Monday, June 19, 2017

Q&A with Alison McGhee

Alison McGhee is the author of the new children's picture book Percy, Dog of Destiny. Her many other books, for children and adults, include the forthcoming novel for adults Never Coming Back. She lives in Minneapolis, Vermont, and California.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Percy, Dog of Destiny?

​A: I love dogs, especially my own dog, Petey. When he was a youngster I used to take him to a nearby dog park, where he'd race around with his buddies.

Petey is a recovering tennis ball addict (he's been through rehab several times), so writing a funny picture book about a dog named Percy (Percy/Petey - get it?), his friends, their dog park, and the horror (the horror!) of having his special ​ball stolen away from him felt like a natural outcome of my personal experience.

Q: What do you hope young readers take away from the story?

A: ​I hope that they laugh and laugh. I certainly did when I was writing the book. This was a book that I wrote purely for fun.
Q: What do you think Jennifer K. Mann's illustrations add to the book?

​A: I simply love Jennifer K. Mann's illustrations for Percy, and I loved them right out of the box. The first sketches I saw made me smile. I spread them out on my dining table and just laughed to see what she'd done with each of the dogs and their personalities.

This is the magical part of being a writer of picture books - you get to see what the artist does with your words. And what an incredible job she did!
Q: You also have a new novel for adults, Never Coming Back, coming out later this year. What can you say about that book?

A: ​Never Coming Back is my first novel for adults in quite a long time, and I'm thrilled to be writing in that world again.

The novel is the story of Clara Winter, a young woman whose mother, Tamar, has been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's. Their relationship has long been somewhat strained, but Clara always figured she'd have time --decades, probably-- in which to resolve their tensions and secret questions.​

But time is exactly what they don't have anymore, so the novel becomes an exploration of the fierce love and fierce grief experienced by a mother and daughter as they are being inexorably pulled apart.

I love Clara and Tamar; they are real people to me. Fans of my previous novel Shadow Baby, in which Clara and Tamar also starred, may be happy to revisit them in Never Coming Back.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: ​Right now I am putting the finishing touches on 1) Pablo and Birdy, a novel for children which comes out in August, and 2) the draft of a new novel for adults, titled Darker Birds.
Q: Anything else we should know?

A: ​You should know how very, very grateful I am for readers and book lovers and bloggers - without you, I'd be writing into a void. So, thank you!

--Interview with Deborah Kalb. For a previous Q&A with Alison McGhee, please click here.

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