Wednesday, September 19, 2018

An Interview with Annette Dashofy by E. B. Davis

An Interview with Annette Dashofy by E. B. Davis

From behind the barn, Duchess the Digger had moved to the door
and started pawing at it with a demanding thud thud thud.
“Quit!” Zoe yelled in her deep I-mean-business voice.
Wayne snapped to attention. “Yes, ma’am.”
She shot a look at him. “Don’t mess with me, Detective.
I can kick a thousand-pound horse’s ass.”
Annette Dashofy, Cry Wolf, Kindle Loc. 1637

Rural Pennsylvania’s Vance Township Police Chief Pete Adams is down an officer and has been dealing with extra shifts as well as a pair of bickering neighbors, one of whom owns a machete and isn’t afraid to use it. Golden Oaks Assisted Living is outside Pete’s jurisdiction, but a murder in the facility his Alzheimer’s-afflicted father calls home makes the case personal.

Paramedic and Deputy Coroner Zoe Chambers has been itching for an opportunity to take the lead in a death investigation. She gets her chance when her boss is hospitalized and not only assigns her to the Golden Oaks homicide but puts her in charge of the county coroner’s office. As if she doesn’t have enough to handle, a long-lost, over-protective, older half-brother walks into her life threatening to drive a wedge between her and the man she loves.

A second dead body leads them to realize the case may have dark ties to a distant past…and if Zoe doesn’t untangle the web of lies, Pete will be the one to pay the ultimate price.

One of the hallmarks of Annette Dashofy’s Zoe Chambers mystery series is the unexpected depth of emotion it evokes in the reader. As an EMT, Zoe experiences many extreme situations, but it isn’t on the job where Zoe has to deal with emotional zingers. She’s a professional and keeps her temperament on the job. It’s her personal life that has required her to build layers of thick skin. As a reader who “knew” Zoe and experienced the ups and downs in her life, this book surprised me—Zoe surprised me.

For those of you who have read the series, Cry Wolf continues the suspense and extends the emotional smacks Zoe must endure. But for those of you who are new to the series, please start with Circle Of Influence, the first book. You’re in for a wild ride, and I’m envious. I’d like nothing better than to read the series afresh and savor those books back-to-back.

Near the inception of this blog, about eight years ago, I asked Annette to blog for WWK. She resisted, saying her fiction writing came first. That was four years before her first book came out. I think she made the right decision then, but I’m happy she finally decided to blog with us. Welcome home, Annette.                                                                                                                                  E. B. Davis 
Thanks, E.B.! I’m happy to be here!

In the beginning of the first chapter, you brought up an issue that has no resolve in the legal world. No one can be arrested for attempted murder of an animal. Even with PETA and the known predictors of animal cruelty, most offenses are still treated as misdemeanors. Would the animal’s owner at least have legal recourse in the civil courts?

First, let me clarify that NO ANIMALS, even fictional ones, were harmed in this book! To answer the question, I’m not a lawyer, although I did read up on the charges Pete mentions later in the story, but I doubt any of the charges would stick. I do believe a good lawyer could make a case to get the farmer’s vet bills reimbursed. I’d love to have seen the Professor being hauled before a judge. It might be the only way to knock some sense into his head.

That situation defined differences in Zoe and Pete’s approach to problems. Was it a “right or wrong” situation? A difference due to a female vs. male approach? Or was it in the legalities?

All of the above? Zoe, as always, reacts from her heart and is far more farm-savvy than Pete, who grew up in the city. Plus, as a cop, he has to look at the situation from a law enforcement perspective. He doesn’t have the liberty to play judge and jury at a crime scene.

Before Zoe’s mother gave Zoe the family farm, which requires tons of money to rebuild, Zoe wasn’t enamored of her part-time job as a deputy coroner, but now she needs the money. The coroner, Franklin Marshall, is being opposed in the upcoming election. His opponent is a forensic pathologist. What’s the difference between the coroner system and the Medical Examiner system?

