Constance Lombardo talks with Bobbie Pyron
Bobbie Pyron’s sixth middle grade novel, Stay, publishes on August 13. An NC resident as of last year, Bobbie is an incredible writer with a strong voice. Dogs are frequently featured in her novels (including Stay.) I once heard Bobbie refer to herself as a dog savant, so…:
CL: Why ‘dog savant,’ and what are the origins of your puppy love?
BP: Ha! I call myself a “dog savant” because I know pretty much every dog breed out there. When I was about nine, my mom bought us a set of World Book encyclopedias, which we could not afford. Being the passionate reader I am, I spent many hours reading and re-reading the section on Dogs in the D volume and studying the illustrations of all the different breeds. Like anything you learn at a young age, it stuck!
CL: Stay has received a starred review from Kirkus, it’s a Junior Library Selection, and an Okra pick. Did you know Stay would be a winner?
BP: You hope, hope, hope all your books will be “winners.” But all you can do as a writer is write what’s in your heart. That being said, it’s a pretty safe bet that a book featuring an adorable dog named Baby is going to get a little attention.
CL: Your move to the South from Utah is a kind of homecoming, right?
BP: Yes, I’m definitely a southern gal—sweet tea, pimento cheese sandwiches, and screened in porches! Utah was very good to me: my professional life as a public librarian really took off there, I made great friends, met my husband there, and wrote all my books there. But it never felt like home, even after 30 years. The minute I came back to western North Carolina, I felt right back home.
"I think kids are interested in the world in a way teens and adults aren’t."
CL: Stay deals with big topics, i.e., homelessness and mental illness. Why is it important to write about meaty issues?
BP: I think kids are interested in the world in a way teens and adults aren’t. If STAY makes just one reader look differently at someone living on the streets, or maybe the kid in their class who lives in a shelter, I’ll be very happy. I also want kids who live in shelters with their family, or whose life is touched by mental illness, to feel less alone when they read STAY.
CL: Stay switches POV between 12 year old Piper and a dog named Baby. Why did you choose to write Baby’s chapters in free verse?
BP: It seemed to me that dogs probably think this way: spare, yet with a lot of emotion and sensory detail too. And of course, in the present tense. Once I got going on it, it just worked!
CL: Your dog, Sherlock, became a Facebook sensation when he became separated from you during a hike and went missing for seven days. Was Sherlock inspired by your book A Dog’s Way Home?
BP: LOL, I think Sherlock was “inspired” to go off on his own in the woods by some intriguing scent! But yes, the irony was not lost on me that my life was imitating my art. My book A DOG’S WAY HOME, is about a Shetland sheepdog (sheltie) who gets separated from his family on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and has many harrowing adventures finding his way home. Like Tam in A DOG’S WAY HOME, Sherlock did make it home, thanks to the kindness of strangers.
CL: Why write for kids?
BP: When kids love a book, they love it passionately. They will write you long emails (and actual letters decorated with glitter) telling you exactly why they loved your book and the characters. And really, don’t you find that the books you remember best are the ones you read between the age of, like, eight and twelve?
Bobbie Pryon has worked in libraries and bookstores in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah and has been active in local animal rescue work for many years. She’s the author of A Pup Called Trouble, A Dog’s Way Home, and Stay. Bobbie lives in Ashville, NC, with her husband, Todd, and their dog, Sherlock. www.bobbiepyron.com
Constance Lombardo is an author, illustrator, and cat expert who can say meow in several languages. She is the creator of a middle grade series, Mr. Puffball, about a clever group of Hollywood cats. Stick Dog creator Tom Watson called Mr. Puffball “freaky, furry, and first-rate fun!” When she isn’t drawing or writing, Constance likes to visit the many waterfalls in Western North Carolina or rummage through Asheville’s local indie bookstores. Plus, she likes carrot cake. Visit her at www.constancelombardo.com.