Amy Shojai, CABC is the award-winning author of 35+ nonfiction pet care and behavior books, and the September & Shadow thrillers. She lives in North Texas with Bravo-Dawg, Karma-Kat, Shadow-Pup, and the enduring memory of Magical-Dawg and Seren-Kitty. Learn more about Amy and her books at her website.
The Birth of Thrillers With Bite!
Thank you for allowing me to share my fiction journey and my latest thriller, Hit and Run. I’d always wanted to write fiction, but my first successes focused on dog and cat nonfiction books, as I am a certified animal behavior consultant and former veterinary technician.
When publishing changed (it does that every so often!), and my then-agent couldn’t sell my next nonfiction title, all my deadlines disappeared. Suddenly, I had time to experiment. So, I wrote the book I’d always wanted to read—with pet-centric stories that included strong dog and cat characters intrinsic to the plots.
I call my thrillers “Thrillers With Bite!” because they all include heroic pets and their human partners. The books also include dog and cat viewpoint chapters—but they do not talk. These are not fantasy or cozy mysteries but rather are informed by my expertise in veterinary medicine and animal behavior.
Although pet characters often may be at risk, I don’t kill my animal heroes in the stories. No, it’s only the people who become victims, and usually the bad guys get what’s coming to them. I also get to highlight the best of our cats and dogs in the stories by including hero pets from readers in the story after they win the Name That Dog and Name That Cat contest held for each book.
My main character, animal behaviorist and trainer September, partners with her PTSD service dog Shadow and her trained Maine Coon cat Macy. All the stories in the series thus far have been set in North Texas, but in Hit and Run September, Shadow, and Macy travel to South Bend, Indiana to uncover a conspiracy that has festered for decades.
In the first book, Lost and Found, September trained Shadow as a service dog for her autistic nephew. I had no idea how to write in an autistic child’s viewpoint, and instead showed the story through the dog’s viewpoint in several chapters.
I absolutely LOVED writing in dog viewpoint—not as a “talking” dog (aka human in a fur coat) but as a canine hero with his own story problem and character arc. Shadow perceives his world through scent, sound, and more, and acts and reacts as a normal dog would. Turns out, my readers love Shadow’s viewpoint chapters, too. They asked for “what happens next?” and the series was born.
In subsequent books, Shadow becomes September’s PTSD support/service dog. He’s also trained to track and find missing pets. Macy-cat, not to be outdone, copies him and acquires pet tracking skills (yes, there ARE real-life pet-finding felines). In the series, some of the amazing, true pet skills may surprise you.
I put my protagonist through the wringer in each story. Previous books naturally lead to the next logical “what happens next” step: In Lost and Found, September hides from her past; her stalker finds her in Hide and Seek; then the child victims from the first book become heroes in Show and Tell. Fight or Flight, the fourth book, reveals what happened to Shadow while lost for two weeks in the previous book. It also introduces new characters and relationships, which led to a surprise AHA! inspiration for the plot of Hit and Run.
Through all the books September has a strained relationship with her mother. In a short scene at the end of Fight or Flight, she discovers her mother has a secret estranged sister and a hidden mysterious past. I didn’t plan that—the characters just blurted it out in dialogue as I wrote the scene. Then I had to figure out why the secret and how September would react. The answer was to confront her own past to uncover a decades-old mystery that (of course!) threatens her happiness and lives of those she loves.
Readers love Shadow’s viewpoint chapters so much, they inspired me to expand that to cats. So in Hit and Run, there are some fun cat-centric heroic antics, and Macy also has a few chapters that show his part of the story through a cat’s purr-ceptions.
I write thrillers because I get to control the outcome where good triumphs over evil, and hope lives for a brighter future. I hope one or more of my stories will entertain readers and maybe help them appreciate even more the pets they love.
Hit and Run
A September Day and Shadow Thriller, Book 5
A Message from the grave. An assassin on her tail. Sniffing out the truth could get them all killed.
September Day is ready for a new start with her detective boyfriend. Believing she’s finally put her husband’s death behind her, her life upends when his mother sends her a safety deposit box key that could unlock the truth. But before she can examine the cryptic contents, she’s brutally attacked, the files are stolen, and her former in-law is murdered.
Determined to uncover the harrowing facts, September and her dog Shadow battle to stay one step ahead of the merciless killer. But when they stumble upon shady business at a cattery, she must expose the mastermind before she too ends up in the ground.
Will Macy-Cat sniff out the key to unmask a decades-old horror? Can September and Shadow confront the past and live to tell the tale?
Watch the trailer here.