Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Going to the Dogs, Elle Druskin



AUTHOR: Elle Druskin
BOOK TITLE: Going to the Dogs
PUBLISHER: MuseItUpPublishing

1.    Why don't you start with telling us a little about yourself? What genre do you write in and why?  I was born and raised in New Jersey, but right after I finished college in Boston, I wanted to travel and have adventures.  I can honestly say that I did.  I’ve been all over the world, to places I only dreamed about as a kid and very often, I’ve been to those places more than once.  I’ve lived in Australia and Israel, and I’m currently living in Hawaii—how great is that?  By profession, I’m a nursing professor and that does figure in some of my books.  The To Catch series (To Catch A Cop and To Catch A Crook) both feature Lindy Kellerman, a single mother nursing professor, perpetually short of money and winner of the world’s worst dates contest.  When a student is murdered, Lindy becomes the chief suspect.  The only way to clear her name is try to solve the crime.  How tough could it be?  Doesn’t reading Nancy Drew and Stephanie Plum count as on the job training?  Single father Detective Fraser MacKinnon thinks Lindy’s attempts are more like Lucy Ricardo trying to solve a crime and like Lindy, he’s a contender for winner of the world’s worst date contests.  Well, you can probably figure out where things go with Lindy and Fraser.  Normally, one murder would be more than enough for a lifetime, but Lindy stinks at math and no big surprise; another murder in To Catch A Crook, and Lindy’s on the lam from Scotland Yard, the killer, and everyone else who wants something she has or knows.  That’s as much as I’ll say, but certainly my background as a nursing professor and historical researcher played a big part in those books.  I write romance, most often with some humor, and I’ve just finished a romantic suspense which surprised and scared me in some ways.  Some of my books, mostly the To Catch series have also been reviewed as mystery. I didn’t see that at all, but the reviewers and readers did, and they know better than I do which genre fits best.

     2.    Tell me about your current book which you are promoting.  Going To The Dogs was so much fun for me.  I don’t write sequentially; I write scenes as I see them, and all I could see at first was a poodle who was yipping and howling at a fast food place and the man with him finally giving in and buying the dog a burger and fries.  The more I sat back and thought, the more scenes started to appear.  I started writing them, and eventually I realized the man is a detective who’s trying to track down his partner’s killer.  The dog is his new partner and part of his undercover persona.  If there’s one thing the detective hates, it’s dogs.  (Conflict Number 1—conflict being the basis of any novel) so I knew that had to happen early.  I did see a woman who was involved with dogs and eventually I realized that Jodie is a trainer, handler, and owns a dog grooming parlor.  It became clear to me after a while that Jodie is Sam, the detective’s, chief suspect, but Sam can’t help being attracted to her (Conflict Number 2—conflict, remember?) while the poodle continually creates more problems for Sam but ultimately, teaches him something about unconditional love.  I’ve been a dog owner all my life, and although it does cut into your time, and it is a responsibility, dogs only want a few things from us.  Mostly they want food and attention and in return they love us, are thrilled when we walk in the door and their eyes shine up at us with that unconditional love.  That fits kind of nicely with a romance novel in which the characters have to discover that unconditional love, too.  Of course, being me, there are some pretty funny scenes in the book.  Over the years, I’ve hung out with a lot of dog owners and handlers, been to a lot of shows, and met some rather eccentric owners and dogs, and that background fit really nicely into this book.  I had fun writing it and I hope readers have fun, too.

