Author Interview: Susan Goodman, Author of IT’S A DOG’S LIFE

In celebration of my latest humor book, RED DOG / BLUE DOG: WHEN POOCHES GET POLITICAL (Running Press, August 2012), which features political humor and funny dogs, I am featuring interviews with other dog book writers. It’s very exciting to shine light on books from other writers who also share a love for canines.

This week it’s Susan E. Goodman, author of the nonfiction children’s book IT’S A DOG’S LIFE: HOW MAN’S BEST FRIENDS SEES, HEARS AND SMELLS THE WORLD (July 2012, Flash Point). Of the book, Kirkus said “Children will be barking up the right tree with this enjoyable read.”

Susan likes taking long walks and is a soft touch when it comes to giving out treats. The dogs in her life have taught her to play more and that staring at other people makes them very nervous. As someone who works at home, she was already excited every time the doorbell rings. She is also the author of many nonfiction children’s books including See How They Run: Campaign Dreams, Election Schemes, and the Race to the White House; All in Just One Cookie, an ALA Notable; and On This Spot: An Expedition Back Through Time, a Washington Post Top Picture Books of the Year selection.

GIVEAWAY: Susan is excited to give away a free copy of her book to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: vrundell won.)



susan-goodman-author-writer          its-a-dogs-life-book-cover



Currently own dogs? Tell us their names, breeds and one amusing fact per dog.

I wish I did have a dog now, but our cats would either die of heart attacks or make mincemeat out of one. Luckily I have my son’s dog, a pit bull mix, to take on walks and lick me. I always smile when Ella uses her nose to bury a treat between my couch cushions, even a gooky one. Indulgent grandparenting on my part.

In one sentence, what is your book (or latest dog-related book) about?

Screen Shot 2013-02-12 at 1.07.02 PM

A spread from Susan’s book, IT’S A DOG’S LIFE (2012).

It’s a Dog’s Life uses a fictitious canine narrator and humor to explain young readers what a dog’s world and behavior is actually all about.

When did it come out? Publisher? Any notable awards or praise for it?

July 2012, with Macmillan’s Roaring Brook Press. It’s a Dog’s Life was a Junior Library Guild Selection and got great reviews including this excerpt from the Boston Globe: “A charming must-have book for every fan of the canine…Any dog owner will become a better one as a result of reading this book. Any dog lover will want to linger over its pages.”

What inspired you to write this book? (In other words, how did the book come about?)

One day I flashed on a cozy scene with a kid on the couch, dog beside her getting all her sandwich crusts. Best friends together, but inhabiting totally different worlds of color, scents, sounds, languages, and signals. I figured most kids (and adults) had never really considered this, so I decided to paint these different worlds and how they intersect and collide in a fun way.

What kind of writing, if any, were you doing before the book?

I wrote for magazines for years, everything from Harper’s Bazaar and National Wildlife to Science and National Geographic Traveler. Eventually I turned to kids’ books and love writing them; you get to express your sense of wonder about the world.


RED DOG / BLUE DOG is a humorous photo collection of
dogs doing stereotypical liberal and conservative things,
assembled all in good fun. It released in Aug. 2012 from
Running Press and has been featured by USA Today,, The Huffington Post, and more.



How did you find your agent? (If you don’t have an agent, how did you secure a book deal?)

Magazine writers have to write a lot of articles to make a living. So I got good at making cold calls, bouncing back from rejection, turning no’s to maybe-next-times, matching specific editors and ideas, building relationships. These skills, plus my writing track record, were invaluable when I turned to selling kids’ books about 20 years ago. Unlike now, only half of children’s book authors and illustrators used agents back then. Sometimes I think about coming out of the cold, though, especially when sub and foreign rights deals come through.

What has been the biggest surprise or learning experience you’ve seen through the process of seeing your book(s) get published?

One thing I’ve learned and learned to appreciate by writing picture books is the power of marrying word and image. In the beginning there is the word—yeah, books start with authors’ ideas, our voice and style. But a picture book, like a marriage, can be a humbling experience; at best, partners create a bigger and better whole together than alone. Writing-wise, it is a great teacher of stripping down to the essential and the need to be very clear of what you want to get across.

I couldn’t have written It’s a Dog’s Life as well years ago. I wouldn’t have thought about shifting much of the text into funny captions for the illustrations. And I would have had no idea of what to completely hand over to the talented David Slonim.

Tell me about a fun moment or proud experience you’ve had with your book and readers since the book was published.

I walked into the children’s section of my local bookstore to find a boy sitting on the floor avidly reading Dog’s Life. Even better, when his mom came over with alternative choice for him, he shook his head and said, “I want this one, Mommy.”

Doesn’t get better than that, does it? Well, maybe a film option…

What are you doing to reach out to readers and dog enthusiasts?

It’s a Dog’s Life has a trailer, come take a look. I’ve also done readings, blog and radio interviews. Macmillan and I sponsored an ongoing contest on my site for months, where two winners got book, one for creating the funniest caption and the other for the best caption to explain what the dog in the featured photo was doing.

(How to Make a Book Trailer: 6 Tips.)

Here’s an example of one round’s entries:

Screen Shot 2013-02-12 at 1.01.40 PM


If they don’t take me out soon, I’ll try it their way! — Mike M., Dallas TX
If they want me to get house-trained, why do they leave the toilet seat down? — Melissa K., Boston, MA
Messing up the bathroom!, Mike G., New Haven, CT, age 9
Leash? This will work! I’ll bring it! — Bill L., Chicago IL
It looks so tempting, I wish it tasted good too! — Vickie D., Howell, MI
No wonder Dad spends so much time in the bathroom…this is fun! — Emily W., Hilliard, Ohio, age 11
I hate it when the bidet isn’t working. — Lauren V., Boston, MA


Think of your dog (or a past dog perhaps). If you could compare them to one celebrity, who would it be?

Since I don’t have a dog currently, I’ll use Joe, my book’s slightly urban and gritty, mutt narrator. I could see James Gandolfini doing Joe’s voice in the audio book, (although Johnny Heller did a great job).

Favorite of these dog movies? — “Best in Show,” “101 Dalmatians,” “The Shaggy Dog.”

“Best in Show” — best ever.

Where can people find you on the Internet? (Websites, etc)

If people are interested in a blog of several different nonfiction kids book authors, I also contribute to

What’s next up for you, writing-wise?

My next book is coming out this July with Bloomsbury Children’s Books: How Do You Burp in Space? And Other Trips Every Space Tourist Needs to Know. I also like to write in a more lyric, serious mode and am currently working on a book about time.

GIVEAWAY: Susan is excited to give away a free copy of her book to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: vrundell won.)


Don’t let your submission be rejected for
improper formatting. The third edition of
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Buy it online here at a discount.



Other dog author writing/publishing articles & links for you:



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6 thoughts on “Author Interview: Susan Goodman, Author of IT’S A DOG’S LIFE

  1. Debbie

    I have three rescued dogs. I can only imagine the “reality” filled within your book. I would love to read it (and maybe share it with them). Thank you.

  2. Lina Moder

    This sounds like such an awesome concept for all ages:) Love the captions and the illustrations are beautiful:)

    What a wonderful way of getting an idea for a book:)

    Thank you:)

    linamoder at gmail dot com


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