Monday, June 28, 2010

Interview With Berkley Author, Kandy Shepherd

Kandy Shepherd lived her early years in Sri Lanka, India, England and Ireland before settling in Sydney, Australia. Although she had a passion for animals, children in India were not allowed to pet them for fear of rabies. She was desperate for a cat or dog of her own, and after moving to a Sydney suburbia, she got her wish and has never been without at least one pet since, believing her life is not complete without an animal to love. A fortune teller once told her that in every one of her "former lives" she was surrounded by animals!

After working her way up to be editor-in-chief of several mass-market titles in Australia and England, ending up as editorial director of a major magazine publisher, she turned to fiction writing. After numerous rejections, she was finally published, first with short stories, then a category-type romance with a small Australian publisher. But it wasn't until she joined first Romance Writers of Australia and then Romance Writers of America that she began to understand the market. And when she got feedback from editors praising her "comedic voice" she realized angst might not be her forte!

When the call came from Berkley to publish Love Is A Four-Legged Word, she was thrilled beyond belief. She's here today to tell us about her latest book.

Liz: Tell me about your July 6 release from Berkley Sensation, Home Is Where the Bark Is.

KS: Liz, first off, thank you so much for inviting me to Mysteries and Margaritas. Home Is Where the Bark Is is a tale of romance, mystery and dogs. Serena Oakley owns an upscale doggy day care and spa in San Francisco and is suspicious of her hunky new client with his mismatched Yorki-poo. Serena is right to be wary as Nick Whalen is an undercover PI investigating an identity fraud, and Serena is his prime suspect. But when Serena’s safety is threatened they have to trust in each other enough to thwart the danger.

Liz: Both Home Is Where the Bark Is and your debut novel Love is a Four-Legged Word feature dogs as part of the plots. Did you set out to write “doggy” books?

KS: I set out to write warm, light-hearted romance with endearing—human!—characters. However, animals are such an important part of my life that they became part of my fictional peoples’ lives, too. Before I knew it, the doggy characters became important secondary characters, and essential to the plot.

Liz: Do we see the story through the point of view of a dog?

KS: My doggy characters don’t talk. We don’t see inside their minds. They’re animals. Not people. But like the real animals I love, my fictional animals are distinct personalities with their own quirks and loveable qualities.

Liz: There’s a well-known warning about working with kids or animals.

KS. I had to be careful writing Love Is A Four-Legged Word that Brutus, the ugly little mutt who inherits a multi-million dollar fortune, didn’t overshadow the heroine Maddy and the hero Tom. In Home Is Where The Bark Is Mack, the injured, orphaned mutt who helps bring Serena and Nick together couldn’t be allowed to steal the show.

Liz: What about the mystery element in Home Is Where the Bark Is?

KS. The book is more focused on romance than mystery but the mystery is important too. I’m the kind of person who nearly always guesses “whodunit” (much to the annoyance of my family and friends!) and I really try to keep my readers guessing throughout the course of the novel.

Liz: Tell me about your own animals.

KS: I share my life with a dog, three cats, four horses, two miniature bulls and twelve chickens. I love them all and would have more if my husband didn’t make his objections known! (Here she is with Molly.)

Liz: Serena, the heroine of your second book, is a secondary character in your first book. Did you set out to write a linked series?

KS: Not really, though I love reading them. I really liked writing Serena; so much so she stayed in my mind after I typed “The End”. To help her best friend Maddy out on her magazine, Serena posed semi-nude in a bathtub of chocolate and the photos ended up as an ad campaign. I wondered how that kind of publicity would affect her. Then I drove past a new doggy day care center. What a great job for a dog nut like Serena!. What if I wrote Serena her own book where she had given up modeling and owned her own doggy day-care? And what if I created a gorgeous hero who was as scathing about the idea of pooch pampering? And so the idea for Home Is Where the Bark Is was born.

Liz: One last question. I think our readers would love to hear how you sold to Berkley WITHOUT an agent!!!!!

KS. I hope it is encouraging to hear that I sold my debut novel Love is a Four-Legged Word through the slush pile at Berkley. I could not interest an agent in the manuscript so sent the required three chapters and a synopsis to Berkley, who were accepting unagented submissions. Fifteen months later, when I had virtually forgotten that I had sent the partial, I got a request for the full manuscript. A further six months later I got “The Call”. It was actually an email but no less exciting! Once I had the offer, I contacted an agent I had met at a conference whom I liked very much. She liked my manuscript enough to represent me and I signed with her. Publishing is definitely a waiting game and I think there is also a degree of luck involved. My manuscript landed on the desk of a newly promoted assistant editor who loved it and it went from there.

