Ralph Hardy is the author of Argos: The Story of Odysseus as Told by His Loyal Dog, a middle-grade novel for kids. The book is now available in paperback. His other writing includes The Cheetah Diaries and Lefty. He is a professor of English at North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Argos?
A: I was killing time surfing the web to avoid writing when I came across a reference to Argos and his legendary sense of loyalty. That struck a chord and I ran upstairs to my library and found my copy of The Odyssey.
Argos is mentioned for 14 lines out of 12,000, but when I read those verses I knew I had my protagonist and a great idea for a novel. I sat down and wrote the first chapter, "On the Stupidity of Sheep," in one hour and never looked back.
Q: What did you see as the right balance between the original Odyssey and your retelling of the story from Argos's perspective?
A: I wanted to tell two stories: one was a simpler version of The Odyssey for younger readers and the second was the story of what happened on Ithaca while Odysseus was gone.
A few readers expressed to me that they thought Argos would accompany Odysseus on his journeys, but that was never my intention. The issue was how to reveal Odysseus's adventures to Argos, and for that, I allowed Argos to speak with animals such as birds, sea turtles, a bat, and even a cat who could witness the action and relay it to Argos.
Q: Do you think readers should be familiar with the story of The Odyssey before reading your novel?
A: Not at all. In fact, I wrote Argos to introduce younger readers to The Odyssey so that when they read it in high school--in North Carolina, that's the ninth grade--they know the characters, the themes, and the major plot points.
I've even had an 85-year-old reader who never read The Odyssey tell me he was going to read it now after reading Argos.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?
A: I hope they internalize some of the character traits of Argos: his sense of loyalty, his steadfastness, courage, and his wiliness.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I'm sitting on two YA novels that need a final round of editing, and I'm 45,000 words into a novel that I'm co-writing with my brother about the Battle of Sitka.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I love visiting schools so if any readers want me to come to a class I can Skype or Facetime in, if it's too far to drive.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb