Friday, January 8, 2016

S.D. Skye's Hell or High Water 365-Day Blogathon 199 -- Fiction Friday -- Author Amy Shojai

Fiction Friday -- Amy Shojai

As promised Fiction Fridays are back! Over the next few months I'll be featuring authors from two of my writing associations -- Sisters in Crime and International Thriller Writers. 

Today's author is fellow SinC member, Amy Shojai. 

Amy Shojai is a nationally known authority on pet care and behavior, a certified animal behavior consultant, who also writes THRILLERS WITH BITE! which includes the dog-viewpoint thrillers LOST AND FOUND and HIDE AND SEEK. 

Welcome Amy!! 


Tell us about your journey to become a published author.


I call myself the "accidental pet writer" because I never set out to be an author. When I couldn't find any other job, I applied for--and was hired--as a vet tech. My interview took place during a Chihuahua's c-section! After that, I learned how many "pet parents" want to do right by their dogs and cats, but make mistakes, and so I began writing articles for pet magazines. My first nonfiction book was published in 1992 after a NYC editor saw my magazine byline and contacted me. That led to more books, eventually an agent, and a few dozen nonfiction pet books (30 and counting).
But I wanted to write fiction--thrillers--and at the time nobody was interested in pet-centric novels. "Only children's books with animals sell," I was told.

So for many years, I sold nonfiction books quite successfully while yearning to write fiction. When the Internet became the go-to free source for information, my agent no longer could sell new  pet nonfiction titles. Fortunately, we had the foresight to get my backlist rights returned.

In 2010 I took the "self publishing plunge" and became a hybrid author, bringing my first backlist nonfiction book COMPLETE KITTEN CARE out in Kindle. The freedom to quickly update and distribute, control over content, was (and is) intoxicating. Shortly thereafter, I was invited to join Bob Mayer and Jen Talty's Cool Gus Publishing, and they helped me return my backlist to life.

By this time, I'd also begun writing the novel of my heart and attending Thrillerfest. When ready, I submitted to Cool Gus and was ecstatic my first thriller was accepted. That qualified me for the International Thriller Writers Debut Author program, and my novel writing career was born!

What sparked the idea for your pet-centric thriller series?


My first thriller LOST AND FOUND was written as a stand-alone, but was
 so successful that my editor encouraged me to continue. HIDE AND SEEK continued the story, and the latest SHOW AND TELL has just released.


I wanted to write the book I'd always wanted to read: a pet-centric thriller with an animal behaviorist protagonist, and dog-viewpoint character, but NOT a "talking human in a fur suit." As a dog/cat behavior expert, I wanted my animal characters to be true to their species and the interaction between my human characters and the pets to be reality based. The   dog has his own motivations and character arc. And I wanted to address emotional issues that affect real people; Autism, Alzheimer's, dog fighting, drug rings, and more.


At the time LOST AND FOUND released, I hadn't read any thrillers with the kind of dog-viewpoint I loved, but since that time several have been   published to great success, including stories James Rollins. I have been gratified that he gave me such glowing book quotes for the first two books,   and the readers have fully embraced my characters and stories.

Tell us about your latest release.


The third SEPTEMBER DAY thriller, SHOW AND TELL, released December 22, 2015. The story again takes place in North Texas, only a few weeks after the end of HIDE AND SEEK, and revisits some of the themes from the first book LOST AND FOUND:

An animal behaviorist and her service dog race a deadly storm to expose a treacherous secret others will kill to protect.

A BLACKMAILER returns to sell a deadly cure.
A MOTHER’S DENIAL dooms millions of children.
AND A DOG shows true loyalty…when he runs away.

With her stalker finally caught, animal behaviorist September Day’s PTSD has abated and she’s begun to trust again. She dares to hope Detective Jeff Combs might become more than a friend, until his investigation into a dogfighting ring leaves her reeling.

Shadow wrestles his own demons. A German Shepherd autism service dog before losing his-boy to a health crises, Shadow found love and his true purpose working with September. Now his-boy is back--but changed--and Shadow fears he’ll be forced to choose.

When a desperate mom demands help, and Combs’s son disappears with his dog, September and Shadow must find the children before a devastating storm hits. But the children have a secret plan of their own. Only when September shows true courage, and a good-dog tells the truth, can they find their way home again.

Give five words that best describe this book. What message do you hope readers get?


