‘A KILLER RETREAT’ — WHEN MURDER AND YOGA MEET
Often when we think about yoga, we don’t think about dogs and murder mysteries, but Tracy Weber, the owner of Whole Life Yoga in Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood challenges this with her “cozy,” award-winning Downward Dog Mysteries series.
Weber, published her first book, “Murder Strikes a Pose,” in 2014 and has a second book, “A Killer Retreat,” coming out in 2015.
“Weber’s vegan yoga teacher is a bright, curious sleuth with a passion for dogs. A well-crafted whodunit with an intriguing mystery and a zinger of a twist at the end,” said New York Times bestselling author Krista Davis in a press release.
Weber’s Downward Dog Mysteries combine her three passions for yoga, dogs and mysteries. Her books are 100 percent fiction, but she paints her fictional worlds on a real life canvas.
We sat down with Weber to ask her about her creative process, her books and her message to readers.
Why did she decide to start writing?
Weber has been a yoga practitioner and teacher for about 15 years, but a mystery fan since she was a child. Throughout her early adulthood, it never occurred to her to write, even though she lived next door to two writers. She even recalls saying to herself: “I don’t have it in me.”
She never even realized there was a market for this genre, but once she discovered it, she thought: “What would it be like if a yoga teacher got involved in solving murders?”
Even though Weber loved the idea, she dismissed it instantly.
Despite her efforts to move away from the idea, the book’s protagonist appeared in her mind just a few days later. All of her characters are fictional, but she draws ideas from real life situations. For example, she knew a homeless man who had a dog, and she thought: “What would happen to this man if his dog got sick? What if he couldn’t help him or afford to keep him alive?” She also thought: “What if I had this yoga teacher who wants to live the yoga principals, but also has a temper?”
At first, “I wrote a couple of pages, and they were really bad,” she said. So she set the pages aside, but her eagerness about the already “starting to exist” characters was undeniable.
She shared her idea with her friends, who, to her surprise, loved it. She even spoke about it with her yoga students and colleagues who also agreed it was worth writing. It wasn’t until Weber attended a writing conference that she was convinced that she wanted to write. She almost didn’t have a choice, as Kate — the protagonist — kept returning to her conscious imagination with new stories waiting to be written. Weber acknowledges that the “characters become part of our lives.”
So Weber started her journey writing “cozies,” a sub-genre of crime mysteries, where crimes are treated humorously.
“They are light-hearted mysteries; sex is behind closed doors and there is not a lot of swearing,” she said.
Is there a message in “A Killer Retreat” you want to get across to the reader?
In each book there is a struggle for the protagonist, so one of the lessons is about forgiving yourself and learning not to make assumptions about those who are vulnerable. Weber’s upcoming book has less of an overarching cultural theme about special needs dogs, homelessness and drug abuse, and instead it focuses on struggles with commitment and how people can become paralyzed by certain choices. As always, there are many yoga lessons in between all of these paths her characters face.
The books are about crossroads, relationships and self-realizations; understanding that no matter what the character’s struggle is, at the end of each path lays the answer to each hardship.
Can the readers learn about the benefits of yoga through the protagonist?
Teaching yoga never promises to be an easy life. We don’t go from flawed to perfect yoga practice overnight. Instead, we go from flawed to recognition of our flaws to acceptance. You can be wonderful but still with flaws, since there is not perfection in yoga. Ultimately, those characters help the readers to focus on their own continual growth, to learn how to conquer old fears and how to celebrate the transformational power of yoga.
What is your advice for other writers?
“Don’t give up,” Weber said. It takes perseverance, no matter what happens. If you get a one-star review, if you get rejected — you just try again. “You have to keep plugging into your creative self.”