Q & A with Gennifer Choldenko: NOTES FROM A LIAR AND HER DOG

NotesFromALiar paperbackHappy holidays! Today I welcome Gennifer Choldenko to Dog Reads, a blog that features interviews with authors who’ve written a canine story for kids or young adults.

AOB: What is the title of your book? Pub date and publisher? Genre? Targeted age group? Illustrator?

Notes from a Liar and Her Dog

Penguin Books for Young Readers

Publication date: 2001

Penguin Books for Young Readers

Realistic Fiction

Age Range: Third grade to Adult

UnknownAOB: Who is your key dog character(s) and what kind of dog is he/she? Feel free to list as many different breeds or mixes as necessary. Tell us a little more about him/her.

Pistachio has morphed a bit over the years.  He was a tiny, old, sickly part Chihuahua.  But alas when they gave the novel a new cover a few years ago, he became significantly cuter.  One thing that remains the same about Pistachio is he is a little dog with a big dog complex.  He weighs less than a loaf of bread but is always ready to take on every monster dog around.

Gennifer Choldenko's writing PartnerAOB: In 70 words or less, provide a succinct plot description of your story.

Antonia MacPherson, the middle child of three sisters, loves her dog Pistachio but she doesn’t think she loves anyone else.  Ant has a habit of telling lies when the truth “gets in her way.”  Ant’s only close human friend is Harrison, a boy who loves to draw chickens.  But things begin to change when a loving teacher named Just Carol takes Ant and Harrison under her wing.

Links to reviews

AOB: What inspired you to write this story?

I don’t really know where this novel came from.  One night I couldn’t sleep, so I got up and started writing in Ant’s voice.  I am nothing like Ant.  I’m not the middle child.  I’m not a liar.  My family was nothing like Ant’s.  Where did she come from?  The only thing I can think of is I was feeling annoyed at my brother at the time.  In my family of origin he can do no wrong.  My brother is the nicest man in the world so this kind of makes sense. That said, I have to admit it’s no fun being the sibling of a saint.

AOB: What was the biggest challenge you had writing your story? How did you overcome it?

The big challenge of this novel was writing an ending which I felt was satisfying.  I wrote the last chapter 5 or 6 different ways.  (Given the way I rewrite now, that seems like nothing.  But at the time it felt over the top.)  The novel was due, I had to figure out something so I sent my editor the three best final chapters and said “Help!”  She picked the ending she thought was the closest and then I worked more on it and eventually it began to sink into the manuscript in a way that felt right.

UnknownAOB: What other YA/MG books have you written? Do any of them feature a key dog character? If so, which ones?

What are these stories about?

Al Capone Does My Shirts – 2005 Newbery Honor book

Al Capone Shines My Shoes

Al Capone Does My Homework – NEW!!

If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period

No Passengers Beyond this Point

The Al Capone books take place on Alcatraz Island in 1935 and 1936 when Al Capone was a prisoner there and the families of the guards lived on the island.  These books are historical fiction and I try whenever possible to stick to the facts.  The real Warden did not allow dogs on the island, so no dogs in those books.  A dog plays a very important role in No Passengers Beyond this Point however.

AOB: What kind of story can we expect next from you? Is it about a dog? If so, what is it about?

No dog in my next novel.  The Monkey’s Secret will be out in Spring 2015.  I can’t tell you much about it because . . . yes, you guessed it . . .  it’s a secret.

AOB: What else would you like us to know about you or your story?

I volunteered at the Oakland Zoo for a year to research Notes from a Liar and Her Dog.  I worked with a keeper who had been at the zoo for 17 years. Mostly I picked up camel poop and cleaned snake windows.

AOB: Wow! What an interesting and unexpected fact re your work at the Oakland Zoo. I remember the first time I met you and was in awe of the research you did for the Al Capone books being a docent and getting access to the documents.

Unknown-3AOB: Can you remember the first book that made an impact on you? And why?

The very first book?  The Carrot Seed.  That was the first book I ever read.  I believed I was the main character.  He was telling my story.

The first novels I remember loving?  Charlotte’s Web, The Little Princess, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Harriet the Spy, The Oz books, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Across Five Aprils, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe . . . etc.

AOB: I’ll have to look that book [The Carrot Seed] up. I’ve never heard of it, but noted it down. 

AOB: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Be kind to yourself.  Maintain a regular writing routine.  Enjoy the process. Read everything that fascinates you.

Unknown-2AOB: Where can readers go to find out more information about you and/or your books?

Web page



Thank you Gennifer Choldenko for joining us at Dog Reads! You’ve been gracious with your time. I’d love to have you come back for your book No Passengers Beyond this Point.



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