Elsa Watson is the author of Dog Days, a Tor release that hits store shelves May 22. Elsa dropped by the virtual offices to introduce herself and to chat about her book.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.
[Elsa Watson] I’m goofy, short, and a little shy. I try to be nice to people and animals, and I love escaping into a good story more than anything else. My desk is messy, but my intentions are good, so I figure that makes it okay. By day, I work at the West Sound Wildlife Shelter, which is a wildlife hospital and education center. (The writing happens by night.) All in all, I’m a pretty happy person, and I count myself as extremely lucky.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Dog Days?
[Elsa Watson] It’s the story of Jessica Sheldon, a café owner who had a bad run-in with dogs and has gained a bad reputation. In her dog-loving town of Madrona, she’s been labeled the “dog hater.” But it’s a tag she’s trying to shake, so when she comes across a dog in need — Zoe, a white German shepherd — she steps in to help. Things take a turn when she and Zoe are struck by magical lightening — and wake up transformed. Jessica finds herself trapped in Zoe’s body, paws and all, while Zoe is walking around on two legs with a pair of opposable thumbs.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?
[Elsa Watson] Zoe is a composite. Physically, she’s based on a gorgeous white dog I know named Annie. Her personality comes from our shepherd mix, Kota. Kota has Zoe’s same rambunctious spirit, sense of adventure, and love of hot dogs. Jessica is a quieter and more serious version of me. She’s had a difficult past, so in many ways she’s the person I think I might have been if my childhood had been like hers.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What was the most challenging aspect of writing the story?
[Elsa Watson] Settling on Jessica’s story was hard. Many of the ideas I had originally — that she have a fiancé and a deadbeat sister — landed on the cutting room floor. I spent about six months writing different opening chapters for her until I found one that worked.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Jessica?
[Elsa Watson] Cautious, smitten, and trapped-in-a-dog’s-body (can that count as one word?)
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?
[Elsa Watson] I can’t say that I’ve absorbed any of their brilliance, but I’m definitely in awe of Jane Austen, E.M. Forster, Edith Wharton, Elizabeth Gaskell, Willa Cather, Jennifer Weiner, and Amy Tan.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?
[Elsa Watson] A good keyboard, a clear mental picture of my protagonists, and something to drink (tea, ideally). I’m much happier if I also have some candy!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?
[Elsa Watson] Raggedy Ann and Andy and the Camel with the Wrinkled Knees by Johnny Gruelle. My grandfather took me to kindergarten every day and before it started we would sit in the car while he read Raggedy Ann and Andy stories to me. Later, when I was old enough to read on my own, I read this book over and over. It has talking camels, magical glasses, girls dressed as pirates — what more could you ask for?
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
[Elsa Watson] I work full time and I have a seven-month old, so writing fills the bulk of my spare time. But I love brushing and walking our dogs, mowing the lawn with our old push-mower, and watching movies.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?
[Elsa Watson] Please do! I’m on Facebook (www.facebook.com/elsawatsonauthor), Twitter (@elsa_watson), and Goodreads (Elsa Watson.) I’d love to talk about animals, books, the weather — whatever!
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!
Dog Days will be in stores May 22! You can pre-order a copy from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the widget below.