A Conversation with Authors Maria Hudgins, Teresa Inge, Heather Weidner, and Jayne Ormerod

First, thanks so much for inviting us to showcase our latest Mutt Mysteries release, To Fetch a Killer, Four Fun “Tails” of Chaos and Murder. It’s a collection of four novellas by four talented authors.

What inspired the idea for your story in the book? 

HEATHER WEIDNER, author of “Wags to Riches”:

My dad used to race MGs, and he always loved going to the track. When I got married, my husband was also a big NASCAR fan. Through the years, we spent many a warm summer night at the Southside Speedway in Chesterfield, Virginia (home track of Denny Hamlin). During one of the races, I got the idea to set a mystery at the track. Cassidy and her dog Oliver have appeared in two Mutt Mysteries “The Fast and The Furriest” and “Wags to Riches.”

JAYNE ORMEROD, author of “Bone Appétit”:

This is a case of the title coming before the story. I saw a dog-food mat at a friend’s house which said Bone Appétit. How could I resist? I’d obviously need a chef of some flavor who prepared the food for a meal when someone dies unexpectedly.  Hence the creation of Molly Perkins, personal chef to the Wade family. 

MARIA HUDGINS, author of “Sandy Paws”:

A friend was working with service dogs and he had to fit the dog’s training to the special needs of the new owner. That gave me the idea about a story for service dogs for a deaf writer. The writer’s retreat idea came about when my local writer’s group went to Cape Charles for a day of writing. No dogs, but I wished I’d had mine with me. 

TERESA INGE, author of “A New Leash on Death”:

My story was inspired by protagonist, Catt Ramsey to make changes to her professional and personal life. During the transition, Catt adds a grooming service and office remodel to her business, the Woof Pack Dog Walkers. She also moves her handyman boyfriend Beau Whitaker and his dog Duke into her recently purchased cottage. But when a dead body is discovered in her grooming area, this wasn’t part of the change that Catt had expected. 

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

JAYNE: That a novella, while bigger than a short story, is only about one-fourth of a full-length novel, so the plot should remain relatively simple while still following the basic three-act structure. After I’d plotted, I realized I had a huge novel ready to go, so I had to cut out some of the adjunct story lines (which of course are saved for a future book!) 

MARIA: It is hard for humans and dogs to communicate, because we can’t do so verbally and what we both have in mind to do is difficult to predict. The challenge is really understanding what dogs are thinking…their thoughts need to drive the story. 

TERESA: That I continue to write the same protagonist Catt Ramsey in each story and watch her business grow and life change with each book. I love writing this character along with her dogs Cagney and Lacey to help solve crimes.  

HEATHER: Even though I write fiction, a lot of research goes into my writing. I want to make sure that what I describe is accurate and that the mysteries are plausible. In “The Fast and the Furriest,” I had to do research on mechanics’ tools, and in “Wags to Riches,” I also had to do a lot of research on the murder weapon to ensure that the situation was plausible and possible.

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

MARIA: We would go to the beach and probably have a glass of wine and while sitting and sipping, we would run our ideas past each other and solve each other’s plot problems.

HEATHER: Cassidy and Oliver would be fun to hang out with. We’d get coffee or lunch, and girls’ nights out would be a fun way to spend time.

JAYNE: Well, Molly and Becca and I would drink wine, of course. Preferably while laying on the beach in front of that fabulous 5,000-square-foot “cottage” the Wade’s call home. But any beach would do. And then, while sunburned and sandy, I can also see us heading for the local dive bar for fish tacos, more wine, and shag dancing.  

How do you define success as an author? 

HEATHER: Success comes in many different forms. Signing with an agent, getting a book contract, getting an extension on your contract, getting an advance, and cashing your first royalty check are all huge milestones in the writing journey.

JAYNE: Seeing my name in print defines success to me. Simple as that. I hope lots of people read and love my stories, but just knowing they are available to anybody so inclined to give up hours of time to spend with my characters is all the satisfaction I need. 

TERESA: Although an author can be defined many ways, having readers follow me and buy my books then leave reviews on Amazon and social media that they love my stories defines success to me. From writing the story to editing to publication is the hard part but when readers buy the book and express how much they love it is the ultimate success. 

Do you have any quirky writing rituals? 

HEATHER:  I have always been a morning person. I get up at five o’clock even on weekends, and I usually write or edit. I have to have my playlists, chocolate, and caffeine in my writing cave.

JAYNE: When starting a new story, I get out a huge pad of newsprint and my set of eighteen color markers and “draw” the plot using overlapping circles to show character’s connections. I’m not finished until I’ve used all eighteen markers. Then when it comes to actually writing, there’s a few (hundred?) games of mahjongg to relax my brain and open the door to the creative side.  

