You ran the risk of your book being overlooked as a retelling of ‘Homeward Bound’ or ‘Lassie Come Home’. Why did you decide to take the risk?
I have always said that A DOG’S WAY HOME is not only my personal love letter to dogs—specifically Shelties—but also to those great “classic” dog stories like LASSIE COME-HOME and INCREDIBLE JOURNEY that meant so much to me as a child. Those books, along with many others, were ones I read over and over as a child. I still read them! I didn’t really worry about my book being overshadowed by the two classics you mention because the style in which I tell my story is very different from those two. The duel narrations of Tam, the dog, and his girl, Abby, really set the book apart. Also, the very distinct culture of the place and people of the Appalachian Mountains sets the book apart. I think every generation needs a “classic” dog story, and I hope mine will fill that need.
Abby’s parents are, time and time again, frustrated by her stubbornness. Do you have any personal experience with this trait?
Ha ha ha! Are you asking if I’m that stubborn?! I’m sure my husband would say that’s true, especially if I were in Abby’s situation with one of my beloved dogs. I would move heaven and earth to find them. But I think most any dog person who has that special bond with their dog would be the same way. It’s an almost mystical, spiritual bond that people have a hard time understanding unless they experience it. Abby’s parents, while very fond of Tam, didn’t have that bond with him like Abby.
‘A Dog’s Way Home’ is, ultimately, a love story. Do you have a canine love story of your own?
Oh my, I’ve had many. I am over-the-moon in love with the dogs in my life now—Boo, Teddy, and Sherlock. Boo, who is a coyote mix, is probably one of the most fascinating dogs I’ve ever been privileged to share my life with; Teddy is a rescued Sheltie that loves me possibly more than any living, breathing being ever has; Sherlock is also a rescued Sheltie and has taught me so much about resilience. And then there’s my Sheltie mix I had for sixteen years, Toola. James Herriot once wrote that every dog lover has a once-in-a-lifetime dog. Toola was mine. When I was a little kid, we had a Beagle named Puck. He was our nanny. Whenever my sister and I wanted to walk over to a friend’s house or go to the drugstore for a Coke, my mom or dad would say, “Take Puck with you and mind him.”
In the book, Abby’s ‘north star’ is Tam, Dad’s is music, Mom’s is Abby, as is Tam’s. How do you define North Star in this context and what is your North Star?
I think of someone’s North Star as their passion, or their bliss, that they follow. It’s that thing (or person) that makes you want to get out of bed, even on your darkest days. It gives your life direction and meaning. Certainly writing is a star in my life, a passion and bliss. But my North Star would have to be that unique relationship with my dogs (thank the stars my husband’s not overly sensitive!).
What was behind your decision to make Tam a Sheltie instead of a better known or hardier breed?
Funny you ask. When I was sending the manuscript around to editors and agents (and amassing many rejections), one agent said that she thought I was quite a talented writer and she loved the story, but couldn’t I make Tam a Golden Retriever? If I’d make that change, she might consider taking me into her fold. Ha! No offence to any readers with Goldens, but I really can’t picture them having the single-mindedness to go through what Tam did, just to be with one specific person. Shelties are known for their loyalty and the terrifically strong bond they form with their person. I always tell people, you haven’t been loved until you’ve been loved by a Sheltie.
Will there be more books of Tam and Abby’s adventures?
I’m so gratified by the number of readers who’ve asked me if there will be a sequel—that say they really want a sequel! Alas, right now there are none planned, but you never know!
I know you are involved with animal rescues. Can you tell us something about that?
Both of my Shelties came from Sheltie Rescue of Utah. I’ve volunteered with them in various capacities for the last eight years, including convincing several of my friends to adopt Shelties! I also volunteer with an organization called Friends of Animals Utah. I do everything from walking and socializing dogs to cleaning litter boxes to organizing fundraisers. Recently, I put together an event called “Authors Unleashed.” I got together with four other authors who are inspired by, and write about, dogs for a panel discussion and book signing. It was a huge success and a heck of a lot of fun!
Do you have a new novel in the works for us to look forward to?
Yes! My next book comes out Fall of 2012. The working title is MERCY’S BONE, but that title may change. It’s kind of a dog story too, and takes place in Russia in the mid 1990’s after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Where can readers find out more about you and what you are up to, professionally?
They can visit me at my website www.bobbiepyron.com. There, they can find out the latest news, read excerpts from my books (I also have a teen novel called THE RING) and see photos of my dogs. On my blog, they can read interviews I do with other authors and their dogs. I’ve been lucky enough to have authors like Patricia Maclachlan, Kathi Appelt, Gary Schmidt, Katherine Erskine, and many others (and their dogs) on there. I hope folks will stop by!
Great answers, Bobbie! Thanks so much for letting us into the 'backstage' of your book.
OK - on to the giveaway part. Bobbie Pyron has made available a signed copy of 'A Dog's Way Home' for one lucky winner. Giveaway is open to Canada and the US only (sorry to my international friends), just comment on this interview telling us about your favorite canine friend - real or imaginary. Don't forget to leave your e-mail address as well. Winner will be chosen on July 1. (Canada Day)