Interview with Dori Hillestad Butler

You write a lot of mystery stories for emerging readers. What are the challenges in creating a satisfying mystery for that reading level? 
Creating a simple mystery isn’t really a challenge for me, but sometimes I struggle with word count. There’s a pattern to the King & Kayla books. Each one has five chapters. The first chapter sets up the mystery. Clues are gathered in the second chapter. King & Kayla sift through the clues in chapter three. They each have a piece of the puzzle, but neither of them has the whole picture. They have to work together to figure it out. Chapter four is usually about King getting into some sort of trouble trying to get Kayla to understand what he knows. And then the mystery is solved in chapter five. But sometimes I need more words than I have for one or more of those sections. That’s where my challenge lies. 
We loved the interplay between Kayla and King. Why did you decide to have King be the narrator? 
Thank you. There was no question King would be the narrator. It was one way to set this series apart from other early reader series, and specifically from other mysteries for early readers. Beyond that, I simply enjoy writing from a dog’s point of view. My own dog, Mouse, and I chat often throughout the day. Yes, out loud. And yes, I speak for him since can’t speak in words. But I know what he means to say.
Out of curiosity: Was King inspired by your dog? 
Yes, he was. King basically is my dog, Mouse. People who are familiar with the books and are just meeting Mouse for the first time will tell you that, too. Though Mouse is getting older now. I’m not sure he would actually do some of the things King does anymore. But he would have a few years ago!
Did you write the plot first or come up with the codes? Were the codes difficult to come up with?
I came up with the plot and the codes together. At first I was a little nervous about writing an early reader centered around codes. Kids that age are still decoding language to begin with. Did I really want to complicate that by throwing a code into the mix? But kids love codes. With my editor’s help, I decided that if I kept it simple and kept the codes within the context of the story, it could work. Readers don’t have to solve the codes if they don’t want to. Kayla solves them all eventually. But readers who want to solve them can. They can solve them before Kayla does or they can wait and get a clue from Kayla and then solve them alongside her.
If you don’t mind telling us, what’s next for you?
Sure. King & Kayla and the Case of Found Fred comes out in 2019. And I’m contracted for at least one more King & Kayla book, which will come out in 2020.  
Thank you so much for your time!
Be sure to check Dori out at her webpage as well.