The most challenging interviews for me are those where even if I’ve read an author’s book, I actually don’t know much about the author and so have to think very hard about what questions to ask. Unfortunately, those questions are like shots in the dark, because maybe the author will find a connection and maybe he won’t. So, I admit my ignorance when it comes to Hy Conrad, beyond that he is best known for his work on the television series Monk and the online site Mystery Net. I appreciate that he still gave me an interview.
ALLISON: Things Your Dog Doesn’t Want You to Know is, obviously, a book all about what dogs don’t want their owners to know: What is one thing as a child that you didn’t want your parents to know?
HY: My parents are no longer around, so I guess I can say this. I hated my name. I used to spend hours in my room, trying to come up with a better name, trying out names in the mirror and signing autographs for my fans.
ALLISON: What is one thing as a student that you “didn’t want” your teachers to know?
HY: I didn’t want them to know I was lazy. I could usually hide it. But every now and then they’d catch me writing a two-week assignment five minutes before handing it in.
ALLISON: You must like/own dogs to write an entire book about them: What is a brag moment you have about your dog?
HY: Our 15-pound Schnauzer once treed a bear. One day, Charlie was barking incessantly at the base of a tree. He wouldn’t stop. Finally, a medium-sized black bear dropped down and ran away. Charlie chased it. I don’t know what he would have done if he’d caught it. But he didn’t.
ALLISON: What is the most embarrassing thing your dog has done?
HY: We had a dog with limited use of his hind legs. Once I was carrying him out of a hotel and stopped to talk to the manager. That’s when Jake pooped in my hand. No one else saw it. I somehow managed to finish our conversation, then took Jake outside and tried to clean us up. Plastic baggies only go so far.
ALLISON: What is your favorite animal besides dogs?
HY: I’d have to say a rabbit. Both Jeff and I had rabbits in backyard pens when we were kids. I guess it was the thing to do back then.
ALLISON: You dedicate your book to Florida Keys SPCA and open door shelters everywhere. How did you get interested in this cause?
HY: That particular shelter is located near our Key West home. Their building is in a floodplain and all the animals have to be evacuated every time a hurricane even comes close. It’s a terrible situation. Right now we’re involved in a capital campaign to buy a piece of land and build a new shelter.
ALLISON: What other “causes” do you support?
HY: We give a fair amount of time and money to the arts, especially non-profit theatre. We’re also involved with Equality Florida, an organization fighting for gay rights.
ALLISON: Both of you have other writing credits. What has been your best writing experience?
A promotional image for the first season of Monk. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
HY I can’t speak for Jeff. But if I could, I’d say this book. His previous work was a self-help book, which I can’t imagine being as much fun.
Personally, my best experience was my eight years writing for the TV show “Monk”. To show up every day and sit around with a bunch of funny guys and think up ways to kill people…. Doesn’t get much better that that.
ALLISON: How did the two of you team up? What was the funniest moment of your partnership?
HY: Jeff and I have been life partners for decades. If I said how long, then you’d do the math and suspect that we’re old, which we’re not. We’ve always wanted to do a project together and when we came up with this idea, it seemed perfect.
I think the funniest moments are the ones that weren’t funny at the time, like Charlie treeing the bear, or Jeff being chased by hordes of kids through the streets of Marrakesh when he tried to give money to just one of them. Actually that was funny at the time–to me.
ALLISON: What has been your worst interview question? Why?
HY: This one! No, I’m kidding. The hardest are the ones that seem too serious.
Ooh, here’s a funny one. I was doing a radio interview over the phone and the host came on literally five seconds before we started. “Hy Conrad?” he asked. “This is he,” I replied, sticking to the grammar I’d learned in grade school. A second later we were on the air and for the entire interview, he called me “He.” “He Conrad.” I didn’t have the nerve to correct him.
ALLISON: What is one thing as a worker that you “didn’t want” your employers to know?
HY: Once on “Monk”, I had a salary dispute and threatened to quit. It went on for a week. What they didn’t know is that I would have worked there for free.
ALLISON: What are your interests outside of writing?
HY: Jeff likes to build things. We’ve had a summer place in the woods for decades (Again, I’m not going to let you do the math.) Over the years he’s built a gazebo, a pool house and a huge deck cantilevered over a hill. You can probably see it from space.
Me, I love travel and history and languages.