3.    How long have you been writing? Gee, for years.  In high school, which was a loooong time ago, I was editor of my yearbook and an editor on the school newspaper.  We had a terrific teacher as our moderator and although retired, she is still a great editor.  She was one of the people who read my first book, To Catch A Cop and gave me an honest opinion.  She thought it was terrific although she did mention a few dangling participles, which she fixed up, and really encouraged me to get the book published.  It was my first book, and I wrote it more to figure out how to write a book, not thinking I would do anything with it other than satisfy myself.  You can imagine my surprise when it was contracted, published and nominated as Best Romantic Comedy of 2010.  As a professor, I’m expected to produce scholarly articles, and I review for several important journals and academic book publishing houses.  That’s a different genre of writing, but it’s still writing, so I guess I can say, I’ve been doing it for a lot of years.  Good writing is good writing, and it gets better with time and effort.  If it was easy, I guess everyone would do it.  Ultimately, I’m not so much a writer as a story teller when it comes to fiction, and I do love a good story. I come from a long line of excellent story tellers which I am sure helps in some way.
4.    Do you outline before you write? If not, what’s your initial process? No, I don’t outline.  I know some writers do and good for them.  I know it sounds strange, but I see and hear things happening in my head.  (Yeah, I know they medicate you if you tell the wrong people about this).  I kind of wait to see what happens, get a clear picture and start to write.  Eventually, enough of those scenes have appeared that seem to connect, and then I need to write more scenes that fill in any blanks in those connections to form these disconnected scenes into a coherent story that makes sense.  It’s sort of like having a television set in my head.  Crazy, but it turns out that a lot of other writers say the same thing.  Why we see and hear these things is another story, and I don’t have an answer to that, only that we do.

5.    What comes first: the plot or the characters?  I don’t think either comes first in the long run.  I will grant that in some genres, mystery or thrillers for example, the plot must be very strong.  The essence of the story is usually a Whodunit and Why which continually engages the reader.  Alternatively, something dire is about to happen and how can it be averted.  Romance is generally a courtship story, so it has to revolve around strong characters and their relationship.  Most often, there is some sort of conflict between the two.  Conflict, after all, is the basis of any novel.  Problem solved; story is over.  Ultimately, I don’t think one can be sacrificed for the other.  A good story has a strong plot and characters.
     7.    Did your book require a lot of research? How long does it take to write a book for you?  Some books require more research than others.  Going To The Dogs, as an example, didn’t require much because I had spent so much time around dogs and dog people, and I was able to draw on those experiences.  I didn’t need much detail on police or police procedures although for other books that I have written, I do call upon a high school classmate for advice since he’s a retired cop.  Other books that I have written, like To Catch A Cop, takes place in Sydney.  I lived in Sydney so I know the city pretty well and To Catch A Crook (Book 2  in the series) takes place in London and Scotland.  I’ve been to both places more times than I can count so again, personal knowledge was helpful.   On the other hand, some books do require rigorous research, and I will state quite emphatically here that research does not mean getting online, doing a search and that’s the end.  I’m a professor by profession, and I have a strong research background which is enormously helpful to me.  Research means getting to a really good library—a college library is best if possible, and getting solid, accurate and reliable sources for whatever you are writing.  While you’re at the library, you might even discover some other books that you hadn’t considered but will help you with other aspects of your novel.  If you really luck out, you might meet a professor or graduate student who specializes in the area, question, or issue you are researching and might have time to discuss it with you or give you incredibly detailed information or share something obscure but terrific that would fit right in with your novel.  If that happens, you hit the mother lode, so give them a nice thank you in the acknowledgements.  Bottom line; you have to do quality research to create a quality novel and there are no shortcuts.

8.    What are some of the challenges in your writing process?  That’s pretty easy.  Time.  Never enough of it. I haven’t written anything new in a while, mostly I’ve been working on editing work that is already contracted, but that’s fine and there are still stories kicking around in my head waiting to take shape and get out.  I do think every book has a shape of some sort and given enough time, scenes will start to appear and turn into a story.  Finding the right words, right tone, balance and tension is another battle.  Like I said, if this was easy, well, everyone would do it.

