Thursday, December 13, 2012

USING ANIMALS AS CHARACTERS


Christmas Special Featuring Amy Shojai!

Amy Shojai, author and animal behavior specialist, is answering questions and sharing her secrets!

A dog finds his true purpose...when he disobeys
Amazon Book Link: http://www.amazon.com/Lost-Found-Amy-Shojai/dp/1621250172/

Question: You wrote nonfiction books and articles for years before penning your first mystery. What prompted you to decide on this career change?

Answer: I haven’t stopped writing nonfiction books and articles, but have simply expanded my audience with the writing of my debut thriller. Actually when I first began writing more than twenty years ago, I wanted to publish fiction and wasn’t able to get an agent or publisher interested. When I submitted a YA horror novel to one agent, she had no interest because “YA doesn’t sell” but encouraged me to submit nonfiction book ideas. I became her client and we sold more than a dozen nonfiction pet care books together, and I became so busy fulfilling those deadlines, the fiction fell by the wayside.

More recently, though, the publishing industry has changed. My nonfiction pet books are prescriptive, information-heavy works and these days, people prefer to “Google” and find information for free in the Internet—never mind if it’s accurate or not. Publishers care most if the book sells, so the market for my nonfiction titles shrunk. Suddenly I had more time on my hand, and it occurred to me that I could still provide solid pet information—with entertainment—but in fiction books instead.

Question:Tell us about your new mystery, and why you decided to write from a dog’s point of view?

Answer: I like to call LOST AND FOUND a suspense thriller rather than a mystery, because the reader knows “who dunnit” from the beginning—they just don’t know why, or if the good guys will overcome the evil. Since my background is in dogs (and cats), and I have an expertise in animal behavior as well as medicine, I wanted to layer those aspects into the story. Now, I’ve read LOTS of novels that include “animal viewpoint” and some are done well while others leave me cold.

Magic, Amy and Seren

Most are written as the animal character is a human wearing a fur coat, LOL! That’s fine in fantasy, and may work in other types of fiction. But I wanted my animal characters to BE ANIMALS in all their furry glory, and to act, react, and sense their world as would their true animal counterpart. In other words, the dog character Shadow, truly behaves like a nine-month-old puppy, and he doesn’t talk—but he scents, sees and feels the world around him and reacts to that world in a realistic way. I’ve had readers tell me they now understand their dog’s behavior and reactions in a fresh way, and better recognize how easily dogs and people misunderstand each other. Basically I wrote the book that I wanted to read.

My heroine is an animal behaviorist, September Day. She came home to Texas after the murder of her cop husband, and has trained a service dog for her autistic nephew. When the seven-year-old and his dog get lost in a freak blizzard, September must find the missing. And of course, all kinds of mayhem and complications stand in the way of success.

Question: You have several pets. Did you model any of your four-legged characters after your own cats or dogs?

Answer: Ha! Absolutely! In my first draft of LOST AND FOUND, the dog character’s name was Magic—that’s my own German shepherd. I began writing LOST AND FOUND when Magic wasn’t too much beyond that puppy-stage and it was very easy to “channel my inner dog” with him as an example.

My cat Seren, though, has only a few things in common with Macy, the trained Maine Coon cat in the book. Seren is also trained, and she does some of the same tricks as Macy. But while Seren is a 6-pound Siamese wannabe and now an old-lady cat at about 15 years old—and very persnickety about strangers—Macy weighs over twenty pounds, is a young boy cat in his prime, and never met a stranger. Although Macy does “nail” the bad guy at the end of the book, it’s not out of meanness but only when prompted by September’s command.

Question: Tell us about your work(s) in progress?

Answer: I’m recording audiobooks! *s* The first two should be released before the holidays. I’ve already finished recording my current Kindle nonfiction best seller, COMPLETE KITTEN CARE, and am in the process of recording LOST AND FOUND. The thriller is quite a challenge because different voices for characters are needed.

I’ve also begun outlining the sequel to LOST AND FOUND. The tentative title is HIDE AND SEEK (yes, I have a theme going!) which will continue September and Shadow’s story. I have plans for a third book in the series, as well.

