‘Bruce’s Big Move’ Author Ryan Higgins Opens Up and Shares Secret Behind Bruce’s Curmudgeonly Character and More

Bruce's Big Move High Res

With the release of the third “Bruce” book, “Bruce’s Big Move,” author Ryan Higgins agreed to answer some questions that delve deep into the heart of this wonderful series and its grumpy but lovable main character, Bruce.

Who would have thought that the character of Bruce was based on the author’s grandfather? Higgins shares that: Continue reading

Fredrik Backman, Author of ‘A Man Called Ove’ Talks About His Books


Fredrik Backman is the wildly successful author of “Beartown,” “A Man Called Ove,” “Britt-Marie Was Here,” and other novels from Sweden, but one would barely know that from his perfect grasp of the English language.


The “LL” book club

He met with a group of fans at the Old Orchard Barnes & Noble in Skokie, Illinois. Some fans braved terrible storms to travel hours to hear him speak and get their books signed. Backman did not disappoint.


His serious demeanor is belied by his obvious charm and self-deprecation. “I am weird,” he said when explaining that he writes about difficult people and tries to defend them, because he is one himself. He explained how the character of Ove was created. ‘Whenever I meet someone obnoxious, I think, “There must be someone who loves you.”‘ He shared that many of Ove’s characteristics come from him, and he charmingly admitted that,

“I call the internet provider a lot and I’ll end up shouting — you do this every day of your life and I expect the best. Why don’t you want to be good at your job?”

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Interview with Sarah Pekkanen, bestselling author of ‘Perfect Neighbors’


Sarah Pekkanen

Sarah Pekkanen has written novels about relationships, family, and friendship. Her novels appeal to many, and after reading just one, many readers become fans for life.

Pekkanen is not only an internationally bestselling author — smart and funny — she’s nice. She also includes in her busy family a cat and a dog. Many authors include a dog or cat in their novels because they themselves have a dog or cat, and it seems like a natural thing to include — a companion for one or more of their characters.

Pekkanen includes dogs in many of her stories. Having a dog is natural for her. She grew up with four pugs. Her family also had a beagle at one time. Now, she and her family live with a rescued black Labrador named Bella. Pekkanen’s family was the third to keep Bella — and the third was a charm. Bella’s previous family had girls who had named the dog Princess Belle, but Pekkanen’s three sons didn’t fancy that, so Princess Belle because Belle, and then Bella. “The boys love her. She is so gentle and sweet,” commented Pekkanen. Before Bella, she had a dog she had rescued from a Washington DC pound.

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Getting to know authors of of ‘The Year We Turned Forty’ Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke

Talking with Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke is like getting together with a girlfriend, or two. They are smart, articulate and easy to talk to. And it’s obvious that they are best friends from the way they glance at each other when answering questions to the way they finish each other’s sentences.

Just like their debut novel -- Lisa and Liz are long-time best friends

Liz and Lisa use their names interchangeably on their website (lizandlisa.com), their twitter handle (@lizandlisa), and their Instagram account (lisaandliz). Their writing pattern is similar. One will start the story and send it to the other, who edits that chapter and then writes the next one. She then sends the edited chapter and the new chapter back so the other can edit the new chapter and write another one. It works.

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Exclusive interview with best-selling author Jen Lancaster


Getting to know Maureen Johnson and Robin Wasserman


Maureen Johnson and Robin Wasserman

Most of those attending LeakyCon would give their right arm to have breakfast with either Maureen Johnson, author of “ Name of the Star,” “Suite Scarlett,” and “13 Little Blue Envelopes,” or Robin Wasserman, author of “The Cold Awakening” trilogy, “Hatching Harvard,” and her most recent, “The Book of Blood and Shadow.” Watch the video here.

Breakfast with both ladies was a treat. The community of authors, especially young adult authors, is a small one and Maureen and Robin have been friends for years. They were both in Chicago for the LeakyConconference. Both are on the staff of LeakyCon.

Good friends they may be, but Maureen and Robin are very different in many ways. While Maureen loves to read on her Kindle and iPad, Robin prefers a real book in her hand when she reads. Both love to read young adult, and they both read a lot of nonfiction when researching for their books.

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Interview with Spencer Quinn author of the ‘Chet and Bernie’ series

spencer quinn

courtesy of Diana Gray

Rating: 5 stars

Spencer Quinn, aka Peter Abrahams, is the author of the popular (and New York Times bestselling) “Chet and Bernie” series about a private detective dog-and-human team.

Told from Chet’s point of view (the dog), the narrative tends to get cleverly interrupted by such things as wonderful aromas, fire hydrants, other dogs, and, of course, rawhide bones. The muse behind the idea to write about a doggie detective? Abrahams’ wife, of course.

In town to sign copies of his newest release, “A Fistful of Collars,” which had just made the New York Times bestselling list, Abrahams agreed to an interview. He is charming and modest. He hates to brag and he loves his family.

What inspired him to write about a detective and a dog?

Abrahams said, “At dinner one night, my wife said I should do something about dogs.” Although he had included dogs in his other stories, he knew right away that he wanted the dog to tell the story in first person. But he didn’t want a talking dog.

That night, he jumped right in. He wrote the first page of “Dog On It.” It was easy in a sense, he said, because he’s had dogs his whole life and he loves dogs. Diana, his wife and the inspiration behind the Chet and Bernie series, reads all his work-in-progress.

Throughout the series, there have been ongoing plots and one of the most fascinating at the end of the most recent book, “A Fistful of Collars,” is whether the puppy seen in the neighborhood is really Chet’s progeny. And who might the mother be?

Abrahams did say that more information will be included in the next book, which takes place in New Orleans. Of course, with bayou country all around, a new character is Iko, the alligator. Also, in the sixth book, the real location of the series finally is pinpointed.

Abrahams’ editor bestowed a working title on the next book, “A Dog House Named Desire.” Quinn fans will be “desiring” the next book soon. The series is like potato chips — you can’t have just one.

Adults who enjoy Chet and Bernie might want to introduce the next generation to Abraham’s books. “The Outlaws of Sherwood Street” is a great adventure series. The first one is titled “Stealing from the Rich,” and the next book in the series, (predictably) “Giving to the Poor,” will be coming out next May.


Interview with Brian Hare, author of ‘The Genius of Dogs’

Brian Hare, author of “The Genius of Dogs,” wrote a revolutionary book that will change the way people think about their dogs.

Brian Hare and dog

courtesy of Brian Hare

Dr. Hare met with me during the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) conference in Spokane, Washington. He was there to present his findings on “Dognition.” He defines Dognition as how dogs use inferential reasoning to flexibly problem solve. Dogs showed different types of intelligence including navigation, memory, social learning, inhibitory control, and empathy.

Dognition began when Brian was in undergraduate school and was discussing with a professor how only humans can understand flexibly used gestures like pointing. Brian said, “I think my dog can do that.” He proceeded to test his dog at the local pond. He threw three different balls. The dog only saw where the first ball went. But the dog would follow Brian’s gestures to find the other two balls. He taped this. When he showed the video to his professor and a developmental psychologist, they got excited. “Now let’s really do some experiments,” they said.

From that almost accidental beginning, he went on to test chimpanzees, bonobos, wolves, foxes, and dogs of various breeds and how they compared in problem solving while seeing human gestures. He devised a cup test in which a food was hidden under one of two cups. The dog didn’t know which cup had food hidden under it, but when a person pointed or gestured to one of the cups, the majority of the time, the dog would choose that cup.

What Brian learned through his studies is that the genius of dogs is that dogs, unlike many other animals which humans consider to have higher intelligence, are geniuses at comprehending visual gestures.

He plans on continuing to work with Dognition. Currently, there are about 12,000 people who have tested their dogs’ “Dognition” on the website. His plan is to keep analyzing and developing the site and “celebrating individual dogs.”

Brian’s research began with his interest in human evolution. He had studied bonobos and chimpanzees; he had no idea that those studies would cross over into his work with dogs. He likes working with each animal for its own reasons, and because of his work with apes, he gets to go to Africa.

He is passionate about the condition of animals in many places. The bushmeat trade (killing primates for meat) contributes to the transmission of zoonotic diseases like HIV and ebola. He also believes that new strains of HIV and other diseases will emerge from the black market trade, so stopping the trade is vital in stopping the transmission of new diseases.

He also explained how media commercials and movies showing primates as happy, cute animals desensitize people about the true plight of those animals in the entertainment industry, research and the wild. (National Geographic paid to have chimps in their documentaries.) Primates can only be used for commercials and movies when they are young. As they get older and unmanageable, they are often abandoned and abused.

Also, when animals like primates are portrayed as cute in the media, people want them as pets. That perpetuates the sale of those animals on the black market. Then, when people realize that their pets are uncontrollable, they get rid of them, and there are no safe places for them to go. To repeat: Primates do not make good pets.

The media make chimps seem happy, well-cared-for in domestic settings, and generally well-adjusted. Marketing studies show that when the media portray animals like chimpanzees as “cute,” people see them as happy pet-like creatures and are less likely to help those animals in need. In a paid marketing study, after seeing a commercial with a cute chimpanzee, people didn’t donate to a primate-related cause, saying that the chimps in the commercial looked happy.

