Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Review of The Dog Who Danced and Q&A with author Susan Wilson

Q&A with Susan Wilson
New Release The Dog who Danced

Susan first of all thanks for answering a few questions and congratulations on your new release The Dog who Danced
Tell us a little about the new novel
First may I say thank you for inviting me, Debbie. 
Justine Meade is a forty-something woman with the demons of her past never very far from her present.  Fleeing an abusive step-mother and ineffectual father, she has spent her life running away.  Now she’s called back to New Bedford from Seattle to attend her dying father.  Broke and reluctant to go, she accepts a ride with Artie Schmidt, a gypsy trucker who frequents the bar where she works.  This not only makes the trip east affordable, it means she can bring her beloved Sheltie, Mack, with her.  Mack is the only living creature who has never let her down, the only one who hasn’t withheld his affection; the only one who loves her unconditionally. 
When Artie abandons Justine at an Ohio rest stop, he inadvertently takes Mack with him.  Once he realizes he’s got the dog, Artie literally kicks him out of the truck and the dog is left on the side of the Mass Pike.
Alice and Ed Parmalee are suffering a loss of their own.  When Alice brings this woebegone and ragged dog home, Mack, who the Parmalees call Buddy, begins to work his canine magic on this grieving couple and to heal the breach in their life.  In the meantime, Justine is coping with her dying father while at the same time launching a massive hunt for her lost dog. 
It’s more than a lost dog story, however.  It many ways it’s a journey story, literally and figuratively.  Justine has to revisit her past and some of the decisions she’s made; the Parmalees have to travel through the emotional mine field of their marriage. 
I won’t tell you here how it ends, but it was the hardest writing I’ve ever done. 

Is there a specific reason behind these dog based novels
As a self-professed animal lover, writing about dogs and about their people is a natural and a great pleasure but I never set out to be a ‘dog writer.’  A number of years ago, when I was fishing around for a new story, my agent, rather casually, remarked that dog stories were becoming quite popular.  I was—and am—an unabashed fan of the stories of Albert Payson Terhune and Jack London.  When I was a kid I read any book that featured a dog: Lassie Come Home, Old Yeller, Bob, Son of Battle; Call of the Wild, White Fang.  I have a wonderful collection of Terhune first additions and one of the high points of my life was visiting the private Mercantile library in Cincinnati and finding myself in the, wait for it, Terhune collection.  So when my agent mentioned that dog stories were gaining traction in the book industry, I thought: I can do that!  For me it was the marrying of two of my greatest interests, dogs and writing.  Along the way what I’ve discovered is that dogs lend themselves so beautifully to illustrating human experience.  To observe humanity through a dog’s eyes is to see directly into the heart. 

I just learned on your website that your 1996 novel Beauty was made into a CBS Sunday Night Movie
So tell us, where you involved in the production, were you pleased with the results, would you do it again, in other words, spill please.
Oh, I wish I could say that I had a hand in Beauty’s transformation from book to film, but I didn’t.  Once the film rights were sold, I was out of it.  I will say this, though, that Citadel did a fantastic job with the story and actually validated my writerly instincts.  The story is this:  When I presented the finished manuscript to my then editor, she didn’t like my ending.  I grudgingly tacked on another third to the book, but was never completely happy with it.  Lo and behold…the film ended exactly where I had ended the original book.  Sweet! 

Do you know the end of your novels before you start them
Usually I know where I’m going, even if I don’t have the exact end in mind, I know what my resolution will be.  However, The Dog Who Danced was probably the hardest book I’ve ever written because I really couldn’t figure out how it should end.  With TDWD, I was flummoxed because I had written in a King Solomon-worthy dilemma—who gets the dog in the end, his distraught owner, or the couple who have come to love him so much? 

I have interviewed authors who have only been brought into the 21st century of technology kicking and screaming. How do you feel about, tweets, facebooking, blogging etc..
I’m a huge fan of the social media, although I typically don’t tweet (I think my blog tweets for me.)  I find that the ease of access to a writer by fans is wonderful.  Long gone are the days when a writer was sequestered and approachable only by sending a fan letter to his/her publisher to be forwarded.  Now I hear from fans directly and instantly and we can carry on a conversation.  The whole social media phenomena has been a very good thing for me.

What’s next for you
I’m working on another book (yes, with a dog as a central character) which will be out in 2014.  This one tackles the relationship that develops between a war dog and his handler during World War II.

Give us an average day in the life of Susan Wilson
Two things rule my life, animals and writing.  Three mornings a week, I’m on barn duty for the morning feed, so after a quick cup of coffee, I’m up and out to the farm where we keep our mare.  Then back home to work on writing as long as I can before my dog, Bonnie, reminds me that I owe her a walk.  After a break, it’s onto the business of the writing business, e.g. Facebook or answering emails, blogging or updating the website.  After an afternoon break, it’s back to the barn for evening chores.  Not a bad way to spend a day.  I’m very lucky I get to do what I love, both with animals and with my career.

Do you have any Barnes & Noble events or signings planned, I’m sure the fans here would love to meet you in person
I don’t have anything scheduled right now, but I’m open to anything.  I love meeting people face to face.  I’m a Barnes & Noble fan from way back and look forward to any opportunity to visit. 

Thank you so much for taking the time out of your very busy schedule, good luck with The Dog who Danced and all your future endeavors.
It was my pleasure.  This Q&A is a terrific service to readers and writers.  Thank you for having me.
Buy the book here visit the author's website here

Susan will be our featured month long author at the B& General Fiction book club forum in November when we read her novel as a group, please check here for more information

Here's my review of the novel

The Dog Who Danced
Susan Wilson
St. Martin’s Press
ISBN 13: 978429950541
320 pages

An unexpected call has Justine Meade grateful for a shotgun seat on a semi heading towards a home she hasn’t seen since she left at seventeen because it means that her dog Mack is with her. Mack has been her salvation and made her look at life in a better way than the defeatist, betrayed way she used to when all she could think of was the loss of her childhood then later the loss of her son. The dog who learned to dance with her has been much more than a mere pet which is why she’s overwrought as she finds herself abandoned and dog-less by the trucker she hitched a ride with.
Ed and Alice Parmalee have been imitating life for the seven years since the death of their only child, a child that was prayed for then delayed until neither of them thought it was ever going to happen and then took away at fifteen, it was a tragedy that shook them to the core and that has been an invisible barrier between them ever since until the day a stray dog comes into their lives and puts color and connection back into their world.
In the midst of a family crisis Justine frantically tries to find Mack with the help of a few friends and many strangers while the Parmalees are reconnecting with the help of one small furry miracle and who know nothing about the dog’s distraught owner.

There are many dog stories out there, those who heal, those who protect, those who comfort, what makes this story different is the poignant way that Susan Wilson brings it to life with her words. Her characters are all three dimensional, so realistic that I could smell the earth at Stacy’s grave and could feel the wind in my face as she takes Justine down the highway on the back of a Harley. The dialogue is a mesmerizing string of monologues that took me into the hearts and souls of the narrator, that made me a fly on the walls of their worlds and that gave me insights that I wish they would convey to each other. And then there was Mack, who Susan gave a voice to as well and who’s expertise in translating dog really shines through, it was amusing, it was touching and it was beautifully penned. This is the story of rejuvenation of forgiving of unconditional love. It’s the story of one woman’s best friend and the lengths she’ll go to get him back and it’s the unconditional love that one dog has for his human(s).
This is my first foray into the writing brilliance of Susan Wilson but I guarantee it will not be my last.
Thank you Ms. Wilson for one of the most heartwarming and inspiring stories I’ve read for a while.

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