I had the absolute pleasure of interviewing the authors of the book I raaaaved about this morning, First Dog. J. Patrick Lewis and Beth Zappitello were kind enough to answer some great questions for me (and you!). AND...if you read to the end of the interview, my HUGE giveaway is revealed!!! Enjoy!!
1. Before we get started, I would love for you to pick a place to have our "interview." We can be eating pastries in a French bakery, sharing some wine and cheese in Napa Valley, or candy canes at the North Pole. Your choice!
How about eating an ice cream cone on a nice warm day, people- (and dog-) watching on a Santa Monica pier bench?
2. Can you share with us what led you to the world of writing?
JPL: Serendipity. A college professor for thirty years (Economics!), I discovered poetry at the age of 39. Then I became a suffering fool for it when the bug bit, and I’m happy to say the bite never healed.
Beth: I've always loved my dad's books and have wanted to collaborate with him for some time (if he'd allow me). I feel really fortunate with "First Dog" - what a way to break into being an author!
3. We all are aware that President Obama has promised his girls a "First Dog." Did you come up with the concept of this book before or after hearing the news of the search for a pet for the White House family?
Beth: This was the perfect storm! We had a rough draft of a book about a dog traveling the world to find a home (because, frankly, who doesn't love a good dog tale), and then President Obama mentioned getting Sasha and Malia a dog during his election day speech...and, viola, we knew where our dog's home would be.
JPL: It was all Beth’s idea. I just helped in the co-authoring.
4. Did you do any specific research for the book? Visiting shelters, reading up on dog breeds?
Beth: Besides stopping every passerby walking a dog, and grilling them with questions about their pooch, we did a lot of research online to find out what is unique about the breeds that we chose to highlight. I’m a huge dog-lover, but I found out a lot of fun dog facts along the way.
JPL: I was guided along the way by some wonderful friends who are completely devoted to rescue dogs.
5. How long did the book take you to complete?
Beth: Since we don't live in the same state, we spent a couple of months talking on the phone, and writing/editing back and forth.
6. Do either of you own a shelter dog yourself? I have one that I love SO much and adopting her led me to fully support shelter animal advocacy.
Beth: I have a lovable (and very slobbery) English Bulldog named Cuba - he's almost 10 - quite elderly by bulldog standards. While he wasn't a shelter dog, my awareness of shelters and rescue dogs has grown in recent years and if I were getting a dog today, that's where I would head first.
JPL: We have a black standard poodle and a white Bichon Frise, neither of which is a rescue dog. My consciousness about the world of shelters and rescue wasn’t raised until much later.
7. If Malia Obama's allergies were not an issue, what breed would you recommend the Obama's adopting? Got any favorites??
Beth: There's too many good choices to pick one, but I would think they need a dog full of personality - just like Sasha + Malia. And I hope that the Obama's end up with a rescue dog. Shelters are filling up with all kinds of different breeds that need a good, loving home.
JPL: I second that.
8. Do you have any other titles in the works or books soon to be published that you can tell us about? Go ahead, talk them up!
JPL: My other 2009 children’s book titles include: The Underwear Salesman, S&S/ATHENEUM (Serge Bloch, ill.)—just out in March, Countdown to Summer: A Poem for Every Day of the School Year, LITTLE, BROWN (Ethan Long, ill.), due July 1st, Spot the Plot! A Riddle Book of Book Riddles, CHRONICLE (Lynn Munsinger, ill.), a fall book The House, CREATIVE EDITIONS (Roberto Innocenti, ill.), a fall book
Beth: Nothing else soon-to-be-published, but lots of ideas! I’ve always loved reading books; I just didn’t know how much fun writing one would be.
9. What are some of your personal favorites in children's books?
Beth: I have 2 small boys, and we are surrounded by children's books. Some favorites: anything by my dad (Tulip at the Bat, The World's Greatest: Poems are 2 of our favorites right now), Where the Wild Things Are, Skippyjon Jones, Leonardo, the Terrible Monster, The Polar Express are a few, but I could go on. And, of course, Richard Scarry is always a crowd pleaser in our house.
JPL: As I tell children at my school visits, there are too many favorite books to have one favorite, so that answer changes every fifteen seconds. This fifteen seconds my favorite book(s): Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad. I so wish I had written those four books!
10. Finally, if you could have any job besides being an author/illustrator, what would you do?
Beth: Being a mom ranks #1 for me...no matter what other projects I'm working on.
JPL: Likewise, co-authoring three great kids and four terrific grandkids (soon to be five) is the true coin of the realm. But I secretly harbored a desire to be a pianist/songwriter. Maybe in my next life.
Thank you both SO much for stopping by A Patchwork of Books!
I have SIX copies of First Dog to give away to SIX lucky readers!! SIX, SIX, SIX!! Leave a comment on this post, telling me what breed YOU think the Obamas should get for their daughters by midnight (mountain time) on Monday the 6th. That's five days to enter! If you blog about this contest, you get an extra entry, so let me know about that too!
And don't forget about the other awesome April giveaway I have going on now. Go HERE to find out allll the details. It's for a great cause!