For those of you who don’t already know Bobbie, she has a great blog you must see! She’s an author, book lover, and dog lover, and does such fun interviews with authors and their dogs. That’s particularly important since it’s National Dog Week!! I loved A DOG’S WAY HOME and really think that schools in Virginia, West Virginia, and Tennessee, where this story takes place, should put it on their reading lists. :o)
Here are some Q&A’s to get to know Bobbie better:
Can you tell us how your books came to be published?
My books came to be published through a lot of hard work and perseverance because for me, like most authors, the road to publication was paved with many rejections! My first book, a teen novel titled The Ring, took about a year to write. I workshopped it for another year or so, put it in a drawer for awhile (after I amassed numerous rejections) and then pulled it out again when I read that WestSide Books was looking for contemporary teen novels. I took a chance and sent it off to them. They offered me a contract about four months later. The Ring was published in October 2009. While The Ring was gathering dust in a drawer, I wrote what would become A Dog’s Way Home. The first draft took me about nine months to write, and again, I took it to numerous workshops and gathered up lots of rejections. I’m not big on clichés, but one that really does hold true in publishing is it only takes one yes. About the time I signed the contract with WestSide Books for The Ring, I found my wonderful agent and signed with her. I was so excited! Still, it took about another year to revise and sell A Dog’s Way Home to Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins). It came out this past March and is doing very well!
How long have you been writing?
Well, I always wanted to be a writer from the time I first learned to read! I couldn’t imagine anything more wonderful than writing a book that would be read and loved. But my life took a lot of detours along the way—I was a professional singer, dog trainer, rock climbing instructor, and eventually went back to school to be a librarian. Finally, about six years ago, my life was settled enough to think about writing. I started out writing picture books, which I think is great training for any writer. I wrote picture books for a couple of years with a wonderful critique group. Then one day, while at a writing retreat, I heard this very forceful teenage girl talking in my head about what was going on in her life—how everything sucked—and the only way I could get her to shut up was to write her story. That story was The Ring.
How much of your book(s) is autobiographical?
There are certainly parts of me and my life in everything I write. The Ring was inspired by experiences my stepdaughter was having when she was fifteen, particularly when she took up boxing. People have asked me if the stepmother, Amy, in The Ring, is me (she’s a librarian and Southerner). I always say Amy is the stepmother I aspired to be. A Dog’s Way Home was most definitely inspired by my love for dogs and my relationship with my dogs. I do indeed have shelties (the breed of dog in the book) and I lived for many years in the Appalachian mountains. Readers frequently ask me if I ever lost my dog and I can say, thankfully no! But on a deeper level, I think all my books are, to some degree or another, about loss. In The Ring, the main character is coping with the loss of her mother when she was a young child. In A Dog’s Way Home, Abby is coping with the loss of her beloved Shetland Sheepdog, Tam. I experienced quite a bit of loss in my childhood. I think I’m still working through all that early loss in my books.
What’s an important nugget you’d like readers to take away from your book(s)?
I think with both books, they speak to never giving up on your dream—whether that dream be finding your long lost dog, or winning a championship boxing competition. You have to believe in yourself, even when others don’t’!
What’s your favorite form of exercise?
Anything where I’m out with my dogs and in the woods! I love to hike and trail run in the summer with my three dogs and husband. In the winter, we do a lot of snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. I’m fortunate to live in a place where it’s very easy for me to do this.
What’s your favorite comfort food?
Probably grits. I’m a southern gal through and through. I find a hot bowl of grits with a little butter and a lot of pepper especially comforting on dark, cold winter mornings.
What are some of your favorite books?
I love beautifully written books with lots of heart and characters that, however flawed, are doing the best they can. Some of my favorite books are Second Nature, by Alice Hoffman, Milkweed, by Jerry Spinelli, Room, by Emma Donoghue, Lassie Come-Home (I actually have a collection of different editions of this book!), Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, by Gary Schmidt, A Dog’s Purpose, by W. Bruce Cameron, and of course, Mockingbird by you know who.
What’s a skill you’d most like to acquire?
I would love to learn to play the banjo! I do play the guitar but I’d really like to take banjo lessons.
Why should kids read books when there’s so many other things to do?
You know, that’s a really good question, Kathy. And you’d think with me being an author and a librarian, I’d have a quick, easy answer for that, but I don’t! I thought about this while I was running this morning, and here’s what I think: books are still the best and most magical way to exercise all parts of your imagination. A book draws you inside its world in a way nothing else does. I think we internalize books in a way we don’t movies, TV, or video games. A good book becomes a part of us and our history in a way nothing else does.
Do you have another book coming out? Can you tell us a little bit about it?
Yes! I’m happy to report I have a new book coming out fall of 2012! The book is tentatively titled Mercy’s Bone (but you and I know how that can change) and will be published by Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic). The novel is based on a true story about a very young boy who, like tens of thousands of other children and teens, found himself homeless on the streets of Moscow after the fall of the Soviet Union. The child survives for two years on the streets by living with a pack of feral street dogs. Although dogs are an important part of the story, I think of it more as an exploration of what the definition of family is and what makes us “human.”
OK, that is definitely a book I’m putting on my list! Thanks, Bobbie! Please visit Bobbie at her website, where you can see fabulous dog photos like these: