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.
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.