Allison's Book Bag

Interview with Bobbie Pyron

Posted on: October 14, 2011

Allison:You devoured books about animals as a kid. What are your favorite animal books, past and present?

Bobbie: The very first book I ever remember reading on my own was a very silly little book called Casey, the Utterly Impossible Horse. I still have a copy of it! I also read all the Misty of Chincoteague books by Marguerite Henry, Lassie Come-Home, The Incredible Journey, the Irish Red series, of course the Black Stallion books, and The Yearling. Those were all some of my favorites. I still read lots of animal books—both fiction and nonfiction. Some favorites are A Dog’s Story: the autobiography of a stray, by Ann M. Martin, Because of Winn-Dixie, Love that Dog, A Dog’s Purpose, by W. Bruce Cameron, and The Other End of the Leash, by Patricia McConnell.

Allison: Are there musicians in your family? What experiences or research did you draw on to portray Abby’s dad as a country western singer?

Bobbie: I grew up in a very musical family. My mother studied opera at Oberlin Conservatory of Music, but she loved all kinds of music. My grandparents and uncles all played guitar and sang. I saw The Beatles in concert in Jacksonville, Florida when I was, like, eight years old! I learned to play guitar when I was sixteen and started singing and playing professionally at eighteen. Most of my college years I was singing in some kind of band or another—rock, folk, jazz, even Irish. I went to undergrad school at a small college in the mountain of North Carolina, an area steeped in the kind of music Abby’s dad liked to play. Those years in Western North Carolina and my years as a professional singer very much informed Abby’s father’s passion and experiences playing music. Even the names of some of the musicians in her dad’s band are names of musicians I played with in North Carolina.

Allison: How did you come up with the idea of giving Tam a coyote friend?

Bobbie: Well first of all, I have two shelties and another dog who is part coyote. So watching the relationship and how it grew between my sheltie, Teddy, and my coy-dog, Boo, was very much part of the inspiration behind the book. Also, shelties are not natural hunters—far from it! So I knew, in order to survive the wilderness, Tam would need to learn to hunt. A coyote friend seemed the perfect companion for that. It is not at all unheard of for coyotes and even foxes to become friends with dogs.

Allison: How much research was involved in writing A Dog’s Way Home?

Bobbie: Lots! Even though I know the western North Carolina mountains (and culture) very well, and I know dogs intimately, I still did lots of research. It was very important to me that I got all the flora and fauna placed where it really is on the Blue Ridge Parkway. If I said a raven was perched in a certain kind of tree in the Virginia part of the Parkway, I wanted to make darned sure that type of tree would be there. Before I wrote the scene where the coyote kills the porcupine, I researched just how a coyote would kill a porcupine. And because I’d never been to Nashville, I flew out there and spent several days seeing what Abby would see when she moved there. It was also a great excuse to visit my cousin. I also did quite a lot of research on llamas, even though they didn’t play that big a part in the book. Can you tell I love research?

Allison: You own a feral street dog, a shelter dog, and a puppy mill dog. Any plans to write about dogs with these backgrounds? How involved are you with dog rescue organizations?

Bobbie: Boo, my feral street dog (who is also the coyote mix) and Teddy, my first rescued sheltie, both were the inspiration for A Dog’s Way Home, and my models as I wrote the book. So they played a huge part. I would like sometime to write a story about a puppy mill dog, its life before and after. And certainly, Sherlock would be my muse for that story. Puppy mills are such horrific places. I’m always distressed by 1) how few people even know what a puppy mill is and 2) what’s so bad about them! Perhaps if I ever write a sequel to A Dog’s Way Home, I’ll star a dog from a puppy mill like my sheltie, Sherlock.  As for rescue organizations I’m involved with, I’ve done volunteer work with Sheltie Rescue of Utah (where I adopted both my shelties) for many years. I also volunteer with a no-kill shelter here in Park City called Friends of Animals Utah. Usually once a week I go out to their amazing rescue and rehab facility and walk dogs for several hours. I’ve even been known to clean cat boxes out there and play with cats. Yes, me! I do, by the way, have two cats.

Allison: How did the loss of your dad at age 7 affect you?

Bobbie: Allison, that is such a great question and I’ve been thinking about it for days. First of all, when you lose a parent suddenly and completely like that (my father was killed by a drunk driver), you lose your childhood.  Period. You lose your innocence, your sense of the world being a safe and predictable place. My mother was not only devastated by the loss of my dad, but she was suddenly a single parent. So in that way, I lost my mother too. Obviously, it made for a very difficult childhood. I think that early experience very much influences my writing: all my books are, in one way or another, about loss. And not only loss, but more importantly I think, about how one goes forward from a devastating loss. How one builds a world in spite of loss. I think that’s something I’m still playing out over and over in my writing.

Allison: Your life took many twists and turns before you finally realized your dream from age nine to become a published author. Which did you find more difficult: writing, revising, or finding a publisher?

Bobbie: You’re right, my life did take a lot of twists and turns! I trained dogs, worked as a rock climbing instructor, was a professional singer, got degrees in psychology and anthropology, got a masters in Library Science, and have worked for 25+ years as a librarian. But through it all, always in the back of my mind I wanted, wanted, wanted to be a writer. It just took a while for my life to settle down (physically and emotionally) enough for me to explore that. What was the hardest? By far, finding a publisher! I have control over the writing and revising, but finding a publisher (or agent to get me to a publisher) was like getting an audience with The Great and Powerful Oz! Getting past those “gatekeepers” takes a lot of time and persistence, and developing a bit of a thick skin—something not natural for me.

Allison: You’ve said that on your bulletin board you have a photograph of a young Russian boy who was the inspiration for one of your (as yet) unpublished novels. What’s that book about?

Bobbie: First of all, I’m very excited to say that novel will be published in 2012 by Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic)! The book is tentatively titled Mercy’s Bone. It’s based on the true story of Ivan Mishukov, a four-year-old boy abandoned on the streets of Moscow not long after the fall of the Soviet Union (mid 1990s). Like tens of thousands of other children and teens in the cities of Russia at that time, he was left to fend for himself and survive as best he could. Many of these children fell prey to drugs and vodka, gangs, disease, and the winters. Ivan survived for two years by living with a pack of feral street dogs. My book is a fictionalized account of those years, and what came after. Talk about research! I researched that book off and on for a good five years.

Allison: On your blog, you emphasize stories, through a post called Fido and Friend in Five, about other authors and their dogs. How did you come up with that idea?

Bobbie: I have to give credit where credit is due. I am not entirely comfortable blogging, but my editor for A Dog’s Way Home, Molly O’Neill, really felt I should. My main objection to blogging was I didn’t feel comfortable just talking about myself all the time—“look how well my book is doing”, “look how clever I am”, “look what I ate for lunch today.” She came up with the idea of interviewing other authors about their dogs. Thus, Fido and Friend in Five was born! I have been truly amazed and humbled by the authors who have gladly agreed to take time out to be on my blog—authors such as Kathi Appelt, Gary Schmidt, Lisa Yee, Barbara O’Connor, Patricia Maclachlan, W. Bruce Cameron, Kathy Erskine, just to name a very few. It’s really been a lot of fun. I think dog people–no matter how many awards they’ve won–just love to talk about their dogs!

Allison: What’s next?

Bobbie: As I said, my next book, Mercy’s Bone, will be out in 2012. I have another, much lighter novel, I’m working on right now set in my home state of Florida.  A much-needed, warmer change after writing a book set in Russia! And as always, I have lots of ideas and voices rattling around in my head.

Eager to read A Dog’s Way Home? You can win your own copy by commenting on this interview or on my review from yesterday. All entrants will have their names entered into a draw. When you post, please include your email so I can contact you if you’re a winner.

2 Responses to "Interview with Bobbie Pyron"

I’m way late chiming in here, but just want to say that I love and admire this book. I’m beginning to wrIte a dog novel for middle grade readers, so my antennae are tuned to dogs stories, fact and fiction. I agree with your review comments about the parent’s excuses, but the compelling story, as you say overcomes these flaws. Thank you so much for this interview because knowing the author’s and the book’s background deepens my appreciation of the way she portrayed the relationship between the sheltie and his wild friend and his struggle to survive. I’m especially glad to know about Bobbie Pyron’s Fido & Five blog and will go there right away!

A Dog’s Way Home is a wonderful tribute to the classic dog story. It should serve as a good model for your own novel. I’m also glad you liked my interview with her. You’ll find interviews by other bloggers with her on Bobbie’s site. Knowing how an author develops a book is always inspirational and informative, which is why interviews is a wonderful perk to my job.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Allisons' Book Bag Logo

Thank You!

Allison’s Book Bag will no longer be updated. Thank you for eight years!

You can continue to follow me at:



Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 127 other subscribers
%d bloggers like this: