GUEST INTERVIEW FOR “MASS MUSINGS”
With Hy Conrad (Author of “Things Your Dog Doesn’t Want You to Know”)
Welcome to Mass Musings. We're so glad you could take a moment to chat with us today.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself that isn't included in your bio...
My career has been based on the simple act of answering the phone. Apparently, I’m no good at self-promotion, but very good at answering phones. It’s happened a dozen times.
For example, I had never even thought of writing for TV when I got a call from Andy Breckman. He had found a few of my solve-it-yourself books and tracked me down. I believe his exact words were, “I’m either going to steal your plots or hire you to write for me. Your choice.”
His new show turned out to be “Monk” and it kept me happily employed for the next eight years.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I wish I had an answer for that one. Most of the writers I know don’t have very fulfilling lives. Flaubert said, “Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.” But I think he was just making excuses for being boring.
I do go to the gym when I can. And I’m studying Italian every day. As a teenager, I was nearly fluent, but I haven’t spoken it much since.
What inspired you to write “Things Your Dog Doesn't Want You To Know?”
Our inspiration came from a series of late-night infomercials. “Things the Banks Don’t Want You to Know.” Things the Government Doesn’t Want You to Know.” The idea of dogs not wanting you to know their secrets seemed like a natural. Why do puppies bite? Why do dogs lean out of car windows? What do they do while you’re gone all afternoon?
Once we actually got into the book, we found there were relatively few things that dogs kept from us. For the most part, they ‘re eager to communicate, if it weren’t for that pesky language barrier. So the title may be a little misleading. But it’s a great title.
Like many humor books these days, this one began as a blog. We started posting on the most obvious topics: “What We Do When You’re Gone” or “Sticking My Head Out The Car Window.”
Our idea was to keep them generic, in a sort of Everydog persona. But we soon realized that the humor was in the specifics. It was funnier if the dog had a real personality, and even funnier if we invented a variety of “blogging dogs”, each with a radically different personality.
We wound up creating eleven dogs, from tiny and obnoxious (Tinkerbell, author of “My Life in Your Purse”) to large and dumb (Axelrod, author of “The Reason I Ate the Sofa”). And we gave each dog an arc, which is a writerly term for “all the little stories add up to something.” For example, Sarge is a German Shepherd and a working dog. In each of his stories, he gets a new job and it always winds up being a disaster. By the time Sarge tells his tenth story, he has finally been adopted by a great family. But he still thinks it’s a job, and this one he doesn’t want to lose.
If you're dogs could talk, how would they describe you?
My dogs are very impressed by my smell. They also appreciate my regular habits and my desire to walk around the block several times a day. If I have a fault, I think they would say it’s my memory. Sometimes I forget to give them enough treats.
What pops to mind that is the funniest thing you're dogs have ever done?
We once had a dog who’d lost some of the use of his hindquarters. One day, I was carrying him through the lobby of a trendy, boutique hotel and stopped to talk to the manager. A few seconds later, I realized Jake had pooped in my hand. I continued standing there, talking and pretending that nothing had happened. Then we went right up to the room and both had a bath.
What is your most favorite breed?
I always had dogs when I was a kid. Later, as an adult, I held a Boston Terrier up to my face and discovered I’d become allergic. Miniature schnauzers, I found, are hypo-allergenic, don’t shed and are wonderfully adventurous. We are now on our third generation of schnauzers, Charlie and Nelson. The others are buried at the top of our hill in Vermont. Nelson loves to pee on the marker.
I imagine many people are like us in this respect. One gets used to a certain look and personality and that becomes your breed. Whether real, or simply imagined by their owners, different breeds have distinctly different characteristics.
What emotions did you experience when your book was finally published and you held it in your hands?
My co-author Jeff and I spent a lot of time trying to get the book to look great. We argued over a dozen designs, from the cover to the illustrations. Finally when Dean (our art director) and the publisher sent us the real book, we were blown away. The look was so appealing and inviting.
How did you and your co-author meet?
Jeff and I have known each other for 33 years, which is way too long. I’d like to say we met in grade school, but that’s not true. It was in New York when we were beginning our careers, Jeff as a psychologist and me as a playwright. We became best friends from the moment we met.
If you could go anywhere in the world and take one person and one item with you, where would you go, who & what would you take?
I love to travel and have been to a lot of places. One dream destination that may go unfulfilled is Angel Falls, the tallest waterfall in the world. It’s in a remote part of Venezuela. You have to hike and go by dugout canoe – and then sleep in hammocks with mosquitoes. It’s very Indiana Jones. In fact, that’s who I’d like to go with; Indiana Jones.