The coroner system is much older than the ME system, and many counties here in Pennsylvania (including my own) still use it. Laws vary state to state, but here, the coroner is an elected position. They don’t have to have a medical background, although there are educational requirements once they’re in office. And pathologists are called in to do the actual autopsies. A Medical Examiner is generally a medical doctor and often a forensic pathologist and is hired, not elected. It’s my experience that an ME will swear their system is the best while a coroner will insist theirs is. I think the biggest issue of one versus the other is resources. Most rural counties don’t have the need or finances to pay for a full-time forensic pathologist.

I was surprised that the coroner’s position was an elected one. How do people evaluate the merits of coroners to elect?

The same as any elected position, I suppose. Our own county coroner (a funeral home director by trade) has held office for a very long time. The coroner has to answer to his constituents. If he’s deemed to be doing a poor job, we can vote him out when his term is up.

Why does Zoe have Franklin’s ring tone set to The Who’s “Who Are You” song? What’s the significance?

It’s a bit of an “Easter Egg.” The joke is that Zoe originally wanted to become a coroner because she was a fan of the TV show CSI, and quickly learned the reality was nothing like the Hollywood version. “Who Are You” is the theme song for CSI so that’s what she has set for the coroner’s ringtone.

When Franklin is hospitalized with dangerous health issues related to diabetes, he asks Zoe to take over his office, but he’s extremely critical of Zoe’s performance. Is he territorial and particular about his job or do health issues poison his evaluative gauge and temperament?

Franklin is fastidious about the way his office is run. He’s always secretly believed that Zoe would be a good person to take over as coroner if she applied herself, which is why he tends to be hard on her.

When Franklin tells Zoe she must have missed something, she takes it to heart. Words linger and resound with people. Why do we always hear the negative more than the positive?

I wish I knew! Zoe’s a good paramedic but this deputy coroner thing, especially being forced to be in charge, has her insecurities showing. I’m the same way. Self-doubt is nasty!

John Kinney, Pete’s Field Training Officer (FTO), resides at Golden Oaks, the same facility where Pete’s dad, Harry, lives. When he is murdered, there’s a long line of suspects because of his personality, his relationships, and that, as a cop, he arrested his share of lawbreakers. As a reader, I hoped many of the suspects were innocent. Why?

I’m a big believer in making all my characters 3-dimensional. The good guys have a little bad in them, and the bad guys have some good in them. I try to understand motivations and explore how bad things can happen to good people and drive them to do things they otherwise wouldn’t do. Within the series, I’ve had sympathetic killers as well as some downright vicious ones. Also, one of the themes I wanted to delve into with this particular story is the idea of consequences of our actions and how one past action or reaction can follow us for decades and impact those around us. So, I’m not at all unhappy to hear you felt sympathy for some of the suspects!

Zoe’s dad died when she was eight. What did he die of?

He died in a car crash. If you want to know more than that, you’ll have to read Lost Legacy, the second in the series.

When Jason Cox contacts Zoe saying she’s his half-sister, she’s skeptical. But after meeting him, she a believer. What changed her mind?

As you mentioned, she lost her dad when she was eight, and she’s never been close to her mother. She’s always had a big empty space in her heart. Meeting Jason was like finding a missing part of herself. Zoe’s had to take care of herself since she was a teen. Suddenly, she has an older brother who wants to protect her and help her out. It’s heady stuff!

Seth Metzger, the officer who saved Zoe’s life in Uneasy Prey, is having trouble coming back to the job since he shot and killed a killer. I’m sure you researched this phenomenon. What are the issues police face after killing?

We’re getting back to the self-doubt issue again. Police officers are human and handle stressful situations differently. Training helps. But there’s a reason they’re required to see a therapist after a shooting. In Seth’s case, he has the added doubt of wondering whether the person he shot was really a danger to others. No one will ever really know, because the person in question is dead. And these things happen so quickly, as a cop, the decision to use deadly force has to be made in a split second. Poor Seth is left to wonder if he’ll be able to react if faced with something like that again. (Let’s face it, he’s a character in my books, so odds are good that he will!)

