Today I am so delighted to share with you an interview with Frances Sackett, author of Misadventures of a Magician's Dog. Why am I so delighted? One, I love interviews. Two, I loved the book that this author wrote! So without futhur ado, I bring you Frances Sackett!
Okay, so why magicians and dogs? What made you decide to feature these two things in your book?
That’s a great question. A friend recently pointed out that I always write about dogs—which I never realized. It must be the kid in me that never got to have one (we were a cat family). I can’t have a dog now because I travel too much for work, but one day...!
As for the magicians, I think they came out of my certainty as a child that I had all sorts of secret powers that I could use if only I knew how to tap into them. You know that “fact” about human beings using only10 percent of their brains? I took that very seriously when I was young, and I desperately wanted to figure out how to use the other 90 percent—which I was pretty sure would enable me to do all sorts of wonderful, magical stuff. Sure enough, in my novel, the magicians are able to do magic by “thinking” with a particular spot in their brains.
As an aside, I read an early draft of this novel to my son when he was seven. He’s now ten, and he recently confessed to me that for years now he’s tried to do magic by thinking with the particular spot in his brain that I describe in my book. I LOVE that.
2. Where did you get the idea for Misadventures from?
The original idea for this book is over a decade old. When a dear friend’s daughter was five or so, her parents got her a scruffy mutt who looked an awful lot like The Dog in my book. He peed on the furniture and regularly jumped the fence—not exactly great pet qualities—but he loved that little girl with his whole dog heart, which was particularly wonderful because she was having some serious health problems at the time. So one day, she asked me where her dog had lived before he came to her, I said that he used to lived with a magician and that he could talk and do magic. From then on, I regularly told her and her sister about the adventures the dog would take them on.
For years after that, I wanted to write about a child who adopted a dog that used to belong to a magician. But I couldn’t figure out who the child would be. And then our country went to war, and I kept reading about the children of deployed service people… and I gradually realized that I had found my dog’s owner. I didn’t want to write a novel that was just about the experience of having a deployed father, though. Rather, I wanted to write a fun adventure story with a main character, Peter, who’s struggling to come to terms with all the ways in which he feels powerless in the world.
3. What/who is your biggest writing inspiration?
I feel like I should have a really great answer to this question, like my kids, or another writer, or…
But the simple truth is that I write for myself. I write to make myself laugh. I write adventures because I love trying to figure out what will happen next. I write about emotions that fascinate and confuse me. I write about characters who I want to understand.
4. What was the hardest part about writing this book?
Honestly? Believing in myself. When I started this novel, I had fears around writing, and fears about sending my work out into the world too. (In fifteen years of writing, I sent one novel to two agents. That was it.) I’m not sure I fully believed at that time that I had something worth saying.
On some level, I had to become a different person in order to publish this book—and I’m so glad I did!
5. What are your future goals/plans in the writing world?
Right now, I’m working on YA contemporary fantasy thriller. It’s like nothing else I’ve ever written, and I’m having so much fun! I’ve done two drafts and am hoping I’m getting close…
Getting to Know You Questions
1. Favorite TV show right now?
I really like both Mad Men and Downton Abbey. But my favorite? I have to go with Project Runway. I think it’s fascinating to watch the way the designers handle the moments when something isn’t working: some collapse, but others become most inspired when they’re struggling.
2. Strictest rule in your household?
Hmm… My kids aren’t allowed to watch television or use computers between Monday and Friday, which most people might consider strict, and I’m also pretty firm on bedtimes. But I think my strictest rule is actually unspoken. I believe very strongly in treating one’s family with kindness and respect. Of course, we all have moments when we say and do things we regret! But if I lose my patience with my children when I shouldn’t have, I apologize and explain afterwards. And I expect them to treat each other—and me!—the same way. And they do, which is lovely.
3. Favorite memory growing up?
This is maybe the hardest question you asked me! I have a lot of happy memories of my childhood: I have an older brother and younger sister, and we used to have tremendous fun together, often playing long, imaginative games in which we all had different roles and powers. (I was usually a witch, a fairy, or a healer. Or Lieutenant Uhura.) We also spent a lot time preparing for when we would shrink to the size of bugs, which we were pretty sure would happen sooner or later.
See how I ended up a writer?
4. What were you like as a child?
Well, on the outside, I was skinny as a stick with long blonde hair and a scattering of freckles on my nose—more in the summertime. I’m pretty sure I smiled a lot, because my second grade teacher once asked me why I smiled all the time. (I think I still do that…)
On the inside, I was full of stories and daydreams and plans. I come from a family of book lovers, and I read everything that came into our house, from science fiction to romances to mysteries to classics, regardless of age appropriateness. I had a much bigger reading vocabulary than speaking vocabulary, and constantly mispronounced words as a result. I liked to roller skate, do gymnastics, and swim. I also loved ballet and opera (I know, strange kid!). I always had one or two good friends rather than a whole group, and I loved those friends fiercely.
5. Tell us some secrets about Harvard!
Secrets, huh? Now I wish I knew about some dead bodies hidden in the library…
There were a lot of wonderful things about my Harvard experience. I was fascinated by the age and history of the school; many of my professors were brilliant and dedicated teachers; and I made some friends that I’ll keep for life.
That said, I wasn’t terribly happy most of the time I was in college. I don’t think it was Harvard’s fault: I think it was more that my late teens/early twenties were a hard time for me. I eventually found my way into the Women’s Studies and Creative Writing departments (I dual majored), and that helped a lot. Jill McCorkle walked me through writing my first novel: how amazing is that? And I worked with Verlyn Klinkenborg too: he’s not just a gifted writer but also a generous and insightful writing teacher.
Thank you so much for hosting me today! I really appreciated the thoughtful questions and the opportunity to be here!
And I want to thank Frances for giving it her all in this interview! Her responses were amazing! I was actually tempted to respond to her responses. Thank the stars I didn't.
Read more about her book here!
Peter Lubinsky doesn't even like dogs and can't understand why he asked for one for his birthday. But it turns out that this pet, whom Peter calls The Dog, can talk and do magic—and he needs Peter's help. In return, The Dog promises to teach Peter conjuring and to help him bring his father home from the Middle East, where he is deployed with the air force. Soon Peter finds himself flying through the air on a mission to rescue The Dog's master. But as Peter's magical powers grow, he finds himself filled with a dark anger.
A bedroom full of dinosaur fossils, a waiter who was formerly a mouse, and an epic battle of magician's make for a thrilling read. This imaginative middle-grade fantasy is about the power of enchantment and love.
Stay tuned to my Twitter page to get the link to my review for her book! (@bloggerESP)