‘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.