Pet Spotlight: Liz Schulte

2013-07-11 04.59.43My Mystery Chasing Poodles by Liz Schulte

Have you ever been home alone late at night when the dogs hear a phantom sound then take off running and barking? Dread instantly twists in your gut and freezes your core at the thought that you aren’t alone. Someone, anyone, could be in your house waiting for you behind the next corner. Do you ignore it? Go look? Lock yourself in your room until someone else gets home? If you are anything like me, you have to go check it out, which equals to me creeping through my house with two chicken dogs hiding behind me, oblivious to the fact that they started the whole series of events. 

My dogs, Whiskey and Rachel, are not what one would consider to be guard dogs. They are tiny, little poodles with way too much attitude, but all is forgiven when they look at me with those big brown eyes. They keep me pretty well stocked with ideas on how to build suspense in a mystery novel. Whether they are staring off at an empty corner like they see something, barking and growling at a completely innocuous doll, or taking forever to go potty one more time on their before-bed walk, the dogs manage to keep my survival instincts on high alert even in my normally safe life.

Growing up, I always had pets. So it seems natural to me for my characters to also have pets. Animals in mysteries are often more trustworthy than the people and they can be used to build suspense in a story the same way they build suspense in real life. Recently, I was discussing a short story with a reader who told me, “I thought the main character was crazy until the dog saw the ghost too.”

When I am writing a mystery novel, I like to dig into my own experiences as much as I can so the emotion is visceral and the reactions are real, but I have no desire to actually be chased by a serial killer or have an intruder in my house. However, between the dogs and an overactive imagination, I can channel those “what if” moments into something far more threatening to my characters.

A few years back, I was housesitting for my parents in the country. The first night out at the house after a scary movie marathon, I went to bed with all the dogs (theirs and mine). About 2am a loud thump woke me and all the dogs up. The dogs went wild, carrying on as if we were under attack. I was pretty calm, figuring something had fallen over—no big deal. We went around the house checking every room and there was nothing out of place. I shrugged it off and went back to bed. The dogs stayed on high alert, no longer wanting to sleep under the covers. About twenty minutes later there was another thump, this one louder than the first. Again the dogs started acting insane. I checked the house for a second time with a bit more trepidation than I felt the first go through. Again nothing was out of place, so I stuck my head out into the garage, but everything looked as it ever did there too. The dogs and I headed for bed a third time, though none of us were thinking much about sleep anymore. It didn’t take long before the thump happened a third time. This time I got up and locked the bedroom door while the dogs barked and barked at the door. I paced the room, too scared to look outside because someone might be there and too anxious to go back to bed. My mind raced. The dogs had heard what I did, so I definitely didn’t dream it. Should I call the police? Should I check the house again? Was I being ridiculous? By the next morning I was exhausted and the dogs were finally ready to settle down and rest. I glanced out the back window onto the deck and saw that ice had slid off the roof overnight and shattered as it hit the deck.

The mystery was solved, but the feelings lingered, giving me a life experience that could be translated into my writing.  

Liz Schulte

When Liz isn’t writing or on social networks she is inflicting movie quotes and trivia on people, reading, traveling, and hanging out with friends and family. Liz is a Midwest girl through and through, though she would be perfectly happy never having to shovel her driveway again. She has a love for all things spooky, supernatural, and snarky. Her favorite authors range from Edgar Allen Poe to Joseph Heller to Jane Austen to Jim Butcher and everything in between.