What gave you the inspiration for A Dog’s Way Home?
I like to say A Dog’s Way Home is my personal love letter to my dogs and to all the classic dog books I read growing up, like Lassie Come-Home and The Incredible Journey. It’s a celebration of the two things I have always loved most in the world since I was a child: books and dogs. It was inspired specifically by two of my dogs, my Shetland Sheepdog, Teddy, and my coyote mix, Boo. I started thinking about the story one day when I was hiking with the two of them way up in the mountains. I watched how differently they interacted with their environment and with me-—Boo always off-trail where I can’t see her, hunting, and Teddy never farther than six feet from me. I asked myself, “What if they had to survive on their own in the wilderness?” I knew Boo would be okay, at least physically. But Teddy was another story. So A Dog’s Way Home is his story!
Tell us a little bit about Shelties. What are some of their characteristics? What makes them unique?
Shelties were originally bred as herding dogs on the wild and cold Shetland Islands off the northern end of Scotland. They herded sheep mostly, and they also served as sentry dogs, alerting the crofters when a stranger came on their land. They’re a tough little breed. They are also extremely loyal and very smart. They bond strongly to their people but can be aloof with strangers. They also, generally speaking, are great family dogs. They’re not for everybody, though: they shed a lot and they bark a lot!
I can certainly relate to the shedding and barking! My Sheltie, Lady, seems to have missed the part about being aloof with strangers, though. 🙂
How long did “A Dog’s Way Home” take you to write?
It took about nine months to write the first draft. I tend to edit as I go along. Plus, I still work a day job (I’m a librarian in my “other life”). That first draft was followed by quite a number of revisions and rejections. From first draft to publication in March of 2011, it took about three years. Being an author is not for the faint of heart, nor for the impatient.
Tell us about your next book, “The Dogs of Winter”.
The Dogs of Winter is based on the true story of Ivan Mishukov, a very young homeless child in Russia. The book takes place in Moscow in the mid-1990s, after the fall of the Soviet Union. Although we tend to think of the Soviet Union’s fall as a good thing, it was devastating to the people of Russia. As a result, there were tens of thousands of homeless children and teens living and doing their best to survive on the streets of Moscow and St. Petersburg. Unlike most of the homeless kids, Ivan did not join one of the many gangs of children living in the underground railway stations. Instead, he was adopted by a pack of feral street dogs and lived with them for two years. My book is a fictionalized account of those two years. My editor, Arthur A. Levine, says it’s a mash-up of Oliver Twist and Julie of the Wolves. But it’s also an exploration of what makes us human and what defines “family.” It’ll be published by Scholastic October 1st.
Thank you for your time, Bobbie!