Birder Murders Media Kit
Follow the laugh-out-loud adventures of Bob White as he birds his way through
murder mysteries, conservation issues, and high school student drama!
Why are readers flocking to the Birder Murders?
Fast-paced and funny reads
Delightful introduction to the wonderful world of bird-watching,
the hobby of choice of millions of people around the planet
Entertaining stories that bring you up close and personal with birds and birders
Characters so real you’ll want to invite them over for dinner
Solid, well-researched information about today’s hottest conservation issues
Virtual birding, without sunburns, frostbite, or gas station doughnuts
Jan Dunlap is the author of the humorous Bob White Birder Murder Mysteries (all five of which have been nominated for the annual Minnesota Book Awards) that follow the adventures of a really nice guy who finds dead bodies when he’s out birding. With readers across America and Europe, Jan’s brand of humorous storytelling has earned her accolades from critics and readers alike of all ages. Her characters are sketched from real life and real people; as a weekly humor columnist for her local newspapers for five years, Jan polished her skills of observation and human insight that continue to win her new fans of her mystery series. A former adjunct instructor for both New Mexico State University and New Mexico Junior College (thanks to her master’s degree in English Studies from Minnesota State University-Mankato), Jan frequently speaks to book clubs, community service organizations, writers’ groups, birders, and senior living communities about birds, writing, and the importance of humor. Jan is the mother of five children and lives in Chaska, Minnesota, with her husband Tom and their dog Gracie.
10 Interview Questions for Jan
1. Are you a birdwatcher yourself?
A: I am! Most of my birdwatching takes place on my back porch, though. We’re lucky enough to back up to a preserved piece of forest and marsh, so I get lots of varieties of birds passing through my yard, and it’s a delightful hobby that anyone can enjoy. I’m definitely not a ‘birder’ like my protagonist Bob White, however. Birders are dedicated people who pour their passion, time, and talent into seeing as many birds as they can. So far, I haven’t been motivated enough to drive hours in hopes of seeing a specific bird in the wild, though I’d really like to see the spring migration of the Sandhill Cranes in Nebraska. I might be teetering on the edge here.
2. When did you decide to become an author?
A: I fell in love with the idea of being an author the first time I walked into a public library. I think I was in second grade, and I was entranced by the fact that you could find a book about anything in a library. I wanted to write a book to put up on those shelves! When I was in high school, I wrote for the school newspaper, and I so enjoyed the writing that I took an English/Communications major in college, then went on to work professionally in Public Relations and advertising. I really enjoyed research and interviews, so I thought I would always be writing non-fiction, and for many years while I was raising my children, I freelanced for regional and national magazines writing about personal spirituality and parenting. I also wrote a humor column for my local paper based on raising my children. I admired Erma Bombeck so much, and her columns helped me stay sane as a mom, so I latched onto that style of writing: conversational and tongue-in-cheek. One day, I finished reading a novel, and it was so poorly written, I decided I could do at least as good a job as that author had done. I guess you could say my pride got the better of me – I had to give it a try. I discovered I really liked inventing characters and witty dialogue, so I decided I’d find a niche and see if I could land a book of my own on a shelf somewhere.
3. What subgenre of mystery are the Birder Murder Mysteries?
A: They’re cozy mysteries. I was trying to find a niche for writing novels, and I knew I wanted to write about birders solving murders, but I wanted it to be a humorous series, so the cozy subgenre seemed ideal. My books are more driven by the characters (and the birds!) than the plot – one of my booksellers calls them ‘mystery lite,’ which is exactly what I was aiming for. I want readers to have fun when they read my novels and come away being more interested in –and knowledgeable about – the birds they see.
4. What inspired you to combine birds with murder?
A: I’ve always been interested in birds. But the real inspiration came when my younger son went on a birding trip when he was in high school. It was the dead of winter, and I knew he’d be in remote locations. Being the overprotective, nervous mom I was, I worried something dreadful would happen to him, and I wouldn’t be there to help. The worst thing I could imagine was an injury and freezing to death. And then I imagined something else: my son finding a dead body! I realized it would make a great mystery if birders found bodies in these remote places they go birding, not to mention the comic potential of nice people confronted with convoluted murder plots.
5. What role does research play in your writing process?
A: A great deal! I do extensive research on birds, conservation issues, geology, natural history, poisons, psychological disorders – you name it, if it’s in my book, I research it. When I was a child, my favorite words were “why?” and “how?” and my parents’ perennial reply was “look it up in the encyclopedia.” I’m not sure if we even have encyclopedias any more – I guess I need to look that up. Today, I do a lot of online investigating, I read books, I interview experts in the field, I watch videos. I go to the places I describe so I can portray them accurately. I find almost everything I learn is so interesting, I wish I could put more of the research into my books, but I always have to balance what is necessary to the story, and what is just interesting information. Sometimes I turn up really funny anecdotes to include. For instance, in A Murder of Crows, I was researching complaints about wind farms, and found a few stories about folks who insisted that the frequency of the turbines gave them hallucinations, so they wanted to sue the wind farms. The complaints, it turned out, were fabricated in hopes of getting financial settlements. That’s the kind of material I love to work into stories.
6. What are the conservation issues you develop in each book’s plot?
A: In the first book – The Boreal Owl Murder – it’s the conflict between preserving habitat and finding the funding for it through non-invasive means. In Murder on Warbler Weekend, it’s about the value of conserving wild spaces versus commercial development that benefits communities. In book #3 – A Bobwhite Killing – the question at the heart of the story is appropriate land use. Falcon Finale, the fourth book, deals with the illegal trade in wildlife, and A Murder of Crows, the most recent book, involves the ecological impact of wind farms. All of these are issues that people need to become familiar with as they directly impact the legacy we will leave our children.
7. Do birders like your books?
A: They do! They especially enjoy the birding humor, which some non-birding people miss, unfortunately. I’ve had birders tell me that reading one of the books is like going on a birding trip, but without the hassle of travel!
8. How many Birder Murders are you planning for the series?
A: I plan to write another seven books in the series to make it an even twelve – a birding adventure for each month of the year. You find birds depending on the season and the location, so this gives me a chance to write about a broad range of birds. I’m currently writing #6, titled “Swift Justice,” and I’m going to research #7 along the Rio Grande Valley in Texas.
9. Do you have a goal for the series?
A: Yes, I do! I want everyone to get outside and appreciate nature. If my books encourage readers to take a longer look at the birds they see, or wonder about the marvels of our natural world, I’ve done my job. I hope every person who reads a Birder Murder starts looking for birds! And I hope they get a laugh while they’re doing it.
10. What is your favorite bird?
A: That’s like asking a mother which child is her favorite! Except that there are a lot more birds to choose from. If I had to choose, I would probably say a Bald Eagle because it soars so majestically and confidently that I find it an uplifting experience just to watch it fly. And it’s such a beautiful bird. I try to sneak one into every other book, I have to admit. That’s one of the coolest things about birdwatching that I hope people learn from the books – the variety and behavior of birds is totally amazing! Plus it’s such a great hobby – everyone can watch or listen for birds, and when you know something about them, it’s almost like looking for your friends.
A Few Reviews
Quick wit and out loud laughs follow this who done it. The cast of characters will keep you guessing”…
…an enjoyable book that belongs in the library of all birders and mystery lovers…this book is one more delightful insight into the mysterious world of birding and the mysteries that can come with it.”
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