I love mysteries with animals as sleuths, so I was delighted to speak to debut author Codi Schneider about her book Cold Snap. It’s the first in a series about a cat named Bijou and her human Spencer Bonanno, who runs the Fox Burrow Pet Inn in their little town of Gray Birch in the Colorado mountains. Bijou is very proud of her Viking cat heritage and doesn’t hesitate to investigate when a citizen of the town is found dead near the empty collar of a dog he had been walking.
Codi and I talked about spoiling pets (both fictional and non), Vikings, and what Bijou might be up to next.
About Codi Schneider
Codi Schneider is the author of the debut cozy cat mystery: COLD SNAP. She was raised in the snowy mountains of Colorado on a steady diet of books. Schneider is a mystery-loving animal enthusiast who, when not writing, can be found traveling the world on horseback. She lives in Denver with her husband, two horses, and a cat who is not a Viking but a lover of REM sleep.
About Cold Snap
Tucked in the cold Colorado mountains lies the remote village of Gray Birch, a place where outsiders are frowned upon. In this village lives a cat named Bijou. But she’s no ordinary house cat; her ancestors were mousers on Viking longships, and their blood runs through her veins. Since her battle skills are hardly needed in this modern age, however, she spends her energies running the Fox Burrow Pet Inn with her human, Spencer, and her assistant, Skunk, a mentally negligible Pomeranian. Together, the happy trio has created a safe haven for their four-legged guests.
But when Eddy Line, a handsome baker from California, comes to the inn—along with his piglet and pit bull puppy—everything changes. Spencer falls for Eddy, Bijou is unhappy with the sudden changes to her clan, and the townspeople are anything but welcoming; in fact, threats are made against Eddy when he buys the town’s historic firehouse in order to open a bakery.
Then a shocking murder/dognapping occurs on the night of the bakery’s grand opening, and Bijou finds herself thrust into a tangled mystery. To solve it, she will have to summon her inner Viking—and fight tooth and claw for her new clan.
Interview with Codi Schneider
Sara Farmer: Bijou’s obsession with her Viking cat heritage is a unique touch. How did you come up with this idea?
Codi Schneider: It all started when I read an article about real-life Viking cats. I knew immediately I wanted to base a character on one. These brave felines really did sail the world in longships, working as mousers for their human counterparts. Once the initial idea had cemented, it only seemed natural for Bijou to really cling to it as her key identity—only to figure out she didn’t know as much about being a Viking as she’d once thought. I’m definitely no expert on Viking lore, so it was a fun project to research.
Sara: Bijou’s modes of expression and her humor are delightful. Verbs like a dog “pogo sticking” around a human’s legs are not the sort of thing you hear (or read) every day. Do you think you would use similar expressions if the narrator was human? Or do you feel these express a uniquely feline view of the world?
Codi: Honestly, I’ve always been delighted by a unique “turn of phrase” as Dumbledore says. While Bijou’s voice is entirely her own, I really enjoy getting creative with my prose in general, including with some of my human characters. I suppose it’s just my oddball sense of humor showing itself. However, with Bijou being her wonderful feline self, I really felt like I could flex these expressions liberally—which made for some fun writing sessions.
Sara: Do you read other types of cozies or mysteries? What are your favorites?
Codi: While I’m a huge mystery fan, I had only read a couple of cozies before writing Cold Snap. Since then, I’ve definitely fallen in love with the amateur sleuth characters and small town quirks that cozies provide. Some of my favorite mysteries (cozy and not-so-cozy) are: Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz, Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, the Jeeves series by P.G. Wodehouse, Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie, The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware.
Sara: How long did it take you to write your first book? Do you have drawer novels?
Codi: I have two drawer novels and writing them taught me so much, including how to handle rejection, ignite my inner berserker, and keep going. Cold Snap took me about two years to write and the differences between draft one and draft eight (the final before querying) are pretty considerable.
Sara: All of your character names seem very carefully chosen. Why were some obviously connected to the character’s profession or position in the community and some more subtle? For example, the police lieutenant named Lou Tennant and the character of Demelza Corn, who thinks she runs the town from her fancy house on the hill. (Demelza means “fort on a hill”, according to Google.)
Codi: You’re right, I did spend quite a bit of time choosing my character names! Some were tied to their professions or hobbies and some were more subtle. In the end, I chose the names I liked the best for how I pictured each character. It was pretty much just happenstance which ones were obvious and which ones were subtle.
Sara: Can you give us any hints as to Bijou’s next adventure?
Codi: I’m in the process of concocting Bijou’s next adventure and while at times I feel like a supreme god, Bijou has a way of making her own decisions and then rapping my knuckles with them. That said, there will be horses in the next adventure. Possibly seventeen.
Sara: I’m very curious about the nightcaps served to the guests at Spencer’s inn—catbernet, kittendel. What kind of drinks are those exactly?
Codi: These are actual drinks formulated for pets! Several companies, like Pet Winery, make beverages for dogs and cats (non-alcoholic, of course). The cat wine is made from catnip and salmon oil. The names of these wines are a play on human wines—catbernet, purrgundy, meowsling. I found them highly amusing, and when I bought some for my cat, I knew immediately that I had to incorporate them into my book.
Sara Farmer lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, three kids, and two cats. When she’s not chasing kids and cats, she reads and writes mysteries. You can find her at www.kittymomma.com and on Twitter @avonlea79.