Two Denver PIs

Get Lost in a Story readers. Today we have a special treat. A husband and wife team. Colleen Collins writes romance, mystery and nonfiction. Shaun Kaufman is kicking off his law practice http://www.shaunkaufmanlaw.com/ and he also writes nonfiction. If that’s not enough, they’re both practicing Colorado private investigators. So we’ve tapered our fun questions more for their lifestyle than for our typical fiction writers.

Please welcome Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman to Get Lost in a Story.

DONNELL: Put your heads together and tell us your favorite room(s) in your house?

SHAUN & COLLEEN: Our bedroom. It’s where Colleen writes, where Shaun watches football, where we often eat our meals in the evenings, and it’s the room closest to the kitchen. For Shaun, the living room couch has great significance because it’s where he spent hundreds of hours studying for two bar exams over the past few years.

DONNELL: Something personal goes missing -- which of you puts on the detective hat to find it?

SHAUN & COLLEEN: Colleen. She practices a visualization technique that goes like this… “When do you last recall holding or seeing that item? Okay, visualize the area, what you were wearing, what you were in the middle of doing…now, where did you take that item?” It’s cognitive-psychologist-detective approach.

DONNELL: Do you read reviews of your books?

SHAUN & COLLEEN: Yes. Enough to learn from feedback. Although it’s sometimes also important to follow-up on reviews to ensure they’re legit. We once discovered someone had posted several “anonymous” reviews (one on a major bookseller’s site as well as on several blogs), which weren’t reviews at all, but character attacks. We knew who it was (we are, after all, detectives), and we also knew it wasn’t worth our energy or time to confront him. Instead, we contacted the bookselling site (who removed the un-review) and the blog owners (who graciously removed the posts, if they hadn’t already – one even publicly chewed out the anonymous poster!).

Btw, we’ve had authors contact us requesting help to stop cyberstalkers – we refer those to a local PI we know who specializes in tracking cyberstalkers.

DONNELL: What’s the strangest case you’ve ever been asked to take or have taken?

SHAUN & COLLEEN: We once had a guy call, asking us to locate a vampire. The guy was dead serious (no pun intended) – said it was a person who really thought he was a vampire and was biting people’s necks. We declined the case. Another guy once asked us to “put some muscle” on a person who’d stolen a Ferrari. We told him we don’t do Tony Soprano cases. We once found a young man who’d fallen in with a cult…we discovered the cult, identified the cult leader’s real name & background, then over a year later Dr. Phil did a show on the same cult, claiming “his” PI just discovered the cult leader’s real identity. It was odd watching that show, realizing some of our best work was adapted for the Dr. Phil show.

DONNELL: What’s in your refrigerator right now?

SHAUN & COLLEEN: You asked at a great time! We had a “Whole Foods” date this past weekend, so we have food in our fridge that we can’t even pronounce, cheeses whose fat content should make us ashamed, kosher yogurt with milk derived from cows treated humanely, and enough Diet Coke to stun a moose (not from Whole Foods). Oh, and homemade pickles from last summer.

DONNELL: How many “gumshoes” do you have in your closet? ;) (sorry interviewer couldn’t resist).

SHAUN & COLLEEN: We don’t. They’re under our bed.

DONNELL: What was your proudest moment as a private investigator?

COLLEEN: Finding an abducted 5-year-old girl within 12 hours of her being taken.

SHAUN: Doggedly pursuing neighborhood leads in a gang-stabbing case. Nobody wanted to come forward out of fear of gang retaliation, but I persuaded two people to finally meet me anonymously (they’d only give their first names) in a public park. Their statements helped release an innocent man from a 20-year prison sentence.

DONNELL: (How cool is that!) What do you do to unwind and relax?

SHAUN & COLLEEN:We walk and train the Rottweilers. We garden. We plan fantasy trips where we win a lot of money in Las Vegas. Writing together.

DONNELL: What would you say is the most fun? What presents the most conflict?

Most fun: Uncovering and learning about the other…we’ve been together 9 years, and we’re still learning how the other thinks!

Most conflict: Colleen’s a detailed person, Shaun’s a big-picture person. Enough said.

DONNELL: In a police investigation we hear that with every hour a person goes missing, the less likely police will find them alive. Do you investigate missing persons? And what was the longest time that person was listed missing?

SHAUN & COLLEEN: We never try to supplant law enforcement investigations. However, we are happy to step in when law enforcement has yet to act on (or declined to act on) a missing person complaint. (The reason law enforcement sometimes declines to act on missing person complaints is that they do not find foul play in the disappearance.)

The longest time a person was listed missing (who we found) was approximately 2 months.

DONNELL: What was one of the most surprising things you learned while writing/researching a book?

SHAUN & COLLEEN: Not for researching a book, but for a case. We discovered a woman was committing crimes as her “twin sister” – she’d fooled attorneys and law enforcement over a span of a few years. She was quite intelligent (had a doctorate) and had created some compelling documentation that indicated there was a twin sister. Before we took the case, nobody had taken the time to dig deeper into that documentation and her family history.

