Poor Kendra Ballantyne. I always try to give her plenty of problems in her stories, the Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mystery series from BerkleyPrime Crime. In her latest story, MEOW IS FOR MURDER, she’s forced to clear her worst enemy of an accusationof murder.
Where did the idea come from? Well, it was several books in the making. Kendra met her main love interest, Jeff Hubbard, in her first story, SIT, STAY,SLAY. But unlike the romance genre, in which I also write, mysteries don’t always have a happy ending when it comes to relationships. That was why, in the second book, NOTHING TO FEAR BUT FERRETS, I introducedAmanda, Jeff’s ex-wife, who stayed in his life and is therefore a thorn in Kendra’s side.
But there’s only so much Amanda either of them can take. And so, I had to come up with a way to get her to agree to stay away from Jeff. Hence, the idea for MEOW. What occurrence in Amanda’s life would be dire enough to get her to back off? I could kill her, of course, since the stories are murder mysteries, but they are cozies. And if she was a killing victim, I’ve made Jeff a nice enough guy that he might mourn deeply for her, which wouldn’t bode well for his relationship with Kendra.
So, what else? And then I figured it out. Make Amanda a murder suspect who has to beg for murder magnet Kendra’s help. Amanda’s stalker is murdered, and of course she’s at the head of the suspect list. She knows Kendra solves murders, and she promises Kendra she’ll stay out of Jeff’s life if Kendra clears her.
What animals would be of assistance? Kendra’s a pet-sitter, and the pets around her always seem to help her find the killer. I’d already featured dogs(Kendra and I are both owned by loving tricolor Cavalier King Charles Spaniels named Lexie, and Kendra’s Lexie is always there to help), ferrets, macaws and even a ball python. I needed an idea here, which happened to be kind of obvious: cats. Beautiful cats. Intelligent cats. Bengal cats, who, like their owner, don’t like Kendra much.
And, yes, they’re highly involved in solving the mystery. What’s next for Kendra and her Lexie? Watch for THE FRIGHT OF THE IGUANA in October 2007.