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Today we are really pleased to welcome bestselling author, Elizabeth Heiter
K-9 Defense by Elizabeth Heiter puts readers continuously on edge. The three main characters, Colter Hayes, Rebel, and Kensie Morgan are engaging. The human characters, Colter and Kensie are damaged and vulnerable, both suffering from survivor’s guilt after losing their loved ones. Rebel, the canine-tracker dog, is protective and supportive for the main characters. Those who enjoy stories involving man’s best friend get an added bonus. There are two books in one with a story, Six Minutes to Midnight, by Elle James.
K-9 Defense has Kensie Morgan putting her life on hold for the past fourteen years. She was supposed to watch her younger sister, Alanna, but could not stop someone from kidnapping her. Now a note has surfaced in the small town of Desparre Alaska saying she is alive along with others. Everyone, the FBI included, thinks it’s a hoax, but Kensie is unwilling to give up. Once there she finds that injury retired Marine Military Policeman, Colter, and his combat tracker dog, Rebel, are living in the same town, and pleads for their help. Reluctantly he agrees and their journey begins.
It is more than a journey to find her sister, but also a journey for Colter and Kensie to regain their life back. Her life has been defined by that one moment when she lost her sister, while his life is defined in that one moment when Rebel’s fast reflexes resulted in saving his life while his brothers in arms all died. Both realize that they must put aside the guilt and loss and decide to live again.
The Alaska setting also plays a decisive role in the book. The harsh weather, the isolated location, and the impassable roads in winter all tied in to make the story more thrilling. For Colter it was a place to hide, while Kensie saw it as the last chance to find her sister. The elements of the Alaskan wilderness, the cold, snow, the terrain, and the unwelcoming neighbors made the task of finding Alanna seem unsurmountable.
This suspenseful story features a strong female character and caring hero. By adding a dog to the story makes all the characters come alive as readers see their emotional pain, fear, hope, and a desire to heal.
Elise Cooper: The other book by Elle James is very interesting?
Elizabeth Heiter: Yes, she is a New York Times bestselling author. I think Six Minutes to Midnight is book six in the series. It takes place in Afghanistan with a military dog, his female handler, and some Navy SEALs.
EC: Is your book, K-9 Defense, a stand-alone or the first in the series?
EH: It was first published in 2019 and I thought when I wrote it that the story would be a stand-alone. But my editor asked my agent if I would be interested in writing a story with a hunky guy and a dog. I said yes because I had tons of latitude. We then decided to have four books in the series, with possibly going beyond that.
EC: What was the idea behind this story?
EH: I wanted to write something where the hero and his military dog are retired. Because both were injured they help to heal each other over the course of the story. It is important to me to show the bond between man and his dog.
EC: In her book, Senator Martha McSally commented about dogs, “I wouldn’t have survived this far without the unconditional love of the furry, four-legged angels in my life. You can make it through nearly anything if you come home to the love of a dog who brings smiles, joy, and a coat to dry all tears.” It seems so appropriate to your story?
EH: Every time Kensie was upset she would pet Rebel. It felt natural that this dog recognized how to help Colter with his PTSD and how to help Kensie with her sadness and struggles.
EC: Why Alaska?
EH: I used Alaska to have Colter hide out far away from his friends and family. There is a live and let live attitude there. Ever since I visited I wanted to have the setting here. It is so beautiful and has animals, environment, weather, and how each area is so different. It has a reputation where people can come and disappear. Colter went there because he is running from his issues. I also knew it would be the perfect setting after I decided to write about a woman whose sister went missing as a child. Because each season in Alaska is so different I could set each book in the series with a different time of year.
EC: Is Desparre a real town in Alaska?
EH: No. I made it up. To create the details of this fictional town I did some research. I chose a general area I wanted that would include the same temperatures, snowfall, and crime statistics.
EC: How would you describe Rebel?
EH: I wanted a dog that would have different skills then the dogs already written about. I found a combat-tracker dog is able to track from an explosion site back to the person who set it. This was fascinating for me. I did a lot of online research but also consulted with people who served in the military. She is a mixed breed of Malinois and German Shepherd. She has military in her blood and as part of her mind set.
EC: How would you describe Colter?
EH: He is traumatized by what happened to his unit. I think he is a shell of the person he used to be, and has refused to move forward. Because he is loyal to a fault he feels he let his teammates down. There is a scene in the book that shows this loyalty when he knows he will re-injure his leg but does it anyway to save Rebel as they come under attack. Overall Colter is serious, steady, supportive, but also a recluse.
EC: How would you describe Kensie?
EH: Like Colter she has punished herself. She is determined, sassy, capable, and at times emotional.
EC: How would you describe the relationship?
EH: Initially there is a reluctant attraction. Neither one of them was looking for romance and both tried to resist it. They do not want to be distracted from what they consider important. Both help each other to grow and are very supportive of each other. I think in the beginning they feel broken for being responsible in losing siblings (with Colter it is his brothers -in-arms) and have survivor’s guilt.
EC: Does his injury play a role?
EH: It is a major part of the story. He was injured after an IED explosion and saved by Rebel, while his other teammates died. This impacted how he saw himself. He felt not whole and not capable. As an author it also had an impact on the action scenes.
EC: Can you explain the quote, “Damaged is far different than broken.”
EH: People can heal from being damaged. Colter sees himself as broken because he feels he is not fixable and is unable to move on. It encompasses his physical, emotional, and spiritual states. When someone is damaged they can overcome something. By the end of the book, Colter and also Kensie realize they must move on or they are betraying their loved ones who died.
EC: What about your next books?
EH: Book 2 in the series will have someone returning back to Alaska to help look for an escaped kidnapper. The dog will be a therapy dog, a Saint Bernard. I grew up with these types of dogs.
Book 3 will have the heroine the Chief of Police. The dog is an FBI Victim Specialist Therapy dog that is a Labrador Retriever.
Book 4 will have a police canine dog. The hero of this book is the partner to the hero of the second book. The breed is an Alaskan Malamute.
If you liked this interview
To help a desperate woman’s search,
he’ll have to brave treacherous territory.
In the wilds of Alaska, grieving former marine Colter Hayes shuts out the world…until he and his combat tracker dog become Kensie Morgan’s last hope of finding her long-missing sister. The improbable mission starts to rekindle Colter’s desire to rejoin the world—while saving Kensie from a killer unsettles his heart. Can they find all they are searching for before it’s too late?