What are you reading now?
I read for work. Alas. If I’m not doing research, then I’m reading a script for a friend or catching up on old New Yorker magazines. The last books I read were three “Monk” novels written by Lee Goldberg.
Favorite author of all time?
You’ve probably never heard of him. E.F. Benson, a British writer from the 1920s and 30s. He wrote a series called the “Mapp and Lucia” books. They’re light and insightful and utterly charming. I was depressed for days when I realized that there were only six and that I was reading number six.
Last movie you've seen?
This is the beginning of awards season in the movie biz, which means all the studios mail out DVDs of their films to the people who vote. It’s like early Christmas and you don’t have to go to a theatre for the next six months. The latest one I watched was “The “Dark Knight Rises”. I have to say, I was impressed. Very well plotted.
What can we expect from you next?
I’m always writing something. It’s my job and only hobby. Most recently I was asked by the USA Network and Obsidian Press to take over writing the “Monk” novels, a successful series of books based on the characters from the TV show. My friend Lee Goldberg wrote the first 15, and I’ve been asked to write 16 and 17.
As soon as I have a chance, I plan to finish the second novel in my Abel Adventures Mystery series, about a woman who leads tour groups around the world and always runs into murder. The first book in the series, “Rally ‘Round The Corpse” is available now.
Thank you so much for stopping by.
GENRE: Humor, pets
RELEASE DATE: April 2012
Purchase - Amazon
Why do dogs eat furniture when there are endless chew toys nearby?
Why do they always dash to a rug when they have to throw up?
And why are they always absolutely starving?
Things Your Dog Doesn’t Want You to Know answers the questions that dog owners have asked for centuries. The book is a collection of 115 humorous essays that reveal the truth behind some of the most baffling canine behavior, their hopes and dreams, their grudges and pleasures, and what they really think about us humans. Peppered with lively, clever stories and visually appealing photographs, Things Your Dog Doesn’t Want You to Know is a verbal and visual delight that is laugh-out-loud funny. If you have dogs, love dogs, or have ever been baffled by a dog, this book is a must-have.
- My Life in Your Purse by Tinkerbell, the Chihuahua
- Waiting by the Table (for food scraps, of course!) by Orson, the bulldog
- The Bed Rules (Rule #1—It’s my bed) by Dimples, the boxer
- The Reason I Ate the Sofa (leather tastes a lot like rawhide) by Axelrod, the yellow lab
- I Can Poop the Second I Start My Walk (but choose not to) by Sophie, the cocker spaniel
Things Your Dog Doesn’t Want You to Know is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indigo, Target, on e-books and at independent bookstores everywhere. For more information, go to www.ThingsYourDog.com where you can also ask questions about your own dog’s behavior and learn the secrets they have been keeping from you!
PRAISE FOR THINGS YOUR DOG DOESN’T WANT YOU TO KNOW
“A whimsical delight for dog lovers everywhere, this book will charm and remind readers why they fell in love with Rover to begin with.” (Publishers Weekly Starred Review)
“I laughed, my dog howled.” (Steve Martin)
“This is the perfect book for anyone who owns a dog, has ever owned one, or knows what a dog is. These guys made me laugh out loud—and captured my heart at the same time. The book is simply irresistible.” (Tony Shalhoub, star of the TV series Monk)
Best known for his work in mysteries, Hy was one of the original writers for the groundbreaking series, Monk, working on the show for all eight seasons, the final two as Co-Executive Producer. In a related project, Hy was Executive Producer and head writer of Little Monk, a series of short films featuring Adrian Monk as a ten-year-old. His latest TV work was as writer and Consulting Producer for White Collar.
Hy is also the author of hundreds of short stories and ten books of short whodunits, which have been sold around the world in fourteen languages. Hy’s first mystery novel series, Abel Adventures, will debut in 2012 with the publication of Rally ‘Round the Corpse. And his first full-length comedy/mystery play, Home Exchange, premiered at the Waterfront Playhouse in May 2012. He lives in Key West with his partner and two miniature schnauzers. (www.hyconrad.com)
ABOUT JEFF JOHNSONJeff spent most of his working life in advertising agencies, currently as General Manager of Cramer-Krasselt in New York City. He is the author of The Hourglass Solution: A Boomer’s Guide to the Rest of Your Life and co-authors (with Paula Forman) a national online advice column called Short Answers, which also appears in newspapers all along the east coast (from Massachusetts to Florida). Jeff lives in Vermont and Key West and is on the Board of Directors of the Waterfront Playhouse and the Florida Keys SPCA.
WEBSITE LINK: www.ThingsYourDog.com
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