My whole life, I have always been a cat person, but for the last several years, doggies have definitely started to win my heart–especially the doggie characters created by the delightful and talented Jackie Bouchard.
I loved her WHAT THE DOG ATE. Here’s what I had to say about it:
Most clever-ever “panties in a twist” scenario ever!
There are few ways as surreal of finding out that your partner has been cheating on you than that the panties the veterinarian had to surgically extract from your pooch were not yours… So begins Jackie Bouchard’s funny, intelligent, and entertaining novel about a woman, uber-successful career-maven Maggie, forced to find out who she really is at 40+–after the only guy she’s ever been with, her husband of 20 years, cheats on her with a second-grade teacher. There is no way not to love Maggie. From the way she tries to quiet her insomnia by doing shots of tequila at 5am to the wonderful relationship she has with her dog. The inner dialog she carries with her actions makes you realize that it doesn’t matter how tough and powerful anyone may seem on the outside–that being brokenhearted is a struggle for us all, and that the most satisfying comfort we can find is in unconditional love. Heartwarming and funny–and highly recommended!
You’ll read about Jackie’s latest, RESCUE ME, MAYBE, shortly–just after the interview. Here’s how to connect with her:
Her site: www.jackiebouchard.com
Her blog: http://poochsmooches.blogspot.com
JACKIE BOUCHARD writes Fido-friendly fiction. She used to be trapped in the hamster wheel of corporate America, but she was lucky enough to escape and now fully understands the term “struggling writer.” Jackie loves: reading, writing, and, yes, even ‘rithmetic (seriously, algebra rocks); professional cycling; margaritas; blogging (she never thought she’d say that, but she does); dogs in general, and her crazy rescue pup specifically; and her hubby. (Not in that order.) Jackie dislikes: rude people and writing about herself in the third person. After living in Southern California, then Bermuda, then Canada, then the East Coast, Jackie and her husband settled in San Diego. American Jackie, her Canadian hubby, and her Mexican rescue mutt form their own happy little United Nations. Jackie’s novels include WHAT THE DOG ATE and RESCUE ME, MAYBE.
1. Did you always know you’d be a writer? If not, what did you think you were going to be?
Like the main character, Maggie, in my first novel, WHAT THE DOG ATE, it took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. As a kid, I used to love to put on plays and shows with my friends. I remember we wrote a parody of Romeo and Juliet when we were about 12. (Wish I still had that script!) In high school I had a deep secret dream to be a model (Ha! This was merely because I was tall and skinny – I’m not photogenic at all!), and then become the first female president. But… I was always a creative person trapped in a practical person’s body. I was good at math, so I studied accounting. Accounting is a great career (very stable, and I got to not only move to Bermuda thanks to accounting, I met my hubs there), but the higher up you go the more stressful it gets. I don’t do well with stress! Luckily my inner creative person finally got to come out and play.
2. How did you decide to write with dogs as central characters in your books?
I didn’t really decide to. It just happened. I started WHAT THE DOG ATE as a short story for a class I decided to take just for something fun to do while my husband was working tons of hours. I really had no idea where the story was going when I started it. As I worked on it, I wanted Maggie to learn to be freer, more willing to be ruled by her heart – and what better guru for that than a dog? I started another book after that that had a dog in it, but wasn’t a big part of the story. Then my dog died – our beagle that my husband and I got when we first got married. So, I started a new story about a woman who had just lost her dog, as a way to deal with my own grief. That story ended up becoming RESCUE ME, MAYBE. It’s about a woman whose life is changed by the dog she rescues, just as my last dog Abby (that’s her on the cover) had a big impact on my life. As I wrote both those books I realized I might as well just go with this dog thing. I love dogs; they’re what I know. And I have some ideas that I hope will make fun books for dog lovers for my next two novels!
3. Do you have any rituals when it comes to writing?
Not really. I try not to get into the habit of having rituals or “best” times for when I write. For me, that ends up being an excuse not to write. “Oh, I don’t have my special pen/lucky necklace/bust of Dickens; I can’t write.” Or, “Oh, it’s too late at night. I’m a morning writer.” In general, though, I do usually write in the afternoons, on my PC at my desk in our den/office. I like to have silence. I usually just sit down, reread some of what I wrote previously, and dive in. Sometimes I stare out the big sliding glass door… Sometimes I try hard to resist popping over to Facebook for a few minutes… Sometimes I wander out to the kitchen, or rub my dog Rita’s belly… Sometimes I get some writing done.
4. What are you doing when you’re not writing?
When I’m not writing or wandering out to my kitchen, I’m usually walking my dog, working on my blog or visiting other blogs, reading, watching cooking competition shows (even though I don’t really like to cook that much), cooking (even though I don’t really like to cook that much), or hanging out with the hubs watching movies or sports.
