Interview with Kathleen Gerard, author of THE THING IS

Why did you write The Thing Is?
When my last novel was published—In Transit, a woman-in-jeopardy story—some of my closest friends were very disappointed there wasn't a dog, or even the mention of a dog, in that book. They knew how much I love my dog, as I've been fortunate to share the past 30+ years of my life with three Yorkshire terriers, one at a time. Therefore, I decided to make my next novel more dog-centric to appease readers who are dog lovers—and there are more than I ever dreamed out there!—and also myself.

How did you come up with the idea for the novel?
I really don't know...It was probably a combination of things: the call to add a dog to my next novel; the challenging (and often absurd) state of affairs in our world and my having a need to laugh and entertain myself; and the very moving poem I've always admired by Ellen Bass. (I'm intrigued by poetry—the form. I've read a poem-a-day for the last 25 years). Add to this the fact that I have several friends—some of whom have physical challenges and either live alone or in independent living facilities—and I often visit them, Yorkie in tow. I've found that having a dog at my side allows me to bring joy to others and also make friends at every turn. That's a real gift...especially for someone like me, who is relatively shy and private. Add to this the fact that my dogs have been a source of friendship and personal comfort to me—and to others whose lives they touch...and I knew, as a writer, I wanted to spend time in a fictional world—escape, if you will—with a crafty dog who serves as a transformative, almost angelic force in the life of a traumatized person.

Is the main character of Meredith based on anyone you know?
She sure is! She's a composite of many different people I know or I've met—and there's probably a little bit of myself in her makeup, as well.  Every character I write always reflects a part of me.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder figures into the story? Any special reason for this?
PTSD-like symptoms form the underlying basis of the protagonist's (Meredith's) character. Meredith suffered a shocking loss and has wallowed in prolonged, persistent grief that has interfered with her overall ability to function in life. So, yes, Meredith's actions are indicative of her emotional and mental state. Her responses to life eventsin particular, her withdrawal from the world—stem from the occurrence of that traumatic event. To learn more about PTSD, I would encourage a visit to the PTSD site at the NIH: National Institutes of Health.

Why did you chose to create Prozac, the dog character, as a Yorkshire terrier?
Because I know and love the breed. Since I was nine years-old, I've had a Yorkshire terrier. One of my older sisters dated a guy in high school whose family bred the little toy dogs and when a runt was born to one of their litters—and it had some physical defects barring it from "show dog" contention—I begged and begged my parents for the cast-off little pup.

Did you base the character of Prozac on your own dogs?
I've found Yorkies to be smart, happy and extremely lovable—although there have been times when I've referred to my own as Yorkshire terrorists! There was Daisy, the clever, energetic Yorkie companion of my youth. Jonathan, a gentle and regal, long-haired Yorkie devoted to me while I experienced many years of illness and disability. And there's Sicily (aka Sissy), a petite little charmer (with many quirks, including agoraphobic tendencies) who creates a fanfare wherever she goes. Armed with that knowledge, I channeled my inner Yorkie. And voilĂ ! Prozac emerged on the page. While my imagination conceived him as a Spirit Guide Dog, his "doggieness" is a composite created from all the Yorkies I've known, lived with, cared for and loved.

What do you like to do besides write and hang out with your Yorkies?
I'm a voracious reader. I not only read, review and write about books for Shelf Awareness, but I love to read for my own enjoyment across genres. The trouble is there are always too many books, not enough time!

I love the theater. Several of my own plays have been staged and performed off-Broadway and in regional theaters. Neil Simon is my favorite playwright!

I'm also a fine art photographer. My images have won awards, are held in private collections and have been nationally exhibited and published.

I like to cook (Italian is my specialty) and eat and try new restaurants (especially when someone else is paying). Because of this, I'm an accomplished failure at dieting! I enjoy daily "Happy Hour," sipping a good red wine. I love movies—off-beat, quirky indies and romantic comedies will always be my first choices—but my all-time favorites are those written by Nora Ephron and James L. Brooks. As Good As it Gets is my favorite of Brooks' work—who can resist Jack Nicholson or Verdell, that adoring Brussels Griffon!?  I'm also addicted to watching cooking shows, news programs and I'm a dyed-in-the-wool New York Yankee baseball fan.

What would you like readers to take away from reading The Thing Is?
First and foremost, I would hope readers would be entertained. But I'd also like them to come away from the story appreciating the little things and their lives (despite challenges) a bit more.

Will you write another book with a Spirit Guide Dog?
One never knows...Perhaps I'll take it up with the "Canine Dispatch Board" :)