...for readers who love animals, and animal lovers who read!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Author Interview with Waverly Curtis

Tell us a little about your background:
We’re actually a writing team: Curt Colbert, author of three hard-boiled private eye novels set in Seattle in the 1940s (Rat City, Sayonaraville and Queer Street) and Waverly Fitzgerald, author of four historical romances published by Doubleday in the 1980’s under the name Nancy Fitzgerald. We’ve known each other for over 20 years. Waverly coached Curt through the writing of his first three books. When she began writing mysteries herself, we began meeting weekly to share our latest writing. When Curt showed up with a first chapter that featured a talking Chihuahua, Waverly offered to collaborate (since she was actually living with the Chihuahua that inspired the book) and we’ve written four books and one short story together since then.
Tell us a bit about your latest book:
We just finished the third book in our series of Barking Detective series for Kensington. It’s called The Big Chihuahua. In this book, Pepe and his owner, Geri Sullivan, a PI in training, go undercover in a cult that worships an ancient warrior dog known as Dogawanda.
Are any of the other characters based on real animals or people?
Yes, Waverly’s daughter, Shaw, has a little white Chihuahua named Pepe who inspired the character in the novels. Like his namesake character, Pepe hates being dressed up and thinks he is much bigger than he is. Unlike his namesake, he has a sweet disposition and doesn’t talk much.
How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
While Waverly has been known to create elaborate biographies and Excel spreadsheets charting the significant life events of the characters, Curt is more inclined to put characters into interesting situations and see what they do.
How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
We have a vague idea when we start a book about where it will end but we don’t outline. We try to experience the plot the way a reader would, which means we don’t usually know who the killer is until about two-thirds of the way through. Since we take turns writing chapters, we also get to be surprised by what the other person has written.
Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
In a mystery, plot is key since readers expect certain elements: a dead body, for instance, multiple suspects, and a confrontation with the killer where the protagonist is in some actual danger. That said, the characters are very real to us, even the really silly ones, and we miss them when the book is done.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
Rejection is difficult. We’ve both experienced moments when we were told our books were not marketable and we’ve both had promising opportunities (a big name New York agent, publication by a remarkable small press) that have not panned out. But neither of us can imagine not writing and both of us have many more novels we want to write.
What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
We’re currently writing the fifth book in the Barking Detective series, tentatively called The Silence of the Chihuahua. In this book, Pepe, the talking Chihuahua, suddenly stops talking which is very distressing to Geri Sullivan who’s counting on him to help her figure out what happened to her best friend who’s implicated in a murder.
What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
We aim for about a chapter a week, however long that takes. My guess would be about 10 hours a week, which isn’t that much. Waverly usually edits while Curt is writing. Not sure what Curt does while Waverly is writing.
Tell us about your pets, or other animals that inspire you.
Curt and his wife are in thrall to their cat Esmeralda. But the cat in the Barking Detective novels, Albert, is a tribute to their previous cat, Albert, who looked like and acted like a bobcat. Waverly lives with her daughter and her daughter’s Chihuahua, Pepe. Their previous dog, Chester, was affectionately nicknamed The Demon Dog from Hell.
What question do you wish interviewers would ask? (And what’s the answer?)
What would you say to anyone considering collaborating? Our collaboration works well because we have known each other as writers for so long. It helps that Curt will let Waverly edit his words, while she is a bit more possessive about hers. We do have a written collaboration agreement (very important) and a commitment to have a united front when communicating with agents and editors (lessons Waverly learned in a previous collaboration that went south). We love it that we have someone to brainstorm with and to share the work. The downside is that we have double the expenses and only half the income of a solo author.
Where can we learn more about you and your books?
Our books are available from Kensington (our publisher), Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books and Million and Indie Bound, as well as your favorite local independent book store. For more information on our books and events, visit our website.

Read more from Waverly Fitzgerald (Curtis) ~ 


  1. Thanks for being here again, Waverly!

  2. I love the literary references in the titles--such great wit! And, as I think I've said before, the covers are to die for! (Appropriate for a mystery!)

  3. Very interesting interview and lots of great information.
    Thanks for sharing.
    I enjoy hearing about the process.