9.    What do you like to do when you’re not writing?   I don’t have enough time to do all the things I would like to do since I work full time.  I make time to dance twice a week.  Not because I am a really good dancer although I would love to be.  I take ballroom dancing lessons twice a week because I think it’s great exercise, a great stress reliever (you have to put aside anything distracting your mind and pay attention to the lesson which is a good thing), a nice place to meet people, and an environment where men and women touch each other but in a respectful way.  It really teaches you about communication without words.  My teacher recently told me that you can liken it to whispering and speaking—a lot of men are hesitant to grip their partner and others all but squeeze the life out of them.  My teacher says you have to think about this as if you were whispering, speaking or shouting; the ideal being just the right touch which is speaking so that your partner is leading you, and you know exactly what to do without words.  I think it’s a great analogy. I’ve thought about writing a book that has dancing in it, but in the final analysis, I dance because I like it.  I don’t like competing; I fainted when I had to compete one time.  Honestly.  I dance for fun, not to compete, not for research but just plain fun.  After many years of not knitting, I recently decided to start again.  I knitted a lot when I was younger and always enjoyed it in a perverse way; sometimes getting very frustrated, but ultimately enjoying the finished project with a great deal of pride, so I’m going to start again with simple things that I have a good chance of completing. I know that bestselling writers Christina Skye and Debbie Macomber are keen knitters and use knitting in their books at least some of the time.  I don’t know if I will.  Maybe.  But again, it’s something I do for fun and that’s what matters to me.  Due to my recent arrival in Hawaii, I’m trying to spend some time exploring the islands.  I’d been here before,  but there’s so much to see and do including surfing lessons—so much fun even if I fall off the board most of the time.  It’s hard, but I try to make time for family and friends and of course, my dog.  If I had more time, I’d be doing all sorts of other things, so maybe one day, I’ll get to them.
    10.What so you see for the future of publishing and e-books?  That’s a great question but I’m not psychic, so I don’t know that anything I think will necessarily be true.  I love my Kindle.  Like many other people, I thought I would never prefer it to a traditional book, but I do.  I find it easy to read on, and I think I read faster on it, too.  It also saves a hassle on packing and boxing books when moving for which I am very grateful.  I love books in any form but the Kindle does make life easier.  E-books are here to stay, I think that’s pretty obvious.  Whether ALL books in the future will be electronic format is another question, and I don’t have answers to that.  I do know the publishing industry is going through these changes with trepidation and issues such as piracy are prominent.  The music and film industry went through the same thing previously, so I guess publishing will address this issue in some way that will be mostly satisfactory.  At least, I hope so.  Bottom line, if e-books encourage people to read, well, that’s fine with me.  Books are still books and I love them.

11.What are your current books out right now and what are the books coming up for release? 
I’ve already mentioned Going To The Dogs, but I have a contemporary romance series due to be released this year.  The first book is Animal Crackers.  I had a ball writing this book and all the others in the Liberty Heights series (Liberty Heights being the fictional New Jersey town in all the books).  I’m the original Jersey Girl, born and bred in the Garden State, although I have lived all over the world and had not been back to Jersey in years.  I don’t think this was coincidence—my high school reunion was coming up, and after years of skipping them due to my far-flung residences around the globe, I was determined this time to go.  I had a fabulous time; we all did, and it made me think back to those long ago Jersey years, so it was kind of a natural leap to write a book set in Jersey.  In Animal Crackers, due out in May 2012, Manhattan workaholic Hayley Weaver is fired, kicked out of her apartment and desperate.  So desperate, that she agrees to take a job house-sitting a movie star’s home.  How tough could it be?  Water a few plants and bring in the mail.  Hah! Karma has it in for Hayley.  Nobody told her that the house is in Jersey, the one place Hayley swore she’d never go back to.  They also neglected to mention the house has more critters than the Beverly Hillbillies.  Small town veterinarian Jake Marx is also desperate.  Jake needs to meet a woman he hasn’t known since kindergarten and with Jake on Hayley’s speed dial to corral all those exotic animals—and they are exotic, trust me on this one---the entire town conspires to keep Hayley and make sure the pair realize they’re made for each other. This book was so much with lots of peripheral characters that add to the lunacy in Liberty Heights, I just couldn’t leave the place.  The second book, Life of the Party, is due out summer of 2012, and the third, Hanky-Panky which is my personal favorite, late in 2012.  I love having all these wonderful characters of different ages to work with, the insane things that happen only in Liberty Heights but make perfect sense in context, and most of all, I love watching two people who think they’re hopelessly mismatched get their happy ending.  The Liberty Heights series will be published by MuseItUpPublishing, and as soon as I can, I’ll get some excerpts up on my website.

