Colleen J. Shogan - Murder Mystery at Capitol Hill

Colleen J. Shogan - Murder Mystery at Capitol Hill
author of the day

Having worked there herself, Colleen J. Shogan enjoys using Capitol Hill as the backdrop for some of her books. Stabbing in the Senate is one such a riveting whodunit from her pen that keeps readers guessing right until the end. Today, Shogan reveals how she pulled off creating such a fast-paced book, how she uses red herrings to throw readers off the scent and how she is, in fact, a dog whisperer.

Please give us a short introduction to Stabbing in the Senate

Kit Marshall, a thirty-something Capitol Hill staffer, arrives to work early one morning and finds her boss, Senator Lyndon Langsford, has been murdered. The police name Kit a prime suspect, so she has to spring into action to clear her name and find Langsford’s real killer. Suspects include a scheming lobbyist, an ambitious politician, and a not-so-grieving widow. Kit teams us with her best gal pal Meg to solve the crime before she becomes the next victim.

What inspired you to use Capitol Hill as a backdrop for your book?

I worked in the Senate for three years. I couldn’t think of a better place to set a murder mystery. Twisting plots and fascinating characters are plentiful in the United States Congress these days!

Why mysteries? What fascinates you about the genre?

I’ve been reading mysteries since I was six years old. I like mysteries because they challenge readers analytically. The reader interacts with the plot, often trying to solve the crime before the end of the book. Good mysteries are hard to put down.

How does your experience as a political scientist affect your work?

I’ve studied Congress and written about it. But I wanted to find another way I could teach people about the institution other than writing academic articles or essays. The passion for American politics comes through in my novels. I also try to present an objective view about Washington, D.C. and how it operates. It might be sexy these days to bash our government, but in reality, the choices made every day in our nation’s capital are quite complex. I try to emphasize that in my mysteries.

How hard is it to insert hints that will lead to that "aha" moment at the end, without giving away who the killer is?

I come up with an outline that includes important clues. Sometimes it can be tricky to figure out how Kit discovers them. It’s also just as important to come up with the infamous “red herrings” that make for a panoply of credible suspects. That keeps readers guessing until the end!

Your book is fast-paced, throwing the reader right into action from the start. How hard is that to pull off?

The first draft of “Stabbing in the Senate” didn’t have the murder occur until the second chapter. A helpful agent read the first twenty pages and emphatically made the suggestion that I should start with the murder of Lyndon Langsford. I rewrote the early pages and I’m glad I did.  I think it helped the book tremendously.

Stabbing in the Senate was the Next Generation Indie winner for Best Mystery in 2016.  How were the readers' reactions to this book?

Very positive! Washington, D.C. readers thought I accurately captured the culture of Capitol Hill. Readers from outside the Beltway liked that they learned something about working in politics while reading the book.

Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?

I’m a dog person. Dogs are drawn to me. I’m a dog whisperer, although my own dog often chooses not to listen!  One of the most popular characters in my series is Clarence the beagle mutt, who is based on my real life dog Conan.

For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books?

I prefer ebooks these days. Kindles are lightweight and I can carry around an entire library in my purse. I rarely buy traditional paper or hardback books anymore.

What was your greatest challenge when writing Stabbing in the Senate?

The greatest challenge was finding time to write. I have a demanding job at the Library of Congress, so I can focus on my writing only in the evenings and on weekends. Progress can be slow at times, but I find that writing consistently is the key.

What genre of books do you like to read? Do you limit yourself to only the genre that you write yourself?

I read a lot of amateur sleuth mysteries, but I also like fantasy and thrillers. For example, I loved “A Discovery of Witches” by Deborah Harkness. I particularly like books in which a fantasy world exists alongside the human world. When well written, such stories give me hope that fantasy worlds actually exist, but I simply don’t know about them!

What are you working on right now?

I just finished up a draft of the third book in the Washington Whodunit series, tentatively titled “Calamity at the Cosmos Club.”  I will be trying to start the fourth book in the series quite soon, which is going to involve a nail-biter election and K Street lobbyists. Plus a murder, of course!

Where can our readers discover more of your work and interact with you?

I’m available on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and my website, http://www.colleenshogan.com

This deal has ended but you can read more about the book here.
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FEATURED AUTHOR - Kimberly Packard is an award-winning author of women’s fiction. When she isn’t writing, she can be found running, asking her dog what’s in his mouth or curled up with a book. She resides in Texas with her husband Colby, a clever cat named Oliver and a precocious black lab named Tully. Her debut novel, Phoenix, was awarded as Best General Fiction of 2013 by the Texas Association of Authors. She is also the author of a Christmas novella, The Crazy Yates, and the sequels to Phoenix, Pardon Falls… Read more