Interview with Mara Wells (and her dogs!)

Interview with Mara Wells

Did any of your own animal companions inspire the animal characters in your book(s), and if so, how?
In Cold Nose, Warm Heart, Riley’s poodle, LouLou, is definitely inspired by Houdini. He is gentle and loving, but a little bit of a trickster. I tried to capture that same essence in LouLou. LouLou also has Houdini’s great love of running and his intense pleasure in being the center of attention.

Were any of the animal scenes in your book(s) inspired by actual events?
The entire series was inspired by actual events. When I moved to Miami Beach in 2000, the first friends I made were at the local dog park. When I was thinking of writing a series set in Miami Beach, I knew the dog park had to be a key element. I wanted it to be a place where people and dogs came together and cared about each other, the way I’d experienced at our local dog park. There are many small moments throughout the series where I drew on real life interactions with dogs to make it feel real. And the inspiration for book 3, Paws for Love, came when I voted to end greyhound racing in Florida. What will happen to all those dogs? The question haunted me, and as I researched possible outcomes, my heroine, Danielle, stepped up to volunteer to save as many as she could. She might be imaginary, but she’s based on the good work so many people did on behalf of the greyhound population.

Do any of your animals’ life stories appear in your book(s)?
Houdini was found on the side of I95 during a major thunderstorm. The theory was that he’d gotten frightened and run away from home. The rescue was unable to find his original owners, so we were lucky enough to adopt him. I thought of the storm that drove Houdini from his original home while I was writing the scene where LouLou runs away and gets caught in the storm. LouLou, though, is happily reunited with Riley, thanks to Caleb’s help, of course.

A Tail for Two, book two of the Fur Haven Dog Park series, is coming out on Tuesday, Sept. 29th. Mara is offering a special giveaway of a signed copy of Cold Nose, Warm Heart. Simply head over to her website and sign up for her newsletter here and type “Babette’s the Best” in the comments to be entered to win.

You can also follow Mara on social media:
Facebook: Mara Wells Author page
Twitter: @MaraWellsAuthor
Instagram: @MaraWellsAuthor

Interview with Sheba and Houdini

Conversation with Sheba—the Chihuahua:

What advice do you have for Mara about her writing process?

She doesn’t need much advice, because I have taught her a lot already about keeping a balance between work and play. She does get too focused sometimes, but I make sure she takes breaks and gives the story time to reveal itself to her instead of pushing it where it isn’t ready to go.

What advice would you give to the dogs of aspiring writers?

Don’t be too good! Your people don’t need you to sit quietly and wait for them to notice you. NO! They need you to make some noise, get their attention by being loud, or funny, or just insistent, in whatever way you have to in order to make them take breaks when they’re working too hard or going too far down a stupid rabbit hole that they will have to delete tomorrow. Be attuned to your person’s mind. When they’re struggling, or trying too hard, or veering off the story’s perfect expression of itself, they need you to redirect their thoughts. Sometimes people try too hard to do things that would be easy if they would allow it. People are really funny sometimes about making easy things hard. It’s a dog’s job to show their people how to relax and allow things to happen naturally.

How can dogs help their humans become better writers?

I help Mara all the time. I can tell when she’s struggling to come up with just the right scene or isn’t sure what to do next. That’s when I zoom in to help. I get her attention and make sure she takes a break. She thinks I’m insisting on getting some attention for myself, but really, it’s because I know that when she gets her feet on the ground and lets her mind float, the right words and events for the book will come to her. I know when she needs help, and I help!

What do you like about being a dog?

I like my dog body. I like my tail, and the fact that I have four legs and can run fast. I like to spin around in circles, and dogs can do that because they have four legs. People don’t spin around much, because they would fall over. Poor construction in my opinion. Not sure why anyone would want to have two legs when they could have four. And a tail! Who wouldn’t want a tail! People don’t know how fun it is to wag a tail! If I feel nervous, and do a little tail wag, then suddenly I feel more confident! It’s a vital body part that people are missing.

What is your mission in life?