What is your all time favorite book? Do you think this has influenced your writing?

MARIA: All time favorite book is The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein. It’s science fiction, a genre I don’t like, but the things he wrote about in 1950 came true. Computers, space travel, and so on. It has not influenced my writing, because it is written from a viewpoint I would never ever adopt, but it inspired me to write stories for others to read.

Aside from writing or reading, what are your hobbies or interests? 

HEATHER: When I’m not reading or writing, I love to visit interesting places, take pictures, and kayak. We share our home with two crazy Jack Russell Terriers, so they keep us busy.

If you could have lunch with 3 authors (past or present) what do you think you would all talk about during lunch? 

TERESA: Mary Higgins Clark. I would ask her thoughts about plot, characters, and location and being a working mom when writing her early books. And the fact that we share the same name Teresa. I had the wonderful opportunity of meeting Mary Higgins Clark and we talked about our name Teresa. Ernest Hemingway, to talk about writing but mainly his extraordinary life and to share a drink with him. The third would be Edgar Allan Poe to learn more about his creative mind and writing.   

HEATHER: I would love to have lunch with Agatha Christie, Mildred Wirt Benson (one of the original writers of the Nancy Drew series), and Dorothy L. Sayers. I would love to know how they succeeded in a male-dominated genre during their day. I’d want to talk about their inspirations and their sleuths.

If your book were made into a movie, which actors would play your characters? 

JAYNE: I envision Patricia Heaton (Everybody Loves Raymond) as Molly, the main character. Partner-in-crime-solving Becca is a strong Irish woman and would be well represented by Alexandra Breckenridge (Big Fat Liar.)

Name three fun facts about you or your work. 

TERESA: 
I love classic cars and going to car shows with my husband.

I own a torch red, ‘55 Thunderbird that I love to show at car shows.

My husband and I love traveling in our RV.

JAYNE:
They say “write what you know”, so I write about small towns (I grew up in one) and coastal settings (I now live near the shore). Trust me when I say all the dead bodies are purely a figment of my imagination!

My days revolve around my dog’s schedules, which have them getting up when the early birds start tweeting (that’s 4:45 in the summer.)

I am married to a man who hates tomatoes, so I have to search for good pasta recipes that don’t involve Italian gravy. (When we go out, I’m the first to suggest an Italian restaurant!) 

What does it mean to you to be called an author? (All)

TERESA: It’s an honor to be an author. When I first started writing books, people would call me an author, but I never referred to myself in that term. I felt that I didn’t deserve to say that since I was just starting out. It was a lot of pressure I put on myself. Now, with being a contributor in several books, it’s a lot of responsibility to being a mystery author with writing, marketing, and promoting myself.

HEATHER: I’ve been writing for a long time, but I never really thought of myself as an author until that first box of books arrived with my name on it. It was a long time in the making.

JAYNE: It means so much. It means my father is proud of me (he’d always dreamed of being an author himself but passed away before he could fulfill that dream.) It means I am proud of myself, because actually writing a full story that someone reads is a heck of a life accomplishment. And it makes my family proud. “Author” is a label only a few people can claim. Many people aspire to write a book, but never get around to it.

MARIA: It reminds me that I have a responsibility to be true to myself as well as true to my readers.

Thanks for the opportunity to introduce ourselves and our stories to your readers! You can find out more about them, along with social connections for each author, at www.muttmysteries.com 
To Fetch a Killer is available in print at Amazon and all ebook platforms.


I very much enjoy anthologies. They give a reader a chance to catch up with favorite authors or find some new favorite stories. To Fetch a Killer, Four Fun “Tails” of Chaos and Murder, is no exception. In it we have four fun cozy mysteries, with a grip of clever pups, that save the day or just their person’s sanity. I enjoyed a giggle in  “Wags to Riches” at “Mr.” Oliver, the completely oblivious and unaware complaint department. The stories, of course, all center on canine sidekicks and are perfect for dog loving cozy readers.

I am familiar with most, if not all of these authors and they have written to expectations. These are fast entertaining reads with great characters and engaging mysteries. This is a quick read and a good time.

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

It’s a dog-meet-dog world as a pack of canines team up with their humans to solve mysteries and track down killers. Four mutt-loving authors join their talents in creating this collection of canine-themed novellas which will transport you into the chaotic world of hero dogs who have a nose for murder. Grab a leash and hang on tight…the mutts are on the loose again!

This anthology includes four novellas.

“Sandy Paws” by Maria Hudgins
The Sand Fiddler’s Writers Group has rented a beach house for its annual retreat, but the writers and their canine friends can’t get much done after murder rears its ugly head.

“A New Leash on Death” by Teresa Inge
Catt Ramsey, owner of the Woof-Pack Dog Walkers, has a knack for finding dead bodies, but when she and her pups are on the case, there’s no way the killer will get away with murder.