Me: And that, folks, should really make your day. Having an agent in your corner is the best case scenario, but it can be done without one. Thanks, Kandy for stopping by to chat with us. I hope the readers will have lots of comments for you because one lucky one will win a copy of Home Is Where the Bark Is. Fire away.


Vanessa Barneveld said...

Hi, Liz and Kandy! A special pat goes to Miss Molly.

Kandy, congrats on the unleashing of HOME IS WHERE THE BARK IS. I think you already know how much I adore this book! I'm so glad that editor plucked you out of the slush pile. What a shock it must've been to get that call after 15+ months! Does it still feel surreal?

Kari Lee Townsend said...

What an amazing publishing story. I love hearing ones like that. Too many people give up after so much time has gone by, but it really does go to show you how slow this business can really be.

Your book sounds like a hoot. Can't wait to read it.

Sharon Archer said...

Kandy, I was really interested to read about you spending time in India and not being able to have a pet because of concerns about rabies! No wonder you're now surrounding yourself and your family with wonderful fur and feather friends!

And having them must feed your muse because you write such gorgeous animal characters!

Congratulations on your latest release! I'm looking forward to reading Nick and Serena's story!


Sharon Archer said...

oh, and I meant to say, great interview Kandy and Liz!

Kandy Shepherd said...

Hi Vanessa--Miss Molly thanks you for the pat. If a tasty snack came with it, she'd be even happier!
Yes, it does still seem surreal even after book two is about to be released.
The lovely thing, also, was hearing "the call" story from the other end. LOVE IS A FOUR-LEGGED WORD was one of the first acquisitions by my wonderful editor and I believe it was exciting for her, too, to find a book she wanted to buy on the slush pile.Though I don't imagine anyone could be happier than I was when I read down that "Call" email!

Kandy Shepherd said...

Thanks, Kari Lee. Yes, this business certainly can be slow! When I hear people complain that they haven't heard back from an editor after six weeks, I can't help but smile...
For me, it was well worth the wait. Berkley are wonderful to work with and have given me the cutest covers!

Kandy Shepherd said...

Yes, Sharon, when I was a little kid in India I was desperate for a dog or cat. We weren't allowed to pat strays because of the possible risk of infection. Also, my father had lived an expat life for a long time and knew the heartbreak of having to leave a beloved animal behind so we weren't allowed one of our own.
Mind you, that did not stop me as an adult from flying my own two cats back to Australia from England when I lived there!
Thank you for your kind words about my animal characters--I hope you will enjoy Nick and Serena's story.

Cathleen Ross said...

HI Kandy
I've read both your books and they're terrific reads. I love the dog characters in the books. Which dogs in real life did you base them on? Who is Mac?

Rachael Johns said...

Ooh I like following the blog tours of authors I adore cos I find fabulous new blogs too. I've been looking forward to this book but didn't know it had a mystery element! Now I'm even MORE excited!!!

Selena Robins said...

Great interview, truly an inspirational writing journey.

I loved Love is a For Legged Word and highly recommend it. Looking forward to Serena's book.

May the ink in your book signing pen never run dry. :)


Mary Martinez said...

Liz and Kandy what a fun blog interview.

Kandy congratulations on being one of the only people I know to sell through the slush pile. It's so nice to hear when that happens.

I love the titles of your books and that the dogs are secondary characters.

Anonymous said...

Interesting to read more of your background. Am looking forward to reading HOME IS WHERE THE BARK IS ....not that much longer till it's released!!!

Edie Ramer said...

Kandy, I love all your answers! And what a terrific sale story. I'm an animal lover too, with 2 dogs and 1 cat, and your books sound like the kind I love to read.

Cassy Pickard said...

Kandy: Welcome and thank you for joining us on M&M. We LOVE hearing stories like yours. I write this now with one Golden Retriever on one of my feet and another on the other. They seem to debate with each other as to when it's time to change position. I don't ask.

I'm certainly looking out for your books. What fun!

Katt said...

Hi ladies,
Great interview Liz, I now have another author to add to my 'search for' list!
Congrats on your books Kandy.
(I write this - well, everything, with a cat draped over my shoulder and a dog on my feet.. the other cat is snoring nearby.)

