Please contact E. B. Davis at for information on guest blogs and interviews. Interviews for July: (7/6) Jennifer J. Chow (7/13) Meri Allen/Shari Randall (Book 1--Ice Cream Shop Mystery), (7/20) Susan Van Kirk, (7/27) Meri Allen/Shari Randall (Book 2--Ice Cream Shop Mystery).

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

An Interview with Annette Dashofy

Zoe Chambers, paramedic and deputy coroner in rural Pennsylvania’s tight-knit Vance Township, has been privy to a number of local secrets over the years, some of them her own. But secrets become explosive when a dead body is found in the Township Board President’s abandoned car. As a January blizzard rages, Zoe and Police Chief Pete Adams launch a desperate search for the killer, even if it means uncovering secrets that could not only destroy Zoe and Pete, but also those closest to them.
Annette Dashofy

I had the privilege of reading an advanced copy of Circle of Influence, due for release this month, and zipped right through this page-turner. Annette writes like a pro even though this is her first published novel. But then, Annette was nominated for a Derringer Award in 2007 for "A Signature in Blood" featuring the main characters in Circle of Influence. The time Annette took to present her first novel was but one of the reasons I wanted to interview her. Please welcome Annette Dashofy to WWK.                                                                         E. B. Davis

The main characters you created for your Derringer nominated short story were those in your novel, and seven years elapsed between the two publications. When did you realize that Zoe’s and Pete’s story needed to expand into a novel? Did the nomination give you confidence to delve more deeply into their story?

Seven years may have elapsed between the publications, but I started working on the novel shortly after the award, when a fan wrote me and said they hoped to see more of Pete and Zoe. I had been trying to come up with an idea for a new series and that comment sparked the thought process and started me fleshing out those two characters.

How long did you spend perfecting the manuscript before querying it to agents and publishers? Why didn’t you rush to publication? How many agents and publishers did you query?

My path to publication has been all over the map. At the time I started writing Circle, I had an agent representing another of my series that hadn’t gone anywhere, and I realized we weren’t a good fit. We parted company, and I pitched Circle for the first time at the 2010 Pennwriters Conference with two requests for fulls and two eventual rejections. As I was gearing up for a big query push, another agent contacted me about that other series, so Zoe was placed on the back burner for over a year. Once again, nothing came of the other series, so I returned to querying Circle to agents. I’ve lost track of how many queries I sent. But at the beginning of 2013, I decided to give the agent search six more months. Then I was going to query small presses directly. I’d sent out TWO queries to publishers when Henery Press called with an offer.

Like main character Zoe, you worked as an EMT. How much training do EMTs receive?

I was an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) which requires 160 hours of training to gain certification. Zoe is a Paramedic, which is a step up from EMT. Paramedic training is 14 months to 2 years and involves schooling in IV therapy, pharmaceuticals, cardiology, and other advanced medical skills. When I worked on the ambulance, I was partnered with a paramedic.

Whenever Zoe approached a victim, she mentally and emotionally prepared herself. Is that just Zoe, or does EMT training provide guidance on how to remove emotions from the professional tasks that must be performed by EMTs?

I don’t recall any specific training in that area, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they include it now. When I’m writing about Zoe’s emotional state, I’m drawing 100% from my own experiences of being thrown into those kinds of situations. You can’t let your feelings for a patient—good or bad—get in the way of treating them.

Having been an EMT, did you often work with the Sheriff or other police on the scene? Were you ever required to testify in court?

We worked closely with the local police and fire departments. We depended on the police to securethe scene before we’d go in. And the officers frequently “hung out” at the ambulance garage. Fortunately, I never had to testify in court.

Zoe’s partner, Earl, is sometimes solicitous of her, and yet, he isn’t sexist. That’s hard to portray. What elements did you include to appeal to readers?

Again, I was drawing on personal experience. I had some really great partners. When you’re out there holding patients’ lives in your hands, you develop a trust and a respect for each other, but you also goof around a lot. You have to have an off-beat sense of humor to do that work or you’ll lose your mind!

When a friend loses faith in another friend, can forgiveness occur, and/or is there always something broken?

Oh, that’s a great question, and one I love to explore in my writing. I like to believe in redemption and forgiveness. When something’s broken and it mends, it’s often stronger, don’t you think?

The season and setting were characters in your book. How did you decide on the winter snows in western PA?

I’d love to tell you I had the theme of Jerry’s cold heart being reflected in the cold January winter in mind, but the truth is much more boring. I’d finished writing two long stories and several short ones all set in the heat of summer, and thought I’d try something different. However, as I got into the plot details, I found it really worked for concealing evidence and adding physical challenges to both Zoe and Pete. And western PA is home to me, so no travel is involved in researching locations. Right now though, I’m trying to think of a way to send Zoe to New Mexico for a book!

