Interview with Theresa Schwegel: author of ‘The Good Boy’

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Theresa Schwegel, local author of award-winning mysteries, including her latest release, “The Good Boy,” is a hard-boiled Chicagoan. She lived in Los Angeles for a while, enjoying the sun and warm weather, then decided she missed the change of seasons. She also missed being a part of the Chicago scene — it was too hard to write about Chicago while not living here.

So she came back to the Windy City. It wasn’t too difficult a decision because she also came back to her family (she grew up in Algonquin, Illinois). Even with an 18-month-old daughter, she and her husband are not ready to leave the city for the ‘burbs.

Theresa writes about male cops. And it’s easy, she says. Why? “They say what they mean.” But in her newest release, “The Good Boy,” the main protagonist is an eleven-year-old boy. He also says what he means.

In addition to writing, caring for her daughter and two rescue dogs, Theresa spends time appearing in libraries and bookstores, talking about her background and her books. She admits that she gets on her bandwagon about something that really bothers her in society today. “We can’t see past the screen of our phone,” she tells me. Ironically, sitting in her parked car before our meeting in downtown Libertyville, she was sideswiped by a car with a driver who was on his cell phone. We can’t see past the screen of our phone? How true.

It’s not only technology that keeps us from seeing what’s around us, Theresa believes. In researching for the book, she and her dogs walked the six miles of (her main character) Joel’s route often. One wet day she was walking through a questionable neighborhood, and she slipped in the middle of the street. There were workers around, and people out on the sidewalk, but not one person helped her up or asked if she was OK. No one noticed.

Another message that is important to Theresa regards bullying. In the book, Joel bears the brunt of the bullying. He is forced to watch the horrific killing of a neighborhood cat (something that actually happened to a relative of hers).

“Kids are not little grownups,” she says, and that’s how Theresa feels they are treated now. “More and more we are expecting children to grow up quicker,” she explained. Yet science tells us that brains aren’t really mature until the mid-twenties. Indeed, the NIH says, “The parts of the brain responsible for more ‘top-down’ control, controlling impulses, and planning ahead—the hallmarks of adult behavior—are among the last to mature.”

She also spent time researching dogs prior to writing the story. She read dog books both fiction and nonfiction, “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” by Garth Stein, and “A Dog’s Purpose,” by W. Bruce Cameron, to name a couple. She met and worked with Tara Poremba of the Chicago Police Department, who is not only an expert marksman but also a K-9 handler of Brix, who is a Malinois/Shepherd mix. They actually staged a search so that Theresa could see the real thing. She commented, “It was amazing to see the change that came over the dog when he saw the Kong.” It was as if the dog suddenly thought, Okay, I’m ready to work.

Look for more mysteries — all taking place in Chicago — from Theresa Schwegel.

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