Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Interview with Kay Murphy on Dogs Who Saved Me

Hi readers and writers,

It gives me great pleasure to post this interview with Kay Murphy on her new book, Lessons I Learned from The Dogs Who Saved Me.  This book is a memoir and it's also a love story to some great dogs in Kay's life.  She is donating all proceeds from the book above expenses to animal rescue efforts.  Best, Laura

The title of this book is very enticing.  How did you choose the title?
The idea for this book came as I was sorting through photographs, putting together an album which included all my dogs.  I placed the photos in chronological order… and as I did so, I began to recall the stories that surrounded these dogs and how, at one time or another, in one way or another, each had been instrumental in saving me from harm in some way.  ‘These are the dogs,’ I thought, ‘who saved me.’

How many dogs did you write about?  Did you include every dog you’ve had, or did you pick and choose?
The book profiles six dogs, but others are mentioned.  Rufus, Sapo, Alex, Ian, Ellie and Osa were the dogs who companioned with me from the time I was 15 until I was 50.  They each have a unique and heroic story to tell.

What are your feelings about cats?  Are they too independent to save people in the same sense?
Actually, two of my cats, Boo and Sugar Plum, have been featured in two separate Chicken Soup for the Soul books.  Due to my current living situation, I cannot have a dog, so I don’t know what I’d do without Sug and Luna, my two current feline friends.  They make me laugh and give me love every day.  And in fact, there is a memoir, Homer’s Odyssey, which recounts how a very valiant blind cat saved his human companion from an assault.  It’s an amazing read!!

I remember your excitement when you first talked about this book, but during the writing process your words about it turned pretty dark.  Was it harder to write than you had expected?  What happened along the way to take the experience to the dark side?
I was wholly unprepared for how difficult it would be to re-live the experiences of my teen years.  My step-father attempted several times to molest me, and I never felt safe once he married my mother.  I have never talked about that, certainly never written about it, and recalling those days of anger and depression brought all those feelings to the surface again.  When my mother and wicked step-father (I’ve always called him that) divorced, they went to court over one item: Rufus, my dog.  His story—and their fight over him—is included in the book.

I know the focus is supposed to be on your relationship with dogs, but did you find yourself writing a memoir about your relationship with other people who were around at the same time?  Did you struggle to keep the focus on the dogs, or did you just let it flow once you were writing?
I tried to keep the focus mainly on my dogs, but it would have been difficult to describe to the reader how important each dog became if I didn’t explain my relationship to the people who wounded or betrayed me (or attempted to assault me).  I could have written much, much more about the men to whom I was married… but that is water under the bridge now, and not unlike the stories of many other women out there who find themselves trying to make a marriage work with no support from the other partner.

Do you outline before you write or do you sit down and let come what will?  How much did you know about the whole shape of your book before you started to write?
Usually I outline in my head.  This time, I walked outside with a notebook, sat down on the front deck in a comfortable chair and started writing the story out longhand.

Do you write in tiny bits of time like Barbara DeMarco Barrett advocates, or do you need bigger blocks to make progress?  Do you write every day?
Boy, this is a tough question.  Yes.  No.  Sometimes.  Often.  When I wrote my previous memoir, Tainted Legacy, I wrote in big blocks, sometimes four or five hours at a stretch with no breaks—but I had been researching that book for several years, so when it was time to write, I completed the entire manuscript in one summer.  With Dogs, I found I could only write for an hour or so a day.  In truth, I wrote until I was crying so hard I could no longer type.  Then I would walk out the door and into the forest, just wandering and crying and taking deep breaths until I regained my composure.

Have you ever faced writers’ block?  If so, do you have strategies that overcome it for you, or do you have to wait it out?
There are times when the writing is stalled, but this never makes me anxious.  It’s all about problem solving.  If I find I can’t go forward, I walk away for a while and let my subconscious mind take over, unraveling the knot and looking for a way through.  Sometimes I brainstorm on a separate sheet of paper if I need to.  Writing nonfiction is much easier (for me) than writing fiction.  I enjoy story-telling, and man do I have some real-life stories to tell (such as those in Tainted Legacy).  Fiction… dang, fiction writers work hard!

What’s your impression of the process of publishing today?  For newbie writers who are considering how to approach publishing a first book, what would you suggest?
I would suggest that anyone who has done the work of completing a manuscript should invest time in finding an agent or conventional publisher.  I know it sounds like heresy coming from a self-published author, but I’ve also published a book through a conventional publisher, and there are parts of that process that are great (instant, national publicity, for one).  But… take each “No, thank you” with a grain of salt.  Simply because someone doesn’t see your vision does not mean you’re not a good writer.  Find a critique group.  If a group of good folks tell you they love your work and would buy it, start looking at your options for independent publishing.  (Oh—that group should not be your immediate family members….)

You’ve decided to donate the entire proceeds from this book to animal rescue.  Have you had personal experience working with them?  How did you decide to do this?
During the time that I was working on Dogs, I was also seeing the business model of some companies who are donating ten and twenty percent of their profit to certain charities.  I liked that.  Then I encountered young Michala Riggle at www.beadingtobeatautism.org and my heart just cracked wide open.  She beads bracelets, then sells them to raise money for autism research.  One hundred percent of her profits go to that cause.  (She has a brother who is on the autism spectrum.)  She’s an absolute inspiration.  As I believe that my dogs saved my life and there’s really never enough I can do to repay them, I decided that, since I’m already donating to several rescues, the net profits earned from Dogs will go to help other shelter and rescue dogs.

Please let the blog readers know about your blog and where to buy your book by giving URLs they can look up.
I’m on blogger:  www.skaymurphy.blogspot.com  Mostly, I blog about living in the forest, but sometimes I offer book recommendations (and there is the occasional post about professional cycling, a sport I have followed for some thirty years).

The Dogs Who Saved Me is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other online booksellers.  Here is the Amazon link:  http://www.amazon.com/Dogs-Who-Saved-Me/dp/1475195567/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1341664075&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Dogs+Who+Saved+Me

Thanks, Kay for sharing your thoughts with the blog readers.


Anonymous said...

Wow, Laura, this book sounds amazing. I'll order it tonight. Thanks for the interview. I might not have checked it out just based on the title.

June Rachenti

Anonymous said...

Hi Laura,

I think it's so admirable that she is donating the proceed to Animal Rescue. Maybe she's saving dogs as kind of a payback for the dogs that saved her.