5. Can you give us some background about this excerpt you’re sharing?
When RESCUE ME, MAYBE opens, Jane has just lost both her husband, Ryan, and her dog, Barnum, to cancer within a few weeks of each other. But she’s sadder about the dog. (She had planned to ask for a divorce, but then Ryan got cancer and died. Jane is such a loner that no one knows she’d wanted a divorce.) This scene with her in-laws, Barbara and Jeffrey, takes place a few days after the funeral.
BONUS: If you were a dog, what breed would you be–and why?
This question is so perfect, because in my new book Jane’s aunt loves to ask people questions like this! (She thinks it gives you good insight into how they see themselves, versus how you see them.)
I think I would be a beagle. Beagles are stubborn, funny, determined, and philosophical. They are extremely food-driven (I’m usually eating one meal and thinking about my next) and they have a very good sense of smell (so do I – sometimes that’s unfortunate). Beagles are good at making people smile and laugh, and that’s my main objective in life.
About RESCUE ME, MAYBE
If you lost both your spouse and your dog to cancer within weeks of each other, but you were sadder about the dog, would you tell anyone? Maybe your closest friends. Unfortunately, Jane Bailey’s closest friends are on the other side of the country. That’s where Jane plans to go now that she’s free to leave Philadelphia, the too cold, beachless, street taco-deficient city her husband dragged her to six years ago. But with no job prospects in her hometown of San Diego, Jane is roped into helping out temporarily at her uncle’s southwestern small-town.
En route to her new role as innkeeper and breakfast chef, she finds a stray at a rest stop. With her heart in pieces from the loss of her dog, she’s determined not to let this mutt worm its way into her affections. She’s also determined to have next-to-no interaction with the B&B’s irritating guests, and the even more annoying handyman who lives next door. Can Jane keep her sanity–and her secret that she’s not really a grieving widow–while trying to achieve her dream of getting back to the place she thinks is home?
Buy RESCUE ME, MAYBE:
Amazon (both print and e-book):
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Praise for RESCUE ME, MAYBE
“…a must-read for dog lovers, fans of Women’s Fiction, and anyone who likes a funny, well-written story about overcoming life’s obstacles.”
– Tracie Banister, author of In Need of Therapy and Blame It On the Fame
“… brilliant in its subtle humor, intelligent prose and seamless writing. Jackie Bouchard is an excellent storyteller who captures her characters’ innermost thoughts and feelings and draws her readers in from the first line.”
– Samantha Stroh Bailey, author of Finding Lucas
“This book, like Jackie’s first, has me sad to have read the last page, and eagerly anticipating when her next book will be out.”
– Barbara Techel, author of Through Frankie’s Eyes
Start reading RESCUE ME, MAYBE now
“We want Ryan’s ashes back.” Barbara’s green eyes, so like Ryan’s, stare into mine, unblinking. I look away first, concentrate on my pancakes and think, so this is why they invited me out. When Barbara called early this morning, I’d thought they were worried about me, wanted to make sure I wasn’t wallowing in bed, was eating a decent breakfast. I didn’t want to come. I wanted to stay home and wallow in bed; I wanted to drink stale coffee and pick at four-day-old muffins when I finally got up. I tried telling Barbara I had a lot to do today, what with getting ready to move, but she insisted.
I should have seen this coming. After all, they hadn’t honored any of Ryan’s wishes for the funeral; why did I think they were going to go along with his final dying wish?
“So, you’re going to take him to Maui yourselves?” I know this is not what she means. I look at her, then Jeffrey. Now it’s his turn to look at his plate. I’m sure this is her idea.
“We’re going to bury him,” she says. “We already have the plot. It’s next to ours in the Huntingdon Valley Peaceful Hills Cemetery.”
Never mind that Ryan didn’t want to be buried. Never mind that even if he did, why would he want to be buried next to his parents? Did they consider that maybe he’d want to spend eternity next to his wife? Of course, they don’t know about our fights, but still, they should assume that if the man wanted to be in the ground he’d want to be next to his wife, not his mama. Barbara’s got some long-ass apron strings—they extend right on through to the afterworld. “You know that he made me promise to take him to Maui some day; you were there.”
“I—we—can’t let you simply toss him into the sea.” Barbara widens her eyes in a move I would not have thought possible, since her bun is pulled so tight.
The waitress, dressed like a clown (I’d forgotten today was Halloween until I walked into the café), tries to pour more coffee, but Barbara waves her away. Thanks, Barbara. I hold up my cup, but it’s too late; the clown’s gone. I hate clowns.
I set my half-empty cup back down. “You say that like I’d be tossing him out like . . . like the trash. I’m not trying to be difficult; I know you guys are grieving, and of course you want him near you, but Ryan didn’t want to be buried. He wanted to be in his favorite place in the whole world.” I’m under-caffeinated and this conversation is starting to make me angry.
Or am I trying to be difficult? I’m sure as hell sick of Barbara dictating how everything’s going to be. She already nixed Ryan’s “fun” funeral ideas, and I gave in, because I felt terrible for them, and because Barnum had just died and I didn’t have the energy to fight about it.