CC Coburn said...

Hiya Kandy! Great seeing you here and hearing your wonderful call story again. As you know, I'm a sucker for dogs and loved LOVE IS A FOUR-LEGGED WORD and I can't wait for HOME IS WHERE THE BARK IS!
Although I've had to leave my darling Freddie home in Australia while I'm working here in Colorado, I'm getting to puppy-sit my friend's new black Lab puppy this week - I can't wait for my ankles and hands to be bitten by her sharp puppy-teeth!

Lindsay said...

What a fun interview. Here's a pat for Miss Molly and (picture him tossing a biscuit at the computer) a treat for the darling.
Dogs sure add an interesting element to a story. Makes the human characters more human with the interaction.

Liz Lipperman said...

Thanks again to Kandy for joining us today. Just wanted to tell all you dog lovers out there that Kandy has some great recipes for dog treats on her website. Check it out.

Lindsay said...

I love the pet photos. They're cute and adorable but Kebi still's the best

Donna Cummings said...

Kandy, your books sound wonderful. I love a romance with mystery in it. :) I can't wait to read these.

Becke Davis said...

Wow, Kandy - I had no idea you'd lived in so many interesting places. I thought Australia was interesting, but Sri Lanka? How cool!

I have a copy of your new book and I'm eager to read it. I loved your first book!

I hope much success comes your way!

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Mystery and Margarita girls, I love the name of your blog! Waving madly at the fabulous Kandy Shepherd.

Kandy and MAM, what a great interview! Kandy, congratulations on the release of HOME IS WHERE THE BARK IS. I loved LOVE IS A FOUR-LEGGED WORD (speaking of names and titles, you come up with the best ones!). It had a wonderful touch of 1940s screwball comedy about it that I thought worked beautifully with the plot about the millionaire mutt. Do we get something of that same sort of feeling with HOME IS WHERE THE BARK IS? By the way, that's a LOVELY cover!

Becke Davis said...

I'll second Anna on that one - Kandy's covers and titles are fabulous!

Annie West said...


What a terrific interview. I'm not at all surprised you sold to Berkley straight from the slush pile. That ms surely spoke for itself. I read LOVE IS A FOUR LEGGED-WORD while ill and immediately felt so much better. It was a stand out book for me among the many romances I read that year. With your distinctive voice, intriguing plot and warm, romantic comedy feel it was an adorable book. I can't wait to finish my own current ms so I can read HOME IS WHERE THE BARK IS. It's going to be my finish the book treat!

I hope you're hard at work on the next book right now...

Kandy Shepherd said...

Hi Cathleen, my doggy characters are pure invention. However each borrows characteristics from real dogs I have known. I borrowed Brutus's name from a neighbor's dog--the real life Brutus is a tiny terrier with a lot of spirit but nothing like my Brutus in character. Some of Brutus's naughty behavior is based on my childhood dog Copper's antics and the greedy behaviour on Miss Molly.
Mack the "hero" dog of HOME IS WHERE THE BARK IS has a lot of my friend's dog Mate. Mate is a big, mostly black dog who lives on a farm in far northern California and thinks he is still a tiny puppy. Mack was also inspired by a dog I encountered while shopping in Ashland, Oregon. This beautiful black dog was enormous, Mack's "plate sized paws" were inspired by his. His owner told me he was a black German Shepherd but was bigger than average.
Once I have the image of my fictional dog, it soon acquires its own personality with quirks and idiosyncrasies, just like my human characters.

Kandy Shepherd said...

Hi Rachael, so nice to see you here!
HOME IS WHERE THE BARK IS has a mystery element concerning the crime the hero Nick feels is linked to Serena's Paws-A-While doggy day care center.
I hope it keeps you guessing!

Kandy Shepherd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kandy Shepherd said...

Hi Selena, if I had thought of such a beautiful name as Selena I think I might have called my heroine of HOME IS WHERE THE BARK IS Selena rather than Serena. (Though Serena is a lovely name too, of course!)

Thank you for your nice comments about LOVE IS A FOUR-LEGGED WORD and I hope you enjoy BARK, too.

You wrote: May the ink in your book signing pen never run dry. What an apt and clever good wish to a writer-thank you.

Kandy Shepherd said...

Thank you Mary, it's wonderful to be here on Mysteries and Margaritas.

