I love reading about why an author wrote the book she wrote, and background information about it. I hope you do, too! Because today I have a treat for you–Bobbie Pyron talking about her new book A Dog’s Way Home.
What made you write A Dog’s Way Home?
One day, a few summers ago, I was hiking with my (then) two dogs (I now have three), Teddy and Boo, way up in the mountains. Boo is a coyote mix and Teddy is a Shetland sheepdog. Because of her wild nature, Boo is always off hunting way off the trail; still, she always knows where I am. Teddy, true to his Shetland sheepdog nature, never, ever strayed far from my side. To be honest, Teddy would be happiest if we were somehow physically and permanently attached at the waist. Anyway, I started wondering what Teddy would do if he ever had to survive on his own in the wilderness, especially in the winter. Like any good writer, I asked myself, “What if?” What if Teddy and I somehow got separated from each other? What if he had to survive in the wilderness on his own? How would he eat? Of course, I thought back also to those great classic dog adventure stories I loved so much growing up and read over and over: Lassie Come-Home, The Incredible Journey, Lad, and Irish Red. I like to say my book is my own personal love letter to not only the bond between dogs and their people but also to those great dog stories of the 40s, 50s, and 60s.
In A Dog’s Way Home, Abby and Tam are determined to find their way back to each other. I think that shows the depth of their love for each other. Is that one of the things you were trying to show?
Definitely! I was trying to show that almost mystical and (dare I say) even spiritual bond that exists between humans and their animal companions, especially dogs. It seems like every day, I read or hear some news story about a dog that traveled many, many miles to get home to the person she loved, or a dog risking its life to save its person. Some of these true storied I hear about make Tam’s trials and tribulations in A Dog’s Way Home seem pretty darned tame!
What was your favorite part about writing (or editing, or promoting) A Dog’s Way Home?
Oh gosh, that’s a tough question! Perhaps because I’m also a librarian, I loved do the research for the book—everything from what types of flora are found in the northern part of the Blue Ridge Parkway as opposed to the central and southern parts, to how a coyote would kill a porcupine. Of course, spending time out in the woods (especially in winter) with my dogs and observing them was a huge part of the research. But I also love writing first drafts. I love that thrill and magic of watching characters and plot unfold, especially when things surprise you!
What was your least favorite?
Honestly, trying to find someone—and agent and editor—who believed in the way I wrote the book. The story is told from two different points of view: Tam, the sheltie, has his chapters told in what I call “intimate” third person; Abby, his 11-year-old girl, tells her own story in first person. The chapters alternate back and forth and weave together. I was told over and over a story for kids “couldn’t” be told that way. It was very discouraging! But it really is true it only takes one yes. I found an agent who loved the way I’d written the book and believed that’s the way it should be published.
Do you have a dog in your life? Tell us about her, him, or them.
I am rich in dogs! I have three: Boo (the coyote mix), and my two Shetland sheepdog boys, Teddy and Sherlock. All three are rescues. We adopted Boo about nine years ago. She was pretty much a feral street dog—just a wild thing. But she and my husband fell in love with each other; I, of course, was the one who had to “civilize” her. At least a little. She’s probably the smartest dog I’ve ever had, which is saying a lot! We adopted Teddy from Sheltie Rescue of Utah about six months after we adopted Boo. I’d always wanted a purebred sheltie. He and I met and it was love, love, love at first sight. Then I met Sherlock at Sheltie Rescue of Utah three years ago. He had been a stud at a puppy mill and had spent the first three years of his life in a tiny wire cage. I decided he needed a home where he could run on trails and snow and have a big back yard with lots of room to have the puppyhood he never had. And he’s done just that!
What do you want readers to get out of A Dog’s Way Home?
When I write a book, I never think about what I want the reader to “get out of” the book. To be honest, I rarely think about the reader at all. I guess I hope what any reader of my books gets is an experience that opens and touches something within them. I like to imagine a reader finishing a book of mine and hugging it to their heart.
What are some of your favorite books about dogs?
As I mentioned before, I still love the classic dog books such as Lassie Come-Home, The Incredible Journey, and Lad: A Dog. I also love some of the contemporary books out there like Because of Winn Dixie, A Dog’s Life: the Autobiography of a Stray, Ribsy, A Dog’s Purpose, just to name a few.
What other books have you written? Do you have anything coming out in the near future?
My first book, The Ring, came out in fall of 2009. It’s a contemporary novel for teens about a fifteen-year-old girl named Mardie who gets into a lot of trouble before finding herself through amateur boxing. And yes, I did take boxing lessons as part of the research for that book! I have another book coming out in Fall of 2012 with Scholastic. The title right now is Mercy’s Bone, although that may change. It’s a fictionalized account of a true story set in Russia in the mid 1990s not long after the fall of the Soviet Union. You can imagine how much research I had to do for that book. I was in research heaven!
Thank you, Bobbie, for a great and interesting interview!