Monday, July 14, 2014

Susan Slater & Toby and Tess

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Susan Slater a southwest mystery writer and recent transplant from New Mexico. I currently live in Florida. I’m working on calling myself a “surf-side cowgirl” but I’m not quite there yet. The trek here with a cage full of canaries and two miniature Schnauzers—Toby and Tess—rivaled the Joad family’s move to CA. And here I am getting a puppy kiss from Toby with his sister, Tess, waiting in line.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Coffee every morning is an excuse to start the day on the back porch—in the summer down here, it’s called enjoy the outdoors before the humidity sets in. And, of course, I always have company. Today, however, was special—a carton full of my new book, Rollover, arrived late last night. Wow. Is there anything as exciting or gratifying as holding that first, “hot off the press” copy of your own work?

What's brewing?

I am such a coffee snob; I must have been a barista in another life. And talk about addiction, I can wake up in the middle of the night, chug a “shot” of espresso and fall back to sleep. My morning choice is a medium ground (of course, I grind my own) Kaldi brand Breakfast Blend. I do a “pour through” using a Chemex and filters.

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

We almost always share a bagel and cream cheese—the Schnauzers prefer the addition of lox and capers.

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

Named in memory of a close friend’s first two Schnauzers. Tess also answers to “Poodie”, short for poodle. There’s poodle in the miniature Schnauzers’ family tree but some are more poodle-like than others. Tess can walk across a room on her hind legs. At eight and a half I wonder if she’s too old for Americas Got Talent?

How were you and your dogs united?

My vet in NM had a boarding kennel. One morning when I was putting my Belgian Sheepdog in for the weekend, my vet asked me if I wanted to see something cute. She’d just been up all night saving the life of a Schnauzer mother and her five puppies. Now at my age one would think I’d see the danger in looking at something small, warm, fuzzy . . . I looked at them, held them and reserved two!!!

How do your dogs help--or hinder—your writing?

I totally blame the Schnauzers for teaching me how to nap. Not that I equate chasing squirrels around the backyard to writing that particularly difficult ending, but I suppose both of us have earned a little downtime.

Have any actual dogs inspired fictional dogs in your published work?

A friend’s Rottweiler, Max, inspired Simon in the Dan Mahoney series. But writing about dogs is tough. Simon has his fifteen minutes of fame in Rollover—a scene that will bring tears to the eyes of all dog-lovers. No, no Simon isn’t injured—an author learns quickly never to maim a dog or he will suffer the wrath of his readers!

The third Dan Mahoney mystery is Hair of the Dog. Yeah, greyhound racing in Florida is the backdrop—the topic is great fun and I’m really into it but am scared to death something lithe and lovely will follow me home.

Squeaky toy, ball, stick...?

Stuffing-less toys that allow two Schnauzers to try and jerk each other off their feet are real favorites.

[photo left: Tess is looking for a “game”]

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

Anyone on two-legs who comes to the front door is an automatic best friend! Schnauzers are, however, one of the top five breeds of “warning barkers”. Yes, mine have a police record—a couple misdemeanors for being overly loud.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

I’ve never owned dogs with such a high prey-drive! For the first three years of their lives we lived on a goat farm in the mountains of NM. The Schnauzers kept my barn absolutely rat-free. They really earned their dog food!! The chickens, however, were not impressed.

If your dogs could change one thing about you, what would it be?

They would like me to eat bacon three times a day—cook it really crispy and drop at least one slice each on the floor.

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which your dogs could speak, which actors should do their voices?

Danny DeVito and Goldie Hawn.

If your dogs could answer only one question in English, what would you ask them?

On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate me as an owner?

Learn more about Rollover at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

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