Wayne Baronick is in charge of Kinney’s murder investigation since it happened in his jurisdiction. Wayne and Pete often spar in cases. Wayne asks Pete to look at his sister’s resume because he’s down personnel with Seth’s continued absence. Pete hires Baronick’s sister, Abby. Will this change Pete and Wayne’s relationship?

No. Their relationship has evolved through the series from antagonistic to respectful, although they still take pleasure in annoying the heck out of each other. Abby won’t change that.

In tracking Kinney’s killer, Zoe and Wayne review the video of Golden Oaks cameras, which are positioned in various public locations at the facility. Zoe doesn’t realize how much she uses her arms and hands when talking. Have you ever viewed video of yourself? Any surprises?

Video. Still pictures. Audio. Yeah. I don’t sound like I think I should, and I make a lot of “weird” facial expressions when I talk. At least that’s how it seems to me.

Why do city and country cops have differences in how they investigate?

The easy answer is money. Big city departments have bigger budgets, better toys (equipment), more man power. Smaller departments often have to improvise or call in help from other jurisdictions. Plus, the crimes are different in rural areas. No less deadly. But different.

Your present case rests upon a previous case. How do you create a past case of such devastation to all involved?

As I mentioned earlier, the theme I wanted to explore here was consequences of past actions and how they can haunt those affected for decades. And also how our actions can alter lives in ways we never know. It’s thought-provoking stuff.

Do cops have the legal and technological ability to ping anyone’s phone to find out its location?

Yes and no. This was one of those situations where I took a bit of creative license for the sake of keeping the story moving. YES, the technology is available, usually through the cell phone service providers. Legally, a warrant would be a good idea. Realistically, they could get close but probably not to the specific location as I had them able to do. I figured my readers didn’t want to sit and wait for the warrant and the footwork involved, so I fudged a little. Sorry.

Why does Zoe keep information from Pete, especially personal information?

Pete would like to know the answer to this one too! I think Zoe always intends on telling Pete stuff eventually, but she’s been on her own for so long, she’s used to taking care of herself and wants to deal with her problems and conflicts on her own. Plus, she knows he’s a cop and doesn’t really want to have the man she loves arrest her when she pulls some stupid (and possibly illegal) stunt.

What’s next for Zoe and Pete?

I’m wrapping up the 8th in the series, tentatively titled FAIR GAME, which is due to my editor in October. It’s a bit of a nod to my old 4H friends and takes place at the county fair. Let me just say murder at the school bus demolition derby and leave it at that for now!


  1. Wonderful questions, as always, E.B.! Thanks for the interview!

  2. I love this series!

    If you haven't read any and would like to try it, the 3rd in the series, Bridges Burned, is 99 cents at Amazon for the Kindle edition.

  3. Thanks for the mention, Kathleen. I should add that the 99-cent deal is scheduled to end on Friday, so grab it while you can!

  4. Terrific interview. This is a great entry in the series. You have to read it!

  5. great interview, Elaine. Annette, looking forward to meeting you at Magna Cum Murder.

  6. Thank you, Liz and Margaret! I'm really looking forward to Magna!

  7. Thank you for the link to this interview -- I really enjoyed it. Another question -- how do you pronounce Baronick -- I'm not sure where to put the emphasis...

  8. Celia, Romy Nordlinger, who narrates my audiobooks, asked me the same thing back when she started the series. The way she came up with how to remember the pronunciation of Wayne's last name is this: It rhymes with MORONIC. Haha! I really want to use that in one of my books because it would totally annoy Wayne!


  9. Annette Cry Wolf just came in the mail today, and I can't wait to read it as soon as I finish another book I'm reading. I'd already read all your other Zoe Chambers books and really enjoyed each of them. I hope you're planning to continue this series.

  10. Thank you, Gloria! I'm contracted through #10 in the series, so we know there will be at least that many!

  11. Sorry for the late response -- on the road yesterday. Congrats and your latest addition to the series and for getting an Amazon number 1 bestseller status for Burning Bridges!

  12. So great to read of your continued and well deserved success, Annette. I won't be at Malice this year (Left Coast Crime taking all my travel dollars) but will cross fingers and toes for you.