I am one lucky pup to count Leslie Connor among my friends. I so wish Leslie and I lived nearer one another (though that wouldn’t make any difference now, right?!) because we would have the best coffee conversations. Of course we would talk about books and writing. And dogs! Leslie’s love of dogs was part of the germ of her latest novel, A Home for Goddesses and Dogs (Katherine Tegen Books). Read on for more from Leslie.
Thank you, Kirby! I am honored to be here on Friend Friday. It’s May, 2020–after an April like no other. I am proud of our kid lit community for keeping our readers fortified with engaging media, and I’m comforted by the thought that we remain “in this together.”
In recent weeks, I’ve been joining young readers for virtual author visits–mostly Q&A sessions. I love it! We’re having deep discussions and there have been plenty of questions.
Often, I am asked what I like to read. My answer? Nonfiction. My story ideas begin with real life. Topic-specific books, news stories, documentaries, a tale from a friend, and my own experiences—those are my story seeds.
My new novel, A Home for Goddesses and Dogs, began with a dog. A big yellow dog.
We adopted our Broomis one Valentine’s Day, and brought him home to join our greyhound, Luna –also adopted. Our new fella was as handsome as they come, healthy, with not a mean bone in his body. But he was a mess. He was not housebroken; he had an ungovernable tendency to slip his collar and bolt. But the real heartbreaker was his mistrust of humans—especially men. When he wasn’t skittering away in fear, he seemed detached. We felt like we had an unhappy dog. We lied to ourselves for weeks, saying, “I think he’s settling in, don’t you?” (Umm….no…not really.)
I began to keep a diary on Broomis. I made guesses about his puppyhood, and about the reasons for his fears. Of course, I was speculating and inventing. The process felt startlingly familiar. I was imagining my dog’s backstory!
It’s what I do every time I start to write a new character. So far, none of mine have been born the day a story begins. Each has a past, and baggage, that informs who they are. Like my dog. (By the way, he enjoys the good life now.)
The Broomis Diary got me thinking. A canine cannot verbalize its history. Most humans can– if they choose. In A Home for Goddesses and Dogs, I imagined two creatures arriving to the same new living situation—one girl, one dog. The girl, Lydia, was grieving the death of her mother. The dog, Guffer, is indelibly marked by a dark past. Another kind of grief, no? (Dogs are emotional creatures too.) Lydia kept secrets from her “new adults.” The dog’s “secrets” unfolded through his behaviors. The two seemed like perfect foils in a story about finding a sense of home in a new community.
As I close this post my overwhelming sense is of my good fortune. To be a writer in the midst a world health crisis feels like a privilege. I still “go” to work every day. Ideas still pop, my characters excite me, and I am immersed in small worlds where I have a hint of control. How interesting that this time will one day be part of our backstory.
I’m wishing you joy, and good health too.
Leslie Connor has always been a daydreamer with a headful of stories waiting to be told. (It took her awhile to figure that out.) She holds a BFA in visual art from the University of Connecticut and is happily surprised to be writing today. Leslie is the author the middle grade novels, Waiting for Normal, winner of the ALA Schneider Family Book Award, All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook, An E.B White Read Aloud finalist, The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle, finalist for the National Book Award, and winner of the ALA Schneider Family Book Award. Her most recent title is, A Home for Goddesses and Dogs (February, 2020). Leslie lives with her husband and three rescue dogs in a little house in the Connecticut woods.