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Rest of Interview with Hy Conrad & Jeff Johnson
Have their names been changed to protect their true identities?
Some names we changed; some we didn’t. Tinkerbell wound up saying some nasty things about her humans and insisted on it. Axelrod wanted to use his real name because learning it had taken him years, and he didn’t think he could learn another. Charlie was named after our own dear Charlie, who is still with us despite his advancing years and diabetes.
Do these dogs have more to say than what has been said in the book? Will there be a sequel?
We don’t know. This book began as a blog (thingsyourdog.com). We’re thinking about creating another, where each dog concentrates on addressing one aspect of life. Orson, our fat bulldog, could give dieting tips, for example. Or Gabby could give dating advice
Do you have plans to write a similar book about cats?
No! All of our advisors say, “no way!” They also say cats aren’t funny.
A few of the chapters, especially the last one, were really sad. How emotional did talking with the dogs become?
The last chapter we transcribed when Jake, Charlie’s companion, died at an early age. It was a rough period and writing it down was very therapeutic for us. And for Charlie.
Did the dogs tell their stories to both of you or just to one of you?
It depended on who had the tastier treats in his pocket. Dogs are like that.
How long did it take you to complete this book?
About four months. We actually don’t remember. But every time people ask us, we say four months. It’s a reasonable amount of time. Three is too little, and six sounds like you took a bunch of long weekends off.
How has writing changed your life?
We’ve actually been writing for most of our adult lives. Jeff comes from a background of psychology and advertising. In addition he’s written a self-help book and has a national advice column. Hy has about a dozen other books out there and was writer and producer of the TV shows “Monk” and “White Collar”.
Were you born wanting to write, or did this desire come about when you were older?
We were born wanting people to pay attention to us. Writing just seemed an easier route than becoming president.
What was the first book or story you wrote?
“War and Peace”. No, wait. That was someone else.
If you could spend one hour with any person, dead or alive, whom would it be? Why?
I would say Plato. But maybe not, since he didn’t speak English. That would be a rough hour. My second choice would be Abraham Lincoln. I would ask him about slavery and war and if he really was a vampire hunter, like that recent book says.
Do you find everything you do somehow contributes to your writing?
A good writer is informed by everything in his life. We steal all our friends’ jokes and anecdotes and sprinkle liberally with our own views on life.
How do you manage to divide your time between writing, family, and friends?
Luckily, Jeff and I live together and have very few friends who only bother us in the evenings or on weekends.
Do you have any advice for writers who are striving to be published?
Getting published is easy, given the availability of self-publishing. Being a good writer is hard. Read a lot is one good piece of advice. And pay attention to structure. Study how a good writer tells a story. And lastly, find your own voice. Don’t try to imitate someone else.
Thank you, Hy Conrad and Jeff Johnson, for such an amazing interview. I hope to read more from you guys soon.
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