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Today I’m so excited to be interviewing Terry Johnson. Her debut middle grade novel DOGSLED DREAMS came out in January, 2011.

Hi Terry. Thanks so much for joining us.

1. Can you tell us a little about yourself and your book?

I’m a past musher and writer, outdoor enthusiast, and dog lover. I wrote DOGSLED DREAMS to address some of the questions from spectators at dogsled races, as well as to share the amazing sport of dogsledding. The novel follows 12-year-old Rebecca, a determined but self-doubting musher, who wants to become a famous sled dog racer. She and her dogs have adventures along the way to reaching that goal.

2. You describe dogsledding and taking care of the dogs so realistically in your book. How much of the dogsledding and Rebecca's struggles with it came from your own experiences? Did you own the dogsledding dogs and take care of them like her?

All of the dogs in the story were my actual dogs. And most of the things that happened did happen to us. (yes, including a certain incident involving dog pee and being frozen to the ground)

I owned eighteen Alaskan Huskies that were the center of my world. Taking care of sled dogs is full time. Every day. Summer and winter. Through black fly season, spring mud, sparkly fall mornings, hectic racing season, and glorious MARCH when you and your dogs can run anywhere on the hard trails and racing is over, and you just enjoy each other's company. I ran dogs for over ten years. Crazy stuff happens while you are far from anywhere, hanging off a sled, zipping along a narrow, twisting trail at fifteen miles an hour. I have many, many more stories to tell!

3. How much of Rebecca and her hopes and insecurities are based on your own life?

Quite a bit. For example, when I was young, I used to sometimes have this running announcer in my head that just came out in the story. I worried that no one would really get it. My husband certainly didn't get it. But, thankfully, I've been receiving emails from kids as well as adults who connect with Rebecca and some even say they do the same things. So, wow. That is very cool that my character can reach out to people I've never met and find some completely weird thing in common.

I've also talked to adult mushers who read the book and told me they had the same fears before their big race as 12-year-old Rebecca. I think anyone who runs dogs feels these things.

4. When did you decide you needed an agent? How did you find your agent?

After I wrote my second novel, I was so excited about it, I thought I should try to get an agent. I researched to find a compatible match (using this blog specifically!) before I submitted to eight different agencies. That same evening I had five requests for a full. A few weeks later, I was so amazed and thrilled to get an offer from my dream agent, Caryn Wiseman of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. I respect her style and find we work well together.

5. How did you market your book? Did you find there were any challenges unique to being a middle grade author? Were there any specific blogs or other marketing tools you found especially helpful?

I’m so glad I hired Kirsten Cappy of Curious City to help with the marketing. She has come up with wonderfully unique ideas.

1. a junior musher video contest on the website
2. promotional booklets distributed at dogsled events which include the first chapter and reviews
3. librarian listserve giveaways

I’m also doing book signings at dogsled races and library events.
Specifically for MG, I don’t think book blogs are as important as in YA, but I have done a small blog tour which I’m grateful for the supportive hosts. I also had a teachers guide made, which I think has encouraged interest within the schools. Definitely a good thing for a middle grade novel!

6. Kirsten Cappy’s ideas really tied into the dogsled aspect of your story. That’s awesome. What are you working on now?

I’m working on my third, a YA canoe adventure. I am hoping that my agent will have success with my second that is on sub – a wilderness survival story with sled dogs.

Good luck with your new submissions!

You can visit Terry at her blog and her website. I really enjoyed this book. I loved watching Rachel grow and learning about dogsledding, something I know nothing about. I’m giving away one copy of DOGSLED DREAMS. All you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment by midnight on April 2nd. I’ll announce the winner on April 4th. International entries are welcome.

Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays was started by Shannon Messenger to spotlight middle grade authors. Check it out here.

And check out these other Marvelous Monday Middle Grade Reviewers:

Joanne Fritz
Shannon O’Donnell
Sherrie Petersen
Brooke Favero
Myrna Foster

On April 4th, I’ll be interviewing Kim Harrington about her book CLARITY. And on April 11th, I’ll be interviewing a new agent looking for submissions. So I hope you’ll stop by.


