My debut novel, My Irish Dog, was a long time coming in a sense. I always thought I could write a novel and played around with various storylines throughout the years. But nothing really clicked, and I couldn’t get my imagination to cooperate. But then a trip to Ireland a few years back provided the long-sought idea that I was beginning to assume would never come.
One of the main characters and the true impetus for this book was a small stray dog I actually came upon during that trip. (I named the dog Shandy in the book, but I never knew her true name.) At that time, I did try to take some responsibility for the dog (who had no collar or ID tags), since she was alone and either had run away or had been abandoned. I took her into the village of Galbally in County Limerick. Try as I might, no one would relieve me of my new and sudden burden.
Finally, out of desperation more than anything else, I picked a random farmhouse, and unbelievably the lady there was kind enough to take the dog from me. I went back into the village immediately afterwards and then subsequently drove by the house maybe fifteen minutes later. There standing at the end of the driveway was Shandy, following me with her eyes as I drove by, almost as if she had been waiting for me to return. You had to be there to appreciate the situation, but it was really the strangest thing. And it bothered me in real life just as it bothers my protagonist Spencer in the book.
Sometime later, maybe weeks later, it occurred to me that perhaps that actual episode could be turned into a book. I began writing, and my imagination took things from that point.
I never knew what became of Shandy after that. On my second trip to Ireland, after I had decided to write the book, I went to the farmhouse again, hoping I could learn Shandy’s true fate. The house was completely empty. I learned secondhand a day or two later that a family had been living there (the same family I originally left the dog with, or at least I assume) but had packed up and left town. (That real-life episode as well became fodder for the book I had begun to write.)
I never expected to find Shandy again, and I didn’t, but it still makes me both sad and curious, wondering what truly became of her. I guess I’ll never know.
The road to publication…
I suppose I never realized how much work was entailed in writing and publishing a book. One beta reader and my developmental editor basically saved me from potentially releasing something that, when I think back now, would have been lacking and possibly even embarrassing. When you’re caught up in the process, I found that a writer’s own judgment can be deceiving. One day you think it’s good; the next you’re not so sure. Outside help was key, but even to this day I’m not so sure of the end product. Maybe not bad for a first-time novelist…but I think I can do better. I’m presently reading the paperback version of my own book. There are countless pages and chapters where I tell myself I could have done better. Perhaps that is a sickness of writers: We’re never satisfied. But at some point you need to relish in what you have; otherwise you can sit on a manuscript for eternity and never have the courage to finish the job.
I also found out that friends and family, while supportive to a degree, are certainly not as interested in your book as you are. That’s natural, I guess. But for me even getting people to read the book before it was published was like pulling teeth – a few were to cooperate, for which I am thankful, but I basically got to the point where I stopped bothering people with my little pet project. One person who did read the manuscript commented that I could use some work on my dialogue. He even sent me a copy of Hemingway’s In Our Time. I read it. Personally, I thought the usage of dialogue in that particular book was trash, but it goes to show how, as readers and writers, our perception of what is good or bad can vary drastically.
As I was getting close to finishing the book, I had to decide whether to self-publish or go the traditional route. I had read of all the trials and tribulations of trying to source an agent and then hopefully a publisher. With that in mind, I had basically decided that I would publish myself. Along the way, however, I did find one agent who showed a smidgeon of interest. Weeks of waiting to hear back (with the good news, hopefully) finally ended in disappointment. I tried a few more agents, thinking that there might be a chance, but I didn’t receive even a single response. I certainly wasn’t going to spend a year, or however long it took, trying to persuade someone to take a chance on my book. More than anything, I just wanted to publish, maybe to just say that I wrote a novel and am now a published author.
With that in mind, I got busy with final editing checks, typesetting, and every other detail I needed to cover before finally uploading the manuscript and cover to Amazon. When I finally hit that “publish” button, I was relieved and actually quite proud of myself. I finally did it! Now, purchases and reviews would be nice, and I hope those will come with time and effort. I’ve got a fair share of promotional and other ideas to create some awareness, but perhaps that is a “story” for another time.
(c) Douglas Solvie
About My Irish Dog:
Spencer held on to the faintest of hope, but still he knew the trip to Ireland had almost no prospect of remedying his internal dilemma. Then again, he never imagined that a chance meeting with a lost and dying dog named Shandy would change his life forever. Step into the small Irish village of Galbally, where the unwitting Spencer stumbles headfirst into a parallel world that will test his will, sanity, and even physical well-being. Time and promise are running out. Will unnatural forces and events scare Spencer away before he can connect again with the mysterious dog? Will he find his way forward before Shandy meets her inevitable fate? Or will suspicious locals and a nefarious Dublin innkeeper force Spencer from the village before he completes his life-altering mission? Follow Spencer as he races to save a little Irish dog named Shandy. If he only realized that it is Shandy who is trying to save him…
Order your copy online here.