For today’s Sunday Dinner, I invited Kathy Harris. Kathy has worked as a marketing director in the Nashville music industry for more than three decades but writing books has been her dream since childhood. She’s here to chat about her romantic suspense Deadly Conclusion, book three in her The Deadly Secrets romantic suspense series.
Sunday Dinner is a traditional (noon) meal served after church on Sundays. Whole families, including extended family, would gather over a large meal to celebrate a day of rest. Multiple cultures enjoy this Sunday Dinner tradition. In my experience, I know it from both my Midwestern farm family as well as my Italian-American family. Now, I’d like to bring Sunday Dinner virtually to you. So, pull up a chair as we invite various guests to join us each week!
Without further ado, please tell us interesting readers would enjoy learning about you.
I’m naturally curious, so I’m always asking questions. It’s a great way to get to know people—and to learn little tidbits of information that could be useful in a novel.
Can you tell us about your latest novel?
Deadly Conclusion is the third and final book in The Deadly Secrets series. Although it’s part of a series, it can be read as a standalone.
Here is the back cover blurb:
In the thrilling conclusion of The Deadly Secrets series, dog trainer Keely Lambert breaks in Titan, a new shepherd, during a rescue mission to find little Conner Wells. Aided by her childhood friend, Beau Gardner of the TBI and Conner’s uncle, Keely finds the boy deep inside Beaman Park.
But Conner is not all that Keely finds. On the way back to the welcome center, she notices something sticking out of the dirt—the military dog tags of her father who disappeared more than two decades before.
The discovery sets Keely on a hunt to unearth her father’s killer, only to be thwarted by multiple setbacks—the murder of Beau’s father, the kidnapping of her mother, and her kennel being set on fire in the middle of the night. After Keely is kidnapped herself, Beau leads a manhunt to find her before the outcome reaches a deadly conclusion.
Why did you choose to write a story about a search and rescue dog?
I’ve had a great affection for working dogs for as long as I can remember. Maybe it’s because I grew up at a time when Rin Tin Tin and Lassie had prime time television shows. On 911, my admiration for search and rescue dogs—and their handlers—grew as I watched them search the rubble. It was about that same time when I became acquainted with people who trained and worked with SAR dogs.
Titan in the story is a German Shepherd. Can you tell us more about that breed and how it makes for a good search and rescue dog?
German Shepherd Dogs are naturals for search and rescue. They have a keen sense of smell, which is key. I’ve read that canines can detect—and identify—a scent from as far away as twelve miles. GSDs are highly intelligent dogs. They also have an innate desire to please their handlers, something that helps keep them motivated during a long search. Also, most German Shepherds have a strong prey (or hunt) drive, another important trait for SAR.
What is Titan’s area of expertise? Can you tell us more about training that type of search and rescue dog?
The fictional Titan was primarily trained for air scenting, with backup training in tracking (ground scenting). While his expertise is finding live humans, other SAR dogs are trained specifically to find cadavers. Some dogs are trained for specialized situations like urban searches, underwater searches, and avalanche searches. Scent training is taught incrementally, starting when a dog is young. A trainer might hide a favorite toy or a piece of food and ask the dog to find it. After a dog finds the object (or later, a missing person), it’s important to lavish praise and give a reward. That reward is often as simple as a ball and playtime.
What research was required in writing about a German Shepherd search and rescue dog?
I did a lot of online research specifically regarding dog training techniques. I also interviewed a search and rescue dog handler about logistics and procedure. A friend of mine was a handler at one time. Another was a breeder. I learned things from them along the way. I also have hands-on experience with German Shepherd Dogs, having grown up with several of them. As an adult, I’ve raised and/or rescued several GSDs and Shiloh Shepherds, including my fourth and current Shiloh Shepherd, Gabriel. All of that to say, I love shepherds, and it was a lot of fun to learn more about them for this book.
Were resources easy or difficult to find on these topics? Do you have a favorite resource?
I reached out to several SAR trainers in the Nashville area, but no one was willing to take time for an interview. That meant I would need to rely on input from experts in other geographical locations. Search and rescue training techniques are basically the similar everywhere, but I had hoped to glean locally sourced anecdotes that could help me zero in quickly on the perfect setting for search scenes in the book. After that didn’t happen, I had to use online research. I knew when I found Beaman Park, a 1700-acre recreational area northwest of downtown Nashville, I’d found what I was looking for. Interestingly, it’s a park few people who live in the area know about.
My favorite research is on-site so I can see, hear, smell, and “touch” a setting. When I first visited Beaman Park, I fell in love with its wilderness-like qualities. It’s set high atop the Western Highland Rim, and the drive up to it was spectacular. On my visits there, I walked a trail, talked to a member of the staff, and took reference photos.
What is one piece of your research that you couldn’t include in the book, but wish readers could know?
I wish I could have included more about military working dogs and their importance to our national history. Dogs have served alongside humans in wars since nearly the beginning of time. I share some about war dogs in my author’s notes at the end of the book.
Do you have another book in the works? What can you tell us about that book?
I’m co-writing a new suspense novel set in Nashville. My cowriter is a former undercover police officer. The story incorporates our respective backgrounds—my career in country music and his in policework. We’re excited to share more about it soon.
Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
I’m honored to be here! Thank you for hosting me, Danielle.
The afternoon is slipping away, so we have to draw the stories to an end. Kathy, thank you for joining us today!
If readers would like to purchase a copy of Deadly Conclusion, where might they be able to do so?
Deadly Conclusion is available in print, e-book, large print, and audio formats. It can be purchased anywhere books are sold, including Amazon, ChristianBook.com, Books-A-Million, Barnes & Noble, and at independent bookstores. If you enjoy listening to audio books, I highly recommend the audio version of Deadly Conclusion. It was read by Amy Lilly for Oasis Audio and is available for purchase as an mp3, audio CD, and at outlets such as Audible. Amy is an incredible reader, and I’m honored to have had her read all three books in The Deadly Secrets series.
NOTE: The e-book is on sale today (1/29/23) for only $.99! Grab it here. (please double check pricing as it is always subject to change)
If readers would like to learn about you or your other books, how might they find you online?
They can visit my website, https://kathyharrisbooks.com, and follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I also interview Christian writers and musicians on my blog at www.divinedetour.com. I hope they’ll check it out!
Over Sunday Dinner next week, historical romance author Pegg Thomas will be joining us.