Kristine Asselin said...

I love hearing success stories! I've got TerryLynn's book on my to-be-read list and can't wait to get to it. Great interview!

Sarah said...

I've been looking for this book for a while now and can't find it at my local bookstore. If I don't win a copy, I'll have to order it! Many of my students are looking for "outdoorsy" stories like Dogsled Dreams, so I know this will be a hit with them :)

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for letting me interview you, Terry.

And Kristine, I know you'll enjoy DOGSLED DREAMS.

Theresa Milstein said...

I already have the book, so I'm all set. But I know the lucky winner will enjoy it.

An agent and the author of Clarity? This is the blog to visit!

TerryLynnJohnson said...

thanks so much for having me on the blog, Natalie!

Sarah, some bookstores have it, but you can order it from the bookstore if they don't. Or on line from Amazon or B & N.

Jessica said...

This book sounds really interesting, can't wait to hear about the third book!

Heather Kelly said...

Terry is everywhere these days! I love popping around the blogosphere and seeing the face of one of my favorite writers!! Thanks Natalie and Terry for the great interview. And, again, Dogsled Dreams is a WONDERFUL BOOK!! I loved it!!

Jess said...

Hooray for Terry and Dogsled Dreams! I would love to win a copy :)

Casey McCormick said...

Fantastic interview Terry and Natalie!

I can't imagine taking care of eighteen Huskies, but I'm swooning over the idea anyway. How fun that must have been!!!

Joanne R. Fritz said...

Great interview, Natalie. I'd love to read this book.

And thanks for the linkage! I've linked to your post now too.

Vivien said...

I love the idea behind this book. It makes me very emotional. Puppies!!

deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

Myrna Foster said...

What an interesting interview! I especially liked the part about the running announcer. This looks like a great book, so please enter me. I'm following.

Julie Hedlund said...

I would love to read this book with my 8 year old daughter. Sounds fabulous!

(I'm a follower)

Paula said...

Great interview, Natalie. It sounds like Terry has done well in branding herself as an outdoor adventure writer, yes?

Best of luck with your current project.

TerryLynnJohnson said...

Thank you for everyone who commented!

Paula - thanks so much! That is exactly what I've been working at, your comment gave me a delighted grin!

Julie - I hope you and your daughter do get to read it. That's such a fun age!

Myrna - glad you liked that! when you write sometimes it's like being in a bubble, so it's very encouraging to hear others connect with the story.

Vivien - the whole first part of the book is called Puppies. Those little stinkers can be such fun to train and to write about!

Joanne - THank you for your comment. I hope you get a chance to read it.

Thanks for having me on your awesome blog Casey! Your blog really helped me on my journey.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks everyone for your great comments and to Terry to stopping by twice.

Natalie said...

I'm going to have to tell my friend about this book! She's owned several Alaskan Huskies over the years and they even used to do some dog sledding for fun! This book seems right up her alley!

Andrea Mack said...

Great interview! Terry, your new books sound interesting!

Carolina M. Valdez Schneider said...

Beautiful success story! Really great interview, Natalie. Love the personal history behind her book.

bfav said...

Love this. Great interview. I love hearing authors' stories of publication. cheers.

Unknown said...

This would be a fascinating book to share with my boys. Definitely writing it down to find later. Thanks so much! Great interview!


Michael G-G said...

What a great story. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

Michael Ferrari said...

I love sled dogs and dog stories, and always recommend John Reynolds Gardiner's heartbreaking dog sled novel, Stone Fox. I'm anxious to check out your book. How exciting that you lived parts of it.

Lisa Potts said...

Great interview! I'm almost embarassed that I haven't read this book yet. Thanks for the chance to win!

Christina Farley said...

Love the interview girls and the pictures too!

Anonymous said...

Great interview and your second book sounds great! (love survival stories in our book club, we do:) Good luck with it (and book three!)

Ishta Mercurio said...

I've been looking forward to reading this book for months, and I think my MG-reading son would enjoy it, too. Thanks for the review, and the giveaway!

Casey McCormick said...

You're welcome, Terry! I'm so glad Lit Rambles helped you on your journey. Congrats again on your debut!