True love means letting go.

Give us one or two of your favorite lines from this book.



Shadow broke his wait command. With an apologetic glance at September for disobeying, he trotted over to the stranger, and licked clean her tears.

Gun stink made his lip curl. Guns made ear-hurting noises, and could reach out and bite dogs and their people from far away. Teeth were better, even for show. Good-dogs don't bite, not ever, even when scary strangers deserve biting.

Give five words that best describe this book. What message do you hope readers get?


True love means letting go.

Give us one or two of your favorite lines from this book.

Shadow broke his wait command. With an apologetic glance at September for disobeying, he trotted over to the stranger, and licked clean her tears.

Gun stink made his lip curl. Guns made ear-hurting noises, and could reach out and bite dogs and their people from far away. Teeth were better, even for show. Good-dogs don't bite, not ever, even when scary strangers deserve biting.

Tell us about your writing space and your daily routine.


I write daily, 8:30 to 5:30 (longer when at deadline). Currently I'm writing on my laptop from the living room, because I'm sort of trying to spend holiday time with my dog and cats. *s* My office is upstairs.

My desktop computer is mounted on a standing table attached to my desk treadmill, and a second desktop and printer sits on an adjacent walnut table that my husband made. A long window gives a view of the back of our 13-acre property. There are three floor-to-ceiling book cases overflowing with reference books and novels from my favorite authors (many have become friends after meeting at Thrillerfest!).

I have a third (old) desktop across the room with Photoshop software that I use for images, and two very old but refurbished wooden file cabinets stuffed to overflowing with references. I need to clean that out at some point.

Finally, the walk-in closet has been soundproofed and now serves as my audio studio for recording music and my audio books (I'm a VO professional and actress in another life).

What's one of your favorite reviews/comments you've ever received about your writing (on this book or any other)?  Who did it come from and how did it impact you?


"I took a huge change and messaged James Rollins about my debut and he graciously agreed to read for a possible quote. Now, I'd been multi-published in nonfiction but FICTION was a different animal. This was super scary for me and I braced myself for him to decline after reading it, but instead got the following:

""Amy Shojai's LOST AND FOUND wraps family secrets, murder, and medical miracles around the small form of an autistic child. Riveting, heart-wrenching, and brilliant, here is the debut of a stunning talent."" --James Rollins, New York Times bestseller of Bloodline""

I cried. I still get teary when I read that. This endorsement empowered me to finally call myself a novelist. BEST-FEELING-EVER!"

What's your biggest struggle as a writer (or what was your worst critique)? And how do/did you handle it?


"My biggest struggle is finding the time for all the projects I want to pursue. As a hybrid author, I wear many hats, and because I write both fiction and nonfiction, my days can be frenetic.

I make lists, and prioritize what needs to be done in what order. Nothing makes me happier than crossing off something on my to-do list."

What is the high point of your career, so far?

Having my first novel published.

What was the low point of your career? And how did you handle it?


"Believing my writing career was over, when my agent could no longer sell my work. I gnashed my teeth, head-pounded the wall and threw a big ""woe is me"" pity party for about three years, and quit writing to take a teaching job.

But that made me even more miserable. So I held my nose to become a ""self published author"" and then discovered the aroma was dang sweet!"

Give us the name of a recent book you've read that you would highly recommend to readers.


As Night Falls by Jenny Milchman

What's next on your writing journey?


I have several books that I need to produce in audio format. So the next couple of months I'll be recording in my studio. And then, I'll be writing a dog viewpoint novella for Toby Neal's Lea Crime KindleWorld.

What's your favorite book on the writing craft or your favorite piece of advice to writers?


"My best advice to writers is--

WRITE THE BOOK YOU WANT TO READ!

Don't chase trends. If you love it and are passionate about it, chances are others will connect to your passion."

How can we find you online?


"Website: http://www.SHOJAI.com
Blog: http://amyshojai.com
Facebook: http://facebook.com/amyshojai.cabc
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/amyshojai
GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/AmyShojai"

That’s all for today! If you’re interested in picking up Amy’s latest read, please visit:


Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Show-Tell-September-Day-Book-ebook/dp/B017MDIU4K/booksbyamyshojai
B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/show-and-tell-amy-shojai/1122930892
iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/author/amy-shojai/id389242339?mt=11
Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/show-and-tell-16


Thank you for joining us today, Amy!!







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