Maria Goodavage Interview: Writing SOLDIER DOGS - Writer's Digest

How I Got Published: Maria Goodavage, Best-Selling Author of SOLDIER DOGS

This installment of HOW I GOT PUBLISHED is with Maria Goodavage, New York Times bestselling author of SOLDIER DOGS: THE UNTOLD STORY OF AMERICA'S CANINE HEROES and former reporter for USA Today and the San Francisco Chronicle, is the news editor and a featured writer for Dogster.com, and author of three other dog-oriented books. GIVEAWAY: Maria 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; nborgardt won.)
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In celebration of my latest humor book, RED DOG / BLUE DOG: WHEN POOCHES GET POLITICAL (Running Press, August 2012), 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.

(How to collaborate with a freelance editor.)

This week it's Maria Goodavage, New York Times bestselling author of SOLDIER DOGS: THE UNTOLD STORY OF AMERICA'S CANINE HEROES and former reporter for USA Today and the San Francisco Chronicle, is the news editor and a featured writer for Dogster.com, and author of three other dog-oriented books.

GIVEAWAY: Maria 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; nborgardt won.)

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Do you currently live with dogs? Tell us their names, breeds and one amusing fact per dog.

Yes we are lucky enough to share our home with our 10-year-old adopted yellow Lab, Jake. He appears several times in Soldier Dogs, as a sort of “everydog” to help people compare their own pets with military dogs.

Since his stardom, he seems to think that his royalty payment consists of counter surfing and garbage-bin raiding. Truly, ever since the book launched this spring, he has been an incorrigible food thief. Coincidence? Hard to tell. These days we keep counters devoid of food, and we recently figured out a way to lock the garbage. I expect to hear from Jake’s agent any day now.

In one sentence, what is Soldier Dogs about?

Soldier Dogs is about the incredible four-legged military heroes who save lives every day, and the deep bonds they form with their handlers.

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

Dutton (Penguin) launched the hardcover on March 15, 2012. It became a New York Times best seller, and has received excellent reviews.

What inspired you to write this book?

I’d been thinking about writing a book on military dogs for years. My dad was a very young soldier in World War II, and later would sometimes tell me about the military dogs he saw, and how much they did for the troops. He explained how they not only saved lives, but how they helped in the essential mission of boosting morale. He said that when he felt homesick, he just had to go snuggle with one of the military dogs and the sadness drained away.

It took the raid on the Osama Bin Laden compound last year to spur me into action, though. When word got out that a dog had gone on this huge Navy SEAL Team 6 mission, the world went crazy for more information about the dog, and for military dogs in general. I was surprised that so many people didn’t realize dogs have been part of the military for decades. I knew it was time for this book. As luck would have it, so did an agent.

How did you find your agent?

I already had an agent, the wonderful Carol Mann. About 10 years ago I co-authored a book on babies and sleep. When it came time to find an agent, I sent the proposal to an author/physician who had volunteered to submit it to his agent if he liked it. He did, and Carol immediately jumped on it and sold it. It was a blessedly painless procedure.

But actually, Soldier Dogs ended up being co-agented. After the Bin Laden mission, but before I could act on my background idea of writing a book on military dogs, another agent, Deirdre Mullane, contacted me. She knew of my background of traditional journalism and dog writing, and asked if I was interested in doing such a book.

I really liked her energy and enthusiasm, but I am loyal to Carol. When Deirdre found out Carol was my agent, she offered to discuss it with her, and they ended up co-agenting the book. They proved to be a great team.

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This interview conducted by Stephanie Feldstein, animal advocate and writer.
You can find her campaigning at Change.org, tweeting @sfeldstein,
or catering to the whims of her quirky rescued animals. She's
represented by Barbara Poelle of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency.

As a professional writer, have you always written about dogs? If not, what kind of writing were you doing before you started writing about dogs, and how did you get started in your canine career?

No, I have definitely not always written about dogs. I started out as a journalist, working for a few newspapers, including USA Today, where I was the Northern California correspondent for seven years. My dog-writing began in 1990, after I got my first dog as an adult.

As a roving reporter for USA Today, and a single gal to boot, I’d often end up having to take Joe on out-of-town assignments with me. (I didn’t want to leave him in kennels, and most friends at that time lived in apartments that didn’t allow dogs.) It was then that I realized how few places were dog friendly. I eventually decided to winnow out the destinations that were dog friendly, and ended up writing a book on great places to take a dog in the San Francisco Bay Area, and later the state of California. The books are in their seventh editions now.

I’ve continued to mix dogs into my writing career. I am still a journalist first and foremost. I don’t want to be limited to dog writing, as much as I love it. That said, I could write about military dogs for the rest of my career and be happy.

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

I’m happy that mini-proposals can work as well as they do. For authors who have published before, they’re a godsend.

(Adapt your book into a movie script -- here's how.)

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

There have been many. But when readers write and tell you how the book has changed their lives, or prompted them to adopt a dog, or pulled them out of depression, or inspired them to pursue their dreams, it feels pretty good.

The most fun experience I’ve had with the book since its publication has been appearing on "The Daily Show." Jon Stewart is a super guy, and the show was an absolute blast.

How has your experience with this book been different than your previous books?

Soldier Dogs has had the biggest advance, the fastest turnaround time, and the best publicity. The tight deadline had me racing around various military facilities, and working many 20-hour days in my writing cottage. (When I got the book deal, I had been writing for years in the dining room. But I knew that this book was going to demand laser focus and warp speed – and the dining room is not conducive to either on a consistent basis. We have a little red, wooden storage barn we built years ago in our back yard, and I saw its potential as soon as I got the Dutton deal. We hauled its contents into the garage, hired someone to put in large windows, and painted the inside a lovely yellow with white trim. I spent the next months in this very cozy, peaceful retreat working harder than I’ve ever worked.)

Back to the dogs ...Think of your dog. If you could compare them to one celebrity, who would it be?

Jake reminds me of the late John Candy. He is upbeat, sweet, sincere, funny in an understated way, and enjoys his food.

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

Best in Show, absolutely. But my favorite movie involving dogs is a little-known 1951 beauty called You Never Can Tell. It’s odd, hilarious, and even somewhat ethereal. Its plot centers on a retired military dog named Rex, who is reincarnated as a kibble-snacking detective played by Dick Powell. What’s not to love?

Where can people find you on the Internet?

Soldier Dogs website: www.soldierdogs.com

Soldier Dogs Facebook: www.facebook.com/SoldierDogs

Twitter (woefully not enough time these days): @MariaGoodavage

What’s next up for you, writing-wise?

I wish I were allowed to tell. Stay tuned!

GIVEAWAY: Maria 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; nborgardt won.)

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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 releases Aug. 1, 2012 from
Running Press. Visit www.reddog-bluedog.com.

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Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
Create Your Writer Platform shows you how to
promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, and more.
Pre-order it now. (Releases Nov. 2012)

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