Happy Tenth Anniversary, Raine and Cisco!
A lot has happened in the past ten years! Below I've compiled some of the most popular reader questions dealing with the changes the Raine Stockton Dog Mystery series has undergone over the years, and what's in store for the future.
Q. When Smoky MountainTracks was first written, Cisco was introduced as an incorrigible two year old puppy. Today, ten years later, Cisco is an incorrigible three year old dog. How did that happen?
A. Anyone who writes about dogs knows to pace herself. If I had set the book in “real time”, Cisco would be an old dog by now! I try to set each book within a month or two of the last one, so that, while the rest of us may age, Raine and Cisco remain virtually untouched by time.
Q. Still, after ten adventures, Cisco must have changed some.
A. As someone who lives with golden retrievers I know that the year between age two and age three is the one in which you always see the biggest change in terms of maturity, and I think that has proven to be true for Cisco. He is a more focused tracking dog now, and recently obtained his Level Two Wilderness Certification. He still has his moments, and will always struggle with impulse control, but that’s what makes him Cisco. He is growing into a more reliable working dog, though, and a better partner for Raine.
Q. A lot has changed in Raine’s life, too, over the last ten books. What are some of the most notable ones?
A. Raine would say that the most significant change in her life has been that she has gone from a four-dog household to three, since her collie Majesty went to live with her aunt Mart. On the other hand, she gained a dog—at least part time—in Pepper, her young friend Melanie’s pup. For that matter, she finally divorced Buck, her philandering absentee husband, and gained a ready-made family with new boyfriend Miles and his daughter Melanie. She lost her mentor and business partner, Maude, but gained a devoted, if eccentric, kennel manager in Corny. Raine’s personal growth may seem to have been all about loss over the past several books, but in fact she has gained a good deal more than she has lost.
Q. Raine and Buck may be officially divorced, but there seems to be a lingering connection between them. Will she ever make a final choice between Buck and Miles?
A. As Raine confesses in the second book in the series, she has only loved two men in her whole life, and she married one of them. Change is not easy for her, and, having made such a huge mistake in her choice of marriage partners, neither is trust. However, in Dog Days, she does make a choice, and as anyone who knows Raine will testify, her loyalty, once you’ve won it, is fierce.
Q. Raine has also undergone some significant emotional challenges in the past several books, and she has not always dealt with them in the most mature manner. In this way Raine is an atypical heroine. Why did you choose to portray Raine in this way?
A. I believe that the proof of a character is in her flaws. I wanted Cisco to be a realistic dog, and I wanted Raine to be a realistic woman, so both of them are, in the words of one reviewer, kind of “hot messes”. Raine has one over-riding weakness, and that’s her inability to trust. She is constantly working on that, and it’s a one-step-forward-two-steps-back process for her. In the meanwhile she is repeatedly offered other challenges to overcome, which allow her to grow as a character.
Q. What has been your biggest challenge in writing the series?
A. Aside from Cisco, who is always a challenge!--the biggest challenge with any series that goes on longer than four books is keeping it fresh. I’ve tried to keep readers interested by introducing new characters, like Jolene and Corny, and by varying the tone and the scope of the books. Some, like Home of the Brave, deal with heavier themes; some, like Dog Days and Double Dog Dare, are more straightforward mysteries. Others, like The Dead Season and High in Trial are a little bit of both! I try to make sure that the events of each book move the lives of the characters forward in some way, so that the story as a whole continues to feel vital and alive to the reader.
Q. What is your favorite book of the series so far?
A. My favorite is Double Dog Dare, possibly because it was set at the beach.
Q. How much longer will the series continue?
A. I’ve said before that I will continue to write these books as long as readers continue to buy them. That hasn’t changed.
Q. Will Raine get married again?
A. Probably not. She’s an independent woman and seems to work better that way. But that doesn’t preclude the possibility of an ongoing romance with a partner who’s worthy of her.
Q. What changes lie ahead for Raine?
A. I can’t give away all my secrets! But one thing I’ve been working toward for awhile now is moving Raine into a more defined crime investigation role. Look for her to start taking an active interest in her uncle’s cold case squad within the next few books.
Q. Most importantly, when will the next book be out?
A. Readers can always expect at least one book a year in the Raine Stockton series, and sometimes-- not always--two. Book #11 in the series is scheduled for summer 2016. It's called Land of the Free and is, as you might expect, a follow up to the events that took place in Home of the Brave.