Meet the Author
Virginia Lanier lives with her husband on the
edge of the Okefenokee Swamp, in Echols County, Georgia. She is
the award-winning author of The House on Bloodhound Lane, Death
in Bloodhound Red, and A Brace of Bloodhounds. She is a
member of the American Bloodhound Club and Sisters in Crime.
Ten Little Bloodhounds:
Virginia Lanier's bloodhound mystery series follows
the trail of success
by Jeffrey Marks
At an age when most people are considering retirement, 69-year-old Virginia
Lanier began a new and profitable career as a mystery author. Her 1995 debut,
Death in Bloodhound Red, won an Anthony Award as well as a devoted readership
who have eagerly followed the exploits of trainer Jo Beth Sidden and her
talented canine partners.
Jo Beth is a opinionated, liberated woman who trains bloodhounds and uses
them to track criminals and perform search-and-rescue missions. In her fifth
outing, Ten Little Bloodhounds (June, 1999), Jo Beth Sidden is asked by an
eccentric billionaire to find a lost cat. By the time time Jo Beth and her
faithful bloodhounds are finished, they've not only located the cat but a
murderer as well.
Critics and readers have universally praised this series' vivid southern
settings. Virginia Lanier recently talked to MysteryNet from her home on the
edge of the Okefenokee Swamp which has provided much inspiration for her
MysteryNet: You came late to writing, not starting until you were in your
60s. Could you tell us more about why you started and how?
Lanier: Well, as I always tell people, I didn't know that I could. I failed
ninth-grade English, never went to college, and I couldn't spell any word
longer than four letters without looking it up in the dictionary. I just
didn't believe I could be a writer, but here I am, and I've never even gotten
a rejection slip so far.
MysteryNet: Why did you start writing?
Lanier: A few years ago, I was reading a book and threw it across the room
because it was so bad. I told my husband, Hoss, that I could write a better
book than that. His reply was "Well, why don't you?" He fixed me up an
office, and gave me time to write by going out to play golf every blessed
day. Death in Bloodhound Red was accepted by Pineapple Press and came out
about five months later.
MysteryNet: Tell me about your first sale, Death in Bloodhound Red.
Lanier: Bloodhound Red was my first novel. I sent the book out in first-draft
form and a month later, Pineapple Press, a small Florida publisher, bought
it. (After it won the Anthony in 1995 for best first novel, I went to
HarperCollins for my next books.)
When I found out that my first novel had been accepted to be
published, I told Hoss about it. He told me that it called for a celebration.
While I was still looking for dress-up clothes, he came in all spiffed up and
said "Wait til the boys down at the bar hear this". And he left!
MysteryNet: Do you write your novels from an outline?
Lanier: I never outline. I don't know how. I just write until I get to the
last page and then I know how it ends. I treat my characters like people, but
the advantage is that if I don't like a character, I can kill them off.
MysteryNet: Is Jo Beth similar to you?
Lanier: Jo Beth is who I'd have been 35 years ago, if I hadn't met a
rednecked, chauvinist, good ole-boy and raised five sons. My life has turned
out a bit different. Obviously, I don't have a Bubba in my life, who tried to
beat me every time he gets out of jail. That's the biggest difference.
MysteryNet: How does the Okefenokee Swamp figure into your writing?
Lanier: Well, I grew up in Florida, moved to Nevada and California, before we
decided to retire to the swamps here. We live in rural Echols County just
west of the Okefenokee near the Georgia-Florida line. We cleared four acres
here for our place, and we're the only house on a 28 mile dirt road. I've
lived here for close to 20 years. The boys think we're crazy to stay here,
but we don't want to leave. I'm never lonely. I love to read.
MysteryNet: Why did you choose to write about bloodhounds? Do you own any?
Lanier: I have never owned any bloodhounds. Everything I know about them is
done through research. I do love animals, though. and living in the swamp has
let me see a lot of them close up. A pair of foxes raised three kits within
view of the house. And five times, we've had crocodiles invade the catfish
MysteryNet: What's next for you?
Lanier: Well, Hollywood keeps saying they're interested in my books and
they've put them under option. Ten Little Bloodhounds is just out. I tour for
each book as much as my health allows. And I have a short story in Canine
Christmas, a new anthology due out from Ballantine. It definitely keeps me
Jeffrey Marks, of Cincinnati, Ohio, is the editor of Canine Crimes,
the author of numerous mystery short stories and a lifelong fan of crime
fiction. His new anthology, Canine Christmas, will be out this fall from
Ballantine and contains a story by Virginia Lanier.