Amy Shojai has been reinventing herself for years. She’s a certified animal behavior consultant, and the award-winning author of 26 best selling pet books that cover furry babies to old-fogies, first aid to natural healing, and behavior/training to Chicken Soup-icity. She is the Puppies Guide at puppies.About.com, the cat behavior expert at cats.About.com, and hosts a weekly half hour Internet Pet Peeves radio show. Amy has been featured as an expert in hundreds of print venues including The New York Times, Reader’s Digest, and Family Circle, as well as national radio and television networks such as CNN, Animal Planet’s DOGS 101 and CATS 101. She’s been a consultant to the pet products industry and a host/program consultant for select “furry” TV projects. Amy brings her unique pet-centric viewpoint to public appearances, writer conferences keynotes/seminars and THRILLERS WITH BITE!
Sure she writes Thrillers that Bite, but Amy doesn't. If you have questions or comments, feel free to contact her via her website or blog. Honestly, how can you not love someone whose blog is titled Bling, Bitches and Blood? Website: http://www.shojai.com Blog: http://www.amyshojai.com
How did you start your writing career?
I call myself the “accidental writer,” because I never planned to be published. I have a double major in music (voice) and theater, was going to star on Broadway! Ha! Instead I met someone, fell in love and we ended up on a tiny town in Eastern Kentucky. After a job as the local TV news anchor went away (long story involving investigative piece that got the school board president fired…), I got a job as the office manager/assistant at a new veterinary clinic. It frustrated me to see clients come into the clinic who didn’t know how to care for their cats and dogs and made mistakes that could have been prevented. So I began writing these personal experience stories for the “pet press” (Dog Fancy, Cat Fancy, Bird Talk, etc.) from my work at the clinic, and somehow that turned into a career as a pet journalist, certified animal behavior consultant, and nonfiction book author. I wouldn’t trade my job for anything in the world! Well . . . maybe Broadway. *s*
Tell us about your current release.
LOST AND FOUND is my debut thriller, a first novel after 20+ years writing 26 nonfiction books. But it’s close to my animal behavior roots and even includes “dog viewpoint.”
An autism cure will kill millions unless a service dog and his trainer find a missing child . . . in 24 hours.
AN AUNT searches for her lost nephew—and dooms her sister.
A MOM gambles a miracle will cure—and not kill—her child.
A DOG finds his true purpose—when he disobeys.
Animal behaviorist September Day has lost everything—husband murdered, career in ruins, confidence shot—and flees to Texas with her cat Macy to recover. She’s forced out of hibernation when her nephew Steven and his autism service dog Shadow disappear in a freak blizzard. When her sister trusts a maverick researcher’s promise to help Steven, September has 24 hours to rescue them from a devastating medical experiment impacting millions of children, a deadly secret others will kill to protect. As September races the clock, the body count swells. Shadow does his good-dog duty but can’t protect his boy. Finally September and Shadow forge a stormy partnership to rescue the missing and stop the nightmare cure. But can they also find the lost parts of themselves?
Do you hear from your readers? What kinds of questions do they ask?
Oh yes! I constantly hear from readers. Mostly they ask me how to stop the cat from “being creative” outside the litter, or how to keep the dog from stealing their underwear—or similar behavior type questions. And at a book signing I once met a couple who, with tears in their eyes, greeted me and thanked me for writing THE FIRST-AID COMPANION FOR DOGS AND CATS because it had saved their dog’s life. Wow, that just made me weepy, too!
More recently I hear from readers of my thriller, asking if the September character is me. Uh—no. She’s prettier, smarter, younger, and more athletic than I am, and…a bit more damaged. They also ask when the next book will come out featuring September and Shadow. I don’t have a date yet, but do have two more books in the series planned to continue the roller-coaster ride. My thrillers have BITE!
What do you do to unwind and relax?
To relax, I read, or perform on stage (it ain’t Broadway but it’s fun!), do training drills with the cat and dog, and write music. They all sort of go together. This past year I co-wrote, produced and performed in a musical theater production, KURVES, THE MUSICAL and the next show we plan to write is STRAYS, THE MUSICAL. The pets are my worst music critics and howl or chatter when I hit a wrong note, LOL! And yes, cats can be trained. You just need to find the right bribe to float kitty’s boat. Just watch out, the dog doesn’t swipe the treat first.
What makes you happy?
Laughing with friends and interacting with my pets makes me happy. My friends and my pets like me, whether I’m a “success” or not—they don’t even care if I wear sparkles. *s*
Do you have any suggestions for beginning writers? If so, what are they?
Write what you love, because you’ll be in it for the long haul. And give yourself permission to suck. Everybody sucks when they first begin to write. So write through the suck-icity, sit down the next day and do it again, and the next and the next. Don’t look at the crap writing, give it time to cool off and some of the bad aroma actually dissipates with distance. Then you can go back, pick out the gems and save them, and dump the other stuff, and you’ve got some solid beginnings to work with.
The first draft is the most difficult writing for me, and for many writers. It’s painful. And it’s created that head-shaped dent in my office wall, because I hate hate hate working through the first draft. Only rarely do you have those out-of-body-writing-experiences where the words flow like a gift from God—and then it stops and you want to shoot yourself when you can’t regain that rush. But once you work through the pain barrier and have a first draft done, you have a lump of clay to mold, shape, add to and carve up into sparkling prose. That’s where the joy comes in.
Successful writers must have a bit of masochism inside to get ‘er done. Even once you’ve found “success” the rules can change and you end up in the down-and-the-dumpsters. That’s when you suck it up, and reinvent yourself, if you’re really intent on being a writer. I wrote LOST AND FOUND in part because the unique dog viewpoint hadn’t ever been done before and it was the book that I wanted to read—and taking that chance has made a huge difference in my career. Be unique. Be fearless. Grab that brass ring! It is within your reach.
Why do it? Because it feels soooo good once the pain stops and your baby is sparkly and ready for readers! I’ve had to reinvent myself over and over again. If I can do it, you—can—do—it!
Here are some more great Amy Shojai reads: