What inspired you to write your book?
One indie writer in the Facebook book groups mentioned how he did NaNoWriMo every year. I thought this was some holiday camp or Japanese game. I soon found out that it wasn’t – it was a writing competition. The challenge was to write 50,000 words in 30 days – in November. I crazily decided to give it a go.
Back in my 20s (in a time far, far away), I’d had this idea about three guys sharing a house. The guitar man would have a pooch, but I wanted to make him a real, thinking character. At the time, I loved Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, with four POVs in separate sections, written in different voices. Of course, I wrote a few chapters and somehow never finished it.
For NaNoWriMo, I started to rethink this idea. The first thing that came into my head was the title: 3 Heads & a Tail – representing the main characters of two guys, a girl and that dog. The furry one had to be in it as he was the hero. He would be the most intelligent and moral character, who saw everything, and around whom the whole book would slowly begin to revolve. He would become its centre. One guy would be nice and cute, one would look like a model but be a total ass, and the girl would be cool and sweet. She’d be the one moving into this house that the others shared, and there would be a romantic triangle. I started writing with this idea. Apart from that, I just had the end scene in my head (can’t tell you what it is, but it was there).
And I finished it on time. Horrah! I think NaNo could be a thing that makes people kick writer’s block up the ass, break a rule or two when writing, and find their inner faith. And that can only be a good thing. Everyone is their own worst critic and that can stop you writing. NaNo sets you free.
Genre and Targeted Age Group
Comedy fantasy romance for age 16 up
About your Book:
When nature lover Josie moves into a house share with two pals, dreamer Ben and model man David, she sees it as a short stop and doesn’t bank on an attraction developing with one of them. Meanwhile, Ben’s dog, Glen, has the hots for Miss Posh, the beautiful golden Lab in the park. When dog meets dog it’s puppy love, but a complication leads to Glen taking matters into his own paws. In this comedy of errors, romance and walkies, it’s anyone’s guess who is going to win the girl/dog and live happily ever after.
Glen has his own chapters within chapters.
For readers aged over 16 due to some adult themes.
Excerpt from one of Glen’s chapters. He’s the doggy hero.
Voomph… the front door is opening… away we go… whoosh! I’m sprinting for the door as fast as I can go, my ears flapping, my tongue lapping. I can see David is surprised… he’s wobbling and his guitar case smashes up the door. Oops, I banged into his legs… hey, asshole, move it! Flop! I think I almost knocked him over. His hand flies out and he’s trying to grab my collar. My ears flap past him. See ya!
Oomph, I’m slipping, I’m sliding, but I’m steadying… and now I’m running. I’m bounding down the steps. I can hear David shouting. I hope Ben doesn’t hear because he’d be sprinting down the street after me, but I know David won’t run. I’m not his dog and he’s too lazy. I’m running down the pavement as fast as my paws can carry me, my ears blowing in the breeze. But it’s warm out here, still mid-summer.
It’s a nice, cool run. I can’t hear David any more. He’s probably gone into the house. But as Ben isn’t talking to him, I wonder what’s going to happen. Ben might be like a volcano erupting. Wish I could see that, but I’ve got to keep on running. I can’t stop. I’m crossing the road, going round the corner, on and on. Should I take a shortcut straight across the park? Nope, it’s too dark and there are dodgy fellows in there at night-time. I’ll take the longer route. Glen, don’t be a chicken! Time is of the essence here!
Right, “voof”, I’m skidding round and charging back the other way, and into the park. I’m racing past dodgy man number one – he’s sitting on the grass singing. Keep on running. On and on, past dodgy man number two. He’s sitting on a bench, waving a beer can at me, cursing and calling me Charlie. I keep on running, past dodgy man number three. He’s staggering around with his trousers around his ankles singing. Not sure what he’s doing. He must be hot and just airing his bits. Keep on running Glen, but maybe go a bit faster. And I’m sprinting past dodgy man number four. Luckily, he’s just asleep. You’re snoring a bit, mate.
Then I’m out of the park and running across the road, down the pavement. I take a few turns, followed by a few more, and I’m there. I can see the house. I can almost smell the roses. But now I have to be quiet. I bow my head and sneak along the corner of the street. I daren’t go up the pathway to the front door, so I’m heading round the back where I’ve gotta jump the fence. Whoa! That’s higher than I remember. Whoosh, bump, and I’m over. Voof. Can’t bark, can’t bark. I must be quiet. Just think the voof.
And now I wait behind this big bush. I can hear something but I’m not sure what it is. Something is moving in the house, but the lights are off so I can’t make anything out. I slink my body close to the ground and move closer to the back door. I can see the outline of a shadow. It’s her! The door handle moves down and the door slowly opens. A pink nose is the first thing I see. My ears perk up and I can feel my tail gaining a life of its own. I try to stop it going too fast. Suddenly, her amazingly bright brown eyes are in front on me and she’s panting.
“I think we better go,” she whispers, her ears perking up. I know she’s never done anything this crazy in her life and she’s relying on me to guide her.
I nod, and slink slowly and quietly out of the back garden, hiding behind the bushes. She follows. I don’t look back, but I can hear her breathing behind me. We wander out into the street and for the first time we’re actually alone. It feels wild and unsafe, but good.
“Ready?” I ask her, certain that she’s scared out of her wits.
She looks at me quite calmly and just nods.
“I know this is scary,” I say. “I’m scared too, but let’s just go and see what happens. We’re wearing collars so no one will think we are strays.”
“Okay, but let’s go before she wakes up!” says Mimi.
I nod. We cross the road and turn the corner. Then I start running and she follows. Luckily, we’re under the cover of night because we must be a strange sight. It’s not often that you see two golden Retrievers running on the pavement on their own. You might see one with a grumpy owner in hot pursuit, but that’s about it.
Voof! I want to bark with happiness, but I just think it. I haven’t thought about Ben, but now I do. I knock it out of my head. Don’t want to spoil the feeling of freedom in which I’m basking. We charge down the street, cross roads and speed round corners, our ears flopping in the breeze and our tails wagging like there’s no tomorrow. I wish there wasn’t one. I wish there was only tonight and that it went on forever, and no one would find us. But I know we’ll be found eventually – if not tonight then maybe tomorrow, but definitely some time.
“I think it’s the next corner,” sighs Mimi, a bit breathless.
She’s right. We race into the park. Luckily, the guy with the trousers round his ankles has wandered off. I hope he didn’t trip on the way.
“Where to now?” she asks.
We’re standing under a huge willow tree beside the lake. The leaves are so long that it forms a giant, organic tent. It almost smells green.
“I’m not sure,” I say. I sit down and Mimi echoes me. I know she’s relying on me to make the decisions. She thinks I’m streetwise and I guess I am a bit, but I’ve always had Ben to look after me. This time he can’t help me.
Mimi whines softly.
“Don’t worry,” I say. “Let’s think of the options. Going back to your house is not one. I’d like to go to my house. Ben is so nice. He would want to help us, but he also likes to do the right thing, so that’s not an option. We could stay here in the park, but we’re bound to be found. Ben will search the park first as it’s my favourite place. Or we can just class this as an adventure and see where we go.”
“How will we live?” asks Mimi, lifting her head off her paws. She looks up at me with those big brown eyes. I have to make sure no harm comes to her.
“Well, I’m thinking we’ll be found at some point. It’s bound to happen, but in the meantime we can just be together. We can eat whatever we find, drink water from wherever, travel and be free. Together.”
“I’m not sure…”
“You want to be free, don’t you?”
“Yes, of course,” she replies, scratching her ear. “I want to be with you, but I’m scared.”
“I know, but I’ll look after you, and I guess we’ll learn as we go on. What do you say?”
I’m not sure what she’ll say. Maybe she’ll want to go back and I’ll just go home. Maybe we’ll never see each other again…
“Voof!” Her bark breaks the silence. She gets up, wagging her tail. “Let’s go, now, before I change my mind – wherever the wind takes us.”
“Wherever the wind takes us,” I bark.
We look around goofily, wary in case anyone heard us, but no-one knows what we’re planning. We’re doggy runaways, sheltering under a willow tree. I’ve no idea what’s going to happen next, but we’re together. That’s enough.
What formats are your books in
Print, Both eBook and Print
How do you see writing a book in the Pet Genre as different from writing other genres of books?
I think that writing about pets and animals is great. I loved writing Glen’s chapters in this book. I felt that I could set my imagination free. When I was living with my parents, we had two dogs called Penny and Bianca. I grew up with them and they were both white Boxers. They had completely different personalities. Bianca was a rescue dog, who we got when she was two, while we got Penny as a little pup (her original name was Snowflake, but my mum wasn’t sure about shouting that in the street!). Although Bianca got over her fears and adjusted into the family, and was devoted to Penny, she never really learned how to play. She was an intelligent, sensible dog. Penny, on the other hand, was playful, cheeky, always hunting for something to munch and a little eccentric. She was also very cute and attracted attention, especially as her tail wasn’t docked and curled up like a piggy’s when she walked. Our first dog was a Border Collie named Glen. I don’t remember much about him as he was only around when I was really young. But I do remember him showering me with dirty water after going for swims!! My favourite breed of dog are Labradors.
So, with creating Glen, all of these memories came to mind. I tried to imagine what it would be liked to be a dog and I named my character after my first pet. He’s also a Golden Labrador (Labrador Retriever). I made him intelligent, moral, faithful and able to sympathise with characters human or not. He’s also a bit eccentric – he hates stepping in doggy do, for a start. He’s different. And I think that’s the joy of writing a book starring an animal – it’s up to you how real you make them and what qualities you want them to have. I liked making the dog the hero of my book. He deserved it.
Advice to someone that is thinking about or currently working on a pet book
Please use the text that I put for Kiwi in Cat City. Thank you
How did you decide how to publish your book and where is it published through:
I finished 3 Heads & a Tail at the end of November and edited it in the December. At the time, I was with Inknbeans Press and I sent the book to them. Then Susan Bennett, an editor, saw it and gave some very good advice. Then I re-edited it again and reread it all, adding in some descriptions and looking at the characters, and sent it back. The book was published in June 2012 by Inknbeans Press, who did the original cover.
At the end of October 2012, I left Inknbeans Press. I then self-published the novel. It is the same, but I changed the cover. It is also available in paperback – I enjoyed designing the cover for that.
The thing that worried me the most was that readers might not find the book funny or they might not like the dog, who is eccentric and swears a lot. I’m not sure what genre the book falls into. I guess it isn’t mainstream romance. It’s a comedy-romance-general fiction-quirky-fantasy-doggy kind of thing.
Vickie Johnstone lives in London, UK, where she works as a freelance sub-editor on magazines and an editor on indie books. She has a thing about fluffy cats and also loves reading, writing, films, the sea, rock music, art, nature, Milky Bar, Baileys and travelling.
Vickie has self-published the following books:
Kaleidoscope (poetry); Travelling Light (poetry); Life’s Rhythms (haiku); 3 Heads and a Tail (comedy romance); Kiwi in Cat City (magical cat series for middle grade readers); Kiwi and the Missing Magic; Kiwi and the Living Nightmare; Kiwi and the Serpent of the Isle; Kiwi in the Realm of Ra; Kiwi’s Christmas Tail; Day of the Living Pizza (comedy detective series for middle grade readers), and Day of the Pesky Shadow.
The Kiwi Series contains superb illustrations by Nikki McBroom.