It’s been three years since author Bobbie Pyron wrote the first draft of the book which eventually became A DOG’S WAY HOME which starts its journey into the world today! Three years, many drafts, many rejections, many title changes. But today is the day the book officially comes out! We managed to stop the author’s Happy Dance long enough to ask her a few questions about the path this book took to publication.
What inspired you to write A DOG’S WAY HOME?
When I was a child, my over-riding passions in life were dogs and reading. I read all the great classic dog stories–LASSIE COME-HOME, THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY and many others. I read those books over and over, even as an adult! So I like to say my book is my personal love letter to all those great classics that meant so much to me. It’s also a celebration of the remarkable bond that exists between dogs and their people. And I do have a huge soft spot in my heart for Shetland sheepdogs!
What was your process and timeline, from the first kernel of idea until you held a copy of the book?
Years! I first started hearing the narrative voice in my head about three years ago, maybe a bit more. It took me about eight months to write a pretty tight first draft. Then, based on the feedback I got from my wonderful critique group, I started a second revision. After that, I started taking it to various workshops–Asilomar, Pacific Coast Children’s Writers workshop, local SCBWI conferences. Some of the critiques at those workshops and conferences were encouraging, some–not so much. But I kept revising and kept holding true to what I knew: the book had to be written from alternating points of view. Finally, about a year and a half ago, I submitted to Alyssa Eisner Henkin at Trident Media. I was thrilled when I got an email back from her saying she wanted to represent me and my book! But still, there were many more revisions and rejections to come. Finally, in fall of 2009, the book was sold (at auction!) to Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of Harper Collins. I was so lucky to be able to work with Molly O’Neill as my editor. More revising, more titles changes, but now, here it is!
You live in Utah, yet your story is set in North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee. Why? Did you travel to those areas for research?
That’s a good question! I did live in western North Carolina for many years and spent a lot of time hiking and camping near the Blue Ridge Parkway where much of the story takes place. I have a deep and abiding love for that part of the world–the people, the mountains, the music, the language. When the story first “came” to me, that’s where it was set. It was not a conscious decision on my part. It’s where the story wanted to be told. I don’t know how else to explain it! But even though I know that area very well, I still did a lot of research on the flora and fauna of the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was important to me to not say a particular tree or bird was in the Virginia part of the Blue Ridge Parkway if they’re actually found in the Georgia section. I guess that’s the librarian in me!
You alternate points of view in the book, from first person (Abby’s chapters) and third person for Tam’s (the dog’s) chapters. What thoughts went in to your decision about this?
Not to make it sound like a mystical or “woo woo” kind of experience, but that’s the way the story came to me. At first, I tried writing Abby’s chapters in third person too, but it just didn’t work for me. I felt like I wasn’t getting close enough to her. And then I didn’t want to change Tam’s chapters to first person talking-dog narration. I’m not overly fond of talking animal stories (although some have been done very well). So I went with my gut and wrote it the way I really felt it had to be written. There were many times as I piled up rejections, many based on that POV choice, I questioned my sanity. But I was lucky enough to have a critique group that supported my decision and then, eventually, find an agent and an editor who trusted my instincts and shared my vision.
Your characters (including Tam, the shetland sheepdog) made me laugh, shed a tear, hold my breath, and cheer. Were they hard to let go when you completed the book?
Yes! I had really become attached to the characters, especially some of the secondary characters like Abby’s two friends Olivia and Cheyenne Rivers, the old woman, Ivy Calhoun, who saved Tam at a certain point, and, of course, Tam and Abby. I still find myself thinking about them. I think it’s different with each book. When I finished my first book, THE RING, I was really done with it. And the book my agent now has I don’t think about that much beyond the last page (although I think readers will). But A DOG’S WAY HOME is still with me.
Congrats on your starred review from Publishers Weekly! What was the first thing you did when you found out?
Thanks! I let out a whoop, danced with one of my shelties, emailed my friends my good news, and then tried to explain to my husband why a starred review is so important.
Read us one tidbit from your book, maybe your favorite passage:
Tam watched the moon rise above the far ridge, hanging full and golden between two peaks. All the night creatures stirred around him, beginning their ancient agreement between predator and prey. A fox barked in the hollow below the road.
Many times, Tam had watched the moon with his girl. Sometimes, they had watched from the front porch, with the sound of crickets and the big man’s fiddle. Other times, they’d watched from the window seat in her bedroom. Tam had never known why the girl watched the moon with such longing. It had not mattered to him. He loved the moon because he loved the girl, the girl who held him close as she gazed into the night sky. He listened to her steady breathing, the thump thump of her heart. Her heartbeat filled his world.
A DOG’S WAY HOME is now available! To find out more about Bobbie and her books (and her dogs) visit her at www.bobbiepyron.com
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