Margaret Mizushima is the author of the critically acclaimed Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries. Her books have garnered a Reader’s Favorite gold medal and have been listed as finalists in the RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards, the Colorado Book Awards, and the International Book Awards. Margaret serves on the board for the Rocky Mountain chapter of Mystery Writers of America, and she lives in Colorado where she assists her husband with their veterinary practice and Angus cattle herd. She can be found on Facebook/AuthorMargaretMizushima, on Twitter @margmizu, on Instagram at margmizu, and on her website at www.margaretmizushima.com.
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Tell us about your book! What is it about and what inspired you to write it?
Burning Ridge is the fourth book in the Timber Creek K-9 mystery series. The series features Deputy Mattie Cobb, her K-9 partner Robo, and veterinarian Cole Walker. Together they solve mysteries that affect the mountain community of Timber Creek, Colorado, a fictional town set in the high country of the Rocky Mountains. In Burning Ridge, Cole Walker and his two daughters discover a horrific murder on Redstone Ridge outside of Timber Creek, and Mattie and Robo are called in to investigate. When Mattie realizes she has a close personal tie to the victim, she vows to catch the killer; but before she succeeds, she becomes a target in the murderer’s deadly game.
My main character, Mattie Cobb, had a rough childhood. Her mother abandoned Mattie and her brother when they were children, and they were separated and raised in foster care. This book takes everything Mattie thought she knew about herself and turns her world upside down, so I guess you might say that Mattie’s story inspired me to write this particular mystery.
Tell us about your publishing process. What was it like? Did you go indie or the traditional way?
I went the traditional route, because I feared I didn’t have the technical skillset to go indie and I wanted some help with marketing and distribution. I met both my agent, Terrie Wolf of AKA Literary Management, and my publisher, Matthew Martz of Crooked Lane Books, at writing conferences here in Colorado. At first, Crooked Lane offered a revise and resubmit after some changes in plot structure, and although it felt risky, I decided I had little to lose but time. Thankfully, Nike Power, the editor I was working with at Crooked Lane, loved the new manuscript and subsequently offered a two-book contract. I’ve loved working with my publishing team and we plan to publish at least six books in the series together.
How did you choose the title for your book? Did it come to you right away, before you started writing the story, or did it come later?
The title Burning Ridge came up in a brainstorming session that the Crooked Lane team, my agent, and I had while choosing a title for book three, Hunting Hour. We all loved the title, and for the first time ever, I decided to write a book to match the title. It’s important to mention again, however, that Mattie’s character arc inspired the story itself.
Tell us about the cover design process. Did you have a basic idea of what your book cover would be like?
My publisher, Matthew Martz, had a basic idea of what he wanted the cover to look like before the book was written. Crooked Lane does fabulous covers, and he wanted a fiery background. The designers took a summary that I wrote describing the book and came up with a cover that we all love.
Who is your cover designer and how did you find him/her?
This particular cover was designed by Melanie Sun, and the book was designed by Jennifer Canzone. They work with Crooked Lane Books, and I had nothing to do with finding them. I’m honored to have my books appear dressed in their designs!
How was your experience working with the designer?
Jennifer and Melanie have designed all of my books and covers. I provide a summary of the book and sometimes suggest a color (I wanted red for Stalking Ground, the second Timber Creek mystery, but they came up with the snow on the trees) and they take it from there. I also strive to suggest a tone when I write the summary for the Crooked Lane staff, so when a cover comes back to me, I’ve always loved it. I might want to darken the image or suggest some other minor change, which they take into consideration and make adjustments. I’ve been pleased with the process.
What has been the readers’ response to your cover?
Readers have expressed that they love the cover as much as I do. After seeing the Burning Ridge cover, one reader said that she could feel the love between Robo and Mattie and she could smell the air surrounding them. I love that the cover evokes such a sensory response.
What tips would you give to authors who are looking for a cover designer?
Ask your friends whom they use. If you don’t have a lead, I’ve seen some great cover designers displaying their work on Twitter. It might be a place to start.
Anything else you’d like to say about your book?
Even though Burning Ridge is the fourth book in the series, it was written so that the mystery stands alone, as were all the books. But if you want the full impact of Mattie’s character development and the development of her relationship with her partner Robo and love interest Cole Walker, you might want to start with book one in the series, Killing Trail.