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:
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.