“Wags to Riches” by Heather Weidner
When a prickly guest ends up dead in his booth at the rummage sale, track owner, Cassidy Green and her Rottweiler Oliver have to sniff out clues and find the killer before another murder is forever linked to her business.

“Bone Appetit” by Jayne Ormerod
A dead guest at private chef Molly Perkins’s dinner party draws her and house dog Tater in a chaotic search for the secret ingredient to murder.

Purchase Links – Amazon – Apple Books – Nook – Kobo

MARIA HUDGINS is a mystery writer from coastal Virginia and a lover of animals. She writes the Dotsy Lamb Travel Mysteries and the Lacy Glass Archaeology Mysteries. Her short stories appear in such publications as Virginia is for Mysteries, Fifty Shades of Cabernet, Murder by the Glass, and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. The two dogs, Trey and Kim, featured in this story are based on Hudgins’s beloved Bichons, Holly and Hamilton, now gone but never forgotten.

TERESA INGE grew up reading Nancy Drew mysteries. Combining her love of reading mysteries and writing professional articles led to writing short fiction and novellas.

Today, she doesn’t carry a rod like her idol but she hot rods. She juggles assisting two busy executives at a financial firm and is president of the Sisters in Crime, Mystery by the Sea chapter. Teresa is a contributing author to the Virginia is for Mysteries series, 50 Shades of Cabernet, Mutt Mysteries series, Coastal Crimes, and Murder by the Glass, Cocktail Mysteries.

She resides in Southeastern Virginia with her husband and two dogs. She can be reached on all social media or by posting a comment on her website.

Heather Weidner has been a cop’s kid, technical writer, editor, college professor, software tester, and IT manager. She writes the Delanie Fitzgerald mystery series set in Virginia (Secret Lives and Private Eyes, The Tulip Shirt Murders, and Glitter, Glam, and Contraband). Her new cozy series with vintage trailers and tiny houses, the Jules Keene Glamping Mysteries, launches in October 2021.

Her short stories appear in the Virginia is for Mysteries series, 50 Shades of Cabernet, Deadly Southern Charm, and Murder by the Glass, and her novellas appear in The Mutt Mysteries series (To Fetch a Thief, To Fetch a Scoundrel, To Fetch a Villain, and To Fetch a Killer).

She is a member of Sisters in Crime – Central Virginia, Sisters in Crime – Chessie, Guppies, International Thriller Writers, and James River Writers.

Originally from Virginia Beach, Heather has been a mystery fan since Scooby-Doo and Nancy Drew. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and a pair of Jack Russell terriers.

JAYNE ORMEROD grew up in a small Ohio town then went on to a small-town Ohio college. Upon earning her degree in accountancy, she became a CIA (that’s not a sexy spy thing, but a Certified Internal Auditor.) She married a naval officer and off they sailed to see the world. After nineteen moves, they, along with their two rescue dogs Tiller and Scout, have settled into a cozy cottage by the Chesapeake Bay. Jayne’s publishing credits include two novels, five novellas, and eight short mysteries, with more coming soon. A complete list can be found on her website.

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4 Comments

  1. Indeed, this post includes some surprising and interesting insights into the four authors. The interview questions were top shelf, and the responses were thoughtful. To gather responses from all four authors is quite a task, but the full article reads so well. These authors are committed to their craft and to their readers. Well done, everyone!

    And, read a mystery, folks! These canine mysteries are one place to start, but mysteries come in all forms and styles–finding your favorite style is like a treasure hunt! Often the thrillers, suspense, and mystery genres overlap or can be similar. If you have a friend, relative, or coworker with a hobby, one place to begin is to search for cozy mysteries involving that hobby–needlepoint, fishing, NASCAR, cooking, etc.

    You can similarly search for a cozy mystery (or any book!) with a setting of interest (Ireland, Hawaii, Iceland, the future, other planets, a rainforest, a Vietnamese village, etc.) or a certain profession (innkeeper, beekeeper, vintner, geologist, historic reenactor, etc.). Ask your public librarian about mysteries set in different time periods, also. Edwardian and Victorian England are my eras and settings of choice!

    But, if you are reading this, you probably already know these things . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for stopping by with this comment. I have to say I always appreciate the amount of attention the featured authors give to these interviews and this one was particularly fun and challenging. One reason why cozy mysteries are still so popular, despite being the red-headed stepchild of the mystery genre, is that the basic formula works so well with so many fantastic ingredients and there are so many great authors willing to put in the work to take it to a new level. Cozies are at times genre-bending pushing the limits into hard mystery or suspense and I love that much as a fun fluffy afternoon cluefest.

      Like

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