This month’s guest interview is with Amy Shojai, a pet expert and author of the recently published “Hide & Seek“.
Okay, so the thing about Amy Shojai is her bling. As long as I have known her, despite her mighty impressive writing credentials, I am always enthralled by her jewelry and sparkling personality. Her other bling comes in the form of her dazzling gowns as she has accepted award after award for her writing prose. No slacker on leadership credentials, Amy is well known as one of the co-founders of the Cat Writers’ Association (CWA). Now as CWA President Emeritus & the 2015 Program Chair, she’s back taking her turn once again to lead the organization’s programming into a new era. When I learned of her theater credentials I was not surprised. I recently interviewed her on her latest endeavors including her new fiction writing and theater work. Whatever Amy is up to, you can be sure she is meeting her latest challenge head on, and with plenty of bling to spare. And you can be sure she is worth watching. – Lea-Ann Germinder
How did you get started as a cat writer?
I call myself the accidental pet writer. I was living in Eastern Kentucky and there weren’t many jobs but I loved animals, so I decided to apply for and got a job as a veterinary technician.
The veterinarian I worked for loved animals and enjoyed what he did so much and he was very open to sharing the experience with his technicians. I would come home and tell my mom about the amazing stories of these pets we had helped save. She said I should write these stories down, so I collected them into a book called “Beyond the Waiting Room Door” that I hoped to publish.
Was that your first book?
Not quite. I tried and tried but got rejection letter after rejection letter. I finally decided to submit the stories separately. There was one story about Venus, a spectacle Amazon Parrot that was addicted to caffeine in sunflower seeds—the only thing she’d been fed—that I had rescued and rehomed.
After getting dozens of rejection letters, the editor at Dog Fancy took pity on me and told me if my stories had a hopeful ending they would have a chance. The story that finally got published was a story about my own dog, Fafnir, who had horrible skin allergies. I added a hopeful ending, and it came back with a contract!
You’ve written over 30 books, so what was that first one that got you started?
The first book was The Cat Companion. I got the contract because the editor already had the publisher confirmed for the book but didn’t have an author. She went to the newsstand, saw I was writing for Cat Fancy, called the editor, got my number and called to see if I was interested.
Was that your most favorite book?
My most favorite book is always the most recent one I am working on. I always wanted to write fiction and now I am doing that and reaching an entirely new audience.
What is so special about writing fiction?
With fiction you get to introduce concepts and information to educate in an entirely new way – like fully developing a pet character such as a Golden Retriever who is a service dog, a senior dog with Alzheimer’s or give a personality to a feral cat.
What about introducing humans in veterinary medicine in your fiction?
You can do that as well. You can introduce a human character like a veterinary behaviorist and talk about behaviors and a reader might think, “oh that is why my dog does that!” It’s a non-threatening way to introduce these important concepts. In the back of each of my fiction books I also put what are facts and what are fiction. My latest book is Hide and Seek, (The September Day Series) Vol. 2.
What is this about a character-naming contest for each of your books?
It’s a very popular well-known tradition in fiction literature. Some big name authors will even auction off the ability to name a character so I thought, why not? Everyone gets to vote on the name. Only in my books, readers get to name the dog or cat characters.
Ever since we have known you, you have also been involved in theater. Tell us about your latest play.
Theater was my first love but as a newlywed it takes you away from home too much, so I chose writing. Later I was able to get back to it and I have written, directed and produced three plays. The latest includes animal characters in Strays, the Musical. It’s a way to reach yet another audience and edu-tain them about normal cat and dog behaviors, and maybe create a fund-raising opportunity for rescue organizations.
You were one of the founders of Cat Writers. You were President for 9 Years. Why did you decide to come back as Program Chair?
Publishing has changed so much but the journalistic integrity that is the cornerstone of our member base has not. We have something to offer to brands, bloggers, and our members unlike any other organization in the market. Now with new offerings like the CWA BlogPaws (LINK) panels we can showcase to other writers and bloggers that expertise. CWA is all about mentorship, helping others achieve their writing and publishing dreams.
What other projects outside of publishing, theater and CWA do you have in the works?
I am the National Spokesperson for Perfect Litter and the www.pethealthystore.com where you can watch my video reviews. My dog and two cats and I get to approve the products that are on the site. I will also be writing an “Ask Amy” column.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I always encourage every writer to follow his or her dreams, but you have to imagine it first. Remember, dogs and cats make mistakes just as people do too—that’s how we learn best!—but even if you stumble along the way, you can fulfill your dreams.
HIDE & SEEK, the sequel
A good-dog discovers what “family” really means
Author, 30 Award-Winning Pet Care Books