But now I feel terrible. I’m letting Ryan down. And it wasn’t like those discussions with Ryan were easy to have in the first place. It was unbearably hard to talk to him about what I’d be doing after he was gone—even to acknowledge that I’d keep going. I felt sad, angry at the universe, guilty knowing that I’d still be around, a functioning person. I’d be able to get on a plane and fly to Maui after he was gone. (Well, technically, he’d be getting on the plane with me—but he wouldn’t be able to enjoy the view or the macadamia nuts.)
After having to endure those painful conversations, and promising Ryan everything would happen exactly as he wanted, and then caving about the funeral because I was distracted dealing with Barnum’s death . . . No, this time I’m not backing down.
“I know that’s what he said he wanted, but Jane, I’m begging you to reconsider. Those ashes are still Ryan. You wouldn’t throw Ryan’s body over the side of a boat, now would you?”
“Of course I wouldn’t but—” I look at Jeffrey, hoping he’ll be the reasonable one and help me out; hoping he’ll stick up for what his son wanted.
“The thing is,” Jeffrey begins softly, “Barbara and I talked to Father Llewellyn, and he said we need to bury the ashes in one place, in consecrated ground.”
“We want his body to be ready, on the final Judgment Day.” Barbara squeezes Jeffrey’s hand which still holds his fork, suspended over the egg white and spinach omelet Barbara ordered for him, although he’d said, “Belgian waffles sound good!” while perusing his menu. She squeezes his hand so hard a small bit of egg clinging to his fork falls back onto his plate.
The poor man can’t order his own breakfast; I should have known better than to think he would come to my aid on something as big as this.
I lean back against the red Naugahyde. “But Ryan didn’t—” I stop. I’m angry that they’d suggest I should go back on my promise—a promise made right in front of Barbara (why didn’t she bring up her objections then?)—but even though I’m pissed, I can’t bring myself to say that Ryan didn’t believe in the things they hold dear, the things they cling to like little neon-colored life jackets of hope in the face of their son’s death. They already know anyway, but I’m not going to be the one to verbalize it. Ryan believed in being a good person, in treating others with respect, but he didn’t share their faith.
I look at their anguished faces—Jeffery a weathered version of Ryan; Barbara with Ryan’s sea green eyes. I don’t want to let Ryan down—but they look so miserable. They wait for me to finish what I started to say. I take a deep breath and hope Ryan won’t mind. “Ryan didn’t want to be buried. But, what if we compromise? I’ll take part of his ashes to Maui. You can bury the rest. Then you’ll have your visitation spot, and he’ll . . . mostly be in consecrated ground.”
They look at each other, then back at me. “We can’t do that,” Barbara says. “Father Llewellyn was adamant that we shouldn’t scatter the ashes—not even part of them. He says Ryan should be interred in whole.”
For a second I think she said “hole,” and think, of course there’ll be a hole, but then I realize what she said. I’m tempted to suggest they think outside the box, so to speak. I can’t help it. Bad jokes pop into my head when things get serious. I chew my lip and say nothing.
“Someday he’ll be resurrected,” Barbara says. “He’s going to need his body.”
I’m not sure at what age I stopped believing in a vision of heaven that involved angels and harps and fluffy clouds, but I did stop. I don’t believe we’re going to be resurrected, that we’ll each float up to our own pre-designated La-Z-Angel cloud-recliner. (I’m willing to admit there’s a small chance I could be wrong, but I doubt it.) I think if there is going to be some sort of resurrecting going on, God, or whoever’s in charge, wouldn’t be cruel enough to saddle us with these same old bodies. Won’t we be . . . I dunno, some sort of asexual things? All beautiful and ethereal and floaty. Are people going to still need their funky feet and their double chins and their . . . scrotums? Will scrotums (or is it scroti?) be necessary in the afterlife? Whatever the word is, I’m pretty sure they’ll be useless there. Not to mention the fact that they are really unattractive.
Wouldn’t we be better off without that . . . baggage? I think any sort of loving God has got to have a better plan than that.
On the other hand, I must admit I have imagined Barnum being there to greet me when I die. And I always picture him as his usual fuzzy self. So, how will that work? He’ll be his regular dog self, but I’ll be some sort of shape-shifting mist? Will he recognize me? Will I smell the same?
The whole thing is very confusing and makes my brain tired. I want to go home and go back to sleep.
“I’ll have to think about it.” I want to end this conversation and buy myself some time. Jeffrey and I finish our breakfasts; Barbara taps her wedding ring against her coffee mug.
As I stab the last bite of pancake I think, there is no way I’m breaking my final promise to Ryan. The funeral stuff was minor. I can let that go. But this is a big deal. My last stand.
So . . . I’ll just keep some of him. They’ll never know! I’ll keep a scoop, maybe two, and let them have the rest. It’s a perfect solution.
I lick syrup off the backside of my fork, satisfied with my plan.