Behind The Words With Peggy Rothschild


Today, we welcome author Peggy Rothschild to Reader’s Entertainment. Peggy is the author of the cozy mystery Playing Dead featuring a……..Saint Bernadoodle!

Welcome, Peggy. First, tell our readers a bit about yourself. 

I’m a native Californian but lived in the Boston area for five years—where I met my husband, Richard. After many years in living L. A., we moved to Ventura—which we loved. But in 2017, the Thomas Fire burned down our home. We were fortunate: everyone in the neighborhood escaped. The scariest part of the evacuation was trying to spot and crate our cats in a dark house. We had two all-black and two black-and-white cats, it was after 10 p.m., and the power was out—with flames visible out the back window. Truly scary. But we all got out. The next four years were tumultuous as we and the cats moved from temporary lodging to longer term temporary digs. When the rebuild of our house was finally complete, we gave it a try for nine months, but never felt at home there. Now we’re up in Los Osos—an amazing town along the Central Coast—but drive back to Ventura frequently to take part in activities and visit friends.

How long have you been writing and it is your full time job? If not, what is your ‘real world’ job? How long have you been writing?

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t write. As a child, I apparently I re-wrote the ending for Stuart Little so he and Margalo met up again on the page. In high school I was an English major, but shifted to art in college, then about 25 years ago, I started to get serious about writing. I was—and am—a voracious reader. I read widely, but always had a mystery going, usually figuring out the ending ahead of time. My husband kept telling me I should write a mystery and I finally took a course at UCLA Extension on the topic. After the class ended, the instructor introduced me to a critique group. It was the best thing that could have happened to me. Without that group, there’s a good chance I’d still be rewriting chapters one through six of my first manuscript. Some of the members have changed over the years, but we still meet—though now by zoom.

My work experience has included advertising, publicity, and public relations. From there I moved on to civil service, working for the cities of Redondo Beach and Moorpark. My various jobs introduced me to so many people and personality types—a rich terrain for a budding writer. Right now, I’m fortunate enough to be able to write full-time, which is a real gift.

What does your typical writing day look like?

I usually start the day with some sort of exercise—stretching, Qi Gong, yoga, and/or a walk. Then I get settled at my desk. After some procrastinating—reading the news, catching up on email, and social media—I either input the handwritten changes I made to my pages the night before, or I reread the changes I typed up the night before. (For me, going back a few pages helps kick-start forward progress.) Once I’m in the flow of things, I write, write, write. At some point, one of the cats will hp into my lap to “help.” When I get to a snag—where I need to research a point or go back and check a detail—I put a couple hashtags to mark the spot and plunge on. I don’t have a set page or word count target for the day, I just stop when my brain says it’s time. Then I do something else for a couple hours—whether it be yardwork, errands, a meeting, or (sigh) cleaning the house—then review what I wrote, tweaking, editing, researching any questions I left hanging. But I don’t write every day. When I’m not in the mood, I give myself a break.

Tell us about your latest release?

In PLAYING DEAD, Molly and her dogs attend Playtime Academy for their first time—Harlow for an agility class and Noodle to try his nose at barn hunt. After making quick work of the barn hunt course, Noodle goes rogue and discovers a dead body. When a new friend is arrested for the murder, Molly starts digging for clues. The mystery encompasses the attendees and employees at the dog sports facility, people from the victim’s personal and business life, and introduces a few new animals. While Molly’s trying to unravel the mystery, her boyfriend drops a bombshell into their relationship. In between asking questions and caring for the dogs, she’s also looking after her agoraphobic neighbor, J. D., and teaching her friend, Ava, the 8-year-old math and chess prodigy, how to train her dog as well as how to interact more successfully with people. On firmer footing in her new hometown, Molly’s friendships have deepened into something long-lasting, providing a much-needed support system.

What inspired the idea for this book?

My dear friend, Nancy—who invited me to watch her and her dog at an agility meet (the inspiration for book one)—told me about taking her dog to try Barn Hunt. After she explained how it worked and I did some outside research, an idea for a mystery was born.

Which of the characters do you relate to the most and why?

Noodle. He’s sweet and means well, though he may be a little messy and clumsy. He’s got a big heart and will do his best to protect those he loves.

Would you and your main character be friends?

Yes! I like Molly—which is part of the reason I enjoyed writing these books so much. She’s definitely tougher and braver than I, but I think we’d get along just fine anyway.

What part of the book was the hardest to write?

Writing the scene where Molly learns what happened to Freddy. (I don’t want to say more because: Spoiler!)

Did you model a character after someone you know?

Harlow, Molly’s golden retriever, was very loosely based on the golden my husband had when we first met—who was also named Molly. (I didn’t even realize who I’d named my main character after until I’d finished the manuscript for book one.) Harlow has the same sweet personality as dog-Molly but is a lot more active.

If you’re planning a sequel, can you share a tiny bit about your plans for it?

I’ve been working on a sequel tentatively titled LET SLEEPING DOGS LIE, where the initial crime took place over a decade earlier. Molly stumbles across evidence of this old crime and, at the encouragement of a friend, begins poking around. I wanted to do something that tied in with other characters’ pasts as this is the book where Molly will go back to Massachusetts to deal with her past and testify against her husband’s killer. 

Could you share one detail from your current release with readers that they might not find in the book? 

While not center stage for most of the story, the issue of body dysmorphia and eating disorders loomed large in my research. The vulnerability of young girls and women in the US to societal pressure to fit an impossible ideal is truly troubling.

The only character tidbit I can share at this point is: Molly’s going to find love in the sequel to PLAYING DEAD.

Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write? 

Probably Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone series. Hers were the first books I read that featured a female sleuth, written in a straightforward manner.

Any writing rituals?

I’m not sure it qualifies as a ritual, but sometimes, when the words aren’t coming, I put on a podcast and do what I think of as “distracted writing.” Before writing full-time, I worked very long hours and needed to shoehorn writing time into my day. For me, writing while other things are going on is a comfortable place and can help me when I need to push forward into new story territory.

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

That’s a tough one—and I can’t pick just one! I love all of the books by Margaret Mizushima and by Paul Doiron. They each write a series which explores the natural world, with a justice-oriented protagonist—and wonderful animals. Margaret Mizushima writes the Timber Creek K9 Mystery Series and Paul Doiron the Mike Bowditch Game Warden Mystery Series. I highly recommend both!

Do you have a secret talent readers would be surprised by?

I don’t know how secret it is, but I draw, paint, and work in clay, though since the Thomas Fire, I’ve only done pencil drawings and watercolor. I’m not sure what that’s about—probably something to do with processing the impermanence of things.

Your favorite go to drink or food when the world goes crazy! 

Dark chocolate—straight, nothing else in it or on it.

And what is your writing Kryptonite?

Dealing with directions. If my character is driving or walking from point A to point B and I need to chronicle even a portion of the journey, I struggle. I have an absolutely horrific sense of direction and would write my characters as traveling both north and south at the same time if I didn’t map it out. When I have Molly running an agility course, I draw the courses and obstacles, and refer to it frequently when I’m in the scene. Most of the details never make it to the page, but at least what’s there makes sense.

Thank you so much for joining us today, Peggy! 

Reader’s here’s a look at PLAYING DEAD.


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Her fiction writing has received the Author / Ambassador at Library Journal Self-e Authors, Winner Queen of the West Reader Favorite Award, Amazon Bestseller - Historical, Double finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards in the Mystery and Humorous Categories. Writing humorous cozy mysteries and romantic comedy, Jocie can find humor in most everything, even when she shouldn't. She lives in the Midwest on Dust Bunny Farm with her family.