Thursday, April 22, 2021

Must love pets (and maybe needles) - a guest post by Annette Dashofy

Catriona writes: This week's question is Do you have a particular, typical, or ideal reader in mind as you write? But I'm not going to answer it. 

I'm going to answer the question Do you have a particular writer in mind when you choose an outfit for an awards dinner? The answer to that is YES. Annette Dashofy.

(Here we are at Malice Domestic a few years' back, after a lot of dress, shoe, and jewelry planning. Annette was nominated and I wasn't, so I'm being Vanna and she's being FAAAAbulous). 

And now, here to answer the real QotW . . .

Annette writes: Early in my writing career, one of my mentors brought up this subject. She has ONE reader in mind when she crafts a novel. She can tell you this reader’s age, job, and even her name. I tried to do the same thing. I really did. I created such a person, but then I received an email from a reader who was NOTHING like that fabricated “typical” one. My thoughts on the matter shifted. Can I really laser focus on just one person?

In a sense, my typical reader is me. I write the types of books I like to read. But I try to write for someone who is much smarter than I. [CMcP - that cuts me out; I'd have said "smarter than me"] That keeps me on my toes. No slacking. No getting lazy. I can’t let my main characters be stupid. At least not without good reason. My main character returns home to find the door open. Someone has been in her house. She left her phone in her friend’s car, so she can’t call 911. The smart thing would be to get in her vehicle and go for help. Instead, she goes inside. Stupid? Yes. But she’s a veterinarian and her cats are somewhere in that house. She has to rescue her cats. If my reader is an animal lover, and I believe they are, they’ll understand and be right there with her.

From conversations with my readers, I’ve learned many of them are teachers. Many, but definitely not all, are women. Some are nurses or are otherwise part of the medical field. Again, this keeps me on my toes. Since Zoe Chambers is a paramedic and Jessie Cameron (of Death by Equine) is (as previously mentioned) a veterinarian, medicine plays a big part in the stories.

I was an EMT decades ago. And I owned horses for twenty-five years. Our farm vet was awesome, but it could take hours for her to arrive. In the case of an emergency, I did some of my own vetting. If a horse required ongoing treatment, I couldn’t afford to have the vet back for daily shots. So I learned how to inject medications, how to bandage injuries, how to do a wide variety of procedures. But still, times and techniques have changed. I had to do a lot of research. Occasionally, I get something wrong, and oh, do I hear about it. Those are the worst kinds of emails. Those readers’ voices echo in my head as I write.

Let’s see. My typical reader is a nurse who loves dogs. Or a teacher who loves cats. Or a pharmacist who loves horses.

Okay, maybe I don’t have just one. But no matter what profession occupies my reader’s work hours, what I am sure of is they want to be entertained. And that is what I always keep in mind as I write.


Annette Dashofy is the USA Today best-selling author of the multi–Agatha Award nominated Zoe Chambers mystery series about a paramedic and deputy coroner in rural Pennsylvania’s tight-knit Vance Township. Her latest release, a standalone, is Death by Equine, about a veterinarian at a second-rate thoroughbred racetrack seeking the truth about her mentor’s mysterious death. Annette is a member of Pennwriters and is the vice president of the Pittsburgh Sisters in Crime Chapter. She and her husband live on ten acres of what was her grandfather’s dairy farm in southwestern Pennsylvania with their very spoiled cat, Kensi.



Annette said...

Catriona, I thought that was the year we were both nominated in the same category. We kept practicing applauding the winner because we knew it was going to be Margaret Maron. Or was that another year?

Edith Maxwell said...

I love this, Annette!

JD Allen said...

You two could have your own talk show! And those dresses!
I agree. I tend to write to entertain myself. But I also have to keep in mind I'm an old cat lady in Fl and have to keep in mind that most of my readers are not!

Annette said...

Thanks, Edith!

JD, a talk show! With Catriona? I love that idea! And I'm an old cat lady in Pennsylvania, so I suspect we could happily entertain each other.

Catriona McPherson said...

Old Cat Lady No.3 here. I'm in for the talkshow.

Catriona McPherson said...

You may well be right, Annette. If it was, I'm glad all over again that Margaret won!

Annette said...

Catriona, me too! Just sitting on the same panel with her was like breathing rarified air! Such an honor. I miss her.

JD Allen said...

I miss her.

Edith Maxwell said...

Old cat lady #4 here!

Annette said...

Old Cat Ladies rule!