I am pleased to have with us today Shawny Daniels from Timber Point. To give you a little background about Shawny, she is my protagonist (and friend) from Timber Point, Dancing In The Shadows and Mad Rush (book two and three are still WIPs)
Me: Hello, Shawny, it’s nice to have you here with us today.
Shawny: Thanks, Sue. Nice to be here.
Me: I’m sure everyone is wondering how it feels to be a cat burglar. Can you first tell us a little bit about how you got into that trade?
Shawny: Sure. When I was fourteen I fled an abusive foster care family and took to the streets of Massachusetts’ North Shore. There I met Bo, an aging cat burglar with severe arthritis in his knees. He took me under his wing and taught me the tricks of the trade. And he never asked for anything in return, unlike my former foster parents.
Me: What exactly did he teach you?
Shawny: Oh, yah know, like how to gain entry through a second floor window; how to move stealth-like so I didn’t get bagged by the cops. Stuff like that. First, though, he put me through rigorous training. Man, he was a hard ass when it came to working out.
Me: Training? What sort of training?
Shawny: Like gymnastics, stretching, strength and endurance training. Well, the gymnastics lessons I took as a kid, but he taught me to hone those skills for the job. It came in handy, too. Sometimes I need to climb trees and scale roofs to get inside. Getting up is the easy part, getting down is where it gets tricky. Sometimes I need to dive headfirst over a fence, land in a handstand, then roll up to my feet to get the f**k out of there. Endurance is very important. You never know when you need to hightail it in a hurry. If your winded and can’t run– you’re screwed!
Me: Tell me, what’s the difference between a cat burglar and a regular thief?
Shawny: They’re like night and day. A common hood just rifles through drawers, dumps them out on the floor, and basically trashes the place. A cat burglar, on the other hand, has more respect for people’s belongings. Let’s say there are twenty gold necklaces and bracelets sitting atop a bedroom dresser. A cat burglar only steals a select few, not all. Stuff like that. Most times the homeowners never realize they’ve been hit. At least, not right away. And by the time they do– I’m long gone! Also, it takes days for me to properly case a target property. I make notes of who lives in the house, when they come and go, and if they keep to a schedule or not. There are those who you can set your watch by. And those people are perfect targets for someone like me. Proper reconnaissance is extremely important, and my notes are the lifeblood of my work.
Me: Are you saying you’d pull a heist when the people are at home?
Shawny: Abso-f**k***-lutely! Why not?
Me: Are you seriously asking me why not? It’s dangerous!
Shawny: It’s a rush, that’s for sure. See, the trick is to wait for the homeowners to fall asleep. Sometimes that means hours, sometimes only a few minutes. Once the house goes dark I prowl in, pad softly through the hallway, and creep into their bedroom. I’m careful to keep one eye on the sleeping occupants and one on what I’m doing. I can’t very well bump into a lamp or anything. By studying their breathing patterns I can tell how much time I have to get in and out. Long, deep breaths mean their sound asleep and I don’t have to worry. Shallow breaths or lots of tossing and turning means get out quick. Then I’m in and out within seconds. Besides, it’s pitch black in their bedroom. They don’t know who’s in there. It could be their child who strolled in after having a nightmare. They don’t know. I will say this: I do try not to target houses that have children in them. I don’t want to scar kids for life if they see me skulking around in their home.
Me: Do you use weapons?
Shawny: Like, do I carry a gun? No. Never. I do keep my trusty mace with me at all times, though.
Me: I read in Timber Point that you got chased by attack dogs. How did you handle that?
Shawny: I love animals, so I would never harm them unless they give me no choice. But knock-on-wood that’s never happened. Again, here’s where casing the joint is so important. When a target property has dogs, I bring steak that I’ve pre-cut into two-inch cubes. The dogs start to bother me, I just reach in my backpack and pull a few pieces of steak out, toss ’em to ’em, and I’m off.
Me: How do you balance your home life with your work life?
Shawny: How much time do we have? No, I’m kidding. It’s not easy. As you know, I’m involved with a detective. He frowns upon my cat burglar lifestyle, of course, so I– Actually, I’d rather not answer that question.
Me: Okay, let’s move on. You prowled into the wrong house and found a serial killer’s lair, did you not?
Me: Can you expand on that? Tell us what it was like when you first realized you were in a killer’s home.
Shawny: What do you think? I almost sh*t myself! I saw the– Er. . . I don’t want to spoil the story. So let’s just say when I saw what I did, it was as if a demon’s icy tongue licked up my spine. I froze, not knowing what to do. Then I bolted up the stairs to get back out the upper level bathroom window. But when I got to the top of the stairs I heard a frightening sound. The jingling of keys in the door. And I knew: if he finds me in here– I’m dead! Well, you know what happened next. You read the book.
Me: I did. And I was under the impression that you stopped prowling after that incident.
Shawny: I tried. I really did. What you have to understand is, being a cat burglar is who I am. I can’t turn it on and off like a switch. It’s part of me. It’s a need buried deep in my soul. It’s an obsession that I can’t stop, even if it gets me in trouble. Even if it kills me one day! The urge is too strong. The lure of a dark, lonely street. The feeling I get by being the only one awake– I’ll explain it like this… To me, it’s like a dance. The music starts slow as the first house light extinguishes, enhances as the second home darkens, and then elevates into a vibrant symphony once the last glimmer eradicates. There’s no better feeling on earth. No better high.
Me: All-righty-then, thank you so much for joining us today. It was a pleasure speaking with you, and we look forward to seeing Timber Point on bookshelves around the country.
Shawny: Thanks, Sue. I’ll chat with you later.
Well, folks, there you have it. Behind the scenes with a genuine cat burglar.
I hope you enjoyed the interviewed. If there’s anything you’d like to ask Shawny, she’ll be answering questions on this blog.