Allison's Book Bag

Posts Tagged ‘virtual book tours

Three tours, two special posts, and one giveaway are coming your way this September at Allison’s Book Bag. Oh my!

As part of the Virtual Author Book Tours, I am reviewing Things Your Dog Doesn’t Want You to Know by Hy Conrad and Jeff Johnson and Sulan by Camille Picott. Later this month, I’ll also post an interview with the authors of the first book and a guest post from the author of the second book. Then for TLC, I’m reviewing Woodrow The White House Mouse by Peter and Cheryl Barnes. (You might remember it from an August TLC tour when I reviewed Woodrow for President.)

Here’s the list with dates of posts that will appear on Allison’s Book Bag.

  • September 8: Review of Things Your Dog Doesn’t Want You to Know by Hy Conrad and Jeff Johnson
  • September 12: Review of Sulan by Camille Picott
  • September 13: Guest Post by Camille Picott
  • September 14: Woodrow the White House Mouse by Peter and Cheryl Barnes
  • September 17: Interview with Hy Conrad and Jeff Johnson

To read posts from other hosts in these tours, check out the right-hand column for complete tour information.

As an extra bonus, you can also enter to win a giveaway of Sulan by Camille Picott. To enter, you must live in the continental United States. To win, you must post a comment to my review of Sulan or Camille Picott’s guest post. Your name will entered into a draw.

In between all these posts, I’ll keep up with my teasers. Those will give you a little information about the authors of the books for the Virtual Author Book Tours.

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.

When my signed hardcover copy of A Dog’s Way Home by Bobbie Pyron first arrived, I felt as if it were Christmas. In being about eleven-year-old Abby and her champion sheltie Tam after they’re separated by a car accident, it’s like a modern-day Lassie Come Home. However, A Dog’s Way Home also distinguishes itself from other classic lost dog stories by being told through alternating viewpoints. In this riveting tale of over 300 pages, Pyron treats readers to an intense love story with complex relationships and probing themes.

What is so special about lost dog stories? At their heart is the bond of love between the main character and their furry four-legged companion. Another way of putting that is how Abby’s dad tells her everyone has a North Star which centers them, gives them meaning, and that they must follow. For Abby, her dog Tam is her North Star. By the same token, Abby is Tam’s girl. She is who he dreams of, listens to, and loves most in the world. Imagine now, if the two are separated. No amount of miles or hardship is going to deter either from finding one another. This fact alone makes for a story that will make you chew your nails, cry, scream, as well as clap your hands, beam, and sing.

How is A Dog’s Way Home different from other dog stories? In those tales which I have read, the point of view remains solely from that of the dog. Pryon instead takes readers inside the emotions of both Abby and her Tam, which heightens the story’s emotional punch. When her parents fail to live up to their promise to return to the crash location, Abby skips school and hops on a bus to find her dog. When her parents find her, Abby doesn’t give up but instead runs up a bill making phone calls to parks and shelters. During all this time, Tam is equally driven to find Abby. He encounters bears, bobcats, porcupines, frostbite, traps, and gunshots. None of this discourage him. On the flip side, when a coyote befriends him, an elderly lady nurses him back to health, and a shelter captures him with intention of adopting him out, Tam also doesn’t let those comforts hinder him from his goal of returning to his girl.

Pryon also reveals to readers the actions of both Abby and Tam. As such, we learn how far and how close the two sometimes are from one another, which intensifies the suspense. For instance, when Tam wriggles loose of both his crate and collar to escape from drowning, he then travels the miles back to the scene of the accident where he waits for Abby’s return. Unfortunately, her parents are dealing with a broken-down vehicle and injuries, and so the family fails to immediately return to look for him. When they finally do take the trip back, Tam has been driven from the spot by hunger. Later, when Tam’s microchip is found and a shelter worker tries to call the family, every message goes straight to an answering machine because the family has moved due to a new job. By the time anyone presses the playback, Tam has once again taken to the road to find Abby. So close and yet so far!

Through my critic’s eye, Pyron seems at times to be trying too hard with her sentimental style to manipulate my emotions: “There is no more pitiful thing in the whole world….” At times, I also felt irritated that Tam is yelled at or shot at by practically every stranger he met for apparently looking like a fox. (Other readers also wondered about this detail, but shelties can apparently resemble foxes: More Sheltie Fans.) After the family moves to Tennessee so that Abby’s father can become a country star, I even felt taken aback by some of Abby’s reactions: How small was her hometown that she didn’t know anything about lockers or cell phones? On the flip side, how could a small-town girl suddenly find herself an academic star in a trendier and bigger school but not know about Newbury awards and classics? Finally, when Abby criticisms her new classmates’ obsessions with hair styles, cell phones, and dates, I started to wonder whether she was herself a snob.

Just like author Bobbie Pyron, I grew up reading dog stories. Until A Dog’s Way Home, few dog stories had made me wonder about the complexities involved with a missing dog. (Other readers had a similar reaction: Why I Write Part 2) Yes, Abby’s parents do put their jobs ahead of a search for Tam, but isn’t this how life normally has to be? No, the vet who treats Tam doesn’t bother to check for a microchip, but what would you do if an abused dog showed up on your doorstep? A Dog’s Way Home hit my heart hard, because of Pyron risked portraying the truth of life’s messiness.

Eager to read A Dog’s Way Home? You can win your own copy by commenting on this review or on my interview tomorrow with Bobbie. 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.

My rating? Bag it: Carry it with you. Make it a top priority to read it.

How would you rate this book?

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