In preparation for my forthcoming humor book, RED DOG / BLUE DOG: WHEN POOCHES GET POLITICAL (Running Press, July 2012), I will be featuring interviews with other dog book writers each week. It’s very exciting to shine light on books from other writers who also share a love for canines.
This week it’s Wade Rouse, humorist and memoirist whom Writer’s Digest named Rouse the #2 Writer, Dead or Alive, “We’d Love to Have Drinks With” (Wade was just behind Ernest Hemingway, and just ahead of Hunter S. Thompson). Wade is the author of five books, including his current memoir, the IndieBound bestseller, It’s All Relative: Two Families, Three Dogs, 34 Holidays and 50 Boxes of Wine (Crown).
He is also creator and editor of the recently published humorous dog anthology, I’m Not the Biggest Bitch in This Relationship: Hilarious, Heartwarming Tales about Man’s Best Friend from America’s Favorite Humorists (NAL, 2011), which was a Today Show “Holiday Pick” and features essays from nine New York Times bestsellers and one Tony winner, and a foreword by Chelsea Handler’s dog, Chunk. 50 percent of the royalties from the book benefit the Humane Society of the United States. For more, please visit: www.WadeRouse.com, www.WadesWriters.com, www.rhspeakers.com, or friend him on Facebook and Twitter.
Currently own dogs? Tell us their names, breeds and one amusing fact per dog.
We have a rescue mutt, Mabel, who is part beagle and part Labradoodle. We lost our beloved, 85-pound rescue, Marge, a Husky-Shepherd-Scooby-Doo-Heinz-57-mix last April at the age of 14. I am currently writing a memoir about Marge: We are spreading her ashes in the 16 states she ever lived or visited, and recounting the lessons she taught us. She was a dog no one wanted, and she changed our lives. I learned that we all save each other.
In one sentence, what is your book about?
I’m Not The Biggest Bitch in This Relationship – as the title indicates – is a collection of hilarious, heartwarming essays from America’s favorite humorists that focuses on our neurotic relationships with our pets (no Marley & Me sadness). It features a foreword by Chelsea Handler, essays by nine New York Times bestseller and one Tony winner, and I am donating 50 percent of the proceeds to the Humane Society of the United States, which is officially backing the book.
When did it come out?
Bitch was published by NAL-Penguin last fall. It was a recent Today show “Holiday Books” pick, a September 2011 Indie Next List “Great Reads” selection, excerpted in Ladies Home Journal, and featured on Chelsea Lately and People.com. The book was also just released as an audio book, too.
What inspired you to write this book?
When Marge began to age, we adopted Mabel: That’s when I began to reflect on all the rescue dogs I’ve had and realized my life has been defined by these dogs. Each one was different from the other as brother is from sister, but all had a few things in common: They were all rescues that loved me unconditionally and taught me to laugh and love without limit. My mother – a former nurse and hospice nurse – used to try and save all the animals that were dumped on our acreage in the Ozarks, where I grew up. She believed that penicillin and prayer could save nearly every soul. Many of the dogs she rescued became our pets, and changed our lives. It finally dawned on me – with Marge and Mabel – that we all save each other. This book honors all those rescue animals who profoundly change our lives.
What kind of writing, if any, were you doing before the book?
I am a bestselling humorist and memoirist. In addition to creating, editing and contributing to Bitch, I am the author of four memoirs: America’s Boy: A Southern Boy’s Triumph over Husky Jeans, Beauty Queens and Broken Dreams, which was just re-issued in paperback from Magnus Books; Confessions of A Prep School Mommy Handler (Crown); At Least in the City Someone Would Hear Me Scream: Misadventures in Search of the Simple Life (Crown); and my latest, It’s All Relative: 2 Families, 3 Dogs, 34 Holidays and 50 Boxes of Wine (Crown).
How did you find your agent?
