HIDE AND SEEK is the latest in Amy Shojai’s critically acclaimed “Thrillers with Bite!” series, a follow up to her debut, LOST AND FOUND. James Rollins, NEW YORK TIMES bestseller of THE EYE OF GOD, said, “HIDE AND SEEK masterfully blends ripped-from-the-headlines urgency with an emotional story of real characters in escalating dangers. Written with authority and deft brilliance that any lover of animals or nerve-jangling thrillers will cherish.”
Eight years ago, animal behaviorist September Day escaped a sadistic captor who left her ashamed, terrified, and struggling with PTSD. She trusts no one—except her cat Macy and service dog Shadow. Shadow also struggles with trust. A German Shepherd autism service dog who rescued his child partner only to lose his boy forever, Shadow’s crippling fear of abandonment shakes his faith in humans.
They are each others’ only chance to survive the stalker’s vicious payback, but have only twenty-four hours to uncover the truth about Macy’s mysterious illness or pay the deadly consequences. When September learns to trust again, and a good dog takes a chance on love, together they find hope in the midst of despair—and discover what family really means.
Tell us something about HIDE AND SEEK that isn’t mentioned in the publisher’s synopsis.
Recently, many pets have disappeared, increasing the demand for September and Shadow’s pet tracking skills. A reporter suggests it’s due to a mysterious illness—and then he ends up dead. When September’s cat also becomes sick, and family and friends go missing, September must hide from her stalker while she seeks the source of the poison, or the pets won’t be the only innocent victims.
You have a significant presence in non-fiction, writing about animal behavior. What made you decide to write fiction?
I’ve always wanted to write fiction! My house and office look like a bookstore exploded, with all the floor-to-ceiling book cases overflowing with both nonfiction and thrillers, mysteries, and suspense stories. There are even more on my Kindle. Years and years ago, I wrote a horror novel with a young protagonist, submitted to an agent, and she told me “YA doesn’t sell … but send me some nonfiction proposals.” So I did.
My, how times change. By writing both, I can bring the animal behavior and veterinary science issues to a fiction audience that might not otherwise pick up one of my nonfiction titles. Readers recognize their own pets’ behaviors in the story and can say, “Oh, so THAT’S why he does that.”
I’ve read far too many stories that included pets simply as set dressing or a way to add shock value by killing them off. I hate that! To me, that’s a cheap shot and I love the stories that include pets as what they truly are—fully realized family members that furthered the human’s character development and/or the plot. That’s what I wanted to do with HIDE AND SEEK as well as the first book in the series. While the character Shadow doesn’t “talk” he does have his own character and story arc.
My nonfiction audience has fully embraced my “Thrillers With Bite!” and we’re all having a ball. In fact, after the debut thriller launched, I listened to what my readers wanted, so some minor characters in the first story figure more prominently in HIDE AND SEEK. Also, my readers get to “name that cat/dog” in the stories, so a little bit of their own furry wonders can have adventures vicariously in the book.
How much of your personal or professional experience appears in the book?
A lot. Shadow is based on my own shepherd when he was a pup, but September is younger, prettier, more athletic and kick-ass than I could ever be. I’ve written about pet behavior and care for more than twenty years (in dog years I should be dead!) so pretty much everything “pet” is based on that background. In another life, I’m also a musician, actor, and stained glass artist and my husband is a rosarian so those aspects figure into the story. However, I have never gone hog hunting although feral hogs, coyotes, bobcats and other assorted wildlife hang out near my back patio here in N. Texas.
What is the best advice—and harshest criticism—you’ve received as an author? And what might you say to aspiring writers?
The best advice I received was that it’s okay to reinvent yourself. At my first ThrillerFest, I listened to David Morrell describe the ups and downs of his own publishing career, and that to be successful an author must be nimble and willing to change when needed. I needed to hear that, and it was the kick in the ass-ets that pushed me to step out of my comfort zone of nonfiction and step off the virtual cliff to write a thriller. On the heels of that, last year at the Debut Author’s Breakfast, Steve Berry’s inspirational talk about “second book-itis” gave me another necessary boot in the nether regions to just DO it and finish writing HIDE AND SEEK. It’s hard, but it’s supposed to be hard. And if folks like David Morrell and Steve Berry say it’s hard for them, too, who am I to whine and be a weenie?
