Hi Kathleen and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, Chasing Justice!
Thank you so much! I’m thrilled to be here today!
To start off, can you please tell us a little bit about this book?:
Chasing Justice is about Marine veteran and K-9 handler, Maya Thompson, who has returned home to her beloved Colorado mountains to heal after serving in Afghanistan. While deployed, she lost her military K-9 in action. Maya has sworn off working dogs again, but when her best friend and fellow U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement officer is killed, she is forced to face her fear by working another K-9, Juniper, to solve his murder. Helping on the case is a handsome and mysterious deputy, Josh Colten. Maya isn’t sure she can trust Josh, but after her grandfather is kidnapped, she must learn to trust not only herself, but also Juniper and Josh.
Please share your favorite lines or quote(s) from this book:
Josh responded by tightening his arms around Maya. His binoculars dropped out of his hand. Juniper, stuck between the two of them, whined indignantly and scooted back. Maya pulled away, her lips still tingling and her face flushed red.
“Is this how you do surveillance in Chicago?” she asked.
Josh grinned. “Nope. I think this might just be a Colorado thing.”
She stared down at Juniper and was met with golden eyes. She swore Juniper smiled and gave her the look that said Let’s go. We’re a team.
What inspired this book?
There were several things that inspired this book. I knew I had to have a K-9 in the book because I work dogs myself with a private narcotics dog company. I’m always amazed at what dogs are willing to do and their capabilities. They love their jobs. I also grew up and live in Colorado. I have a deep love and respect for our mountains. There’s nothing better than a mountain getaway so I wanted my book set in a fictional national forest. My dad worked for the U.S. Forest Service as a researcher and analyst so when I discovered the Forest Service had a K-9 unit, I knew that was the agency I wanted to use in my book. I’d also come to know several military veterans through my writer’s group, friends and writing organizations. I am in awe of their service and what they’ve sacrificed for our country. I wanted to show that PTSD isn’t something that you just “get over,” but rather something that veterans must learn how to manage and live with every day. I wanted to be as accurate as possible for Maya’s character to honor those who’ve served.
How did you ‘get to know’ your main characters? Did they ever surprise you?
Maya, my protagonist, came to me one day while I was working my dogs up in the mountains. I felt like I knew her well and it didn’t take much to develop her character. Juniper, Maya’s K-9, was based off several dogs that I’ve either worked or known. I knew that she would have an intense high drive, but off-duty she’d be fun-loving, sweet, and mischievous. I had watched one of our trainers work with a Malinois on apprehension training. That dog loved biting so much that he refused to let go. But once he was off the bite, he was the sweetest dog and loved attention. I wanted Juniper to be the same way.
Josh, the handsome deputy and Pops, Maya’s grandfather and local Sheriff, were a little bit harder to get to know. I did more character sketches with them. Josh was the character that ended up surprising me.
What was your favorite scene to write?
My favorite scene to write was when Maya finally made the decision to work Juniper and the bonding moment that they had. Here’s a snippet of that scene:
Maya slipped off the muzzle. She opened her hand and let the treat rest on her palm, feeding it to the dog almost like you fed a horse—fingers out of the way. She expected Juniper to gulp the treat, but instead the dog surprised her by taking it in a dainty fashion. Juniper slapped her tail on the floor and stared at Maya.
“Want another one?” Maya pulled another treat out of the box, and this time Juniper took it a little quicker, her warm tongue flicking across Maya’s palm.
“So, what do you think? Are you coming home with me? I come with a lot of baggage. Not to mention I’m rusty as a handler. I don’t remember the last time I thought about which way the wind was blowing so a dog could scent better or working a grid pattern or making sure I directed you to areas with good air flow on a vehicle. I don’t even have a good place for you, you know. But you can come home with me if you want and we can figure this all out.”
Juniper climbed into Maya’s lap and rested her front end across Maya’s legs. She rooted around, her nose quickly finding the treat box. Maya laughed, wiped away her tears and gave her a couple more.
“I have a new partner, don’t I?”
What was the most difficult scene to write?
I think the most difficult scene to write was when Maya’s best friend, Doug, is severely injured. They have one last conversation where Doug makes Maya promise to work Juniper and take care of her. Doug passes away later at the hospital and Maya knows she is now faced with being K-9 handler again.
Would you say this book showcases your writing style or is it a departure for you?
I would say this book definitely showcases my writing style. I love a great mystery with lots of suspense, but I also enjoy having a romance to add to the tension.
What do you want people to take away from reading this book?
I would love to immerse readers in the world of working dogs and share more about the partnership between dog and handler. I think there’s lots of misconceptions about living and working with a K-9. There’s also lots of myths about ways to hide drugs or escape from a dog. I had fun weaving reality into fiction. My goal was to write this in a exciting, entertaining way and where a K-9 helped solve a mystery. Along with that I hope readers enjoy the characters and solving a crime in the Colorado mountains where the environment can be both beautiful and treacherous.