I lead by example. I can be serious and focused, or funny and silly. I show Mara how to get things done without taking the work too seriously. Life, and even work, is supposed to be fun, and I remind her of that. I make sure she doesn’t work too long without taking breaks.

What do you wish people knew about life?

I don’t even know about people. (Despairing sigh.) Honestly, most of them don’t make much sense to me. I’m glad I chose to be with Mara, because she knows how to have fun, and she knows how important it is to make work fun. She doesn’t always do it, but she knows it’s important, and she does try. I’m here to remind her when she forgets. She is very good about being appreciative and attentive to life as it unfolds. I see a lot of other dogs with their people, and it’s pretty sad to see that some people walk their dogs but don’t pay attention to their dogs or to the world around them. I’ve even seen people walking their dogs and looking at their phones at the same time. Can you believe that?  People need to learn to be where they are and experience their bodies and the world around them instead of thinking so much about the past or the future without even noticing what’s happening now.

If you could be any animal other than a dog, what would you be?

I would only want to be a dog. Dogs are the best! I would never want to be a person, with only two legs and no tail to wag. And humans need so much reminding, all the time, of how to be in the world. So, no. I would never want to be a person. I know that other animals besides dogs have tails, but they don’t seem to know what to do with them. Cats have tails, but they don’t wag them. Now, birds… I am interested in birds, but I wouldn’t want to be one (only two legs). And squirrels… I like them. Squirrels have expressive tails, but they don’t wag them, either. Their tails only say when they want to play chase, not when they’re happy or nervous or interested or aggressive. Dogs’ tails are the best, and therefore, dogs are the best.

What can Mara do to make your life better?

Showing an image of a particular cookie: It looks a lot like a vanilla crème cookie, similar to a vanilla Oreo, but with wider ridges down the side.

Is there anything you need that you feel you aren’t getting?

More cookies! All treats are good, but I like the sweet ones best!

Conversation with Houdini—the Poodle:

What advice do you have for Mara about her writing process?

None. She knows what she’s doing. She is my hero. I am inspired by her, and I know she is doing important work.

What advice would you give to the dogs of aspiring writers?

Dogs have to help their people stay grounded, especially when their people have jobs—like writing—that require them to spend a lot of time thinking and imagining things. Their minds stay very busy, and sometimes their bodies lose contact with the earth. Dogs can help their people stay grounded by making them go for walks and encouraging them to play and do physical stuff that puts them back in their bodies. Dogs can also do grounding for their people by getting petted and then anchoring the people to the earth through the dogs’ paws. It’s best if the people do it for themselves, but if that isn’t possible, a dog can do it for them.

How can dogs help their humans become better writers?

I don’t know about that. I think that humans are writers or they aren’t. A good writer is one who loves to write and does the work.

What do you like about being a dog?

I love my very soft, curly hair that makes people want to touch it. I love that I get to help people just by my presence. Seeing me and touching me makes people happy, and I like that. I am a friendly dog, but sometimes a little shy. But when I know someone, I like to help them with their healing.

What is your mission in life?

My mission is to be a force for good in the universe. I make people happy, just by being me. They don’t have to know me, or even touch me, but when they see me, it makes them happy, and then they go out and do good in their own lives. A lot of dogs do that. I think that most dogs do.

What do you wish people knew about life?

I wish people knew how important it is to be kind. Some people are not kind, and that is sad. They would be happier if they knew how to be kind. Also, it is important to be curious, to approach the world the way dogs do, with wonder and appreciation for everything.

If you could be any animal other than a dog, what would you be?

I have been an otter before. I liked being an otter. I will do that again sometime.

What can Mara do to make your life better?

Sheba said cookies. I like cookies, too. I am also happy without cookies, but life with cookies is probably better than life without cookies.

Is there anything you need that you feel you aren’t getting?

I am getting everything I need. And that is another thing I wish people understood about life. Being loved and appreciated and treated kindly is enough. To get all those things, you have to give them. And other than food—oh, I just remembered, I also like lunch meat!—other than food and water and a safe place to be, people really don’t need all that other stuff they think they do.  People could learn from dogs to be grateful for what they have.

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