Whiskers in Trouble
by Laura Ball Genre: Cozy Mystery
Olivia Swann has returned to her hometown after college and realized her dream of opening an animal hospital - the Whiskers and Tails Vet and Boarding Hospital. When she hires a friend at her college reunion to join as partner at the hospital, things take a dangerous turn as suspicions of stolen cats begin to emerge. More than just her business is threatened when her new partner begins to ask questions about the wealthiest and most well-known family in the county. Are cats really being stolen from their owners and sold to other owners for a high profit? Olivia has a mystery on her hands while she deals with her loveable parents and a smitten love interest she doesn't quite know how to handle. With the help of her friends--her two cats, Fiona and Wilson, an old Beagle named Barnabus and his owner Tom Barnaby--Olivia must try to solve a mystery that hits a little too close to home.
Olivia is a reluctant heroine in this whodunnit as she is determined to find her friend’s killer no matter the cost. How will she juggle work, crime solving and an admirer all at one time? Find out in this fun and fast-paced mystery from Laura Ball.
Laura Ball is an Ohio native who found her love for writing at a young age. She enjoys writing short stories and has had several poems published over the years in poetry anthologies. She has a mixed breed dog named Eddie who provides plenty of inspiration!
Can you, for those who don't know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
I learned to read at a very early age. My mother read to me a lot as a child. I picked up my love for books early on. When I was in grade school I would rush home from school and write short stories for hours every day. I never let anyone read them because I was afraid they weren’t any good but my love to write developed and transitioned over to poetry. I’ve had poems published in anthologies as a teenager but never gave up writing short stories. I finally decided to attempt a book and here I am!
What is something unique/quirky about you?
I hate tomatoes but love products made from tomatoes like pasta sauce, marinara, ketchup. There’s just something weird about the texture of a tomato that bothers me!
Tell us something really interesting that's happened to you!
In 2003, I was injured in a car accident that wasn’t my fault. I dislocated bones in my right foot and ankle, broke my left kneecap and sprained my left wrist. Because of the injuries to my legs, I spent three months in a hospital bed in my parent’s rec room while they healed. I had to learn how to walk again because my muscle memory in my legs was gone from being in bed for so long which was surprising and terrifying all at once. It was a traumatic experience but I grew as a person and in my faith because of it. The accident taught me lessons and brought me closer to my family and God, and for that I’m grateful.
What are some of your pet peeves?
People who don’t use turn signals. People with annoying catchphrases. People talking on cell phones during a movie or at a restaurant.
Who is your hero and why?
I dedicated my first book to my hero–my mom. She has endured a lot in life and has remained strong and faithful. She has always believed in me, especially in my writing, and I wanted to fulfill this lifelong dream of writing a book for both of us.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I finished my first rough draft. I realized that maybe this was something I could do and really could self-publish my own book. Something ignited in me that day and from then on I felt a renewed energy to complete the book and publish it. I realized then that I really do realize a childhood dream. Not everyone gets to say or do that.
Do you have a favorite movie?
My ultimate favorite movie is Clue. I love the intricate plot and how everything connects in some way. The characters are fun, and it’s just a fun movie. I’ve seen it at least 100 times and can quote a lot of it. I especially love the different possible endings!
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
I very much believe a phoenix is my spirit animal. I have transformed so many times as a person in my life and risen above hardship and hard times only to become someone stronger.
What inspired you to write this book?
My mom encouraged me to write a cozy mystery. We love to watch mysteries and Dateline and can always “solve” the mystery before it’s revealed. We read a lot of cozy mysteries and my mom, Donna, has always believed I could write one. So we worked on a plot and the story came to life from there. She has been instrumental in helping me work out clues and plots and twists.
How did you come up with the concept and characters for the book?
