Fourth Grade Journey

A Fourth Grade Teacher's Journey Through the World of Books

Monday, August 22, 2016

An Inside Look #11 (Maxi's Secrets by Lynn Plourde)

An Inside Look - With Lynn Plourde
Author of Maxi's Secrets

*Another summer Monday, means another "inside look" with an author.

*It has been such an honor to connect with authors and "chat" with them about their novel, the characters, and their thoughts about the story.

*I have had such fun connecting with authors and "picking" their brains.

*Here are the links to my first TEN interviews...

*I had the honor of reading Maxi's Secrets via an ARC that was sent to me.

*I'm not sure why, but I knew it was going to be a special novel even before I started it.

*Once I started the story I literally was not able to put the book down.  It consumed me.

*As soon as I finished, I reached out to Lynn via Twitter to express my LOVE for this story.

*After a few "tweets" back and forth, she agreed to be an author for my "Inside Look" series.

*I was thrilled and was so humbled that she agreed to answer some questions for me.

*The actual novel is being released to the public on August 23rd.  It is a beauty of a story!  

Maxi's Secrets by Lynn Plourde (Released on Tuesday, August 23, 2016)

How did you come to “know” Timminy?  
I knew Timminy’s dog, Maxi, first—since she is based on my beloved dog, Maggie.  Maggie led me to Maxi who led me to Timminy.  With a giant, deaf Great Pyrenees as the dog in Maxi’s Secrets, I knew I wanted an extra-short, loudmouth, starting-at-a-new-school boy as the main character, as a contrast to Maxi and to amplify the theme of “fitting in.”

What do you think is Timminy's most admirable quality?
His sense of humor.  Humor is a human tool that is underrated.  Humor can diffuse an intense situation, humor can be a link to new friendships and a foundation for old friendships as we share “inside jokes,” humor shows intelligence (funny people have a quick wit and can think on their feet, er . . . their funny bones), humor lets us breathe, humor takes bravery and confidence (What if what you think is funny, falls flat and no one laughs?).  Humor can also be a cover-up to hide what’s really going on emotionally with someone. I think Timminy uses humor well—as a coping strategy, it’s part of who he is, but he also doesn’t let it hide his frustration and anger.

What do you think Timminy can offer to other children who are experiencing similar situations to what he went through?  
As far as fitting into a new school, Timminy shows that it’s best to make one or two new friends and then let the “friend circle” grow from there.  I imagine other kids, as they read Maxi’s Secrets, may want to tell Timminy to stop being such a wise-mouth, to get that chip off his shoulder—Timminy has to learn that on his own, but maybe other kids can recognize those qualities in themselves.  And the Kirkus review of Maxi’s Secrets says: “Timminy’s coping strategies could help readers dealing with the loss of a pet.”  I would love it if that were true—even if it’s only to let others know they are not the “only ones” to suffer such a loss.  No one wants to be the “only one.”

How did you “research” Timminy and the circumstances he found himself in?
I didn’t have to “research” Timminy as a character—his “birth” felt organic, and I imagined what it would be like to be the shortest kid at a school.  But I did have to research many other things to write this book—Great Pyrenees, deafness in dogs, blindness in humans, pager collars for deaf dogs, obedience training for dogs, guide dogs including the MIRA organization, trail camcorders, osteosarcoma.  To research all these, I did a combination of online research such as watching videos of deaf dogs using pager collars and blind people walking with canes and using liquid indicators, as well as having “experts” (i.e. the Deaf Dogs Rock founder, a middle grade boy who’s blind, a teacher of the visually impaired, and a veterinarian) read my manuscript and give me feedback.  Each one gave me valuable input and corrections, which made the story better and truer.

Do you and Timminy share any similarities?  
We share humor, sassiness—although, Timminy is most like my 84-year-old mother who is the Queen of Sarcasm.

What was the hardest scene to write about Timminy?
The hardest scene to write was when Timminy’s dog Maxi died (not a spoiler since the opening of the book tells the reader that Maxi dies).  I was back in the place and space and emotions from when my own dog Maggie died.  I sobbed—it was so real to me.  Yet, it was the part of the book, I felt was the TRUEST.  I knew how to write it because I had lived it.

Who do you think was Timminy's biggest supporter and why?
Maxi was Timminy’s biggest supporter.  Our dogs love us unconditionally, on good days, on bad days, even if we’re being jerks.  I think Maxi’s love and trust of Timminy showed him that maybe he deserved to love and trust himself—and he did in the end.

Why do you think humans and dogs have such a special connection?  
I think dogs are the creatures we wish we could be—to wear our emotions on our sleeves (the way dogs wear theirs in their tails), to jump up and greet each day with joy and barks, to take frequent naps, to roll around in the poo of life.  Doghood seems grand.  But in the end, it’s all about LOVE.  They love us totally, completely, warts and all.  And so we try to live up to their love, to deserve it, to be half as good as they think we are.  Dogs simply make us better.

What do you think Timminy is doing at this present time?
I love this question. Let me think . . . Timminy is now in sixth grade and running for student council at Skenago Middle School (hoping if he wins to set the Guinness Book record for shortest student council member of all time).  He opens his locker first try most days (once in a while it takes him two tries).  His parents have offered to get him another dog to replace Maxi, but he’s not ready—although he spends as much time as he can with Abby and her new guide dog Darshan.  He did talk his parents into getting him a four-wheeler so he vroooooms time away in the woods with Rory after school and on weekends, giving Abby rides too—but she wouldn’t dare ask Timminy to teach her how to drive it, would she?!

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