Ingrid Thoft’s first novel, Loyalty, introduces Fina Ludlow, house PI for her family’s Boston law firm.

Why did you get a certificate in private investigation?

I wanted to have a professional detective character because being an amateur was so limiting. You can only stumble upon so many bodies. And so I wanted to know what that actually entails.

What were the best tidbits you picked up during the yearlong course?

The head of the crime lab for the Washington State Police came in and she talked about a case where the ash from Mt. St. Helens had played a role in disproving a suspect’s alibi. And my classmates had quite a range of interests. The one that really stood out was the person studying animal fecal evidence—so, basically animal poop. That is a whole area of study, and it can actually play a role in solving crimes, though it holds no appeal for me.

Were you at all tempted to work as a PI yourself?

I find private investigation fascinating, but it was actually more fun for me to write a character and have her do things. It’s also not an easy job. It can be really boring. Some of it can be dangerous, and I, unlike my character, am kind of a scaredy-cat.

What inspired the character of Fina?

I’m a big believer in not necessarily writing what you know but writing what you want to read. And so I thought I’d like to read about a strong female protagonist who has a sense of humor and who often pushes the boundaries. What I like about writing Fina is that she’s got it together in many respects, and in other ways she’s incompetent. I like the idea that she can certainly hold her own in an altercation, but her relationship with her mother is a mess, and she reverts to very childish patterns when she’s with her family.

Any resemblance between Fina’s spectacularly dysfunctional family and your own?

In a lot of respects mine is the polar opposite. One of the things that’s held constant since my college days is my interest in systems—in political systems, in family systems—and that’s something I try to address in this book. I have a great mother I can send pages to her and she’ll give me terrific feedback.