Author Interview: Russ Ryan, Author of the Novel IT'S JUST A DOG - Writer's Digest

Author Interview: Russ Ryan, Author of the Novel IT'S JUST A DOG

In celebration of my 2012 humor book, RED DOG / BLUE DOG: WHEN POOCHES GET POLITICAL (Running Press, July 2012), I am featuring interviews with other dog book writers every now and again. It's very exciting to shine light on books from other writers who also share a love for canines. This time it's Russ Ryan, author of the 2013 novel, IT'S JUST A DOG. Russ has written screenplays with the producers of American Pie, Fireflies in the Garden, and was a writer on National Lampoon's Repli-kate. This is his first novel.
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In celebration of my 2012 humor book, RED DOG / BLUE DOG: WHEN POOCHES GET POLITICAL (Running Press, July 2012), I am featuring interviews with other dog book writers every now and again. It's very exciting to shine light on books from other writers who also share a love for canines.

This time it's Russ Ryan, author of the 2013 novel, IT'S JUST A DOG. Russ has written screenplays with the producers of American Pie, Fireflies in the Garden, and was a writer on National Lampoon's Repli-kate. This is his first novel. Find Russ on Twitter.

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

Unfortunately, my wife and I have lost two dogs in the last two-plus years. Our first, Petey, was a Jack Russell Terrier rescue who lived until he was almost 15. And then our 'rebound dog', Charlie, a whiskery Terrier/Retriever mix who looked like Benji, died tragically from eating a poisonous mushroom seven months after we got him. They were both wonderful pals. What I've learned is that it doesn't matter if you have a dog ten months or ten years – it still hurts the same when you lose 'em!

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

It's a comic novel about a world famous dog painter (aka 'The Picasso of Pooch Portraits') whose beloved dog muse dies unexpectedly, and then comes back as a talking ghost dog that haunts the artist and his new puppy.

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

I self-pubbed the book earlier this summer — and with lots of help from pet bloggers and book reviewers, the Kindle version has become an Amazon bestseller in the 'Dogs' and 'Animal Humor' categories. At the moment, It's Just A Dog is scrapping it out with a bunch of fiercely funny cat books like Grumpy Cat, Lil' Bub, and I Could Pee On This!

(Should you mention self-published books when querying an agent?)

What inspired you to write this book?

I came up with the idea after being so walloped about losing our first dog, Petey. I was so surprised by how surprised I was that he actually died that I just had to write about it. But because my Petey didn't have any uniquely marketable skills like most pets featured in popular dog books – I had to make up a story! The plot is like the movie Ghost, except if Patrick Swayze came back to woo Demi Moore as a sarcastic, wisecracking Jack Russell terrier.

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

I've written screenplays, and had a few optioned by some Hollywood production companies – and was also lucky enough to have a film made by the producers of American Pie, starring Eugene Levy. Unfortunately, it wasn't very successful at the box office, but it's a credit, as they say.

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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,
PoliticalWire.com, The Huffington Post, and more.
Visit www.reddog-bluedog.com.

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

That writing the book is the easiest part! The amount of work that goes into marketing, promoting, and begging people to look at the book really takes the fun out of it. Next time I might just write a really long letter.

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

The best part is the number of heartwarming emails that I've received from readers who've also suffered through the difficult pain of pet loss. These little rascals really know how to mess you up! Honestly, I didn't realize how bad it was to mourn a pet until I lost my very own hairy loved one.

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

Aside from Twitter and Goodreads, I also donated a good portion of my royalties to Muttville, a local San Francisco senior dog rescue, during the summer launch. I figured this way that even if folks absolutely detested my book—that at least they knew some of the money was going to a great cause!

(How long should you wait before following up with an agent?)

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

My dog, Petey, was a cranky, aloof character, but definitely had a dark sense of humor – kinda like Bill Murray. But not Garfield Bill Murray. More like Ghostbusters Bill Murray. And Charlie was a real slobbery ham with a huge heart like John Candy.

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

I loved BEST IN SHOW, but there are great scenes in lots of dog movies. Like the dying scene in MARLEY & ME? Very well done. And when the dog gets older in MY DOG SKIP towards the end? There's a real wonderful voiceover by Harry Connick. Also, some of my favorite 'dog movies' are where the dog plays only a supporting part, such as in AS GOOD AS IT GETS, THE ARTIST, and BEGINNERS (with Ewan McGregor).

If I was an actor, I'd watch out if the co-star is a dog because they are scene-stealers!

Where can people find you on the Internet?

The Kindle and paperback of It's Just A Dog is available at Amazon.com, or you can check out my blog, Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

What’s next up for you, writing-wise?

I'm working on a couple dog book ideas. And this time the dog lives (although who knows if he/she will make it through the rewrites)!

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