DONNELL: What do you think is the most misunderstood concept about private investigators?

COLLEEN: That PIs’ work is mostly about chasing cheaters.

SHAUN: That all PIs carry guns, drink on the job, and call women “dames.”

Fascinating, Colleen and Shaun, now it’s your turn to ask Readers a Question.

COLLEEN: Who’s your favorite fictional sleuth and why?

SHAUN: If you were going to be on “Dancing with the Stars,” who would you want from the professional dancers to be your partner and why?

DONNELL: There you have it, Readers. Shaun & Colleen will be doing a book give away.

SHAUN & COLLEEN: Yes, we’d like to give away two copies: one of How to Write a Dick: A Guide for Writing Fictional Sleuths from a Couple of Real-Life Sleuths and How Do Private Eyes Do That? Both are ebooks (for both Kindle and Nook), but you don’t need an e-reader device (there are free, downloadable apps so you can read the books on our PC, Mac, and other devices). Please leave your email address in your comments (winners will receive links to the books via email).

Colleen and Shaun, thank you.

Thank you, Donnell! Btw, we’re excited about your new book release The Past Came Hunting!

Thank you, my Denver buddies! I'm so glad you stopped by and granted us this interview, even though it was a bit out of the ordinary. It sure was fun and informative! ~ Donnell

DON’T FORGET to FOLLOW us on Twitter (#GetLostStories) or LIKE us on Facebook to keep up with all our guest authors and their prizes. Join us on tomorrow October 28th, when Angi hosts Jordan Dane. Remember to check back daily to GET LOST in your favorite stories! ~ Donnell

Note: Offer void where prohibited. Prizes will be mailed to North America addresses only unless specifically mentioned in the post. Odds of winning vary due to the number of entrants. Winners of drawings are responsible for checking this site in a timely manner. If prizes are not claimed in a timely manner, the author may not have a prize available. Get Lost In A Story cannot be responsible for an author's failure to mail the listed prize. GLIAS does not automatically pass email addresses to guest authors unless the commenter publicly posts their email address. Those leaving comments through Sunday at noon CST following this post will be eligible for the drawing.


  1. I love P.I. stories and writing them, so this was a fun interview to read! Good stuff.

  2. Good morning Shaun and Colleen, gosh, what a hard question. I can tell you I love Peter Seller's version of the Pink Panther, and I love Columbo. Those characters are instantly memorable by just a name.

    Re: Dancing with the Stars, I wasn't impressed with the lineup this season so I haven't watched it as much, so I'll leave that to somebody else to answer. DQing myself from the drawing of course! Thanks for being with us!

  3. Such a treat to get the other perspective on PIs. Love it.

  4. Great fun post, thanks Colleen and Shaun. Good questions, Donnell.

    Wow, my first thought was Eve Dallas, and then Stepanie Plum jumped to mind, but that's because I'm reading the Evanovich book right now. For TV I'm a big Criminal Minds fan and Morgan would get my vote!

    Maxim on Dancing With The Stars for sure. He might be over the top, but I'd learn how to dance. I'm with Donnell on this years line up. Not sure how being George Clooney's girlfriend makes you a star.

    Thanks for the interesting post!

  5. What a fun interview. Thanks for posting it.

  6. I would never be on Dancing with the stars due to my complete and utter lack of rhythm. I can fake it sometimes, but I've never been able to take learned moves and incorporate them into anything better than a clumsy attempt at dancing. *sigh*

    My current book is Poltergeist by Kat Richardson with her PI main character so that's the one I think of right now. I do also read Eve Dallas, but I haven't gotten to the Evanovich books yet.

    I'd love to read your books to find out more. I'm clothdragon @ gmail.com.

  7. Welcome Shaun & Colleen! Sure wish I was eligible to win a copy of your books. Going to break into the penny bank and purchase. LOL

    Shaun, sorry, I'd never be on Dancing with the Stars. Just imagining it sends pain to my horrible knees. Love to dance...just can't any more.

    Colleen, I'm a lover of B&W films and the first fictional PI that pops into my head is Sam Spade (probably has something to do with Shaun's list of misunderstood PI concepts --LOL).

    Great interview!

  8. I'd take Max or Derek, but would I really need to be on the show?
    I still love Magnum PI and James Garner as Rockford.

    Cool blog.

  9. I was a Death Penalty Law clerk while going to law school and experienced a lot of drama with that!

    What was the case that "got to you"?


  10. My favorite fictional PI was a profiler who worked in Scotland in a show called Wire in the Blood. He was intense, odd, handsome and right on most of the time.


  11. Hi everyone and good morning!

    Really enjoyed reading about your choices for both fictional PIs & who'd you want as a partner on Dancing with the Stars. As for us, here's some of our fictional PI favorites: Robert Craises's Elvis Cole and Joe Pike, Lori Armstrong's Mercy Gunderson, Reed Farrel Coleman's Moe Prager (the 8th Moe Prager book is coming out December 1 and we can't wait), Michael Wiley's Joe Kozmarski and Ken Bruen's Jack Taylor.

    And who doesn't love Evanovich's Plum?

    Dancing with the Stars...Shaun said he'd pick Lacey Schwimmer because she's bigger than him (haha)...Colleen would pick Tony Davilani (we think that's the spelling).

    We see there's a question, so we'll check it out and answer it next.

  12. Hi Laura,

    We're sure you saw difficult, sad things in your experience as a death penalty law clerk.

    As to you question (what was the case that got to you?), Shaun says he's still haunted by a double-homicide case he tried as an attorney years ago. As to investigations, both of us still think about a case we investigated in 2006 where a mother lost her children due to the mother's meth use. What bothers us to this day is that the mother is still addicted and has never asked to see her children (we know this from the attorney who hired us).

    Compelling question.

  13. Great interview! I don't know about Dancing partners, but I have plenty of favorite PIs. (in addition to Shaun and Colleen, of course. Kinsey Milhone has remained one of my favorites since I read F is for Fugitive more than twenty years ago. (had to go back and read A-E and I'm waiting to get U)
    Now I would have to say my newest favorite is Myron Bolitar -- love all the sports references.

  14. Hey, we just heard Donnell's good news about her second book sale: congrats, Donnell!

    And we'd like to throw another giveaway into today's offerings. Besides giving away two copies of two different nonfiction books on private investigations, we'd also like to give away one free online writers workshop we're teaching Oct 31 - Nov 6 at Savvy Authors. It's titled "Surveillance 101" and it's for writers wanting to know more about how PIs might conduct different types of surveillances, including tools used on the job. There's no homework, just two posted classes and we answer questions via email in between the two postings.

    Want to make sure we give away the class to someone who really wants to take it, so maybe post a "hey, toss my name in the hat for the class" post.

    If you want to read more about the class: http://www.savvyauthors.com/vb/showevent.php?eventid=984

    Colleen and Shaun

  15. Blogger appears to be giving people fits Colleen and Shaun: This comment is from Marsha West. ~ ~~~

    What a fun post. You two should write your own lives into a book. I can even see it as a movie.
    I would do Dancing, and I'd pick Mark. Have to agree with Angi, not sure how long my feet or knees would last, but even a couple of weeks would be worth some serious weight loss. :) I'm a Magnum gal, too. While he's not a PI, but a homicide LT in Brattlesboro, Vermont, Joe Gunther is a super detective. He's written by Archer Mayor, and I just discovered both of them when we were on vacation in the area. Thanks for this, Donnell. Very fun. Marsha

  16. Okay, Blogger is offically grounded . Here's a comment from Anne Gooding.

    Excellent interview! I always love to hear about real incidents from real PIs, detectives, etc.

    If I were on "Dancing With the Stars," I would choose Derek Hough as my partner. Watching him dance is like watching poetry in motion, and his choreography is stupendous. I think he is just at the beginning of a long and creative career in dance, singing, music writing, choreography, and directing. He's also an artist, and uses that ability to request costume designs and particular video shots. I'd give my eye teeth to be able to dance with him.

    If I could be a PI, I'd love to try being Lee Child's Jack Reacher. My life has always been tied to people, places, and things. To have the freedom to go anywhere, do anything, and not worry about money or baggage would be such fun. Plus, with his know-how of arms and military patterns and his height and strength, I guess I'd feel as though I could do anything.

  17. Thanks for sharing, Colleen and Shaun! It was a fun read. :)

    I'm a Jim Rockford fan, although I'm definitely aging myself. :)

    And as for Dancing with the Stars, I'm afraid I'm so klutzy, I'd trip all over my partner!

  18. Hi all,

    We posted another giveaway, but since "blogger is grounded" guess it never displayed. We'll make this short & sweet: if any of you would like a free week-long online writers workshop (Oct 31 - Nov 6) on how PIs conduct surveillances, let us know. Because it's getting later in the day, first one who posts "I want that workshop!" gets it.

    There's no homework. Just two posted classes by Shaun and Colleen, and we answer questions about surveillances. Handy info if you're writing a sleuth character/private eye story. We'll give the winner all the details offline.

    Loving everyone's answers about PIs and DWTS! Didn't know Derek Hough is also an artist. btw, we have all the old Rockford Files TV shows on DVDs.

    Colleen & shaun

  19. Love Sherlock Holmes, especially the new British series that started last year. As for Dancing with the Stars...hmmm..love to ballroom dance but I haven't followed it much this season. Thanks for sharing and I'd love to hear more about your workshop.


  20. My favorite PI fictional character would have to be Philip Marlowe. His persona and persistance seem to closely mirror my own. Ok, ok...maybe its the other way around :-) (Refer to my older comment on process serving.) Dancing with the stars... This will probably toss me from the contest but I have no interest whatsoever in being on that distraction from reality show, nor do I know (or care) who the line up of professional dancers are. I'm am opinionated PI, not a dancer :-)

  21. PS: I want the workshop. Your blog strikes me as well written and insightful, and I might learn something. Besides, my own blog could use a bit of refinement.