Homicide in the House
by Colleen J. Shogan
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GENRE: Cozy Mystery
During a government shutdown, Kit’s congresswoman boss is found standing over the dead body of a top staffer she tangled with in front of the press. The police are about to name her as the prime suspect. The weapon was the Speaker’s gavel, an item entrusted to the congresswoman the previous night. The killer knows Kit is on the case. Can she solve the mystery in time to save her job and her life?
Smartphones are great time wasters. I fiddled with various apps as I waited. The next level of “Angry Birds” was within my grasp when I heard footsteps and voices across the hallway. I got up and stood in the doorway to greet my boss.
From the look on her face, she was not pleased. She charged like a linebacker to the exit of the Speaker’s lair with Jack Drysdale on her heels.
“Stop, Congresswoman Dixon. You’re not listening to reason!” From behind, Drysdale placed his hand on Maeve’s left shoulder in an attempt to prevent her from leaving the suite.
Maeve had impressive reflexes. She turned her body toward him and grabbed his wrist with her right hand. “Don’t touch me! Is this how the Speaker’s staff treat members of the House?” Her voice was loud and filled with vitriol.
The gaggle of reporters who had been relaxing inside the anteroom trailed behind me. This was better than a boring pen and pad session. One of them murmured, “I think that’s Dixon from North Carolina.”
This was not a good development, but Maeve didn’t know that the press had a front row seat to her implosion.
Maeve clutched Drysdale’s wrist for several seconds until she let it go. Apparently her physical assault didn’t intimidate him. He ran ahead and stopped directly in front of her.
Stretching his arms out wide to slow her down, Jack made his last stand. “I apologize. I shouldn’t have done that. Please come back in the office so we can sort this out. You’re a valuable part of this caucus and the Speaker wants to work with you on this deal.”
Maeve shook her head. “You guys in House leadership are typical politicians. You can’t take no for an answer. I’m not ready to make a decision. Now get out of my way.”
Unmoving, Drysdale locked eyes with Maeve. She didn’t look away and squared her shoulders. I could almost feel the tension around me as the reporters anxiously waited for the outcome. What was Maeve going to do? Knee him in the groin if he didn’t back down?
After a moment that seemed like an eternity, Drysdale gave in and stepped aside. I breathed a deep sigh of relief and hurried into the hallway to catch up with her. As we exited the corridor, I glanced back to the doorway where I’d been standing. Every reporter was on his or her phone, ostensibly calling in the most salacious story of the shutdown thus far. A junior member of Congress and the Speaker’s top aide had nearly come to blows in the Capitol. A high school reporter could make that story fly.
It is my pleasure to welcome Colleen J. Shogan, author of Homicide in the House, to Room With Books!
Please tell us about yourself.
My name is Colleen Shogan and I’m a part-time writer. My “day job” is at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. I’m a political scientist by training, and formerly worked in the United States Senate. I live in Arlington, Virginia with my husband and rescue beagle mutt, Conan.
Did you always want to be a writer?
I’ve always been a writer, but fiction is a fairly recent enterprise for me. As a political scientist, I’ve mostly written nonfiction, including a book on the presidency. I always knew I wanted to be involved with politics. It makes sense that as a fiction writer, I pen books with politics as the backdrop.
How long have you been writing and who or what inspired you to write?
I’ve been writing fiction for four years now. I went for a walk one day in my suburban Washington, D.C. neighborhood and conceived of the story for my first book, Stabbing in the Senate. I went home and told my husband about it. He said, “You have to write that book!” So I did. That’s how the Washington Whodunit series began.
Do you do a job in addition to writing and would you tell us more about it?
I’m a senior executive at the Library of Congress. I work in our outreach division, which is responsible for many of the Library’s public programs. It’s a terrific job. I get to work on initiatives such as the National Book Festival, the Center for the Book, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, the Library’s exhibits program, the Kluge Center for Scholars, and our Visitor Services operation. There’s never a dull day!
How would you summarize this book in less than 20 words?
Kit Marshall, now working in the House of Representatives, must save her new boss’s political career when she’s accused of murder.
Now, let’s talk about writing and how you came to be a published author. When did you first consider yourself a “writer”?
I’ve been a writer for a long time. Perhaps when I published my first book on the presidency in 2006. Every job I’ve ever held involved writing. If a day goes by and I haven’t written anything, I consider it not a productive day.
How long did it take to get your first book published?
My first fiction book took a while. After I finished the draft, I worked with an editor to improve it. Then I joined an online review group. When I was satisfied with it, I searched for an agent. Once I found an agent, she had to find a publisher. The whole process of securing a publisher probably took about two years.
How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to “The End”?
I’m currently writing the third book in the series and I’m almost done with the first draft. This one took me about nine months to write, which isn’t too bad considering I only write for short intervals most evenings and then on the weekends.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I plan to write more books in the Washington Whodunit series. I have ideas for several more stories with these characters. They’re popular and people enjoy them, so if I can keep coming up with interesting premises for mysteries, I will keep writing.
Who is your favorite character from your books and why are they your favorite?
My main character Kit is probably my favorite, but I most enjoy writing about Meg, her best friend. Meg is very unpredictable. You never know what she’s going to say or do. She also tries to get Kit to misbehave. She’s like a devil sitting on her shoulder.
What is your routine for writing?
In the evening, I will write for about an hour. I come home from work, get into comfortable clothes, give my dog Conan a treat, and then try to write. On the weekends, I always have coffee when I’m writing in the morning.
Do you choose a title first, or write the book then choose the title?
I always choose the title before I write the book.
Are there any hidden messages or morals contained in your books?
There’s no hidden partisan agenda in my book. The only message is that people who work in government in Washington, D.C. usually want to do the right thing for our country. Politics gets a bad rap these days, and there are many reasons why we don’t always see good results. But that doesn’t mean those who work for our government aren’t trying their best. I hope the books convey that positive theme.
Which format of book do you prefer, eBook, hardback, or paperback?
I read almost all books on my Kindle these days. I love being able to buy a book at any time on my iPhone, computer, or iPad and then immediately enjoy it later on my device. I’m at the point now where I don’t enjoy reading in paper as much, unless I’m marking up a book because I’m doing research for something at work.
Do you read all the reviews of your books?
Absolutely. You have to be honest about your writing. Honest feedback is important in any job. But sometimes critics are needlessly negative and picky. The scene in Academy Award winner “Birdman” in which Michael Keaton goes off on a critic is legendary! All frustrated writers should keep that scene burned in their brains.
That’s enough of the serious business.
How about a handful of fun questions?
What is your favorite food? Pizza.
Who is your favorite singer or group? Poison. I love Bret Michaels!
What is your favorite color? Red.
What is your ideal getaway dream vacation? We love going to the Outer Banks in North Carolina. But I’d really like to see Ireland and Scotland someday.
What final words would you offer to our readers?
We’re in the midst of a very negative political season. Homicide in the House might be the brightest spot of the summer!
Thank you for spending time with us at Room With Books. I appreciate your time and wish you the best with Homicide in the House. I hope you will come back again!
Colleen J. Shogan has been reading mysteries since the age of six. She writes the Washington Whodunit series published by Camel Press. A political scientist by training, Colleen has taught American politics at Yale, George Mason University, Georgetown, and Penn. She previously worked on Capitol Hill as a legislative staffer in the United States Senate and as the Deputy Director of the Congressional Research Service. She is currently a senior executive at the Library of Congress. Colleen lives in Arlington, Virginia with her husband Rob and their beagle mutt Conan.
Colleen J. Shogan will be awarding a $50 Amazon/B&N gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour.