Interview with Elsa Watson, Author of Dog Days

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.

Review: Stargazing Dog by Takashi Murakami

 

Title: Stargazing Dog

Author: Takashi Murakami

Publisher: NBM Publishing

ISBN: 978-1561636129

 

May Contain Spoil

From Amazon:

Translated from the Japanese bestseller, this story centers on Oto-san, a man who finds himself abandoned by his family and friends with nothing in his life happening the way he had planned. He embarks on a road trip to escape it all, and he soon discovers the only one he can count on completely is his faithful, recently adopted dog, who helps him see the light at the end of the tunnel. Illustrating the valuable lessons of friendship and loyalty, this is a heartwarming tale of two endearing characters and their shared adventure into the unknown.

Review:

I don’t know what exactly I expected from Stargazing Dog, but a sad story of wasted opportunities wasn’t anywhere on the list.  From the cover, I expected a carefree tale about a man and his dog.  It’s not.  It’s a story about a man without goals or the ability to change, and the love he has for his dog, the one constant in his life.  Happie provides most of the narrative, and as someone who loves dogs and can’t imagine life without my Buu, the deceptively simple language packs a powerful punch.  It actually felt like someone stabbed me in the heart a few times as I become totally engrossed in Happie’s life with Daddy.

Told in two parts, the first half of the book follows Daddy and Happie from a comfortable life in the suburbs, to divorce, to homelessness.  Through it all, Happie stays faithfully by Daddy’s side.  His whole life revolves around Daddy, and he is over the moon as long as he gets his daily walk and is allowed to spend time with the center of his universe.  When Happie first enters Daddy’s life as a puppy, the man tolerates the dog and allows his daughter to keep her new pet.  As the years slowly pass, the only anchor in Happie’s life is Daddy, and Daddy slowly grows fond of the dog.  Unconditional love is hard to resist, and Daddy soon succumbs to Happie’s worship.  As his fortunes decline, Daddy’s world begins to revolve around Happie, and soon, the two only have each other.  Everything else is gone; sold, stolen, discarded.  Just their mutual affection remains, even as life-threatening illnesses and a life on the road take their toll on both of them.

The second half of the book follows Okutsu, a social worker who is trying to uncover the mystery left by Daddy and Happie.  Okutsu is a lot like Daddy, except that he lacks one thing that the homeless man still possessed; the blind love and trust of a dog.  As Okutsu follows leads to close his case, he is forced to reflect back on his treatment of his dog when he was a child.  He wasn’t always nice to the dog, and even when he was at his meanest, the dog still accepted him with unwavering devotion.  Unconditional love isn’t always as easy to return as one would think, and when Okutsu was a boy, he resented his dog for always loving him, no matter how cruel he could be. 

This book resonated with me because of the relationship between Daddy and Okutsu and their dogs.  Neither one of them is particularly successful in their dealings with other people, but they have learned to form a deep connection with their pets.  Even as Okutsu chides his dog for stargazing and staring into the night sky, you can’t help but wonder how the lives of both men would have changed if they had been the dreamers and the stargazers.  Neither of them seems motivated to become more than they are, and if they didn’t have their dogs, they would both be alone, emotionally detached from everyone and everything.  Maybe that is what struck me the hardest about this book – the dogs had a fundamental ability to live and love that both men were sadly lacking.

Grade: A-

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Shelter Puppies by Michael Kloth

 

Title: Shelter Puppies

Author: Michael Kloth

Publisher:  Merrell

ISBN: 978-1858945606

 

 

From Amazon:

What could tug at the heartstrings more than a puppy looking for a home? Whether he’s exploring eagerly with his littermates or winning you over with his doleful stare, a puppy is quite irresistible. Dog ownership is a responsibility not to be taken lightly, however, and every year growing numbers of newborn or abandoned puppies enter shelters. In this delightful new book, photographer Michael Kloth captures the canine spirit at its floppy-eared, tail-wagging best with over 60 endearing portraits of shelter puppies. From chihuahuas and poodles to pit bulls and Labradors, and all kinds of mixes in-between, the puppies enchant with their curiosity, playfulness and all-round lust for life. By documenting the unique characters and stories of some of the puppies he has encountered in his volunteer work, Kloth raises awareness of animal rescue causes, and especially the need for more adoptive homes.

Thoughts:

Since I am totally biased towards puppies, this isn’t a review so much as a discussion about a cause that I feel very strongly about.  If flipping through very, very cute pictures of puppies helps prompt you to go out and adopt a dog, then please grab a copy of Shelter Puppies right now.  Open the book, and you can’t help but smile as one adorable photograph after another holds you captive.  In addition to the glossy photos, there are success stories about adopted puppies and how much their presence in their forever homes have enriched the lives of their new families. 

I don’t need to look through a book to know how true this is – my dog, Buu, was rescued from a breed specific private shelter, after he was saved from a city shelter.  Because he was an older dog, and because he is a large breed, his chances of adoption through the city shelter were slim.  When we decided it was time to add another member to our family, Buu was not a likely candidate for our home.  I wanted to adopt a female, but there wasn’t one available.  Instead, we took home a very underweight 18 month old male who was still recovering from pneumonia, which he caught at the city shelter.  He almost didn’t make the trip home with us – after agreeing to adopt him, he had to be rushed to the animal hospital, and they didn’t think he would make it.  That was a devastating phone call.  Why did I cry for a dog I hadn’t even met yet?

We decided to adopt a dog instead of purchasing a puppy from a breeder after we failed to save our Doberman.  KC died of congestive heart failure, an affliction that is common for Dobermans.  It was hard for me to decide to bring a new life into our home, because there is always that fear of loss.  Could I go through that again?  It is an inevitable end when you love a pet and agree to care for it for its entire life.  That is what pet ownership is really about, though, isn’t it?  Making a promise to your pet to take care of it and to love it forever.  It is a sacred trust that you agree to accept when you bring an animal into your house.  The joy and love that you receive in return is priceless, though.  How can you resist that happy greeting every time you walk through the front door?

Shelter Puppies is a beautiful book full of beautiful photographs of adorable puppies.  The glossy, full-color pages will delight even the most hard-hearted of readers.  Michael Kloth’s introduction should be required reading for all potential dog owners.  There is more to having a dog than feeding it and letting it outside.  The statistics included in the book are sobering – millions of dogs and cats are euthanatized every year in the United States alone.  In our throw away society, when did these vulnerable lives come to mean so little?

Grade: A – How can a book full of puppy pictures NOT get an A?

(25 cents from every copy sold in the US will benefit the ASPCA)

Review copy provided by publisher