Today we play 20 Questions with cozy mystery author Tracy Weber. Tracy is a certified yoga teacher and the founder of Whole Life Yoga, an award-winning yoga studio in Seattle. She loves sharing her passion for yoga and animals in any form possible. Learn more about Tracy and her new Downward Dog Mystery series at her website, the KillerHobbies blog, and her yoga blog.
When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
The idea came to me on a rainy evening about three years ago, while in the middle of a brutal workout at my favorite health club. I was pedaling away, reading a Susan Conant novel to distract myself from the evil exercise bike, when a quote in Black Ribbon about crazy dog people made me burst out loud laughing. I knew I’d found my author soul mate. Someone who truly got me.
I went home, looked her up on the web, and stumbled across a site about cozy mysteries. As I read about hundreds of other wonderful cozy series, I began to wonder: What would happen if a yoga teacher with a crazy dog like mine got mixed up in murder? Kate Davidson and Bella popped into my head a few days later. The rest is history.
How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
I’ve been incredibly lucky. I wrote my first book in about a year and signed with an agent less than two months after I typed “the end.” My agent sold the series a few weeks later. I’m still sort of in shock over the whole thing.
Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
Thus far, I’m traditionally published, but I toy with the idea of becoming a full-time hybrid author. If only I had the time (or the energy!) to write more than one series!
Where do you write?
Most of my writing takes place in the disaster I call my office or late at night in bed. I create through chaos, which means that I spend half of my time writing, the other half trying to locate what I’ve already written. For example, I outlined my notes for this interview lying in bed two nights ago. It took me over an hour to find them today. By the time I unearthed those notes, I’d misplaced a review I’d written earlier this morning. I still haven’t found that.
I often wonder how much I could accomplish if I were only a little more organized…
Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
I’m easily distracted. I’ve never been able to focus with music playing in the background. The only sound I can really tolerate when I’m writing is my dog Tasha’s snoring.
How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
I definitely draw from the experiences of my life when I write. The protagonist in my book (Kate Davidson) is a yoga teacher who lives in Seattle and has a crazy German shepherd much like my dog Tasha. People often say that they see me in Kate. In fact, when my mother read Murder Strikes a Pose, she called to tell me she had just read the part where I found the body. I had to remind her that the book was fiction and that I hadn’t stumbled across any bodies recently. ;-)
However, I try not to pick on people I know in my books, meaning that I consciously don’t write about my friends, family, or yoga students.
My dog can’t read and no one cares if I make fun of myself, so I do write about Tasha’s and my sillier exploits from time to time.
Describe your process for naming your character?
My characters tell me their first names. Unfortunately, they often have names I can’t use. For example, in my second book, A Killer Retreat, the murderer had the same first name as my cousin. I originally planned to keep it, but I eventually realized that might make family dinners a little, shall we say, uncomfortable. So two days before I sent the book to my editor, I changed it. Now I can go home for Christmas and not worry about my pumpkin pie being poisoned.
Last names are tougher. I often don’t give my characters last names. If I really need one, I use a random name generator. I don’t like most of the names it suggests, but I keep hitting “refresh” until something sounds right. After a dozen or so permutations, I usually find a winner.
Real settings or fictional towns?
Definitely real settings, though the locations of my books are often hybrids of multiple locations. Mocha Mia, Pete’s Pets, and the PhinneyWood Market are all hybrids of my favorite coffee shops, pet stores, and grocery stores. Serenity Yoga is a lightly fictionalized version of my own yoga studio, Whole Life Yoga.
What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
Kate (the protagonist in my series) has a real-life phobia called pogonophobia—fear of beards. She gets nauseated and anxious any time she’s near a man with a beard. That really sucks for her, since she has a crush on Michael, the bearded owner of Pete’s Pets.
What’s your quirkiest quirk?
I have to pick just one?
My husband calls me “The Creepy Puppy Lady.” I LOVE dogs. All dogs. And I have a habit of paying what my husband considers an abnormal amount of attention to other people’s dogs. I guess I’d call it dog-o-philia.
If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?
Anything by Dr. Seuss, because everybody loves Dr. Seuss.
Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
Oh my gosh! My screw-ups are too numerous to count. My favorite mystery-related screw up happened at Malice Domestic last year. I was sitting at the bar with my friend Penny Warner and author Louise Penny. I had no idea that Louise was a famous author. She was so sweet and unassuming, I just assumed she was either a mystery fan or a newer author, like me.
As the afternoon went on, people gathered around us, obviously entranced—and not by me. Finally, a woman handed me her iPhone and asked me to take a photo of her and Louise.
I would have been more than willing to oblige, if only I’d known how to use it. I held it backwards, clicked the button, and proudly handed her a photo of my chest.
Thus endeth my career in photography.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Not getting a reply to an email. If people don’t reply, my mind goes into hyper-drive. Did they get it? Did I say something stupid to offend them? How long do I wait before sending it again? Is it lost in the vast cyber wasteland? Even a simple, “got it” will do, but don’t leave me hanging.
You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
My dog Tasha. I can’t imagine being anywhere without her. I suppose I should invite my husband, too. And a pair of ear plugs, so I don’t have to listen to him complain about being stuck on a deserted island with me and the dog.
What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
Does cleaning house count?
Seriously, I’ve been really lucky in that I’ve always liked my jobs. If I don’t enjoy what I’m doing, I quit. My husband teases that I have some sort of odd job-related ADD. I’ve changed careers several times in my life. I’ve worked as a retail sales clerk, a chemical engineer, a management consultant, a manager at a software development company, a yoga teacher, a career coach, and an author. I loved each job until I didn’t. Then I changed. Life is MUCH too short to work at a job you don’t love.
What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
I don’t have an answer for this one. So many books have moved me in different ways. I loved Don Quixote enough to spend a quarter studying it in college, so I guess I’ll say that.
Ocean or mountains?
Ocean. Nothing beats sun and sand.
City girl or country girl?
I grew up on a dairy farm in Montana and moved to the city at the age of eighteen, swearing that I’d never live in a small town again. Thirty years later, I yearn for country life. I dream of a house in the middle of nowhere with a zoo-like menagerie of German shepherds, chickens, and goats.
What’s on the horizon for you?
I’m currently teaching an advanced yoga teacher training, and that will keep me pretty busy for the next year. My second manuscript, A Killer Retreat, is at my publisher, and I’m working on book three, tentatively titled Karma Can Be a Killer. After that, who knows? That house in the country is sounding pretty darned good these days.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
Haven’t I already prattled on enough? I guess the only other thing I’d say is that Murder Strikes a Pose is a feel-good, crime-solving, human-animal love story. How can it get better than that? I hope you and your readers give it a try and love it!
Murder Strikes a Pose
When George and Bella—a homeless alcoholic and his intimidating German shepherd—disturb the peace outside her studio, yoga instructor Kate Davidson’s Zen-like calm is stretched to the breaking point. Kate tries to get rid of them before Bella scares the yoga pants off her students. Instead, the three form an unlikely friendship.
One night Kate finds George’s body behind her studio. The police dismiss his murder as a drug-related street crime, but Kate knows George was no drug dealer. So she digs into George’s past while looking for someone—anyone—to adopt Bella before Animal Control sends her to the big dog park in the sky. But with the murderer nipping at her heels, Kate will have to work fast or her next Corpse Pose may be for real.