INTERVIEW WITH LAURIEN BERENSON

Bite Club (Melanie Travis Book 23)

Laurien Berenson

Kensington Pub.

June25th, 2019

Bite Club by Laurien Berenson takes the bite out of crime with this fun cozy mystery. With a thrilling crime to solve, a likable amateur sleuth, poodles, a bulldog puppy, and interesting insider information about the world of dog shows, readers will enjoy her latest novel.

The main character, Melanie Travis,  is a dog-lover who welcomes a few friends to participate in a book club she names the “Bite Club.” But her opinionated, bossy Aunt Peg invites herself and several others to join and soon takes over leadership of the club. One of the members, Evan Major, asks Melanie to help train his adorable Bulldog puppy, Bully, since she has six dogs of her own and has also shown dogs.  Life imitates the southern mystery the club is reading when Evan is murdered. The hunt for the killer begins with Melanie and Aunt Peg in the fray. Having been the last person seen at his residence Melanie becomes a person of interest.  Determined to clear her name she begins to investigate, discovering that the meek Evan was the computer expert for an investment company that was no more than a Ponzi scheme. The angry investors, some of whom are members of Bite Club, lost almost everything. She and Aunt Peg begin to wonder if one of them have gone looking for revenge. Melanie and her aunt are determined to get to the bottom of what really happened.

What’s there not to like with a book that is a great read highlighting interesting characters, awesome dog show scenes, and a great mystery. The humor sprinkled throughout the story along with the antics of the adorable canines, the children, and Aunt Peg only adds to this enjoyable story.

Elise Cooper:  Dog shows and a book club?

Laurien Berenson:  The idea for the story arose when I was playing around with titles.  I thought of the “Bite Club” and tried to fit a story into it.  My main character, Melanie Travis, having summers off from her teaching job, decided to start a book club. 

EC:  Is the title related to the movie with the name “Fight Club?”

LB:  No.  My editor actually loves titles with comparisons that play off movie titles.  One of my books was titled Gone With The Woof and another one Live and Let Growl. He likes to put a take on popular culture using iconic titles with a little spin for a cozy mystery.

EC:  What about the mystery?

LB:  Some breeders have intricacies, which makes it fun to put them in the cozy mystery.  In this book the mystery hinged on the puppy.  Since there is an element of ridiculous to our real life I want to show that through a thrilling crime, readers can laugh as the characters get into trouble.  Melanie has a great tendency to do just that because she cannot leave well enough alone.

EC: You have a lot of humor in the story.

LB:  I think the dogs are great companions that enable me to show the characters humor, warmth, and humanity.  Someone who loves dogs is a good person. There is humor if you listen to people talking to their dogs and wait for their canine friends to answer. If you go to dog shows you will see so many people who appear to look like their dogs. 

EC:  Your dog of choice appears to be standard poodles?

LB:  Melanie and her Aunt Peg only breed and own standard poodles.  But in each of the books I try to feature a different dog breed.  In this one it is a bull dog after one of the book club members gets a bull dog puppy. 

EC:  How would you describe a poodle’s behavior?

LB:  They have a breed standard that says they should have a wonderful temperament and need to be happy.  In the poodle dog show ring the handlers play with the dogs to show a happy fun temperament.  Sometimes even the judges will play with the dogs. 

EC:  Did you ever show dogs?

LB:  I have bred and showed standards and minis for many years.  Dog shows are competitions where people really want to win. There is a lot of tension in the background, which I like to play with.  Some of the things that happen in the books actually happened in the shows I went to.  Melanie’s special dog Faith is based on all the dogs I have owned.  I wanted to show how people have a really special connection with their dogs. It seems they just understand each other.

EC:  Why dog shows?

LB:  I want to show how dog shows are fun and interesting.  In most of the books, I try to explain what is happening and why it happens.  I want readers to understand how the classes work, who gets points, why points are needed, and when the dogs become champions.  These events become important to the plot of the books.

EC:  Can you explain this book quote, “So apparently his suitability to own a puppy hadn’t been determined by a reputable breeder prior to the purchase.”

LB:  As someone who bred and sold puppies I wanted to show how breeders are trying to find the forever home for their dogs.  They have a lot invested in the liter.  A lot of people who want a puppy are not the best suitable to have one.  The questions asked are to protect the puppy.  For example, do you have a fenced yard?  No one wants to place a puppy that is going to be run over.  Breeders are just trying to narrow the variables.  A responsible breeder has to consider everything and do the best for their puppies.

EC:  Please describe Aunt Peg?

LB:  Bossy, opinionated, a competitor, intimidating, a meddler, and very sharp. Aunt Peg is an expert that will never tolerate any foolishness. She is seventy years old and six feet tall.  People thought I based her on someone from the dog show world, Annie Clark. This is not true.  I based her on a friend of mine named Helen.  Aunt Peg is the only character based on a real person. 

EC:  Describe Melanie.

LB:  She has changed over the series. In the first book she was a single mother with a four year old child whose husband left her.  She was struggling to get by until Aunt Peg approached her for help.  Now she is married with two children.  Melanie was thirty when the series started and now she is forty.

EC:  Your next book?

LB:  It will be out in September and is titled Here Comes Santa Paws.  Aunt Peg finds some puppies stuffed into a Christmas stocking.  It is somehow connected to Melanie’s current ex-husband’s wife who has one of her clients murdered.  They ask Melanie for help.

THANK YOU!!