My mom, Donna, was a huge inspiration behind the idea for the book. We had brainstormed several ideas and for some reason a veterinarian with cats that helped find clues seemed to stick with us. The combination of a vet and cats made sense. From there the idea of the murder and what the clues were and how the cats helped was born. The idea went through many variations but I think I told the best version in the end.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
What started off as a fun little hobby with my mom soon turned into a goal to realize a childhood dream. I enjoyed trying to figure out a mystery and take readers on an adventure with my characters and how messy life can be. I loved trying to come up with how Fiona and Wilson–the cats in the story–would react to humans and how they could in their way assist the humans in solving the case. It was a lot of fun!
What is your favorite part of this book and why?
One of my favorite parts of this book was writing about Olivia’s dad and his nemesis the groundhog. I drew inspiration from real life with my own father and a pesky groundhog he dealt with for a time. It was fun adding a little bit of him into the story.
Convince us why you feel your book is a must read.
I feel it’s a must read book if you’re someone who just enjoys a good, lighthearted read for a murder mystery without the gore and the quirky fun of animals talking to each other and trying to assist their humans to solve a crime.
Is there an writer which brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
I have always been a fan of horror movies and books. I would love to spend an afternoon with Stephen King and pick his brain about how he keeps his characters interesting and doesn’t get lost in the details of the plot.
What kind of research do you do before you begin writing a book?
I did a lot of research for Whiskers in Trouble actually. I research cat breeds and which ones were most popular, most expensive, rare, etc. I also researched a lot about common illnesses to animals and how they’re treated by a veterinarian. I also relied on my experience as a pet owner of a cat and most recently, a puppy.
Do you read yourself and if so what is your favorite genre?
I do read as much as I can because I enjoy it, and because I feel reading other authors helps my own writing. Seeing how other authors develop characters and work out plot points and twists and turns. It’s fun and exciting and educational actually.
My favorite genre is mystery because I love to immerse myself into a story and try to figure out where the story is going and revel in the characters–some I like and some I learn to hate based on the storyline. I love to be intrigued and put myself in the heroine or hero’s shoes and see if I can solve the mystery first.
Pen or type writer or computer?
I use both pen and paper and a computer.
Do you have any advice to offer for new authors?
Beginning is the hardest part. Just take the first step and put something, anything, on the page. Once you begin it gets easier. Don’t give up when you get stuck, look at it from a different point of view or a different character’s point of view. Try to work things out from all angles. Sometimes things are revealed from a perspective you didn’t have before.
What is your writing process? For instance do you do an outline first? Do you do the chapters first?
I like to outline with pen and paper, list the main points and scenes and main characters. Then I like to just dive right into writing using my outline as a guide. I find when typing on my computer that the story unfolds easier for me and the story ends up going to places I never intended but works out. My characters also develop the same way–by just diving in and seeing what ends up on the screen. I usually start with Chapter 1 and go from there following my outline but in writing book two of the Whiskers and Tails mysteries series, I’ve complete more in depth outlining for certain scenes and then worked outward from the scene and sort of filled in the blanks with secondary plots. Then once I’ve reached that part in the outline I edit a lot and smooth out any holes–hopefully.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
I do believe in writer’s block! I feel I once had it for 6 months when writing this book! I got to a certain point in the story and just could not figure out where to go from there. I had focused so much on one particular section of the book that I realized I hadn’t fully thought the rest of the book all the way through. I became stuck. I sat staring at this half-written story and wasn’t sure where to take the characters and the story. I couldn’t envision the ending or what I wanted to happen to the characters. It was a low point for me and my writing. I started to have doubts about being able to finish the book. I doubted my ability to write and depression set in. I had to step away from writing for a time.
But the book and the story and characters kept haunting me. I would find myself reviewing plot points and how a character reacted to a scene. I would catch myself thinking about certain twists or clues. Once I finally was able to see beyond the scope of the work I had already done, it became easier to focus on the continuation of the plot. I put myself in each character’s shoes and figured out what I wanted that character to do, to learn, to be, to experience. It slowly became easier to move forward with this storyline or that character trait or whatever I was working on next.
I experienced writer’s block more than once but I learned to take a step back and give myself the time to analyze and think beyond the point of where I was stuck. Once I am able to allow myself that time and room to think, things become clear again, and I’m able to continue on.
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