Have you ever wondered what your dog is thinking? For Garth Stein, author of Racing in the Rain: My Life as a Dog, it was a burning question. The star of his book is Enzo, a sensitive dog who does a lot of thinking. He has cares, feelings, and wants, and he knows pain and sorrow. Enzo learns a lot about life from watching TV and observing his owner, a promising race-car driver named Denny. Enzo understands that life isn’t just about going as fast as you can.
Being a dog isn’t all it is cracked up to be. For one thing, you can only use gestures to communicate with humans. Everything in life is harder without thumbs. But the friendships between dogs and their owners make it all worthwhile…
Racing in the Rain: My Life as a Dog is a version of Stein’s acclaimed New York Times bestselling adult novel The Art of Racing in the Rain aimed at younger readers. TFK Kid Reporter Rachel Ayres spoke to Stein about dogs, racing and more.
Where did you get your idea for Racing in the Rain: My Life as a Dog?
The first seed of the idea came when I saw a documentary film called "State of Dogs" way back in 1998 or so. It was about the belief among the nomadic people of Mongolia that the next incarnation for their dogs will be as people. That idea really captured my imagination.
Why dogs and race cars?
Well, it started with dogs. I've always had dogs. Don't we all wonder what our dogs are thinking? I wondered if my dog might be thinking she's just as smart as everyone else around her, but no listens to her!
As far as race cars, I raced with Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) for four years in a class called Spec Miata. I was the points champion of the Northwest Region in 2004.
Do you have a dog?
Yes. Her name is Comet and she's very sweet. But she has a few more lifetimes to live as a dog before she's ready to come back as a person, I think. She loves tennis balls too much to let that part of being a dog go!
What gave you the idea to rewrite the story of Denny and Enzo for younger readers?
The adult version was first. But there's some bad language in it, and adult situations. I received many e-mails from middle school librarians saying they loved the book and thought their students would really love to meet Enzo, but they couldn't put the book in their school libraries. My publisher suggested that we do a middle grades edition, and now kids can meet Enzo, too!
Do you have advice for young fiction writers?
I have a ton of advice. Read, read, read. Write, write, write. And this is more important – live your life! Have fun! Take detours! Explore the world! Get to know people. Talk to your aunts and uncles and grandparents and ask them about their lives. Talk to your teachers and ask about their lives and what they're reading. Take acting classes. Learn to paint. Play music.Get plenty of sleep. Drink lots of water. Whenever you feel sad or frustrated, pretend that you're laughing, and pretty soon you will be. Read some more. Write something you would never write. Write something that you will never let anyone read and then never let anyone read it. Find the biggest field you can and run across it until you can't run any more. Then lie down on your back and look at the sky and don't think of anything. Before you go to bed that night, write one paragraph about how that field felt. Now take all these things, shake them up, and do them again and again and again. Then, you will officially be a writer.