Abbotsord Christian interviews Top Dogs author Elizabeth MacLeod:
- What inspired you to write this book?
I knew there were lots of great stories about dogs in history and dogs who have shown incredible bravery during war time. I wanted to share these tales with kids. I’d just written a similar book about horses (called Galloping Through History), and I know how much kids like dogs so I hoped readers would really enjoy Top Dogs.
- Do you have a dog?
I don’t have a dog but almost all of my neighbours do, so there are lots in the neighbourhood. I have a cat named Cosimo, so of course I had to write about cats in history! If you like cats, you might like to read Super Cats.
- What is your favorite dog? When researching this book, did you discover your favorite breed or have your mind changed about your favorite breed?
My best friend has a Tibetan Spaniel, so think that’s my favourite breed of dog. Carmen (the dog) looks a lot like the Pekingese on page 18 of Top Dogs. While I was writing the book, I also fell in love with Stubby, the little Boston terrier in chapter 3 of the book. I love the image of Stubby standing up on his two back legs and saluting his owner’s commanding officer!
- How long did it take you to write this book?
It took me about 5 months to write the book. That involves working with my wonderful editor to write a couple of different versions of the manuscript, each time making it better. Then I had to answer any questions from the copy editor — that’s the editor who really knows all the rules about grammar and punctuation. I also had a number of meetings with the photo researcher to help choose the best photos for the book. And finally I had to prepare the index, which takes a lot of very picky work. I was writing two other books at the same time, so I wasn’t working on Top Dogs exclusively.
- When you do research, where do you look for information?
I use as many sources as I can. I read lots of books, check Web sites (but only ones that I really trust, like encyclopedias, government institutions, etc.) and read newspapers and magazines. I also talk to experts — many are especially helpful when they find out I’m writing a book for kids. As well, I’m at my local library often, either picking up books, or getting help with my research. Librarians are really smart and very helpful!
- Did you have a dog as a child? Where did you grow up?
I’ve never owned a dog, not even as a child. (But we did have a cat named Jeremiah and many guinea pigs.) I grew up in Thornhill, Ontario, just north of Toronto.
- Where do you live now?
I live in Toronto but I love visiting British Columbia. You live in a beautiful province!
- How did you become interested in writing books? What age did you start?
I studied sciences at university — I think the whole time I was there, I only wrote one essay! (I DID have to write lots of lab reports, tests, etc.) After university, I took the Banff Publishing Workshop in Banff, Alberta, and I thanks to that course I soon got a job at OWL Magazine. While there, I started writing books — I think that was in the late 1980s.
- How many books have you written?
I’ve written around 65 books. I obviously really like writing!
- Have you ever been rejected by a publisher? If so, what made you continue to write?
Like every author I know, I’ve had book ideas rejected by publisher. It hurts but I really love writing so I just have to keep trying and proposing new book ideas. It feel so great when a book proposal is accepted! Because I’m a non-fiction writer, I don’t have to write a whole book before getting a decision from a publisher about publishing it or not. I prepare an outline, describing what stories I think should be in the book, etc. It’s still a lot of research and work but not as much as writing the whole book.
- Why did you call the book “Top Dogs”?
If you read the introduction to the book, then you know there are lots of expressions with the word “dog” in them. That’s because dogs are so important to people. I thought it would be fun to use one of these expressions for the title. Luckily for me, my editor agreed! I don’t think we considered any other title for the book.