The leaves are turning. The air is crisp. Fires are being built in the fireplace. (Well out here in the Midwest anyway!) And this month, we have a great suggestion for a heartwarming (get it?) novel to read when you want to relax on a nice fall day: HOUSE TRAINED by Jackie Bouchard. And you can win a copy! Just leave a comment on this post or on our Facebook page to be entered. Contest closes on Sunday, November 1 at 8pm PST.
The scoop: Alex Halstad, a childless-by-choice interior designer and dog mom, is a true perfectionist. But her orderly life turns chaotic when the teenage daughter her husband, Barry, never knew he had shows up on their doorstep...with a baby girl of her own in tow. While Alex’s dog enthusiastically welcomes the new arrivals, Alex struggles with the loss of her steady routine. She desperately needs peace and quiet to get her business back on track before Barry finds out she’s spent most of their savings. Meanwhile, the arrival of the girls stirs up old insecurities, and Alex can’t help but worry that Barry’s ex will make an entrance too. With her tidy life a distant memory, will Alex be able to learn from her dog the true meaning of love and acceptance? From bestselling author Jackie Bouchard comes a humorous and heartwarming look at how life creates opportunities to love in surprising ways.
Our thoughts: Smart, sweet and completely satisfying!
Liz & Lisa's Book Club: HOUSE TRAINED by Jackie Bouchard
Oh, man. I could write a book to answer that! My dogs have been my best buddies, my constant companions, my therapists, and my teachers. Our last dog, Abby, had an especially huge impact on my life. She died very young from bone cancer (she was diagnosed when she was only 15-months old, and then we had another fantastic 15 months with her), but she had a huge zest for life. She taught us to make the most of today, because you never know what tomorrow has in store.
You were a very accomplished self-published author before signing with Lake Union. Tell us a little bit about your road to publication.
Back in 2006, I started writing a novel - I needed something to do at night after work while my hubs was busy working crazy-long hours. In 2008, I signed with an agent (I met her at a conference after reading a scene in her workshop), and she helped me polish the manuscript. Then the market crashed, so it wasn’t great timing by early 2009 when we were shopping the manuscript around. I got a lot of nice rejections... but, still, rejections. I started working on two other books, and then had dinner a couple of years later with my agent, and she encouraged me to self-publish my first book. Self-publishing had come into its own by then, so I decided to go for it.
I self-published WHAT THE DOG ATE in 2012, and then in 2013 I self-published RESCUE ME, MAYBE. I didn’t even bother trying to pitch that book to publishers. I just wanted it to be out in the world, so went for it. At one point, I put the book on sale and advertised it, and it sold so many copies it hit the USA Today bestseller list. The sales and the good reviews caught the attention of Lake Union, a publishing imprint owned by Amazon. They contacted my agent, right around the time we were ready to sell HOUSE TRAINED, asking if I’d like to work with them to re-release MAYBE. I said, heck yeah! And then we sold HOUSE TRAINED to them as well.
What advice you would give aspiring authors following your same path?
If you go the self-pub or hybrid route like I have, that advice that you’ve probably heard before *really* is correct: write the best book you can, and get a great cover. It’s so easy to self-publish now, but you have to resist the temptation to publish the book before it’s ready. Have an editor help you whip the story into shape and also look for grammatical/spelling errors. You can also always recruit some friends to help proofread it. When I thought RESCUE ME, MAYBE was ready to self-publish, I waited and had four friends read it solely to look for typos. They each found two - but none of them found the same two! As for the cover, you don’t have to spend a fortune, but unless you’ve got some graphic design experience or artistic talent, don’t try to go it alone. Hire a pro!
When it comes time to market the book, focus on finding your ideal readers and connecting with them. For me, my ideal readers are dog-lovers, so I blog, tweet, and post about dogs to connect with other crazy dog ladies.
House Trained is a wonderful novel filled with some heartwarming moments. What, if anything, was taken from your own life?
Thank you! Really, there’s not that much in the book that comes from my life, other than the most basic starting point, which is that the couple in the book are childless-by-choice and have a dog. The hubs and I are “CBC”ers and are very happy with our familial unit of three, which includes our current rescue mutt, Rita. The hubs would like me to make it clear that (a) he does NOT have a love child out there in the world and (b) he does NOT talk to his private parts (as Alex finds her husband doing in the opening scene in HOUSE TRAINED). (Poor hubs.) Alex is an interior designer, so their house is much nicer than ours, and she’s a great dog trainer, so their dog is much better trained than ours!
There is one scene that is somewhat from my own life. Alex goes to a party her sister throws, and she feels out of place with her sister’s friends who only seem to want to talk about their kids or having babies. I used to be in a book club that really should have been called a “baby club.” All the women in the group had either just had a baby, were pregnant, or were trying to have a baby, so there was very little talk about the books. As a huge book lover, that was bummer enough, but I just really didn’t fit in with that group. I often sat with nothing to contribute to the conversation, and I would come home feeling very sad and out of place. I wanted to write the character of Alex for other ladies out there who feel out-of-place because they don’t want to have kids. Just because we don’t want to have our own children, it doesn’t mean we’re not nice, loving, nurturing people.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on what I’ve been calling “a fairy tale for a forty-year-old.” It has lots of cute dogs in it and I’m having fun writing it. I hope folks will enjoy it when it’s done!