I'm honored to welcome Author Dawna Coutant, who recently published Evil Alice and the Borzoi. Set in Hawaii, it sounds like a tantalizing mystery! She's going to tell us about it -- and we have a great excerpt -- but first let's become better acquainted with Dawna.
Hi, Dawna! Welcome!
Hi. Thanks for having me. I’m delighted to be here.
1) What sort of books did you enjoy reading as a child? Did you have a favorite book or series?
My love of mysteries started young. I was a big Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden fan. I dreamed of having violet eyes like Diana Lynch (one of Trixie’s friends) But I had a cousin who introduced me to fantasy, The Hobbit and LOTR and Dragons of Pern by Anne McCaffrey. And I was enthralled by those too.
2) What sort of books do you enjoy reading nowadays?
I adore all kinds of books! Mysteries of course, like Richard Osman, Thursday Murder Club Series, the Inspector Bruno series by Martin Walker, anything by Julie Mulhern (Poppy? Ellison? They are both great). But I’m also drawn to series with a paranormal approach like, The Innkeeper Chronicles by Ilona Andrews and The Daevebad Trilogy by Shannon Chakraborty. Other books I’ve read and loved in the last 6 months: Jane Smiley’s Perestroika in Paris, Jojo Moyes, Night Music, and Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel. Sorry, that is probably a longer list than you wanted, but I LOVE to read!
That's a great list!
3) Around what age did you realize that you liked to write? And when did you know that you wanted to write books?
I enjoyed writing as a teenager. I was published in our Literary Magazine, The Luminary, at my school, Pinellas Park High School. I was Editor my senior year. I didn’t think I could write a book. It seemed overwhelming at the time. In college and graduate school, I put creative writing, and most of recreational reading aside. But once I was a professor, I craved fiction again. I returned to my escape into books, and dabbled with a notebook of ideas on stories I might write, one day. But it took another decade or two before I started writing Evil Alice and the Borzoi. The title came first, and the plot and characters followed.
4) What’s the first thing you wrote that you remember being proud of?
A very short story in that high school literary magazine. Fifteen-year-old me was on top of the world!
That makes me smile! You must have been so excited!
5) Tell us about the creative force within you. What inspires you to write, to create?
My non-writing life deals with serious, sometimes tragic, situations. Writing fiction allows me to control my mental world. I can write a satisfying ending. I can make good win out over evil. And I always feel happier after I write. Somehow it refreshes and recharges me.
6) What’s your writing space like?
Cluttered. I have a great office that I share with my dog. But I usually end up with a lot of notebooks, dog toys, papers with story ideas, my skis, and all sorts of paraphernalia stacked everywhere. I cleared away some of my clutter for this picture, so let’s keep my messy office a secret just between us.
It doesn't look messy to me! It's a gorgeous space. I looove that window!
7) Do you have a favorite time of day to write? Any habits or little rituals that put you in a writing mindset?
My favorite time of day to write is late morning. After a couple of cups of coffee and I’ve read the newspaper. Unfortunately, life usually intervenes, and some critical task needs high priority, so my writing often gets pushed to late afternoon.
Do I have writing rituals? Not really. I look over my outline and see which section I feel like writing that day, or if I left a section unfinished the day before I go back to finish that. If I’m really stuck I watch or go back to notes from a writing class. I’ve taken a ton of online classes, so going back to review those usually triggers something.
8) Time to talk about your latest release (rubbing hands together). But first, how did you come up with the idea for the series? Are there any interesting tidbits you’d care to share with us?
I think the germ of the idea started on a visit to Guam, there was a case in the newspaper about a suspected murder. I scribbled down some ideas, but it was years later when I saw a painting in an art gallery and the ideas popped back into my head. My title came to me as I studied the painting and the rest of the plot developed from that. And no, I didn’t buy the painting, it was way out of my price range.
9) Now let’s hear about – Evil Alice and the Borzoi.