I sometimes still can't believe myself that I sold through the slush pile and hope my story is encouraging to others trying to get their work noticed. It can be such a disheartening process!

I think my catchy title might have been something that caught the editor's eye. I was so glad that Berkley kept both it and the HOME IS WHERE THE BARK IS title.

Kandy Shepherd said...

Hi Anonymous, thanks for leaving a comment. I'm glad you found it interesting to read some more of my background. Yes, it is really countdown time now to July 6 awhen HOME IS WHERE THE BARK IS goes on sale!

Kandy Shepherd said...

Hi Edie, one of the best things about writing books that feature animal characters is connecting with both readers and other writers who are fellow animal lovers.
Thanks so much for your comment!

Kandy Shepherd said...

Cassy, thanks so much for having me here at M and M.

I can so easily picture you writing away as your Golden Retrievers jostle for best spot by your feet!

I often write very late at night when all the humans are asleep but I always have at least one cat on my lap for company.

Kandy Shepherd said...

H Kathy, I had to smile at the thought of you writing away with your animal companions for company.

I do the same!

Kandy Shepherd said...

Hi CC--great to see you here! I hope you have lots of fun with that puppy. My animals are all getting quite old and sedate now. Puppies are so joyful... but then I remember that potty training process and think maybe I'm happy right now with old and sedate!

Kandy Shepherd said...

Hi Lindsay, Miss Molly thanks you for the treat and is looking hopefully for another...

You are so right about the interaction with the human and animal characters, it tells a lot about what kind of people they are. In both my books a lot is revealed about the hero, heroine and villain through their attitudes to the dogs. (And I hope it gives my readers some smiles, too!)

Lindsay said...

The only time my dog wants to know or even cares about my writing is when I put him in a scene. Otherwise he just sleeps.

Lindsay said...

Here Miss Molly, catch

Louisa Cornell said...

G'day Kandy ! Lots of hugs and kisses to all of your furry family members too! My crew, especially Frodo the Horrible, send their love. I absolutely LOVED Love is a Four-Legged Word and I can't wait to read Home is Where the Bark Is ! I'll have to get two copies as my Mom will abscond with mine if I don't. She and her little darlings - Minnie Mouse the Chihuahua, Sarge the Pomeranian and Priscilla the Pug - are big fans of Love is a Four-Legged Word.

What an amazing call story! Serendipity indeed! Everyone should go and look at the photos of the little miniature bulls! They are SO CUTE!

Can't wait to see you in Orlando, Kandy!

Helene Young said...

Hi Kandy, looking forward to reading Home is Where the Bark Is! I love your first book and it's been the perfect pressie for several doggie mad friends.

What an amazing call story - 15 months without a word and then suddenly you're on your way!!

Keziah Hill said...

Hi Kandy! I relate to the pain of having to move and give up an animal. I had to give up my cat several years ago and swore I wouldn't get another one. Even though I've never owned a dog I lived with two of the naughtiest dogs in the world and I loved them! Congrats on the new book Kandy!

Kandy Shepherd said...

Hi Donna, I'm so glad you like the sound of my books. I hope you will enjoy reading them if you get the chance!

Kandy Shepherd said...

Hi Liz, I so appreciate the opportunity to be interviewed by you on M and M.

Thanks for pointing out the recipe for Brutus's Favorite Pupcakes. Dogs absolutely love these healthy cupcakes as you can see from the photos of my canine "taste test panel".

Right now I'm working on a new dog treat recipe for my website. Why, oh why, did I decide to feature a recipe with liver in HOME IS WHERE THE BARK IS, when even looking at the stuff makes me gag!

BTW, I really like the recipes on your website. I can't wait to read your Casserole Lovers Mystery series.

Kandy Shepherd said...

Hi Becke, so great to see you here!

I lived in a few different places when I was a child--which leaves me with a wanderlust that is never quite satisfied! I particularly love India and I think it must be something to do with those early childhood impressions.

I was delighted to hear you enjoyed LOVE IS A FOUR-LEGGED WORD and hope you like HOME IS WHERE THE BARK IS as much.

I'm suffering a bit from second book anxiety syndrome--however much to my relief the early reviews of BARK have been very good!

Lindsay said...

That potato chip chicken thing is to totally to die for. It's so good I refused to give my collie any.
Needless to say he wasn't happy but my stomach was.