    12.What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?  Read and don’t stop.  A good writer is a good reader.  Reading teaches so many things; vocabulary, syntax and grammar.  It should also teach an aspiring writer lots of things about creating characters, developing a plot, and how to create tension and keep twisting it.  What made you turn that page?  Why couldn’t you put that book down? (Or why did you stop?)  Reading in any genre is going to strengthen a writer in the long run so why would anyone stop reading?  Writers love books, can’t resist them.  I haven’t met any writer who has achieved some sort of success who thinks differently.  Their bookshelves are spilling over with books—we’re all grateful for electronic readers!  No more dusting and packing up books, but we’ll probably go right on buying at least some that are print.  So bottom line, no matter how much you want to write, don’t stop reading.

    13.Where can people learn more about you and your work?
You can find me in lots of places on the web, but the best places are:
My website at www.elledruskin.com
I try to keep up a blog and have a free worldwide beach guide among other things there.  There are also some free downloadable bookmarks and recipes.
The second place is the Books and Writers Community.  I’m there pretty much every day.  There are some very successful writers that are regulars including Diana Gabaldon and Joanna Bourne.  Lots of great readers, some agents or former agents, etc. hang out at this site.  It’s free, anyone can join and take part in the discussions.  Just about anything and everything is discussed at some point.  You can find us at:

I do guest blogs all over the place, turn up on Twitter and I have a Facebook page, but my website is probably the best place to find me.

You can find all of my books at:

Some of my books can be purchased directly from the publishers at:





Synopsis: Dog-hating cop Sam Kendall will do anything to find his partner’s killer even if it means putting up with his new partner, Vanilla, a junk food addicted poodle.  Dog trainer and chief suspect Jodie McBride is brilliant with dogs but a loser with men.  With Vanilla on the case, everyone’s going to the dogs because this is one poodle who knows a good thing when he sees it and he’s going to make sure Jodie 
and Sam get their happily ever after.

Excerpt:

“Not so fast,” O’Mara said. “You don’t handle this alone. You’re getting a new partner.”
Sam groaned. A new partner? Not this soon. The funeral was only last week.

