Katherine Applegate and Gennifer Choldenko

Dog­town is a fun­ny, heart-touch­ing book writ­ten from a dog’s point of view. I’ve nev­er been a dog but this feels so true that I can only imag­ine dogs every­where are cheer­ing for Chance and Met­al Head. I wish I had a dog’s sense of smell so I’d know who to trust. Most of all, this is a sat­is­fy­ing read-aloud, read-to-your­self over-and-over kind of book.

Katherine Applegate
Kather­ine Applegate
Shea and Gennifer Choldenko
Shea and Gen­nifer Choldenko

We asked the col­lab­o­ra­tors on Dog­town, Kather­ine Apple­gate and Gen­nifer Chold­enko, to share a lit­tle of their expe­ri­ence with us.

Nat­u­ral­ly, we’re won­der­ing how two authors with such well-known books col­lab­o­rate to cre­ate a new series about Dogtown.

Gen­nifer: We’ve both writ­ten lots of books on our own, it was stim­u­lat­ing to get to share the process with some­one else.  Like a dou­ble espresso.

Kather­ine: Gen­nifer loves cof­fee, so that’s high praise indeed! I’ve learned so much col­lab­o­rat­ing with her on Dog­town. And writ­ing can be a lone­ly process some­times. It’s great fun to share the ups and downs with a dear friend.

How did your col­lab­o­ra­tion process start out and how did it evolve?

Gen­nifer: We start­ed out think­ing we would write the sto­ry in two voic­es.  Kather­ine would write Chance. I would write Met­al Head. But the sto­ry did not want to be writ­ten that way … so we tried some­thing else.

Kather­ine: I often say that writ­ing a book is like mak­ing leg­is­la­tion or sausage: You real­ly don’t want to see how’s it’s done. There’s lots of back-and-for­thing, but some­how it all mag­i­cal­ly comes togeth­er in the end.

Who wrote what?

Gen­nifer: Kather­ine wrote all the good parts.

Kather­ine: Gen­nifer wrote all the good parts.

How did you main­tain a con­sis­tent voice between the two of you?

Gen­nifer: That was a lit­tle spooky.  We have a lot in com­mon and that gives us an innate under­stand­ing of one anoth­er. So, blend­ing our voic­es was not that dif­fi­cult. Some­times I wished I had writ­ten a line Kather­ine wrote.  Oth­er times I for­got which one of us wrote what.

Kather­ine: I think it helps that we share the same sense of humor. That’s so cru­cial to find­ing a believ­able voice. (I admit to feel­ing a bit jeal­ous when Gen­nifer came up with an espe­cial­ly fun­ny line. Which was often.)

Why did you want to work on this book together?

Gen­nifer: We both adore dogs. And we both think we under­stand them. But of course, we had dis­agree­ments. In Mouse and His Dog, the sec­ond Dog­town book, there is a scene around a fox­tail. Kather­ine thought lots of kids would not know what a fox­tail was. I was sure they would know. Dur­ing the tour for Dog­town, we showed a fox­tail and asked kids if they knew what it was. Very few kids did. Hon­est­ly, I was shocked at just how right Kather­ine was.

Kather­ine: Ah, the great Fox­tail Debate! Actu­al­ly, that was one of the few times we had dif­fer­ent takes on some­thing canine-relat­ed. We’ve both had dogs all our lives, so under­stand­ing how they tick was the easy part.

When did e‑dogs become an inte­gral part of the sto­ry? An e‑dog would work well at our house, by the way, but only if it has Met­al Head’s heart.

Gen­nifer: Robot dogs were baked in from the start. The orig­i­nal idea was a shel­ter that takes real dogs and robot dogs

Kather­ine: There are plen­ty of dog books out there, but we agreed that the idea of robot dogs would give us some fresh takes on the inner work­ings of (wo)man’s best friend.

Would either of you adopt an e‑dog?

Gen­nifer: I’d love a robot dog … but they are expen­sive. I do think my dog, Shea, would like hav­ing a robot dog around. Her favorite toy? The vacuum.

Kather­ine: Oh, my dogs have declared the vac­u­um Pub­lic Ene­my Num­ber 1. If I could find an e‑dog that would clean the cat’s lit­ter box, I’d buy one in a heartbeat.

What would you say to oth­er authors who are con­sid­er­ing collaboration?

Gen­nifer: If you are used to work­ing by your­self, col­lab­o­rat­ing will blow the top of your head right off. 

Kather­ine: I can­not think of a bet­ter way to recharge your writ­ing bat­ter­ies. It’s like read­ing in a genre you’re unfa­mil­iar with. You can feel the neu­rons pro­cess­ing words in new and unex­pect­ed ways. Plus, when you’re hav­ing a bad day, you’ve got some­one to kvetch with!

Thank you both for your can­did answers about col­lab­o­rat­ing. I know you’re both work­ing on your next book in the Dog­town series, so we’re glad you took time out.

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments