Monday, 13 February 2012

The Genesis of a Picture Book by Malachy Doyle

‘Where do you get your ideas from?’ they always ask.
I point to my skull.
‘Imagination,’ I say. ‘Imagination and experience.’

I always said I’d never have a dog.
Everyone kept saying, ‘You like walking, Malachy. Why not get a dog?’
To which I’d reply, ‘I’m the dog. I need walkies every day or I go stark staring mad. A dog would fuss me. A dog would chase away birds and otters. I couldn’t think about stories. I’d have to think of the dog.’

But then one day, nearly a year ago, a wet bedraggled collie pup came to the back door.
‘I’m lost and I’m hungry,’ she said. 'Can I live with you?
‘I don’t want a dog, I'm afraid,’ I replied. ‘I don’t need a dog. You'd better go home, pup.’

I couldn’t concentrate on the story I was writing.
She was outside, waiting. Outside, whining.
‘I’m still lost,’ she said, when I couldn't bear it any longer. ‘Still wet,’ she said.

I found a piece of bailing twine and took her round the island. No one had ever seen her before.


I now have a dog. She’s called Juno. She’s gone from being a wet bedraggled wobbly little collie to my favourite ever pet.
We walk the beaches every day. She chases the waves, barking like a mad thing. I think she thinks they’re sheep, but watching her do it never fails to make me smile, no matter how bad the writing’s going.
She’s a wet bedraggled happy young collie. The house is full of sand.

I got myself a dog I love. I got myself a picture book out of her too, like you do, and by happy coincidence, it’s officially published on Valentine’s Day - today!
In Welsh, as Sigl-di-gwt (which means Shake-your-Tail). In English, as Collywobble. With illustrations by the wonderful Petra Brown, who keeps getting better and better. And who chose to draw a tricolour collie, without knowing a single thing about Juno.


It's about the sweetest little sheepdog you ever did see. He lives on a farm, in the Welsh highlands (where I used to live before decamping to my Donegal island), and when the first snows of winter come, his courage is tested big time.

But we all know where he's really come from - imagination and experience.
And we all know who he really is - my Juno.





17 comments:

  1. Lovely post and very cute dog. I"m finding dogs are creeping into my stories more and more. Having shared my life with a a number of them I suppose they would. And yes our stories do come from our imagination but something has to fuel that imagination. Hope sales of Collywobble go well.

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    1. Thanks Lynne. Yes, they do have a way of inveigling themselves into our hearts and stories, don't they? I always thought I was fairly resistant to their charms, but it appears not.

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  2. Lovely post. Wherever did Juno come from, I wonder? Do you sometimes think secretly that you might actually have made her from your head? Hmmm,sounding a bit dotty there, but you know what I mean...Good luck with the book, and I will recommend to all my Welsh buddies,too.

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    1. Thanks Moira. We think she was dumped, probably by someone who couldn't afford to feed her any more - it's happening all too often these days. But she adores children and footballs, so it feels like she was loved, and sort of trained. Strange...

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  3. Oh, I love a good story that leads to a story! Our dog (also a collie, but crossed with spaniel) worked the other way with a story. We did the awful business of choosing which of six delightful puppies we would have (five rejections to make!), and then drove home from Manchester to Leicester trying hard to think of what our puppy's name should be. We tried all sorts, and none were quite right ... until my youngest daughter suggested Winnie because she could be Winnie the Bitch instead of Winnie the Witch, and Winnie she is, and lovely with it.

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    1. Good one, Pippa - lucky you didn't call her 'You Choose' after your other best-seller. Could have been confusing...

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  4. Juno is adorable. How could you have closed the door on her even for a minute? I'm so glad she inspired a picture book too. She must be very proud.

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    1. I was writing, Rosalind! Writing takes precedence over everything, doesn't it?
      (And yes - Juno tells me she's thrilled)

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  5. Adored reading this and Juno looks a cheeky delight. A long time ago my dad said we couldn't have a dog, but we got one anyway and he ended up the most besotted of us all. Must admit I envy you the walks in Donegal. During the week our dog walks revolve around the local park (where dogs are supposed to be kept on leads, but rarely are and the park keeper warns us if the dog warden is on the prowl. Good luck with the delightfully named Collywobble.

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    1. Thanks, Paeony. Yesterday the book shot up from over a million on its Amazon ranking to 20000, before going 'out of stock'. I know it probably only means it sold about four copies, but it shows the power of blogging!

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  6. Love knowing the story behind the story! Thanks for sharing another great book with the world, Malachy. Sleepy Pendoodle is our favorite dog book so far, but Collywobble may outrun it!

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    1. Thanks, Connie. And there's Charlie is My Darling, and Albert and Sarah Jane. I seem to have written a surprising number of doggy picture books, for a self-professed cat-preferrer (in my pre-Juno days, that is.)

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  7. Your description of the lost dog moidering whilst you were trying to write was a "tickles down the back of the knees" moment. 'Still wet,' she said. Lovely.

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  8. A dog called Juno? I haven't encountered one of those since I was around two years old, when I used to cuddle up to one in the straw in our cowshed, and she was a sheepdog too. You've pushed a very personal button there, Malachy.

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    1. The early memories are the best, aren't they, Enid. I'm glad to have brought it back to you.

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  9. What a beautiful story. Sounds like the perfect muse just turned up on your doorstep.

    I have a goat who came to us because her owner died and she was homeless and now she seems to have found her way into a picture book. Animals have a way of doing that:)

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    1. Thanks, Dee. I got two goats last year, but they caused such mayhem that they've gone elsewhere!

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