If you’re a dog lover and in need of a heartwarming read, I have just the novel for you! Allie Larkin made her debut with her novel, Stay. This is a story involving the perils of falling in love, friendship, and the calamity of ordering a “puppy” online….a puppy that turns into one hundred pounds of fur and only responds to Slovakian commands that is…
Can guess just how this author knew what man’s best friend is like? Allie lives in Rochester, New York with her husband, two dogs, and one sassy three-legged cat.
1) When did you know you wanted to write a novel?
STAY started as a writing exercise in a college class in 2002. In an assignment later that semester, I used the exercise to write a short story about Van and her friend Janie, sitting in Starbucks and talking about Van’s failed love life. Years later, I revisited the story for a writing group, but I only intended to fix up the dialogue and send it out as a story. Something wasn’t working, and I decided to write some scenes outside of the boundaries of the story, just to get to know the characters better. I wrote the first chapter of STAY and realized that I hadn’t been telling the right part of the story. And then I kept writing from there. Eventually, my writing group convinced me that I was actually writing a book, and not a short story. So it was never about sitting down and saying, “I think I’ll write a novel.” It was really all about Van. I fell in love with her as a character and I wanted to work with her until I felt like I got it right.
2) How did you become a published author?
I worked on STAY over the years, writing eight pages a week for my writing group. Once I got done with the first draft, I started focusing on it more intensely. After a few drafts, I started sending out queries. And I went back and wrote another draft in the middle of that process. I found my agent, Rebecca Strauss from McIntosh & Otis, on AgentQuery.com. She pulled my query out of the slush pile, requested the manuscript and offered representation. A lot of times people don’t believe that it really can happen that way, but it worked for me. Rebecca met with my editor, Erika Imranyi, at Dutton and told her about STAY. Erika asked to read it and they made an offer soon after, which was an amazing, life changing thing.
3) What are three things you wished you would have known about the publishing business?
I worked very hard to make sure I had an understanding of how the business of publishing works, so there weren’t as many surprises as there would have been otherwise. There are a few things I wish I had done before the book came out, to make things a little easier for myself. I wish I’d worked to streamline my non-writing responsibilities a little better, so I wasn’t trying to juggle quite so much while I was touring. I wish I’d found a way to have a little more time in each city I visited. And I wish I’d known just how amazing it feels to talk with readers who love STAY, because it would have quelled some of my pre-book release jitters.
4) What has been your favorite author experience so far?
Hearing from readers that Van and Joe and their story means something to them is the most incredible feeling. Touring is amazing. Travel can be stressful and it’s hard to balance everything while I’m on the road, but it isn’t an experience I’d trade for anything. I got to spend time with other people who love books as much as I do, and that is an incredible gift.
5) What’s the less than thrilling part of being an author?
I love what I do and there’s usually a huge pull to get to work and be in the middle of a story and delving into the lives of characters I’ve fallen in love with. But some days, even when things are going very well, it can be a little lonely, and it’s hard to resist the urge to leave to meet friends or take an impromptu road trip. I have to be incredibly self-motivated. Most days, that’s a really empowering feeling, but sometimes getting myself to sit down with my computer can be an exhausting task in and of itself.
6) What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Write the first few drafts of your book for you. Do it on your own schedule and enjoy the process. Allow yourself to write freely and then worry about sculpting the book into the right form later drafts. Learn about the business, but don’t allow that to take away from your writing time. It doesn’t matter if you know how to write a query letter, if you don’t have a finished manuscript. Realize that it’s all a process and make the commitment to going through the process without getting to far ahead of yourself.
Here’s a picture. I just repainted and moved the furniture around to make it a room I actually want to spend time in. But I do also migrate around the house while I work. If I feel like working in the kitchen, I work in the kitchen. Getting the work done is more important than where I do it.
8 ) Tell me about your novel, Stay:
STAY is about, Savannah “Van” Leone, who is heartbroken when her best friend marries the guy she’s been in love with since college. She has to be the maid of honor in the wedding (and wear a hideous bright orange dress). When the wedding is over, she goes home, has a few too many vodka and grape Kool-Aid cocktails, watches a Rin Tin Tin marathon and accidentally orders a German Shepherd off the internet from Slovakia. The tiny puppy she thinks she’s getting turns out to be a 100lb beast who only responds to commands in Slovak, but Van quickly realizes that the dog, who she names Joe, is the loyal friend she’s been looking for. Joe leads Van to Dr. Alex Brandt, a veterinarian with floppy blond hair and a winning smile. But just as things start to heat up with Alex, the newlyweds come back, forcing Van to decide between old relationships and the promise of new ones.
9) Your actual dog, Argo, is on the cover of your book. How did that happen? Was he the inspiration for Van’s dog Joe?
Argo was not an internet purchase and he’s not from Slovakia, but he was the inspiration for Joe. Argo completely changed my life for the better. There’s something so powerful about having the kind of constant and unconditional love that dogs give. I knew if Van had a dog, her life and the way she started to see herself would change.
When it came time to design the cover for STAY, my editor mentioned that there was some difficulty finding a photo of a black German Shepherd, so my husband and I took tons of pictures of Argo and sent them along. It’s wonderful to have him on the cover. I couldn’t have written STAY without him. He’s an incredible friend.
10) You own another German Shepherd named Stella. How did you end up with two German Shepherd dogs? What does your three-legged cat think of them?
The kennel where we board Argo knew of a dog who’s owner couldn’t keep her anymore, so they called to ask if we would be interested in taking her. And then there were two.
German Shepherds are so smart, and change can be pretty traumatic for them. She was like living with a wild animal for a little while when she first arrived. She is a beautiful, funny, sweet and strange little dog (she’s thirty pounds smaller than Argo). I’m really glad we all worked through the adjustment period, because Stella has an amazing spirit and she tries so hard. I am a better person for having her in my life.
Argo and the cat don’t often acknowledge each other. It’s weird – like they don’t see each other. Stella, however, is obsessed with the cat, and vice versa. They play their own version of tag. The cat cries until Stella comes running and then she runs away so Stella will chase her. It happens over and over again all day long. It’s noisy, but adorable.
11) What are a few things you can’t live without?
Coffee. Everything else is really just a bonus.
*To Enter for a chance to win the novel Stay:
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As always, every name is thrown into a hat or in the case of huge entries…a bucket, and I’ll announce the winners on Jan. 24! Once contacted, the winner will have three days to email me their mailing addresses. If I do not receive a reply within the allotted time, I will pick another winner. Good luck!
*What’s is the name and type of you favorite pet you’ve had?
For example: For my fifth grade birthday, I bought my first dog, Juliet. She was a little pekingese dog. She’s now 16 years old but she’s still a puppy at heart!