A Conversation with Spencer Quinn, Author of Thereby Hangs a Tail
Q. What was the inspiration behind the Chet and Bernie series?
A. My wife said, “Why don’t you so something with dogs?” That’s it. Inspiration is often short and sweet.
Q. Chet is one of the most unique characters in fiction. Did your own dog, Audrey, provide any traits or behavior that you used when writing in Chet’s voice? What else helped you get “inside” Chet’s mind?
A.Yes, Audrey’s a big help, especially that combo she has of short-attention span combined with intense focus. But really, the nice thing is that Chet’s voice seems close to mine in some crazy way, and therefore comes fairly easily.
Q. If Chet could talk to Bernie, what do you think he would say?
A. I think he already gets across everything that’s worth getting across.
Q. Do you think Bernie would be as effective in his work if he didn’t have Chet?
A. Absolutely not. I don’t think he’d be as effective—or as happy—in any department.
Q. You live in Cape Cod, but you set your series in the desert. How did you decide to use that region as a location for your series?
A. I love the desert and it’s the right place for Chet and Bernie. They need the wide open spaces, the sense of newness, the West.
Q. Do you think being immersed in Chet’s canine perspective has changed the way you see your own world?
A. Yes, no question about it. I’m rethinking all sorts of things—human population, diet, the lost history of other species, tons of other stuff I’m not competent to comment on.
Q. Are there any other crime writers or crime novels that influenced your writing?
A. No. Read hardly any crime fiction at all these days.
Q. If you could steal any character in literature for your own books, who would it be?
A. Mr. Micawber.
Q. What are you working on now? What’s next for Chet and Bernie?
A. Book #3 is just about done. You’ll see it real soon, but for now let’s just say it concerns a missing circus elephant named Peanut. She turns out to have a personality that’s as formidable as Chet’s in every way.