Annette Dashofy is a USA Today best-selling author who currently writes the Zoe Chambers mystery series. Her first novel, “Circle of Influence,” was a finalist for the 2014 Agatha Award for best first novel and the David award. Her third novel, “Bridges Burned.” was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel of 2015. She writes for Henery Press.
Tell us a little bit about your series.
Zoe is a paramedic and a deputy coroner in rural southwestern Pennsylvania. As if she doesn’t have enough to do, she also manages the farm where she boards her horse. Her work takes her into a variety of accident, medical, and crime scenes and gives her an opportunity to help (and sometimes hinder) the investigations conducted by Chief of Police Pete Adams.
Give us an insight into your main characters. How do you relate to them? What is special about them?
Zoe had a rough childhood. She lost her dad very early, which messed her up where men are concerned. She was a wild child in her teen years and made a lot of bad choices. Now, she’s a responsible adult and a caregiver by nature, but she’s never lost that thrill-seeker side, which makes being a paramedic the perfect career for her. She’s still not sure about the deputy coroner thing, since it isn’t what she expected from watching all those CSI shows on TV! Her bad history with men still comes back to haunt her relationship with Pete. Of course, he doesn’t have a stellar track record either, so their attempts at romance promise to be hit and miss. As for how I relate to them, like Zoe, I worked on rural ambulance service for a number of years, and I owned horses, so I can tap into my experiences in those areas when writing about her. However my childhood was boringly normal, and I’ve been married for 33 years to the same guy. But I enjoy spending time with Zoe. She’s someone I’d like to have as a friend.
Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?
I love playing with this question. My choices have tended to be too old to play Zoe and Pete, but my friend Tami McClain has put a lot of thought into casting the roles. She suggests Jolene Kay as Zoe and Patrick Dempsey or Gerard Butler for Pete. I’ve also decided I like Beth Riesgraf to play Zoe and possibly Josh Holloway as Pete.
One of the characters in your book is suffering from Alzheimer’s and you share the difficulty of both having the disease and being a caregiver to someone that has it. Has this disease touched your life?
Sadly, yes. Harry Adams (Pete’s father in Lost Legacy) is very close to my heart. I created him to honor my own dad who died ten years ago from complications of Alzheimer’s. Harry was a challenge to write because I wanted to stay true to the horrors of the disease and yet create a character that my readers would love and want to spend time with. I ended up using some of my dad’s more endearing quirks while only hinting at some of the darker issues. I must have hit a good balance, because readers love Harry and want to see more of him (and they will in the sixth book, which I’m writing now). By the way, when Lost Legacy was released, I promised to donate a portion of my royalties from its sale to the Alzheimer’s Association. I’ve already donated several hundred dollars and will continue as long as the book is in print.
You also write short stories. Which do you like better and why?
I love both, but with my contractual obligations to the series, I haven’t had time to write any short fiction lately. I think short stories are HARDER to write. But I love them because I can play with different styles than usual. The characters of Pete and Zoe were first created in a short story (A Signature in Blood) because I wanted to write a police procedural with a male point of view. At the time, Zoe was simply a sidekick. The story was nominated for a Derringer Award in 2007. (As a side note: I’m currently updating and revising that short story to re-release to my newsletter subscribers over the holidays for free!)
Share a little bit about your background.
I’ve been a country gal all my life and still live on part of what was my grandfather’s dairy farm. As I mentioned earlier, I worked on our local ambulance service, but I’ve also worked in retail, been a photographer, taught yoga, and of course, done considerable farm work. All of it tends to find its way into my fiction now. If it hasn’t, it will. Everything is fodder for the writing.
When did you decide to become a writer and when did you start writing?
I never really “decided” to become a writer. I’ve just always written in some form or another. I can pinpoint 2004 as the time I became serious about writing toward publication though.
Which writers inspire you?
There as so many, it’s hard to select only a few. Agatha Christie and Mary Higgins Clark were early inspirations and drew me to mystery. I’m a total fangirl over Julia Spencer Fleming and Craig Johnson, always waiting eagerly for their next books and then devouring them in one or two days. I also love and admire Lisa Scottoline, Hank Phillippi Ryan, and Nancy Martin who have been wonderful mentors over the years. The longer I think about this question, the more names I could add, so I’ll stop there.
What is your favorite book and why?
This is the hardest question. I don’t have one favorite. It’s like trying to limit how many authors have inspired me. However, if I were to narrow it down to the one book I’ve given most as a gift, it would have to be The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson, simply because I love that series and the setting of Wyoming so much I want to introduce all my friends to it!
What book/s are you reading at present?
It probably isn’t fair to say my own book, is it? Because I’m doing a final proof of the galleys of No Way Home, the fifth Zoe Chambers mystery coming out this spring. Once I finish it though, the next up on my to-be-read pile is An Obvious Fact by Craig Johnson.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
I have three bits of advice I like to share. 1.) Learn your craft. Take workshops. Read how-to books. 2.) Join a writing group. It takes a village and the networking and learning opportunities available in these groups is invaluable. And lastly, 3.) NEVER GIVE UP. The only sure way to not get published is to stop trying.
What is your favorite social media site?
Definitely Facebook. I’ve cut back on it somewhat recently, but I still spend way too much time there. Until recently, Twitter was a distant second, but I’ve come to like checking in there several times a day too.
How can readers discover more about you and your work?
Book Links: Indy: http://store.mysterylovers.com/catalog/search?keyword=Annette+Dashofy
Barnes & Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/annette+dashofy?_requestid=736080
Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.