In the mystery genre there are famous cat burglers and cat sleuths, but amateur mystery solver Dixie Hemingway is the only cat sitting sleuth that we know of. Over the next year, author Blaize Clement will be continuing her Dixie Hemingway series with books six and seven. The busy author put her pen on pause to talk to us about what she and Dixie have learned over the last five mysteries. In addition Clement spills details from Dixie's latest adventure, Cat Sitter Among the Pigeons. (Including the fact that she borrowed Dixie's latest title from an Agatha Christie tale!)
RT BOOK REVIEWS: We know that Dixie turned to pet sitting after her leaving her position on the police force, but what got you interested in the mysteries involved in pet sitting?
Blaize Clement: Actually, I didn't know about the mysteries inherent in pet sitting until I started writing the series and heard from so many real pet sitters. I originally decided on a pet sitter protagonist because I wanted a character who had access to a lot of houses. After the series became popular, I learned that a lot of pet sitters are ex-cops and that some of them carry guns when they go into houses where the owners are gone. I don't think they run into dead bodies like Dixie does, but they tell me about other unpleasant discoveries.
RT: Dixie Hemingway has gotten into lots of hot water since, what is something that you and she have learned about mystery solving since your first adventure back in 2006?
BC: I'm still learning. With each new book, I expect it to be easier since I've had more experience, but every story plays by its own rules. Character is always my main interest, so the trick for me is to get so much inside the heads of my characters that I know what they'd do in a tight spot. As for what Dixie has learned, not much. She keeps vowing to mind her own business and not get involved, but sometimes she has to get involved just because it would be wrong not to. In Cat Sitter Among the Pigeons, for example, she gets involved because she's the only person who may be able to save a baby's life.
RT: You have lived with quite the menagerie of animals in addition to the ones you write about, which of these animals did you learn the most from?
BC: When I'm deep into writing one of Dixie's stories, I do feel as if I'm living with whatever pet the story features. I have to get into the pets' heads too, and know what a particular animal would do in certain situations. To do that, I research breed types, get anecdotal information from pet owners, and fall back on memory of pets I've had or known. I may have learned the most from Big Bubba, the African Grey parrot in Raining Cat Sitters and Dogs. I've never had a parrot, but by the time I finished that manuscript, I knew I would sort of miss the fictional conversations I'd had with Big Bubba.
RT: What is something that you know about Dixie that hasn’t made it into one of her adventures yet?
BC: The truth is that I have a file on Dixie, with her history, old school friends, her family, things like that. I also have a letter that Dixie wrote me when the series first began in which she told me her deepest fears as well as some secrets that nobody knew. I regularly go back to the file of Dixie facts and use them in her stories, but I'll never reveal her secrets. They provide me with a guideline to base her decisions on, but I'll never tell them.
RT: Can you share a detail from the sixth cat sitting mystery that the RT readers can keep their eyes peeled for?
BC: One scene that made me wince has Dixie peeling duct tape from her mouth. Ouch!
For more about Blaize Clement’s mysteries check out the author’s website. You can get your hands on the sixth Dixie Hemingway adventure, Cat Sitter Among the Pigeons, in January 2011.