Friday, July 17, 2020

Spencer Quinn

Spencer Quinn is the bestselling author of the Chet and Bernie mystery series, as well as the #1 New York Times bestselling Bowser and Birdie series for middle-grade readers.

Quinn's new Chet and Bernie mystery, the tenth in the series, is Of Mutts and Men.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

At first, with the Chet and Bernie novels, the titles – all punning – were meant to send the message that this series was comic not tragic, and dog-centric. But that struck me as a bit misleading, because these stories are not cozies. There’s darkness in them (although Chet, the canine narrator – not a talking dog! - snaps back quickly to his preset position which is all about joy in life). So lately I’ve been looking for funny titles where after you read the book you think, Hey, that really was about dog and man, thematically speaking. The title Of Mutts and Men was suggested by a reader. (Hint, hint.)

What's in a name?

Well, let’s take a look at Gudrun Burr, powerful lawyer – and much more, it turns out - at the white-shoe law firm Lobb and Edmonds in Of Mutts and Men. (Bernie, the detective, even remarks at one point, “A white-shoe firm if there ever was one.” That’s me underlining the joke for readers who don’t know that Lobb and Edmonds are two high-end shoe manufacturers.) But back to Gudrun Burr. Burr, of course, summons the memory of Aaron Burr, a powerful and very capable, but bent, character, who ended up on the wrong side of history. And it sounds just like a shiver – brrrr. Gudrun Himmler was Himmler’s long-lived and unrepentant daughter. But you the reader need know none of this. It just makes it easier for me to write the character.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

The hard part is the middle! Beginnings are always fun – and they’re off! The ending – if the story has been working properly – is something that I know weeks in advance. It’s just a matter of adding grace notes. I often return to the beginning during the writing to improve, add to, or delete certain set-ups. That’s because I’m not one of those writers with an A-Z outline. I find much of the story along the way – like an actual detective.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

Until Chet and Bernie (meaning quite a number of novels written under my real name, Peter Abrahams) “I” was to be found only in the tone and mood and attitude of the story. But there’s no question there’s some of me in Bernie. And I hope there’s some of Chet in me!
Visit Spencer Quinn's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Peter Abrahams and Audrey (September 2011).

Coffee with a Canine: Peter Abrahams and Pearl (August 2012).

The Page 69 Test: The Dog Who Knew Too Much.

The Page 69 Test: Paw and Order.

The Page 69 Test: Scents and Sensibility.

The Page 69 Test: Bow Wow.

The Page 69 Test: Heart of Barkness.

--Marshal Zeringue