by guest blogger Ann Littlewood
Ann Littlewood's first mystery, NIGHT KILL, comes out soon from Poisoned Pen Press. Ann herself is an experienced Zoo Keeper, and she has remarked that few mysteries are set in zoos--until now, that is.
I am (possibly) uniquely qualified to clarify the difference between zookeepers and mystery authors, who are so easily confused (with each other). Sample dialogue when they meet at parties: “So, do you work with an Apple or road apples?” “Do you shovel the shit with a PC or a spade?” I may be the only person on Planet Earth who is simultaneously a member of Mystery Writers of America and the American Association of Zookeepers. So let me clear up this troubling matter once and for all:
Zookeepers wear boots and a uniform and have wet feet most of the time.
Mystery authors wear gray sweats or pajamas and (dry) bunny slippers except when they are out selling books. Then they wear either tweedy things or ridiculous costumes.
Zookeepers expect minor injuries every day—bruises and scratches and tweaky backs.
Mystery authors suffer emotional traumas every day over recalcitrant plots, bad reviews, or typos that escaped into the wild.
Zookeepers answer dumb questions about animals from the public—“Aren’t lions and tigers natural enemies?”
Mystery authors answer dumb questions about writing from the public—“Where do you get your ideas?”
Zookeepers smell funny.
Mystery authors—not so much.
Zookeepers are publicity-shy because they know they will be misquoted and look like idiots to their co-workers.
Mystery authors, even shy ones, try hard to love publicity because then people will know about their books and buy their books, and the publisher will take the next one.
Zookeepers come home from work very tired and dirty and hungry.
Mystery authors often don’t leave home for days, but they, too, get tired and hungry.
Both are cranky until fed.
Zookeepers know a lot about shit.
Mystery authors know a lot about blood.
Zookeepers love baby animals. So do mystery authors.
Zookeepers have gruesome stories about accidental deaths and maiming. So do mystery authors.
Zookeepers are wonderful parents for grade school show and tell.
Mystery authors are pretty good parents for high school class guests.
Zookeepers want to win a free trip to Tanzania.
Mystery writers want a free trip to Bouchercon.
Zookeepers love to talk about enriching animal’s lives and breeding programs.
Mystery authors love to talk about ballistics, strangulation, and blood spatters.
There. That was simple, right? Keep these field marks in mind so you don’t make a tragic social error the next time you attend a reading for a zoo mystery.