Interview with Award-Winning Author Bobbie Pyron
Getting to know Bobbie…
Bobbie was born and raised on the Gulf Coast of Florida. As a child, she very much wished to be a mermaid when she grew up. By second grade, she had become much more practical and announced to her parents she planned to be a frog when she grew up instead. This didn’t work out so well either. Instead, when she grew up, she worked variously as a professional singer, dog trainer, outdoor wilderness instructor, gladiola harvester, and, for twenty-five years, a librarian.
Bobbie is the author of the teen novel, The Ring (Westside Books, 2009). Her middle grade novels include the award-winning A Dog’s Way Home (Katherine Tegen Books/Harper Collins, 2011), and the multi-star reviewed The Dogs of Winter (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, 2012), which was also named a Junior Library Guild Selection, a Kirkus Best Book of 2012, and Bank Street Best Book of 2012. Her next book, Lucky Strike (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic) comes out in March of 2015. It is not a dog book.
Bobbie has also published short stories in Scholastic’s “Scope” and “Storyworks” magazines. Bobbie lives high up in the mountains of Park City, Utah with her husband, two cats, and two dogs. When she’s not writing, she’s hiking or skiing with her dogs. To learn more, visit her website.
What is a song you could listen to all day, every day, on repeat?
“Georgia On My Mind” sung by Ray Charles.
What do you do too much of?
What do you do too little of?
Relaxing. If I were a dog, I’d be a Border Collie.
What latest trend simply baffles you?
Dystopian fiction. It’s so dark and violent!
If you could make up a school subject, what would it be?
Compassion and Kindness 101, Compassion and Kindness 102, Advanced Compassion and Kindness.
What words of inspiration were you given that you’d like to pass along to others?
It’s not words but an image that inspires me. I came across it many years ago and its stuck with me, particularly in writing. It helps me remember that you’re not going to have any chance of reaching that star without taking risk. I have this image as my screen saver on my laptop.
How do you deal with creativity blocks?
First of all, I don’t believe in “writer’s block.” I think in most cases it’s just an excuse not to do the work. I have days (far too many) when I have no idea what I’m going to write that day or where it’s going, but I sit down at my computer and show up. I think showing up is 90% of being a successful writer. If I get really stuck when I’m writing, I get up and move around—I go for a walk with my dogs, do yard work, vacuum, anything to get me physically moving. That seems to get me unstuck most of the time. Also, I’m forever astonished by how often “the muse” shows up when I’m taking a shower.
Which of your books gives you the most pride and satisfaction?
Like a parent, I’m proud of all my “children.” But I will have to admit I’m particularly proud of The Dogs of Winter. I first read about Ivan Mishukov, the child who inspired the story, back in 2005. I knew when I read his story about living feral on the streets of Moscow with a pack of wild dogs, I had to write his story. But I was also very intimidated, though, for several reasons: one, I’d never been to Russia; two, I’d never been homeless or hungry; the research was overwhelming! I tried writing the story several times, only to get overwhelmed by what I didn’t know and by lack of confidence as a writer. I’d put the story away and worked on other things. A Dog’s Way Home was published with great success, but I never forgot Ivan’s story. Finally, in the winter of 2011, I just sat down and wrote it! It gives me great satisfaction to know how I stuck by and honored my need to write that story.
How much of your own life is reflected in your work?
I think my books reflect my love of dogs, books, and nature. The setting of the book—whether it be the cold streets of Moscow, or the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, or the magic of the Gulf Coast of Florida—is almost like a separate character in my books. The natural world is very important to me. Relationships are always front and center in my books, whether it be between friends, family, or animals. That is true of my life too.
What was your childhood like? Did your upbringing influence the way you write today?
My childhood was pretty hard. My father died suddenly when I was seven and our lives were pretty chaotic and sad after that. As a result, my books all seem to explore loss. I think I’m still trying to figure out how you make a happy life after experiencing life-changing loss. I also am a Southerner through and through, and so is my family. Growing up, stories were a huge part of my life. Some of my few really wonderful memories from my childhood are those when we all got together over pots of gumbo and told stories—grandparents telling stories about their childhoods, uncles telling stories about the trouble they got into as kids, stories about mysterious lights, and stories about good dogs. These stories provided a continuity in my otherwise fragmented childhood that I sorely needed.
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