Do you think small towns are more shocking than cities, or is it just that in small towns what goes on is known by someone?

I love that in small towns, everyone THINKS they know everything about everybody, and yet secrets lurk everywhere! Plus city dwellers have this illusion of the countryside being peaceful and safe. It’s not necessarily so. 

Zoe’s best friend Rose, her husband, mother-in-law, and two teenage children play central roles in Circle of Influence. Zoe doesn’t think that familial protection trumps the truth. Was she insensitive or wrong?

I love your questions! I think Zoe is naïve where family is concerned. Her own family is pretty messed up so she’s desperate to hold onto the one she’s created with these friends. But she has a very strong need to be honest and truthful. That tears her apart when she suspects someone she loves is in deep, deep trouble.

What’s next for Zoe and Pete?

Speaking of family! In the next Zoe Chambers mystery (Lost Legacy, September 2014) we get to meet Zoe’s mother and stepdad as a current homicide investigation opens up questions about two old cases, including the death of her father when she was eight. Plus Pete’s dad, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, moves in.

Which do you enjoy more, writing short stories or writing novels? Any more short stories on your hard-drive?

I definitely prefer writing novels. Short stories are HARD. And since I have to finish the third Zoe Chambers mystery by fall, I don’t have time to work on anything else at the moment.

Are you a beach or mountain person, Annette?

I can’t swim, and I have a camp in the Laurel Highlands, so I’m definitely a mountain person.

Henery Press releases Annette’s book this month. Look for Circle of Influence at your favorite indie or at the major retailers. For more information on Annette, go to her website. Lucky Charms, an anthology of short stories by members of the Mary Roberts Rinehart Pittsburg Chapter of SinC, edited by Ramona DeFelice Long, includes Annette’s story, “Sweet Deadly Lies,” and can be purchased at Amazon.

Annette is giving away one Advanced Reader Copy of Circle of Influence to a lucky reader. Look tomorrow for the winner's name on our homepage marquee. Thanks and good luck!


Jim Jackson said...


Best of success with your debut novel. It sounds like a winner. Now that this series has taken off, are you concentrating on that or do you have plans for the earlier series, or starting something new?

BTW, Annette and I just found out yesterday that we'll be on the same Malice panel: Snowblind: When Winter Closes In. It's on Sunday, May 4th at 10:45am. Sara Henry and Jenny Milchman are the other two planned panelists and Kathryn Johnson is our moderator.

I think we'll have a great panel and hope all WWK readers will come join us.

~ Jim

Joyce Tremel said...

Great interview!

I've had the pleasure of reading both manuscripts and believe it or not, the second is even better than the first. I can't wait to read the third (hint-hint).

Annette said...

Thanks, James! Yes, I heard about us being panel-mates at Malice this year! What fun!

Right now, I'm sticking with Zoe and Pete. Not sure if I'll pull the other series out and dust it off at some point, but my priority at the moment is this one.

Annette said...

Thanks, Joyce! I hope you'll have TIME to beta-read my third book now that you're under contract to Berkley for three books of your own!

E. B. Davis said...

Congradulations, Joyce. Wonderful news about your contract. Please contact me about an interview of your own.

Thanks for letting me know about the second book. When will it be released, Annette? Wow, I'm in awe.

Annette said...

E.B., Lost Legacy, Zoe Chamber's Mystery #2 is set for a September 16, 2014 release. Thanks for asking!

Anonymous said...

Hi, Annette! How do you intertwine the personal situations of your characters with their professional problems and investigations? Do you go from "personal" to "professional," do you find ways to make scenes do two jobs...? What's your theory on balancing the full lives of characters? Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful interview! I'm so looking forward to reading your book. By the way,I'm also not a great swimmer, but I do love to sit by a nice pool with my feet in the water or float on a raft! :-)

Laurie K.

Liz Milliron said...

Congratulations, Annette. I can't wait to celebrate with you on your release day - and again in September, and AGAIN when the third book comes out.

I've also been very fortunate to read both books, and yes, they are both excellent. And if you need another reader for book #3, I'm not under contract (hint, hint). =)

jan godown annino said...

Hello Annette.
First, thank you for your past service as an EMT.

Ms. Zoe sounds compelling & the authentic details you can provide thru experience are a cinch to trump the read ability factor.

My hubby & are in FL, so I wished you liked the beach, but we also have enjoyed our mountain moments.

The idea of small town secrets (as opposed to the feeling that everyone knows your bizness) is wicked fun. My pals are a two-person popular community duo, who often play way out in rural festival gigs & one of their lines I enjoy hearing them sing is:
"You don't know what you don't know"

Thanks to you & to Elaine (E.B.) for the Q/A.

Annette said...