"So soon?" Sam plopped back on the chair. He willed himself to remain detached, but a huge lump formed in his throat.
"You know how it works, and no, you can't work this case alone. Take it or leave it."
In the back of his mind, Sam knew there'd be a new partner assigned. It was standard practice on the police force, but this soon? His heart balked at the thought, and a trickle of sweat dripped down his back. Nobody could replace Chris, the world's best partner. Street smart. Wicked sense of humor. A Yankees fan. He recalled her first words of introduction almost four years ago.
“Get one thing straight, Kendall. I’m married, and I don’t mess around.”
Chris, her husband Paul, and their two kids were the closest thing to real family Sam ever knew.
“You listening, Kendall?”
Sam forced himself to sit up and pay attention. “Yeah. New partner.”
He silently plea-bargained with the Almighty. Please, not a rookie. Please again. Not another woman. It would be too tempting to compare another woman to Chris and find fault.
O’Mara pressed a buzzer on the desk. “Estelle, lay off those doughnuts, and bring him in now.”
Sam exhaled in relief. A guy. Good. They could talk football and baseball. If the new partner was single, maybe they’d double date, or have a beer together after work. Tension seeped out of his shoulders. This would work out. It would be fine.
Crack!
The door slammed against a file cabinet with an almighty crash. The glass window that opened onto the station room cracked down the middle from the impact.
"Hey! Get over here!"
A giant cotton ball streaked past Sam. Estelle, the chief's secretary, chased after a beast with a tail that resembled an oversize Q-tip. Estelle skidded to a halt and teetered on purple spike heels before hitting the floor. Cotton-ball jumped at O'Mara and knocked over the coffee mug. Brown liquid overflowed the desk of papers, stained them, and dripped onto the floor.
The animal padded around the desk and sniffed Sam's crotch. Before Sam could swat the pest away, it jumped up and slurped its pink tongue all over his face.
“Argh. Get down!” Sam batted at the animal. If there was one thing he hated, it was dogs. If you could call this thing a dog. Sam's nose twitched at the yeasty scent of baked goods.
“That pig ate a whole box of doughnuts,” Estelle complained. "And I broke a nail trying to stop him." Violet painted fingers waggled in O'Mara's face. The boss grimaced and addressed the dog in a gruff tone.
“Down, Vanilla.”
The dog wagged its pom-pom tail at O’Mara.
“I said, sit!”
The tail beat like a metronome.
"Real obedient," Sam mumbled.
O'Mara made a sour face. “That’ll be all, Estelle.”
"Is that so?" Estelle boosted up on one knee, braced herself on the desk, and stood with hands on generous hips encased in purple lycra. “Who’s gonna clean that puddle next to my desk?"
“I said that’s all for now.” The chief’s curt tone made it clear he was in no mood to discuss any gifts Vanilla deposited to replace the stolen pastry.
Sam’s head angled toward the door. “Where’s my partner?”
O’Mara beamed. “Meet Vanilla. He’s your new partner.”
Sam's jaw dropped. "This is a joke, right?"
O'Mara shook his head but avoided Sam's eyes. "Top class credentials. You need him for your undercover persona."
Vanilla's head followed the exchange like a tennis match. Without warning, the poodle shot out the door.
"Better go catch your partner. See? He's raring to go."
With that, O'Mara picked up a file and turned his back on Sam.
Shouts echoed into the office from the outer room.
"Hey! That dog just grabbed my pastrami on rye!"
Sam mentally counted to ten. This couldn't be happening.
"Who owns this mutt? He scarfed down the pizza!"
Sam shot a glance at his boss.
No response to the beast gorging his way through the Petty Crimes, Homicide, and Assault Departments.
Sam gazed skyward. "Chris, I hope you're watching. If you are, you're wetting your pants with laughter."

8 comments:

  1. Read GOING TO THE DOGS and really enjoyed it! And the fast food poodle was by far my favorite character!

    Nice interview!

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    1. Hi Cheryl,
      Apologies for taking so long to answer. I'm glad you love Vanilla too, as long as you don't have to live with him, he's pretty cute!

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  2. Stopping by to say hello! Enjoyed the interview. GOING TO THE DOGS sounds like an interesting book. Nice cover.

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    1. Hi Suzanne,
      Sorry it has taken time to respond, whenever the computer acts up I have no idea what is wrong. Reduced to asking my dog, What do you think?"
      I enjoyed the interview too and I love the cover, I think Delilah Stephans, the artist, did a great job!
      Elle

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  3. Those plots and that writing style are very much what I enjoy, Elle. I think I'll start with the 'To Catch...' ones and move on to the animal ones. (Our labrador is proving a leetle bit resistant to training so I'd like a break from dogs this month).

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    Replies
    1. Hi Vonnie,
      Apologies to you too for taking so long to respond. My Westie did a lot of chewing as a pup, including my daughter's cell phone but when he worked his way up the food chain to books--books, yikes!!!!--we had to use some negative reinforcement. I hope you enjoy the books and feel free to let me know what you think.
      Elle

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  4. Elle, wonderful interview, full of lot's of writing insight! It looks like you have fun writing your stories and that's what counts! Thank you for sharing all your writing wisdom and it was nice to learn more about you.

    Going To The Dogs, sounds like a hoot:)

    Sara

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    1. Hi Sara,
      I'm not sure I am qualified to give advice to anyone--what works for one writer may not for another, but the general rules still apply. Yes, I do have fun writing these books in a perverse way, if I didn't, I probably wouldn't do it. I do know one rule of writing--persistence pays!
      I think Going To The Dogs is a hoot and so is the upcoming Liberty Heights series starting with Animal Crackers (Yep, more animals ) which is due out in May.
      Elle

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