ARM: Lucky Boy is inspired by a real dog. Can you tell us about him or her?
Susan: Yes, the inspiration for Lucky Boy came from the "backyard dog" (a dirty lonely Dalmatian) I would see every day as I drove to work. You know how you tune in the radio (for me that is usually NPR) and you realize the story you are listening to involves: a. animals, and b. pain, and your first response is to switch stations because you don't want the sadness you are sure to feel upon hearing the story imprinted on your heart the whole, long day? Well, that's the way I felt every day when it came to this particular dog - not wanting to look, but always looking nonetheless, hoping to see a happy resolution to his story.
ARM: Here in CA, I would say awareness to animal rescue causes is widespread and is growing every year. Your book was published in 2002. Do you see the same growth in awareness in your neck of the woods? Has this been a factor in your book gaining new audiences in recent years?
Susan: You know, I’m sure that we are seeing the same growth in awareness you speak of in Oregon. I recently received the 2013 Annual Report from our Oregon Humane Society (OHS) and was pleased to note that 2013 was the “fourth year in a row that OHS has exceeded 11,000 adoptions”, which is the “largest number of adoptions from any single shelter in Washington, Oregon or California”. This number includes 4,837 animals coming from other shelters through OHS’s Second Chance Program. “When other shelters get overwhelmed by too many pets and too few adopters”, OHS sends a “special vehicle designed for long-distance animal transport to far-flung shelters” to bring Second Chance pets back to Oregon for adoption.
ARM: Can you share with us one of your favorite Lucky Boy fan letters?
Lucky Boy! What a treasure! Just love the story and your enchanting illustrations. Thank you so much writing and illustrating this captivating book that surely will touch the hearts of everyone who discovers it.
It's going to be a big part of a new adventure ahead for me - as the new volunteer humane education coordinator at (my local) Humane Society, an outstanding no-kill facility.
Lucky Boy will be a big part in our upcoming school & scout visits, children's book club, and more. It will also be the first book my rescued terrier will be reviewing in her new column. She's our new spokes-pooch. I recently adopted her. She spent the first three years of her life in a puppy mill. What a delight it is now having her at my side helping with humane education.
When the book arrived in the mail the other day, I sat in the car reading it over and over. It's such a lovely, lovely story. Your message about the busy family really touched my heart - such a big thing in today's world - being busy, busy, busy.
You took the message and turned it into a positive. Simply wonderful.
Just wanted to thank you.
Thanks again for Lucky Boy. It's a keeper!
ARM: I have an animal rescue friend who regularly reads your book to kids at local Humane Education classes. Have you done this yourself, read your book to a group of kids?
Susan: When Lucky Boy was first published I gave many readings at bookstores and volunteered to read it to a large group of teens interested in writing and illustrating. They were attending a summer camp sponsored by our Oregon Humane Society.
ARM: Were you involved with any animal rescue causes or organizations before writing the book? After it was published, did it encourage you to join or participate in any animal causes or organizations?
Susan: I have been involved with the Oregon Humane Society as a donor and have volunteered off and on over the years. I came to know Carol Shively (now retired) who headed up their educational outreach efforts for years. She was the first person in the animal rescue community to inform me that Lucky Boy was having an impact in this way and drew me in as a volunteer.
ARM: Tell us about the artwork in your book. How did you decide the style and what Boy would look like?
Susan: I had studied illustration at a small commercial art college in Michigan after high school and had always thought I'd love to illustrate a children's book. MANY years later I picked up a book called Writing with Pictures: How to Write and Illustrate Children's Books by Uri Shulevitz. It is a great primer on the subject of children's book illustration and I thought I'd write a story so I would have something to illustrate. My hope was that I could use my "dummy" picture book to show a publisher I could illustrate. The first editor who took a look (Ann Rider at Houghton Mifflin) offered me a publishing contract… what a surprise! The artwork itself started out as pencil drawings and the publisher, citing Make Way for Ducklings as a lovely example of a monochromatic picture book, decided to go with the pencil drawings in sepia. I was happy to comply! My little smooth coat fox terrier, Frida was my muse and model for Lucky Boy.