Hi, Audra! Good question. I do my best to intertwine the case with the characters' personal lives so Zoe and Pete have a emotional stake in the story. Things that happen to them professionally need to amp up their personal issues and vise versa. If there's a disconnect...if they could walk away from the case with no impact, there's really no point in telling the story.

Annette said...

Thanks, Laurie. Oh, I love the beach, too, but I was forced to make a choice. ;-)

Annette said...

Mary, I'm counting on you reading it for me! I need your eagle eye!

And thanks!

Warren Bull said...

Congratulations and thanks for sharing. Your books sound very interesting.

Annette said...

Thanks, Jan. And like I told Laurie, I do like the beach. And I love Florida! I have family down there and have visited twice, but it's been YEARS.

Annette said...

Thanks, Warren!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Love this! And great questions, too!

(And wow--that's a terrific Malice panel--I hope you;re all wearing funny snow hats! (kidding......)

See you soon! (And you know how much I love your book!)


Annette said...

Thanks, Hank! Love the funny winter hats idea, by the way. James, what do you think? Would Sara, Jenny and Kathryn go for it?

Paula Gail Benson said...

Annette, so good to have you with us at WWK. I learned that my copy of Circle of Influence shipped this week, so I am looking forward to reading it soon. Sounds like a great Malice panel with you and Jim. Best wishes, Paula

Jim Jackson said...

Funny winter hats -- hmmm -- got to think about what that might look like given my actual winter hats are up north and Savannah doesn't really do winter. (Well, they think they do because -- hey -- every five years they get an inch!)

~ Jim

Jim Jackson said...

Well -- a little internet research shows some interesting possibilities...

~ Jim

Annette said...

Paula, I'm happy to be here! And excited to learn it's being shipped! I hope you enjoy it.

Jim, I do think we're on to something here. And if no one else on the panel likes the idea, we can just blame Hank! ;-)

Joyce Tremel said...

Annette, I will FIND the time. Somehow!

I may have to go to Malice just to see this panel...

Theresa de Valence said...

Hi Annette, your book sounds interesting.


Annette said...

Joyce, I'm glad to hear it! I love love LOVE that you got a contract, but was kind of bummed to lose one of my best beta-readers!

As for Malice, you know you have a ride with me and Martha.

Annette said...

Thanks, Theresa.

Gloria Alden said...

Welcome, Annette, from your almost neighbor near the eastern border of Pennsylvania. I met you at a workshop your chapter of Sinc put on a few years back, and I look forward to seeing you again at Malice and having you sign a copy of your book for me. I love western PA and have spent a lot of years camping there and even backpacked once in the Laurel Highlands not too many years ago.

Annette said...

Hi, Gloria! Nice to hear from a fellow Pennsylvanian! I hope you enjoy the book and look forward to seeing you again in May!

Jim Jackson said...

Okay -- I'm all over this whimsical hat thing. As long as we agree Annette, we'll drag the others along. Here's mine: Wolf's hat

Jan (my spousal equivalent) started giggling when she saw it.

~ Jim

Annette said...

LOL! I love it, Jim! Now I have to find something better than my old barn hat.

Paula Smith said...

Congratulations again on your well-deserved success! You are not only a wonderful writer, you are a wonderful person. I love your cheery and generous nature. I am ordering your book rt. after I finish this note to take with me to NOLA in 2 wks. Can't wait to read it.
Best, Paula Smith
(BTW, my middle name is Annette!)

Annette said...

Hi, Paula! You're so sweet! Enjoy your trip to New Orleans. Hope you like Circle of Influence.

KM Rockwood said...

What an inspirational story! I love it that your characters started out in a short story and demanded that you take them further. Also that, instead of becoing discouraged when your first series didn't take off, you kept moving right along.

I live in rural central Pennsylvania, and I'm looking forward to reading your books.

Annette said...

Hi, KM! Another Pennsylvanian! Wonderful!

Some of the best advice I received along the way was while waiting for your book to sell, WRITE THE NEXT BOOK. That combined with being naturally stubborn (just ask my mom or my husband!) got me to this point.

I'll be in central PA (Lancaster) in May for the Pennwriters Conference. Maybe I'll see you there!

E. B. Davis said...

Annette, thanks so much for the interview. Your book is a terrific page turner. Good luck on your next release, and come back and visit!

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to your launch party on 3/22. I enjoyed reading the interview and can't wait to start reading Circle of Influence. I can remember back to our retreat 2 years ago in Confluence when I first read an excerpt for the read and critique. You got me hooked on Zoey and Pete. I'm thrilled for you, Annette.

Annette said...

Thanks, Mary! I'm excited about the party, too. Big surprise, huh? ;-)

E.B. Thanks so much for having me here. It's been a blast. I hope you'll invite me back when Lost Legacy comes out in September!

E. B. Davis said...

Definitely! As soon as you have a release date, email me. I'll put you on the schedule. Thanks!