Debut novel blends Washington County author's jobs, observations
Annette Dashofy has worked as an emergency-medical technician, on a farm, as a groom at a thoroughbred racetrack, at a store that sells western gear and as a yoga teacher.
All her vocations — save yoga — play a part in her debut novel, “Circle of Influence” (Henery Books, $15.95).
“I didn't want to put all my eggs in one basket,” Dashofy says with a laugh in her log-cabin home in Smith Township, Washington County. “I could have yoga in the next book.”
Dashofy will appear April 26 at the Burgettstown Community Library and April 27 at Sri Yantra Yoga in Houston, Washington County, followed by an appearance May 22 at Barnes & Noble Books at South Hills Village.
Last year, Henery Press, a mystery publisher from Dallas, Texas, offered Dashofy a three-book contract. After two unpublished novels, including one about a veterinarian at a racetrack in West Virginia, the author finally found footing close to home. “Circle of Influence” grew from Dashofy's short story “Signature in Blood,” which was nominated for a 2007 Derringer Award and is set in a small town in southwestern Pennsylvania.
The short story featured police Chief Pete Adams, but “Circle of Influence” puts a secondary character, Zoe Chambers, in the spotlight. A paramedic and deputy coroner who also gives horseback-riding lessons on the small farm where she lives, Zoe is bright and inquisitive, although prone to ill-fated relationships.
“Somebody wrote to me and asked if we were ever going to see more of Pete and Zoe,” Dashofy says. “When the racetrack book didn't go anywhere, I decided to see if I could flesh this one out. The short story is so short that it doesn't have a lot of room for character development, so I had to go back and figure out who they were.”
When the husband of Zoe's best friend is killed after a tempestuous council meeting, her life begins to unravel in fictional Vance Township. Adams, Zoe's occasional love interest, eventually becomes a suspect after another murder occurs.
Dashofy is a keen observer of small-town mores and the psychological underpinnings of family. Those powers of observation serve her well, even when she's just doing chores. Once, standing on line at the post office, she heard a woman complaining about her teenage daughter.
“They caught her in her room with this jock, so to punish her, they took her door off the hinges,” Dashofy says, laughing. “Instead of being in a rush, I was just standing there listening. I thought, ‘That's Allison (a teenage girl in the novel). I have to put this in the book.' ”
Dashofy also visited council meetings, sitting quietly in the back of rooms while politicians argued, debated and passed legislation. At one meeting, she heard another gem.
“Somebody at one of the meetings made the comment ‘Somebody should just kill him and put him out of his misery,' ” she says, noting a similar line in the novel.
These scenes might not be observed, or even play well, in traditional mystery stories most often set in larger locales. But Dashofy views her work as being similar to that of writers such as Craig Johnson (Wyoming), Julia Spencer-Fleming (upstate New York) and Aimee and David Thurlow (New Mexico), all of whom find that crime is not solely the province of the larger metropolises.
“Small-town attitudes are different than (those in) big cities, obviously,” she says. “I am drawn to books where the setting is vitally important, but there are shared themes throughout.”
Rege Behe is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- McCandless author plumbs literary, cultural roles in ‘Prague Summer’
- Pittsburgh author: ‘Supernatural’ generally can be explained
- Pittsburgh-born George Benson’s book looks at origins of his sound
- Psychic, elephants drive Jodi Picoult’s latest novel