her due. She will be completely different. While Bandit is on guard duty, Sunshine’s main functions are shedding, licking company, and sprawling in awkward places to keep us agile. Seriously, how does a 70 pound dog manage to be underfoot all the time? Her disposition is true to her breed. She has nothing but wags for everyone and everything she meets, and I’m currently bringing her to life on the pages of my work-in-process, She Can Scream.
If you’re looking to add a canine companion to your household, please visit your local animal shelter. Adult dogs make great pets. They’re often house trained and past the high-maintenance puppy stage. Dogs don’t deserve to be discarded after all they do for us.
KENDRA: I don’t know if I’ll ever write a Pomeranian into a book. I do know if Max was on a cover, that book would be a bestseller. They say placing a dog on a contemporary romance cover always gives the sales a good boost. Wendy Corsi Staub tells a cute story about how her publisher’s art department placed a dog on her novel. But there wasn’t a dog in the book. Everyone loved the cover so much, she wrote a dog into the story. Our Max is a girly dog. He sits on my husband’s lap while he works, prances when he walks, and will always pick the fluffiest pillow on the bed to sit on. But he doesn’t know he’s only eight pounds and will challenge the biggest dog in the neighborhood. He always greets us with wild enthusiasm whether we’ve been gone for five minutes or five days.
Do you love it when a dog appears in a novel you’re reading? Tell us what makes your dog the best dog ever…because we understand how we all feel about our four-legged kids.
Comment for a chance of winning! One lucky winner will receive a print or digital copy of CHILLED by Kendra Elliot, and another lucky winner will receive a print or digital copy of SHE CAN RUN by Melinda Leigh. Open to readers in the US and Canada only.
Melinda Leigh is a fully recovered banker, wife, mom, lifelong dog lover, and second degree black belt in kenpo karate. She is the author of SHE CAN RUN, a 2012 Thriller Award nominee and a 2012 top 100 Kindle Bestseller. Her next book, SHE CAN TELL, releases in December 2012. Find out more about Melinda: website / facebook / twitter
Kendra Elliot grew up in the lush Pacific Northwest and still lives there with her husband, three daughters, two cats, and a Pomeranian. She’s always been fascinated with forensics, refuses to eat anything green, and loves a strong Mai Tai on the beach on Kauai. Her debut novel, HIDDEN, sold more than 100,000 copies in less than four months. Her next book, BURIED, releases in March 2013. Find out more about Kendra: website / facebook / twitter