Harsh criticism always stings. When I entered my debut thriller LOST AND FOUND in a well-respected contest for unpublished work, and waited breathlessly for encouragement or an insightful critique—and instead was told by the judge that the story was awful and wouldn’t sell because only children’s books could have an animal viewpoint character. I put the book away for six months after that (yes, I was stupid).
Early in my career when I first wrote nonfiction books, many people criticized me for writing “just about animals” when there were so many more worthy topics—like child hunger, or world peace, or fill-in-the-blank. Sometimes you must simply ignore the clueless. I know that my purpose in this world is to champion the voiceless. Other folks do a fine and much better job at the world peace stuff.
Critics don’t bother me so much anymore, not since I started wearing my rhinestone #1-Bitch pin with pride. Besides, my own inner critic is worse than anything others can throw at me.
To aspiring authors:
- Do as I say and not as I do—DON’T criticize yourself so much! LOL! Honestly, negativity drains away and blocks the creative juices.
- Don’t write what you know, or what others say you should write. You should write the book you want to read—so write what you love. LOST AND FOUND was the thriller I always wanted to read (dog viewpoint and all), and HIDE AND SEEK wouldn’t have happened if I’d not taken that first step out of my comfort zone despite the critics.
- Most importantly, allow yourself to suck. Make mistakes. Experiment. Dogs and cats learn by making mistakes and figuring out what works and what doesn’t, and the more mistakes they make the better they learn truly important lessons they need to survive. So you should be writing like cats and dogs. Make big, bold, glorious mistakes and through some of that suck-icity you will find true gems and forge your own survivor pathway as an author.
Wonderful advice, Amy!
What are you working on right now? Can you tell us about it?
Well, I’m finishing up a co-written musical called STRAYS, THE MUSICAL that will be produced next month. (I told you that I’m a musician, too, right?) That’s yet another way to edu-tain about animal behavior.
I’m also working on the next book in the thriller series, SHOW AND TELL, that will again feature September Day, her service dog Shadow, and assorted mayhem. Some of the characters from the first book will return to wrap up some of those storylines, but there will also be new thrills—very likely including the sad and horrific issues of dog fighting which still is a problem in our neck of the woods here in Texas.
You are multi-talented! Okay…enough with the business questions. How about some fun stuff. You know, just between the two of us.
The opportunity to go on a surprise vacation arises. You have 90 minutes to pack and get to the airport. Where will you go and what will you pack?
That’s easy! I’ll go to Colorado into the mountains. One of my dear writer friends has a summer house there, and a group of us have spent many summer vacations together brainstorming/working/un-laxing on the deck while the hummingbirds, bears, deer, and occasional mountain men ramble by. I’d pack my laptop, comfy sweats, bunny slippers, one nice outfit (with appropriate bling), Kindle and my camera.
Sounds marvelous – especially those bunny slippers.
Are you more likely to be spotlighted on the TV show Hoarders or Fashion Police?
There’s a reason my blog is called BLING, BITCHES & BLOOD. They don’t let me out of Texas without the bling. Ahem.
What are you reading now for pleasure?
DOCTOR SLEEP by Steven King
Complete this sentence for us: “If you are a thriller author, you are also …”.
…an eternal optimist and hopeless romantic.
Thanks for visiting with us, Amy.
Amy Shojai is a certified animal behavior consultant, and the award-winning author of 27 best selling pet books. She was a member of the ITW Debut Class of 2012 with her critically acclaimed dog-viewpoint thriller LOST AND FOUND and continues to write Thrillers With Bite! Amy has been featured as an expert in hundreds of print venues including The New York Times, Reader’s Digest, and Family Circle, as well as national radio and television networks such as CNN, Animal Planet’s DOGS 101 and CATS 101.
To learn more about Amy, please visit her website.