Born a runt, Rascal is destined to be an underdog. Despite what looked like an unbreakable bond with the daughter of the family who bred her, Rascal’s devotion is discarded when the mother loses her job, forcing the family into a financial crisis. Bitter and resentful toward a dog they can no longer afford to keep and who was never really wanted, the family throws out the young dog like garbage. Driven out to the country and left roadside, Rascal has nothing but a few pieces of kibble to help her survive the night.
Abandoned and alone, Rascal must learn to fend for herself and embark on a harsh and dangerous journey through coyote terrain in the mountain wilderness of Southern California. Along the way, she meets new families and strangers and is given many names. But will she ever settle with one family and one name? A Dog of Many Names is a courageous story of survival, seen through the eyes of a scared and desperate dog who just wants to love, be loved, and be given one last name.
DOUGLAS GREEN is the author of the widely-acclaimed 2015 book The Teachings of Shirelle: Life Lessons from a Divine Knucklehead, and runs the advice website AskShirelle.com,based on the wisdom in the book, which he was taught by his ridiculous dog. Released from decades in the entertainment business for good behavior, he directed the film The Hiding Place, and now works as a psychotherapist in Los Angeles, specializing in children and teenagers.
Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!
I was born and raised in Kansas City, went to college in Connecticut, then took a trip to Australia and stayed five years (mostly working on film crews). I then moved to Los Angeles for film school, and while that career is long gone, the Eagles were correct with that “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave” line!
Tell us about your book? How did it get started?
A few years ago, I adopted a rescue dog. While I knew she’d had a few rough patches in her past (abandoned by two families, found in a field so scared it took days to get her), I quickly learned that things were far worse than that. The slightest criticism from me made her collapse, begging me to not beat her. Terror at certain sounds (like my electric razor), and of some very nice people, as well as odd funny quirks in her, made me wonder what she’d been through. And as I tried to figure her past out, I eventually realized I’d come up with a whole narrative – a fictional biography – that could be written as a sort of existential adventure story.
How do you create your characters?
I’ve written a number of plays and screenplays with other sorts of inspiration. And my first book was non-fiction. But with this one, the characters came out of the situations – what sort of person would adopt and then abandon a dog like this, and why? What sort would beat her? Given how instantly lovable she is, what circumstances would lead to her being alone? And what sorts of people would leave her so frightened as to prefer living alone out in the wild? As a practicing psychotherapist, I believe people are innately good and loving. So how did this happen? Also, the area my dog was found in is a pretty interesting area, very emblematic of our time, so I created the characters from that as well – based on societal, ethnic, political, economic issues. Not to preach, but just to make it a novel of now.
What inspires and what got your started in writing?
Inspiration comes from all sorts of places. Both my books were inspired by dogs, but in vastly different ways and for different reasons. I write a blog and give online advice (AskShirelle.com), and as I said there are a number of plays and screenplays in my past. I guess the best answer to you is that my inspiration tends to come from a problem I’m trying to solve. Maybe, as in this case, why is something the way it is. Or in others, how to solve something likely to come.
Where do you write? Is there something you need in order to write (music, drinks?)
The necessity for me to write is feeling centered and peaceful. I can’t write with a pile of to-do’s next to me, or a messy kitchen. I’m not a big believer in Astrology, but I’m an Aquarius, and my brother and father are Virgos, so all my male influence is Virgo. And that seems to make sense for me – I need things generally organized (Virgo) to free me to be the imaginative airhead who can write (Aquarius). In terms of outside helpers, I always love writing with opera playing. It’s inspiringly dramatic, and since I don’t speak Italian, French, or German, the words don’t distract me!
How do you get your ideas for writing?
I think I answered that in the “inspiration” question above. Again, just anywhere that gets my thoughts flowing. Alfred Adler, the great psychological thinker, talked about the way oysters work. If they’re not bothered by anything, they just sit around with no purpose other than getting eaten. But if a piece of sand gets inside them, they’re irritated and work all the time to rub and cover it, and eventually create a pearl. So I guess I just need sand.
What do you like to read?
So much! I read the Los Angeles Times every day, and always have one or two books going on (often one I’m physically reading while listening to another as an audiobook in my car). Recent favorites include the Easy Rawlins mystery series by Walter Mosley, The Overstory by Richard Powers, James McBride’s The Good Lord Bird, Kevin Wilson’s Nothing to See Here, and as an incredible look at how words can literally change the world, Demagogue for President by Jennifer Mercieca. Longtime favorite authors include John Steinbeck and Jack London (which is likely clear to readers of A Dog of Many Names), and I have to shout out as we just lost her – my first literary love will always be a queen to me, Beverly Cleary.
What would your advice to be for authors or aspiring in regards to writing?
I know it’s just what everyone else says, but my advice is WRITE. The world will distract with every chance it gets, well-meaning friends and family will pull you away, and your inner critic will be your worst enemy if you let it. Which leads me to another bit of advice – if you’re suffering from self-criticism to the point of writers block, I urge you to read Dennis Palumbo’s book Writing from the Inside Out. It changed my whole way of dealing with those voices, and without it I’m sure I never could have finished my first book.
Anything else you’d like to share?
The most magical thing about writing is that if you work at it, and you write about what you feel, you can make your readers feel that same thing. I released my first book six years ago, but last week I met someone who’d just read it. And as they described falling in love with that dog, and crying about her, I had to tell her, “You’re exactly why I went to all that effort!” In a world where we so often feel misunderstood or unseen, that feels so incredibly good.