Evil Alice and the Borzoi is a not-too-dark, but not-too-light traditional mystery set in Hawaii. Cleo Cooper, a cross-cultural psychology professor, is living the dream on the Big Island of Hawaii. With ocean-dipping weekends, she enjoys her dog, her job, and her boyfriend Ben - until the day she’s on a research vessel and a dead body is caught in the dragline. The police determine it is murder and set their sights on a gentle former student, Kai. It doesn’t take much urging from Kai’s auntie for Cleo to investigate. But Ben grows distant, and Cleo’s dog grows ill. A couple of accidental deaths later and someone makes an attempt on her life. What happened to Cleo’s life in paradise? Can she discover the true killer? Can she stop the killer before the killer stops her?
That sounds fabulous!
10) I comprehend that you’ve just recently published a book. I know what that takes. Still, I can’t help but ask – do you have anything waiting in the wings?
I do! I’ve got a finished draft and am fine-tuning revisions on Cleo’s second adventure. It will be based in Santa Fe, NM, so a completely different environment. But Cleo will stay in touch with her friends and Hawaii won’t be far from her thoughts.
11) Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
Hmm, I guess that I, like my protagonist, loves dogs. I’m currently raising a 9-month Old English Sheepdog. She is a sweetie pie but is a teenager in dog years, so we are having some trials and tribulations. But she has helped with my book promotion, (see my Instagram posts:) so I cut her some slack.
Such a cutie!
Dawna, congratulations on your new release. Thank you for sharing your time, talent, and adorable puppy with us today!
And now, Evil Alice and the Borzoi!
Paradise is shaken when the body of a young woman is dragged onto a university research vessel during a class outing in Hilo Bay. Cleo Cooper is shaken when she finds her favorite student is on the hook for the murder. Danger lurks on land and sea as Cleo and her friends are enticed to search for the true killer. In between paddling, swimming, and arguing with her boyfriend, Cleo discovers all is not what it seems on the Big Island of Hawaii. But will she figure out the truth before she becomes the next victim.
As I was musing ‘what ifs’, my eyes drifted to an intense mountain of a man in a red shirt so saturated with color I expected it to drip onto his jeans. The almost-to-the-elbow sleeves revealed ropey forearms the color of a dried kukui nut. The bones in his broad face, made me think of a tiger, not traditionally handsome, but arresting. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. Almost as if he could feel my scrutiny, he turned his head and looked directly at me. My pulse quickened and I froze - an impala trapped in the gaze of a predator. I couldn’t look away. A barely perceptible smile appeared on his face. He knew the effect he was having on me. Embarrassment gave me the strength to jerk my eyes down to my feet.
What the hell was wrong with me? Maybe low blood sugar? I didn’t eat much breakfast.
I risked a glance back at him. Damn, he was still looking at me with his self-assured smile. He greeted my glance with a hint of a nod and turned his attention back to the speaker. Flustered, I too looked back at the speaker, but I couldn’t make out what the guy was saying so I went back to looking at the crowd, carefully avoiding the red-shirted predator.
There were a lot of locals who I didn’t know, but I saw Rikki and Gina standing together. No sign of Kawika, Gina’s cop-husband. I would have thought the police would want to come to the funeral as part of an investigation now that they suspected foul play.
About the Author
DK Coutant graduated from Davidson College with a Psychology degree, and applied her behavioral training at Sea World, training dolphins and whales. Realizing that scrubbing fish buckets might get old, she went back to school and earned a Ph.D. in Psychology. Her academic career began at the University of Southern Maine before DK made the jump to the University of Hawaii at Hilo rising to Department Chair of the Psychology Department. After many happy years in Hawaii, DK made the move out of academics to become a professional geopolitical forecaster for GJP, Inc ( https://goodjudgment.com/Inc ) and INFER ( https://www.infer-pub.com/). Evil Alice and the Borzoi is her first work of fiction published by The Wild Rose Press.
Oh, another fan of the Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden stories! What a beautiful writing space! Enjoyed getting to know you, Dawna. Wishing you all the best with your new release, Evil Alice and the Borzoi!
Thanks Mary! I am fortunate with my writing space... no excuse not to use it more:)
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A Little of This, a Little of That
Keep me away from the wisdom that does not cry, the philosophy that does not laugh, and the greatness which does not bow before children. – Gibran Khalil Gibran
From me to you with a smile.
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