Regarding his animal studies, Brian said, “The change hasn’t been to the animal, it’s been to me. I had to know about dogs.” One of his dogs, named Oreo, … “changed my life path. And the social system of bonobos changed how I interact with my wife and think about conflict.” He went on to say that if a bonobo, who has a much smaller brain than he does, can resolve conflict without anger, then he can solve conflicts without getting angry.

When I asked what he wanted people to take away from his studies, he said: “Everybody knows that dogs are remarkable, but the exciting thing is that science is now learning why.”

Read “The Genius of Dogs,” a book that will change your thoughts about dogs.

Interview by Liz Kramer, APDT. She is also the co-author of this article.

Interview with bestselling author Stephanie Evanovich


Stephanie Evanovich burst onto the writing scene last year with her debut hit, “Big Girl Panties.” In this story, the female protagonist is not the typical slender fashion plate who graces the pages of many women’s books. She is blatantly overweight and not dressed to kill. Yet in the end, she gets the guy.

In Evanovich’s second book, “The Sweet Spot,” based on characters pulled from the first book, Amanda Cole is the protagonist who is “20 pounds from being a prom queen.” Again, this woman is not a size 0, nor is she even in the single digits (in Evanovich’s mind, at least).

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Interview with ‘Jasper’s Story’ author Jill Robinson


Jasper’s Story: Saving Moon Bears” by Jill Robinson is not your typical picture book. It’s written by the woman who began saving China’s Moon Bears over twenty years ago. On tour promoting the children’s picture book and her sanctuary, she took time out for an interview.

Ms. Robinson told me that she first glimpsed the degradation of “farmed” Moon Bears in 1993 while working for the International Fund for Animal Welfare. She broke away from the tour group she was with and went down some stairs. While taking in the horror of the bears in cramped tiny cages, she felt a touch on her shoulder. It was a Moon Bear reaching out to her.

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Interview with Claire Cook, author of bestselling ‘Must Love Dogs’ series


Claire Cook, author of the bestselling “Must Love Dogs,” (which was made into a movie with Diane Lane and John Cusack) is filled with optimism about the year 2015. She just published the third book in the MLD (Must Love Dogs) series, “Fetch You Later.”

And exciting New Year news? The first book in the series, “Must Love Dogs,” was #1 on the Amazon Contemporary Romance list and #13 overall. It was also #1 for all of Barnes and Noble’s ebooks. That’s something to celebrate.

“In 2014 I published three books,” Cook said. “‘Must Love Dogs: New Leash on Life,’ ‘Never Too Late,’ and ‘Must Love Dogs: Fetch You Later.’ It’s exciting because readers seem to love the characters in the series. I had many tell me that they already devoured ‘Fetch You Later’ and they want to know when the next one will be out!”

Well, those readers will be happy to know that Cook is working feverishly to complete Books #4 and #5 in the series so they can be published in 2015. “I love writing this series,” Cook related. “It’s so much fun because I get to find out what will happen next. I love the characters.”

Why do readers enjoy series so much? “I think that there are a lot of books out there to choose from. When we find characters we like, it’s great to know that there will be more adventures with them, and we’ll be able to keep up with their lives.”

Cook is also very proud of her first nonfiction book, “Never Too Late,” and the new path that has opened for her. She reinvented herself when she left teaching and became an author. Her book is all about how people can reinvent themselves at any stage in life. She has been invited to speak and teach courses based on reinvention, and she loves it.

She’s also learned something very important: “I’ve learned to say ‘no.’ If you say yes to everything, nothing gets done. I say ‘yes’ to the most important things: writing, family and friends. But they understand that writing is important. It’s about prioritizing. Either life takes control or we do.” And that last sentence sounds just like something from “Never Too Late,” which is about taking control and making changes.

Cook’s final advice about reading Must Love Dogs? “Jump in. The books do stand alone, but starting at the beginning is great because you can see the progression of the events and how the characters develop and change.”

Interview with author Steve Ulfelder of ‘The Conway Sax’ mysteries

Steve Ulfelder, author of “Purgatory Chasm,” his first published novel and a finalist for an Edgar Award, loves to talk (among many other subjects) about his pets. And although he has cats, his new love is his rescued greyhound, Bonne (short for Bonneville — like the race course).

Steve Ulfelder and his race car

courtesy of Ulfelder and Minotaur Press

Ulfelder is so enamored with greyhounds that two will be appearing in his next Conway Sax novel. Bonne, a rescue greyhound, cleverly snagged her new home by leaning into Ulfelder when he went to visit her. Now he’s smitten and she has a fabulous family.

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