I spent years completing my first memoir, America’s Boy, and when I felt it was as good as I could make it, I read and studied all the guides to literary agents. I spent a solid month crafting a killer query (most guides said to forego attempts at humor, but since I wanted to be a humorist, I thought, “If I can’t make someone laugh in a query, I best stick to my day job), targeted 15 agents I admired, or who repped authors I admired, and who were taking on new writers. Within a week, I had seven offers to read my manuscript, and a week later, I had three formal offers of representation, one from a huge literary agency, one from a mid-sized agency, and one from a boutique agency. I went with the fabulous Wendy Sherman, because she “got” my writing and me, she laughed and cried when discussing my book, she had an amazing career in publishing,
What has been the biggest surprise or learning experience you’ve seen through the process of seeing your book(s) get published?
The promotional aspect. I’ve learned there is just as much work to get your work noticed as there is in getting your book written and published. I’m thankful I have a background in journalism and public relations, and know the in’s and out’s of publicity. PR is huge. You can have the greatest book in the world, but if no one knows it exists, how can they buy it? I spend months promoting my work and inordinate amounts of time building my platform (blogs, columns, radio, outreach, freelance, events). It’s a must.
Tell me about a fun moment or proud experience you’ve had with your book and readers since the book was published.
I’ve been thrilled with the Bitch tour, because it’s been so fun and personally meaningful. At endless events across the country, my partner, Gary, dressed in a rented dog costume, gave away dog ears and squeaky toys, and raised funds at each bookstore for a local dog rescue (all the contributors in the book were able to promote their own personal, favorite, or local dog charities). Gary was “kenneled” and donations freed him, with the high bidder “naming their doggy.” This not only generated wonderful awareness and much needed funds for these shelters (50% of the book’s net royalties go to the Humane Society of the United States) but also made for great goodwill while underlining the book’s message. The book and events resonated so deeply with dog lovers and shelter supporters: It was a truly a win-win. I wrote an article about it for Publisher’s Weekly.
What are you doing to reach out to readers and dog enthusiasts?
Everything. Bitch has been mentioned or reviewed in countless dog magazines, pet blogs and radio shows, and I have been blessed to do so many wonderful interviews. The collaboration with local bookstores and community shelters has been amazing. And the support of the Humane Society has been incredible. They are featuring the book (and my essay from it) in the May/June issue of their subscriber magazine, ALL ANIMALS. And there have been terrific features and articles from the Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, People.com, etc. The book’s humor and poignancy has touched so many, and supports such a great cause, which is what I had hoped.
Think of your dog (or a past dog perhaps). If you could compare them to one celebrity, who would it be?
Well, Mabel would be Cher, looks- and personality-wise. She has a mane of long, black, glossy hair, beautiful eyes, glorious teeth; but she’s mini-Cher, size-wise. I say Cher would become Mabel if she were tossed into a hot dryer for about an hour. And Mabel has Cher’s sassy personality, too. Big diva. I’d say Marge was a mix of Lassie, Scooby-Doo and Chelsea Handler: Loyal to a fault, always getting into trouble with me (her Shaggy), and she seemed to possess a certain contempt for those she didn’t consider as bright as her (which was nearly everyone). As I wrote in Bitch, my partner and I gave Marge a high-pitched “voice” we thought was appropriate, sort of Chelsea if she had inhaled helium.
Favorite of these dog movies? — “Best in Show,” “101 Dalmatians,” “The Shaggy Dog.”
Humor-wise, Best in Show. No doubt. Laugh every time. Sweetness-wise, Lady and the Tramp. I mean, the spaghetti kiss … C’mon. Sentimentality, need-a-good-cry-wise, Where the Red Fern Grows. I am a hideous mess when that ends.
Where can people find you on the Internet?
I’m an e-whore.
What’s next up for you, writing-wise?
I just finished my next memoir, tentatively titled, THIS BLOWS: My Life, in Locks. It’s what I’m calling the first-ever “hair-moir.” It’s about my – and our society’s – obsession with hair. I track my hideous styles over the years – from Leif Garrett and Wham! to Flock of Seagulls and home perms – but the memoir is really a study of vanity, and juxtaposes my hair-sanity against the life of my mom, a hospice nurse who had zero tolerance for vanity. When she was ill with cancer, she would not wear a wig. She taught me important lessons about what means the most in life. It’s a funny, poignant book, which is really my M.O. as a writer. I’m also working on my first novel, and, of course, the Marge-moir.
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