Inspired by a True Story
By J. H. Bográn
After the success of A Borrowing of Bones, USA Today bestselling author Paula Munier returns with her second book in the Mercy and Elvis Mystery series, BLIND SEARCH—which happens to be inspired by a true story.
Henry’s a nine-year-old boy with autism, and he wanders into the woods of Vermont during hunting season, only to witness a crime. Now Mercy Carr and her sniffer dog Elvis, along with game warden Troy Warner and his search-and-rescue dog Susie Bear, must solve the case before the killer gets a hold of Henry.
Munier considers Elvis an integral part of the cast of characters in her books, and just as his human counterpart, the Belgian shepherd must evolve from one book to the next.
“In A Borrowing of Bones,” she says, “Mercy and Elvis are both grieving the loss of Martinez, her fiancé and the dog’s handler. Home from Afghanistan, they’ve both lost their man and their mission. In BLIND SEARCH, they’re learning to navigate the civilian world, farther along the road to a new life, but still stumbling along.”
As for the lead, Mercy Carr, the author says she chose the name for two reasons. The first one was her love of virtue names for characters, which were very popular among Quakers and Puritans in New England. “The second reason,” Munier adds, “is homage to my favorite detective, Colin Dexter’s Endeavour Morse.”
In most good books, the setting becomes so important that you can’t imagine the story taking place anywhere else. Such is the case in the Mercy and Elvis series, where Vermont almost takes on the role of a featured character.
“Vermont is my happy place,” Munier says. “And yet everything I love about Vermont—her mountains, lakes, and forests, her idiosyncratic citizens and long winters and isolation-bred wariness of strangers—makes for good mysteries. Setting my books in Vermont gives me an excuse to visit whenever I want—and I do. I’ve read up on all manner of things, from the history of the Vermont Republic to the best kind of beer in Vermont: Heady Topper.”
A self-proclaimed lover of research, Munier enjoys all kinds of approaches, including reading, conducting interviews, and of course, traveling to the intended locations. Nobody can blame her.
“I’ve talked to lots of people,” Munier says. “From game wardens and their dogs, search-and-rescue volunteers and their dogs, cops and their dogs, veterinarians, Vermonters, and much more. I’ve learned so much about all kinds of working dogs, which I always end up using one way or another.”
Munier learned that there are a high number of people who wander off into the woods every year. Apart from the usual hunters and hikers suffering mishaps while out in the woods, the ones most likely to get lost are elderly people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and children with autism. BLIND SEARCH was inspired by such a story, about a boy with autism who wandered off into the Vermont woods.
“Happily he was found in time, thanks to the efforts of search-and rescue, both human and canine,” she says. “In addition to cops, game wardens, and other first responders, there’s a wonderful organization called the New England K9 Search and Rescue, which is made up of volunteers and their dogs who train intensively to make the grade to help on these searches.”
Despite the obvious answer one could deduce from the books themselves, Munier is a fan of both dogs and cats. She owns a nine-pound rescue tabby named Ursula who rules over two 80-pound rescue dogs in her household. And one of those dogs was the inspiration for Susie Bear, Troy Warner’s canine.
“I love dogs because they’re loyal and true and will literally save your life,” Munier says. “I love cats because they are independent and self-possessed and will literally curl up in your lap on cold winter nights.”
Most authors continue to have a day job in addition to their writing, but very few work as closely with the publishing business as Munier. Besides writing stories, her other superpower is being a literary agent. Working daily on the “other end” of the business comes with difficulties, but she has help.
“It’s always easier to be more objective when reading other people’s books,” she says. “That’s why I have my own agent—the wonderful Gina Panettieri of Talcott Notch Literary. She tells me what’s wrong, what’s not.”
Munier wrote a book titled Plot Perfect: Building Unforgettable Stories Scene by Scene, which pretty much confirms she´s a plotter. Her approach to novel writing includes writing scenes on index cards, then moving them around until she finds a sequence that works. The outline comes next, and it’s based on that sequence.
“By the end of the first draft, I’ve inevitably detoured here and there and everywhere, and have to revise accordingly,” Munier says. “I write whenever I can, like every other writer with a day job. If I could, I’d go to France and hide out in Paris until I finished the first draft. I hate first drafts. But I can’t. C’est dommage.”