If you caught my post yesterday, you will know how much I adored Charmaine Hammond's book "On Toby's Terms." I am so excited to share my interview with her! Make sure to stop by yesterday's post as well if you want a chance to win a copy of her book!
What inspired you to write the book about Toby?
His volunteer work as an Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) dog inspired me to write a short story for Chicken Soup for the Soul- What I Learned From the Dog, which was published Sept 2009. We arranged some book signings at local bookstores and from the first time I saw Toby the dog PAWdograph the book, I knew I would write more. Toby somehow inspired me to write, and he gave me lots (almost too much) content to write about. I then wrote On Toby’s Terms (Bettie Youngs Book Publishers, Sept 2010) which became a best seller and award winning book. Because we (Toby the dog and I) were presenting regularly at schools, events, conferences and at book signings, it became obvious we needed a children’s book. I wrote Toby the Pet Therapy Dog & His Hospital Friends (Bettie Youngs Book Publishers, Aug 2011) which is beautifully illustrate by my best friend Rose Anne Prevec, we have been friends since we were young children. Toby’s story is a good one. He is a rescue dog who had a tough start to life, we adopted him at age 5 and it didn’t take us long to learn that he had “issues”. From breaking toilet tank lids, to rearranging furniture, emptying closets and sitting in sinks, we knew we needed help. A behaviorist discovered that Toby was a dog who needed a job. And when we got him his job at the hospital as a therapy dog, something magical happened.
What process did you go through to write this book?
I had to learn how to write a book. It was of course much different than writing a short story. Setting aside time to write was important. I had a tight timeline for the publisher and a successful business to run, so a writing routine became important. Part way through the writing, I discovered that when I talked by book (using Dragonspeak Software), my stories were more emotive, and more closely modeled the “show don’t tell” approach, so, I talked a great deal of my book.
How did it feel to relive so many of these experiences you wrote about?
That is a great question. Reliving and writing them for the world to see made me feel vulnerable in many ways, however, at the same time I felt very grounded knowing that these stories could inspire some and allow me to connect with others. There are several parts of On Toby’s Terms that were emotional, and still are, to relive through writing or speaking. The sailboat accident, Toby’s injury, and the touching impact that Toby the dog had on patients were the most emotional for me to write and share.
What was the most difficult part of writing this book?
For me the process of “showing and not telling” was a challenge, however when I learned to talk my book, this was no longer problematic. The other challenge for me was transitioning between the chapters. A great team of editors helped me with this.
What is your favorite part of the book?
Oh, I have so many favorite parts, but if I have to pick one, I love the ending, it has deep meaning for me
What do you feel you did right with this book?
There are a few that pop out for me, the first is using Toby’s face on the cover. The second, is that I described the powerful lessons that we learned from this dog. We discovered that many people can relate to their pet being a teacher for them. Also, that we did not minimize our frustration with Toby’s behavior. Many pet owners have felt similar frustration and feeling helpless to get their dog’s challenging behavior under control. One reader said the book encouraged them to get help for their dog.
I hear there is a movie coming out about Toby! Tell me about it. Were you (and Toby) involved in the making of the film?
There is! This is extremely exciting. Impact Motion Pictures signed the book to become a movie before the book hit the bookstore shelves. The screen play is done, and they are moving forward with the next phases of pre-development. We have had the opportunity to work closely with the producers, they had the chance to meet Toby, and we are excited about the next phases and learning about the film industry and watching this all unfold.
Why do you think so many people are drawn to Toby and his story?
Animals connect people. We can all relate to either having a pet, liking a friends’ pet, or wishing we had a pet. Many people can relate to wonderful memories of a pet, and to the lessons that animals can teach us. As well, the fact that Toby was not a perfect dog, had challenges, then became a therapy dog impacting many lives, in many ways parallels the lives of humans. We have all likely overcome a big challenge in life, or have had to turn a trauma into a triumph, or an obstacle into an opportunity. And Toby’s story is like this as well. Finally, I think many people simply fall in love with this goofy dog who lived life big, and on his own terms. He seemed to have that effect on people…he sure did on us.
What are you working on next?
Well, Toby’s legacy will live on. Sadly we lost our precious friend and family member in late 2011, he passed away peacefully. He was 10 ½ years old and like everything with Toby, he left us on his terms. He continues to inspire me to write, and our life with Toby provided me so much content. I have just finished his next book in the children’s series called Toby Says Be a Buddy, Not a Bully, and another titled Toby and His Forever Family. In honour of this incredible dog, and the thousands of lives he touched through his speaking (well I spoke, he barked) and book signing tours, we have launched A Million Acts of Kindness – Toby’s Global Mission to keep the kindness mission that Toby created a living legacy.
Now for my "unrelated to writing question - what is your favorite amusement park ride?
I really like the Tea Cup ride and a Merry Go Round.
Find out more about Charmaine Hammond and Toby by going to her website here. A special thank you to Charmaine for this interview!