Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Authorsday - Amy Shojai
1. How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing for nearly 9 lives—well, it feels that long anyway! Childhood stories evolved into teenage angst-ridden poetry, and ultimately focused on nonfiction articles about cat and dog care and health. My first published pet article was sold in 1987, I think, and was about a parrot, and was based on my experiences as a vet tech. I saw firsthand the caring owners who wanted to properly care for their beloved pets but didn’t know how. So I began writing for the “pet press” with personal experience dog and cat articles that appeared in Dog Fancy, Cat Fancy, CATS magazine and Dog World. A New York publisher read my byline, and called me out of the blue to write the first of my 23 books (The Cat Companion) in 1992—and the rest is history!
2. Did you encounter any obstacles in researching your book?
I wrote COMPLETE KITTEN CARE while on tour with Purina lecturing and giving cat-training demonstrations. The biggest obstacle for this book was resisting the temptation to adopt all these needy fur-kids! In the past, though, I’ve relied heavily on veterinary interviews and tracking them down can be a challenge—and then convincing the vet expert to allow an interview (when they’ve been mis-quoted in the past!) has sometimes been difficult. Nobody has ever been unhappy with their appearances in my books, I’m pleased to say.
3. What do you know now that you are published that you didn’t know pre-published that you wish you knew?
I wish that I’d know three things before I began publishing books—and I’ve published with a number of big-name New York publishers. I wish that I’d known how much self-promotion efforts were needed to make a book a success; even the large houses reserve publicity pushes for the top 2 percent of their stable. Second, I wish that I’d known book contracts can be cancelled. Third, I wish that I’d known how quickly books are allowed to go out of print. That’s why I’m now able to bring back a revised and updated 2nd edition of COMPLETE KITTEN CARE in the Amazon Kindle format, and eventually in other Ebook and print editions.
4. How many rejections have you received?
Thousands. LOL! I could have wall-papered my office many times over with the rejections I received. The only difference between a published author and the unpublished one is that the published author hasn’t given up. A rejection from an editor is one person’s opinion. Just because a book doesn’t fit one publishing house’s requirements or editor tastes doesn’t mean it won’t be a perfect fit for someone else. In fact, my “cutting edge” book proposal was rejected by an editor at Penguin Publishing (and several other houses), but a year later was bought by a new editor at Penguin. Successful authors must have a bit of masochism (along with a tough skin) because everyone will experience rejection. It’s difficult to not get discouraged or to consider rejection to be a reflection of you, your baby, your sweat-and-tears project. But truly it’s not personal—it’s the business. I have a head-shaped dent in my wall where I vent frustrations in privacy, so I can then put on my professional face and smile, and go on. It’s the only way to stay sane in a sometimes seriously demented business.
5. Why did you pick the publisher that ultimately published your book?
In this case, the publisher picked me, and that’s happened with several of my books. Publishers create a “wish list” for their catalogues and then sometimes look for the author. The “for dummies” people called me to do a kitten book, and I signed the contracted, completed the manuscript and it was accepted by my editor. But when “for dummies” publishing house was sold, my contract was cancelled. Fortunately, I still received the advance. I was at the time also writing two books (aging cats, aging dogs) for New American Library, so the kittens manuscript was offered to my editor and it was published as COMPLETE KITTEN CARE (and gave me another advance, oh-happy-day!).
6. If you could ask your readers one question, what would it be?
Oooh, only one??? Dang, that’s a toughie. I guess—What do you want to read about cats and/or dogs? (they can send responses to email@example.com *s*) Seriously, writers sit alone in front of a blank screen day after day, gnashing teeth and opening veins and trying to psychically link to our audience. Sure, I want to write something that touches and moves me, and that I believe to be valuable for readers, but I’m only one opinion. It’s like trying to feed a cat (or a picky kid! *s*) a healthy diet. You can fill up the bowl, but you can’t make ‘em taste something that has no appeal. I’d love to know what readers want to read, so that I can give ‘em what they want (and sneak in the veggies, LOL!).
7. What do you consider your strengths in terms of your writing?
After working as a vet tech and now as a certified animal behavior consultant, I’ve learned how to interview veterinary and other experts and then translate “medicalese” and technical concepts into everyday language that’s easy to understand for pet parents. I also strive to write in a fun conversational style that avoids jargon and dry facts. If it’s not fun for me, I figure it won’t be fun for readers either. I mean, when I describe the whys and wherefores of feline periurination, isn’t it more appealing to read about why cats “baptize” furniture and how to (figuratively) put a cork in it? *eg*
8. What’s your writing schedule?
I’ve been a fulltime writer since 1992, although I didn’t actually make a living at it until 1998. (God bless my husband and his support!) These days, I write from 8:30-1:00 (with potty and play breaks for the dog and cat), then resume about 2:30-5:30 usually in my upstairs office that looks out onto the rose garden. Most evenings I also work answering email and suchlike until 8-10 pm depending on deadlines, using my laptop in front of the TV. I have a weekly newspaper column and catchow.com behavior column, and write 12 behavior articles each month for about.com, in addition to a radio show and TV segments. I try to take Sunday off, and sometimes take a half day off on Saturday.
9. What’s your favorite thing about your book?
The updated COMPLETE KITTEN CARE book for Amazon Kindle includes dozens of gorgeous, fun kitten pictures, many taken during the Purina cat training tour. I got to spend the night with some of these babies prior to the adoption events, so the photos are a vivid reminder of the lovely cat-kids that touched my life and also found forever homes while on the tour across the country.
10. What do you do when you are not writing?
Uhm, what’s that? LOL! Actually, I do quite a bit of lecturing on writing as well as about pet care and behavior. Our home in North Texas also has about 700 roses surrounding the house, so once the weather cools down (I hate 100+ degree days!) I’ll spend time pruning. I’m also a musician and actor, and enjoy performing piano, cello and singing—and have for several years volunteered at the local high school coaching voice for theater productions. I also love creating stained glass pieces (lamps and windows) and hope to have time this winter to begin a new project. Oh, and of course I spend as much time as possible with my family (furry and otherwise).
Amy D. Shojai is a nationally known pet care and behavior expert, and consultant to the pet products industry. She’s a founder of Cat Writers Association, and member of Dog Writers Association, and International Thriller Writers. She frequently appears on television (Animal Planet CATS 101, Dogs 101) and is the author of 23 books on kittens, aging dogs and cats, first aid, pit bulls, cat and dog behavior, and cutting edge care for pets. She’s also working on a thriller that (of course!) features pets. Amy can be reached via her website at http://www.shojai.com
Book Blurb: ):
The Whole Kitten Caboodle! This is it--the one book you need when you're ready to add a new kitten to your household. The book offers a veritable "Kitten 101" packed with feline facts on...
• choosing, training, and communicating with your kitten
• the personalities of different breeds
• pedigreed versus shelter kittens
• introducing a kitten to other family members and pets
• understanding feline behavior
• food and grooming considerations
• common medical concerns and first aid
• cat legends, myths, and fun facts
• HOT LINKS to the best kitten Web sites, cat associations, magazines, and pet product stores
Purchase COMPLETE KITTEN CARE for AmazonKindle
IN ASSOCIATION WITH AMAZON.COM