Question: Other than writing, what gives you the most pleasure in life?

Answer: Music and theater. I have degrees in both and love to perform. This past year, I’ve had the great pleasure to combine my three great loves—writing, music and theater—and collaborated with a co-writer to create and perform a musical comedy, KURVES, THE MUSICAL. Together we wrote the script, the 12 original songs, orchestrated the show, cast and directed and performed for standing ovation crowds. What a rush!

Question: Who designed your book cover? Did you have any say in the final result?

Answer: I’m blessed to work with a small independent publisher, Bob Mayer and Jen Talty, who created Who Dares Wins/Cool Gus Publishing. Jen is my editor, and she also designs a good number of the book covers, and asked me for input. She sent mock ups and we worked through eight or nine versions before we had the final version. At one point the only dog pictures she could find just weren’t right—wrong color dog, too old, the look simply wrong. So I offered to find pictures of a young black German shepherd, and set up a photo shoot. The cover dog is a nine-month-old bred and owned by Magic’s breeder.

Question: Tell us a bit about your schedule and work habits as a writer.

I’m a fulltime freelance writer, with weekly and monthly deadlines that pay the bills. So it’s a “real job.” Generally I start work at 9 am, work at least 6 days a week (I try to take Sunday off), and am at my computer until the day’s to-do list is done. For instance, as I type this, it is 8:50 pm on a Tuesday night. *s*

Question: How do you motivate yourself to write when you’re not in the mood to create even one more sentence?

Answer: I look at what bills are due. That’s a great motivator!

Isn’t that the truth! And Readers, Amy is known for her quick wit and snappy dialogue. For a fun and exciting read, be sure and get your copy of LOST AND FOUND, a thriller with bite!

Solving Pet Problems & Thrillers With "Bite!"


IAABC Certified Behavior Consultant



Author, 26 Award-Winning Pet Care Books


Follow Me on Facebook and Twitter

Amy's Website http://www.shojai.com
Amy's Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/amyshojai.cabc

Amy's Twitter: @amyshojai

Thanks, Amy for stopping by. I’ve learned a lot from you and hope my readers will, too.

Hugs,

Jackie King

12 comments:

Marilyn said...

Great interview. With a Shadow of my own, how can I resist?

amyshojai.com said...

Thanks so much for having me "guest" on the blog, this was great fun! And Marilyn, I went through several possible names until I settled on "Shadow"--seems the perfect name!

Sheila Webster Boneham said...

Amy, as you know, I absolutely agree about animal characters being realistic. Animals of all kinds are much more interesting as fully realized animals than as odd "fur people," and I think both people and animals lose out when we forget that. Many of the problems people have with pets could be resolved happily with a more realistic view of the other animals in the family - thanks for promoting such a view!

Sheila Boneham

amyshojai.com said...

Hi Sheila, we're both on the same "page" here. Thanks for weighing in and visiting the blog. *s*

Carola Dunn said...

Hi, Amy, the only dog POV character I really like (or like at all come to that) is Chet of the Chet and Bernie mysteries. Yours sound as if they take a similar approach. I'll be looking for the first.

Jackie King said...

I've been having computer trouble, and am late with my comments.

Marilyn, Thanks so much for stopping by.

Sheila, I so agree with you and your opinion of animals as characters.

Jackie King said...

Carola, I'm not familiar with the Chet and Bernie mysteries. I'll have to check these out.

Jackie King said...

Amy, Thanks a million for just being you.
Hugs,
Jackie

Jean Henry Mead said...

Enjoyed the interview and have some animals of my own (dogs) in my Logan & Cafferty series.

Jackie King said...

Thanks, Jean. Looking forward to seeing you and Bill soon.
Hugs.

Jackie King said...

Thanks, Jean. Looking forward to seeing you and Bill soon.
Hugs.

Jaden Terrell said...

I know I'm late to the party, but Jackie, thanks for hosting such a great interview, and Amy, thanks for giving it. I'm a huge animal lover, so your books do fascinate me.