A Conversation with Colleen J. Shogan Author of Dead as a Duck

Kit must sacrifice sun-filled days of relaxation put her life on the line to secure a confession from the killer and make sure justice is served — Dead as a Duck (A Washington Whodunit) by @cshogan276

What inspired the idea for your book? 

 I have vacationed in the Outer Banks, the setting for this beach mystery, for over a decade. I have always wanted to write a story set in one of my favorite places!

What was the most surprising thing you learned in writing this book?

 I learned a great deal more about the wild horses of the Outer Banks, and how they may have gotten there. 

If you were friends with a character in this book, what kinds of things would you do together? 

If I were friends with my main character, Kit Marshall, we would probably go out to dinner together or maybe even relax by the pool, which is what Kit wants to do in this book – until she has to solve a murder!

How do you define success as an author? 

 I pay attention to the reviews and feedback I receive. Success is when I hear that a reader really enjoyed one of my books or identified with it in some way.

What comes first for you — the plot or the characters?

The first thing I focus on is the setting of the book. Each of my books has a slightly different focus. Dead as a Duck is a beach mystery, so that helped me think creatively about the types of characters. Once I have come up with the characters, then I can start thinking about the plot and how the mystery will unfold.

What was the defining moment that made you say to yourself, “Today, I am going to write a book that I will publish”?

I started out simply writing for pleasure. I came up with the idea for Stabbing in the Senate when I was taking a walk around my suburban Washington, D.C. neighborhood. I didn’t know if what I was writing would ever see the light of day, quite frankly. But the idea for the book seemed compelling to me, so I knew I had to try to write it. I didn’t tell anyone I was writing a mystery novel for a long time. When I was able to find an agent (Dawn Dowdle) to represent me, then I started to believe that the book might actually get published.

What advice would you give to a writer working on their first book?

Stick with it and keep writing. Find a review group of other writers who can read your finished draft. I did this as part of Sisters in Crime and it was incredibly helpful. I exchanged a draft of my first book with other unpublished writers and we took turns critiquing chapters. I also had a published author read a good portion of a draft and provide feedback to me, which was invaluable. The most important aspect of writing a novel is finishing it! Don’t give up. It’s better to keep going and then seek constructive input about what you’ve done. 

What are you reading now?

I just finished Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library and I’m currently reading Karen Tumulty’s The Triumph of Nancy Reagan. They are both excellent books!  I try to alternate between fiction and non-fiction. For the latter, I prefer biographies.

Name three fun facts about you or your work:

For my day job, I work right next to the White House. My office is on the third floor of Decatur House, the oldest residence on Lafayette Square. I think it’s haunted!

I never took a creative writing class in my life. Everything I have learned about writing has come from reading.

I have a beagle mutt named Conan, and he is the inspiration for Clarence, Kit’s dog in the Washington Whodunit series.


Kit Marshall seems to have a knack for finding dead bodies and solving their murders. She came into Duck, South Carolina as part of a town hall meeting for her boss, a congresswoman who is considering a run for the senate. She fully intends to take a few much needed days with friends and family in this popular destination beach town. When the town hall gets out of hand, exposing a rift between the town mayor and his constituents and then the mayor shows up dead, her vacation is going to have to wait.

I figured out whodunnit fairly easily, though of course, I didn’t know why. By the time Kit worked her way around to it, I had forgotten that I suspected that person, and I had just gotten caught up in the story. Kit is a great protagonist with a clever inner circle. If more Washington insiders were like her and her boss, the country would be in great hands.

There are plenty of twists and subplots throughout that keep the story fresh and mystery front and center. I love when I can get lost in the minutia of small town living and let the puzzle take a back seat to a really good tale.

Though this the latest in a robust series, it is the first of it that I have read. It read well as a stand alone and managed to convince me I wanted, rather than needed, to read the series from the beginning. I am looking forward to that.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I received an advance review copy for free through Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, and I am leaving this review voluntarily

Congressional staffer Kit Marshall is looking forward to a much-deserved summer vacation in the Outer Banks. When the mayor of the beach town turns up dead, Kit and her friends need to put their fun and relaxation on hold to help solve the crime.

August has been a busy month for congressional staffer Kit Marshall. She hit the road with her boss, Congresswoman Maeve Dixon, who is considering running for the United States Senate in North Carolina. After endless town halls and meet-and-greets, Kit is happy to end the tour in Duck, an upscale beach town in the Outer Banks.

Before Kit can relax on her much-deserved vacation with her husband Doug, brother Sebastian, best friend Meg, and beagle mutt Clarence, the body of Duck’s mayor is found floating in the shallow waters of the Currituck Sound.

Kit’s brother Sebastian, who got in a public kerfuffle with the victim the day before, becomes the prime suspect. Solving the mystery takes her to popular hotspots in the Outer Banks, including a private tour featuring the wild horses of Corolla.

Kit must sacrifice sun-filled days of relaxation to clear her brother. In the end, Kit and Sebastian put their own lives on the line to secure a confession from the killer and make sure justice is served.

Purchase Links – Amazon – B&N – Kobo

Colleen J. Shogan has been reading mysteries since the age of six. A political scientist by training, Colleen has taught American politics at numerous universities. She previously worked on Capitol Hill as a legislative staffer in the United States Senate and as a senior executive at the Library of Congress. Currently, she’s a Senior Vice President at the White House Historical Association. A member of Sisters in Crime, Colleen splits her time between Arlington, VA and Duck, NC.

Authors Prior titles: STABBING IN THE SENATE, HOMICIDE IN THE HOUSE, CALAMITY AT THE CONTINENTAL CLUB, K STREET KILLING, GORE IN THE GARDEN, LARCENY AT THE LIBRARY

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