Kandy Shepherd said...

Anna, how great you could drop in!

Thank you for your kind words about LOVE IS A FOUR-LEGGED WORD. I love your comment about the touch of 1940s screwball comedy? Does HOME IS WHERE THE BARK IS have a similar feeling? I sure hope so!

One enthusiastic early reader told me she found BARK "even sweeter, funnier and sexier" than my first book. Let's hope other readers have a similar reaction! Humor can be so subjective...

BTW I am half way through your MY RECKLESS SURRENDER and enjoying it--as I have enjoyed all your books!

Kandy Shepherd said...

Thank you both Anna and Becke for your comments about my titles and covers.

I provided the titles (and was so glad they were kept!) and I have to thank the wonderful art department at Berkley for the covers. I think they are beautiful and so well suited to the stories.

cheryl said...

Hi Kandy,
Your books are such fun to read. With those great titles, they can't miss!

Have you ever thought of setting a book in one of the other places you've lived in?

Kandy Shepherd said...

Hi Annie, I remember you told me last year that you were sick in bed when you read LOVE IS A FOUR-LEGGED WORD and it made you feel better.

I hope you find HOME IS WHERE THE BARK IS similarly uplifting. I really enjoyed writing this book. I loved Serena and didn't want to say goodbye to her after I finished the first book. The challenge was to create the gorgeous hero she deserved. Enter Nick: tough, strong but so gentle with a sad, injured dog how could Serena resist him?

Good luck with finishing your next book--your readers will be waiting for it!

Kandy Shepherd said...

Louisa--I am so looking forward to catching up with you in Orlando! I can't believe it is nearly a year since the last conference.

I'm thrilled to hear that your mom liked LOVE IS A FOUR-LEGGED WORD as much as you do. I have had lovely letters from readers ranging in age from 14 to 90 telling me how much they enjoyed it.

Give Frodo the Horrible a hug for me. I love having your furry friends on my website Pet Gallery. Perhaps your mom could send photos of her pets, too? I'd love to have them. The more the merrier!

Kandy Shepherd said...

Hi Helene, how nice that you bought copies of LOVE IS A FOUR-LEGGED WORD for friends! Thank you.

One of my "day job" coworkers asked me for a copy for her birthday.
"But you don't like dogs," I said.
"I like a good romance," she said, "I'll skip the dog bits."
Turns out she is actually frightened of dogs, and she didn't find Brutus scary at all!

Kandy Shepherd said...

Hi Keziah, that is so sad that you had to give up your cat when you moved--you must have been heartbroken. I'm hoping there might be a new kitty on the horizon for you.

I had to leave my beautiful white cat--an abandoned cat we rescued who was so infested with fleas she had to have a blood transfusion to survive--behind when I went to live in England. She went to stay with my god-daughter's family and was so loved she was formally adopted by them and lived a long, happy life. I couldn't go through it again so I flew my two English cats back with me when I returned to Australia. It was worth it, my Albert is still with me at nearly 19 and his sister lived to 18.

Thanks for the congratulations...

Kandy Shepherd said...

Hi Cheryl. Have I thought of setting my books in any other of the places I've lived?

I may do in the future (I have some ideas!) However I feel these particular books could not be set anywhere but San Francisco. The people--and the dogs--just seem to fit there!

Kandy Shepherd said...

Hi Lindsay, yes, Liz's potato chip chicken dish looks delicious! No wonder you didn't share it with your collie!

(I have to say I am not very good at ignoring pleading eyes--both canine and feline. Much to the annoyance of my darling husband, the occasional treat off my plate is slipped to the patient animal waiting by my feet under the table.)

Liz Lipperman said...

Kandy, thanks so much for joining us today with our delightful interview and comments. And thanks for the shout out about my own series.

Okay, I put all the names in an envelope and hubby picked the winner of Kandy's giveaway book, Home Is Where The Bark Is.

And the winner is ...Edie Ramer.

Edie, send me your snail mail address and I'll forward it to Kandy. Congrats.

Edie Ramer said...

Sqeee!!! Liz, I'm so excited. Thank you and Kandy!!!!!

Kandy Shepherd said...

LIz, thank you so much for inviting me onto Mysteries and Margaritas, it's been such fun!

Thanks to everyone who popped by and those who left a comment.

Edie, I'll get your copy of HOME IS WHERE THE BARK IS into the mail asap!