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned?
I’m currently working on book two in this series. I’m enjoying spending more time with Maya, Juniper and Josh as they solve another mystery.
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: One signed mass market paperback of CHASING JUSTICE—North America. (This giveaway will be fulfilled by the author.)
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Excerpt from Chasing Justice:
In this scene, Maya, Juniper and Josh have a lead as to where the kidnapper may have taken Maya’s grandfather Pops…
Approaching the door, Maya and Juniper moved toward the side, Josh behind them. They all stayed away from the front of the door in case anyone was in there waiting to ambush them. Law enforcement called doors the fatal funnel because they were the most dangerous spot when making an entry. Ready to unleash Juniper to clear the cabin, Maya announced, “Forest Service Law Enforcement. Anyone here?”
Josh also identified himself, but there was no answer to either of them.
Maya yelled again, “Forest Service Law Enforcement! If anyone is here, come out with your hands up or I’m sending the dog.”
Juniper sounded off. Maya yelled one more time over Juniper’s barks and yips that if anyone was in there, they needed to come out or the dog was coming in. Usually the K-9 barking inspired suspects to come out.
Still no answer.
Maya nodded at Josh and tried to ignore how easy it was to work with him. She shoved her thoughts aside. Don’t disregard what Sam said. She needed to know more about Josh before completely trusting him.
She unclipped Juniper’s leash and Josh did a couple donkey kicks to open the door. Maya told Juniper to “seek and go get ’em,” the command for clearing a cabin or building.
Maya and Josh stayed shoulder to shoulder as they entered behind Juniper, who was trained to follow her nose and search for the scent she’d been tracking. She would also go into each room and sniff for anyone else hiding in the house. Maya remained behind with her gun drawn, but made sure she kept Juniper in her sight. The hardest part of working a dog was that they went into danger first and could also be ambushed. But their nose and instincts usually beat a criminal.
She could hear the clicking of Juniper’s nails on the wooden floor. The cabin seemed small. Maybe just a couple rooms. On average it took a K-9 twenty seconds to clear a house. Juniper would work this cabin quickly.
Maya cleared the area around the front door first. Her training had taught her to stop and assess each direction and to break up the area into slivers like a pizza—one slice of space at a time. She started to her left and cleared everything in front of her, including behind the door.
After clearing the rest of the cabin, Juniper’s nail clicking stopped, replaced by a thumping noise. “What’s that?” she whispered to Josh. He shrugged.
“Footsteps?” she whispered.
“Maybe, but doesn’t sound quite right.”
Juniper was stopped in front of a door leading to what was probably a bedroom. She panted and whined. Then she started digging at the door, telling Maya she wanted in there. Now.
Maya noticed Josh watching Juniper. “Keep an eye on me. I’ll watch my dog. Remember, you’re my cover officer.”
Maya gave Josh a hand signal that he should back her up. They remained shoulder to shoulder and once again announced themselves as law enforcement officers.
Maya couldn’t tell if the noise was footsteps or someone trying to open a window to maybe escape. She reached the door, every sense on high alert. Staying off to the side, she grabbed the smooth, cold metal of the doorknob. She turned the handle, threw the door open and told Juniper to “seek and go get ’em.”
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
She thought she’d never trust again…
After losing her military K-9, former marine Maya Thompson swears she’ll never work with dogs again. But when she returns home to Colorado and accepts a job with US Forest Service law enforcement, fate brings K-9 Juniper into her life just as another tragedy unfolds.
Juniper, a beautiful two-year-old Malinois, isn’t the only new addition to Maya’s life. Josh Colten, the local deputy sheriff, insists on helping with her new case. Handsome and mysterious, he’s all anyone in town can talk about, but Maya can’t let herself like him, let alone trust him.
When Maya’s grandfather goes missing amid a growing drug war, Maya must put her faith in Josh, and her own battered instincts, to find him. But there’s a web of secrets tying her grandfather to the tragedy that brought Juniper into her life—secrets someone would kill to keep hidden.
Meet the Author:
Award-winning author Kathleen Donnelly is a K-9 handler for Sherlock Hounds Detection Canines—a private narcotics dog company. She enjoys using her K-9 experience to craft realism into her fictional stories. Along with working dogs, Kathleen loves horses. She owns two horses and a bossy, yet adorable pony. Kathleen’s love of the mountains inspired her setting for Chasing Justice. She enjoys escaping to the high country to hike and photograph the scenery and wildlife. Kathleen has a B.A. in Journalism from Colorado State University and formerly wrote for The Berthoud Weekly Surveyor where she won a Colorado Press Award. Kathleen lives in Colorado with her husband and all their four-legged friends.
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