July 18, 2006

I REALLY LIKE ME SOME DOGS....Preferably Fricasseed.

I kid! I kid! I TRULY like dogs. In fact I LOVE the dern things. I find them to be hopeful creatures filled to the brim with simple sweet unadulterated love and goodness. The only reason I do not HAVE a dog is that I haven't had a heart for one ever since the dog I loved most on the earth ever, Hobbes, and then the dog I loved second most, Tobidog, died (BOTH OF EXTREME OLD AGE, thank you) and now that I DO have the heart for one again, Scott BALKED because of my travel schedule.

For over a year my only Petly Interactions came from my inert sack of fat cat flesh whose idea of good company (now that he is An Older Gentleman) is to sleep in the same room I am in. In spite of the fact that he weighs as much as any three cats, Der Schubert is not enough little animals for my house -- and a house without little animals is a dark and sorrowful place.

But Scott said NO DOG at least until I finish touring and finish the next book, but STILL I was in an ANIMAL DEARTH and sorrowful which is how we got the two BROTHER gerbils who turned out to be incestuous and at least ONE brother had some ovaries tucked away somewhere which is how we got to have (at current count) TEN gerbils, ALL OF WHICH gnawed through the cage top and GOT LOOSE while Scott was in Birmingham (he came over to let me see my kids while I signed books), AND so he came home after a two day road trip and had to spent UMPTY man hours with both children playing HUNT INCH LONG SUPER SPEEDY GERBIL BABIES, plus Mama Snicketty and Cosy Mole Mouse (we kept Cosy from the LAST litter to help raise this one because we were for DERN SURE removing the daddy, AKA The Immediate Re-Impregnator, the very moment that the first litter was weanable and adoprable). All ten of the rodential escapees had scattered upstairs and downstairs and tucked themselves into the tiniest spaces imaginable, and how comforting do I find it that my ENORMOUS cat managed to track down exactly ZERO of them and eat them?

Well, on the I LOVE MY LITTLE GERBILS side, I am DEEPLY comforted. On the "sometimes little honta-soaked diseasey field mice get in and want to lick my children" side, I am a little skeeved. Still, on the whole, worthless cat-hunter equals ALL ten gerbils safely accounted for, and that is a definite WIN for our side. BUT... can you see that it would have been better just to get me THE BEAGLE-MIX PUPPY?

Just saying.

ANYWAY. I LOVE DOGS, OKAY?

That established, I will now tell you that I AM SO TIRED I am NOT thinking straight. And I had this terrible terrible exchange with a woman at a bookstore.

Sometimes, in my writing, the vagarities of plot require that I, as a novelist, perpetrate the deaths of COMPLETELY FICTIONAL creatures. Sometimes, these completely fictional creatures are...dogs. And because I write Southern Gothic, my fictional dogs tend to die in SPECTACULARLY violent and disturbing ways. I also kill people---including innocent little children--- with mad abandon, but NO ONE EVER COMPLAINS ABOUT THAT. *sigh* What can I tell you? Sometimes, in my books, things get violent and disturbing. Flannery O'Connor says that SOuthern fiction includes the grotesque always because we are are still capable of recognizing it. So. FLANNERY is backing me on the dogs, kay?

ANYWAY, an animal rights activist and I had the following exchange...Please understand that HER tone is QUERYING and INTERESTED, NOTNOTNOT accusatory or vicious, and my tone is exhausted and insane. Are you with me? OKAY!

Her: I have not read this book *holds up gods in Alabama* but I have heard from VERY ANGRY AND DISGRUNTLED READERS WHO HATE YOU FOREVER NOW, that you SHOOT A DOG in it.
Me: No, I do not.
Her: Well, a dog gets SHOT. And this has turned a LOT of readers off your books...as a volunteer at the Humane Society, the things I have heard are what has kept me from reading this book.
Me: No dog gets shot in that book.
Her: Well, people have told me that one does...
Me: No, not in that book. Dogs get SHOT in BETWEEN. In GODS, they get beaten to death with shovels.

She BLANCHED in absolute horror and I realized what I said. In my tired head I was just setting the record straight about what thing happens to which fictional dog in what book, BUT it came out like the meanest most casual off the cuff YEAH I KILL DOGS ALLA DERN TIME callous hateful thing to say. I thought I was going to burst into tears and then the ABSOLUTE absurdity of the moment hit me...I started giggling helplessly WHICH OF COURSE she thought I was giggling with delight at the thought of, OH I DON'T KNOW, getting the hell out of there to go string up dogs by the feetses and beat them like pinatas....I REALLY wished the earth would swallow me.

She was actually a VERY nice and infinitely patient lady and once I had managed to get myself under control I apologized and explained the scenes and what happened to which dogs and why it happens and pointed out that SHOT dog was actually an abused and mistrained animal that was EATING A GRANDMOTHERLY DEAR OLD LADY at the time of its death and etc... and I asked her to read the books herself before judging me. She was gracious about the whole thing, considering.

I was near suicidal with despair as we left---really it's been one thing after another and I can't seem to do a DERN THING right these days---but luckily I had the Universe's best Media Rep with me. As I sunk down into the depths in the seat beside her, she said OH JOSHILYN LOOK!

We were passing THE HUMANE SOCIETY!

Her: Want me to drop you off there?
Me: You think I could work off some bad karma?
Her: Nahhhh...I was thinking you might want to go by for some of your usual recreation. March in with a shotgun and yell PULL!

She raised her amrs up and n a simple, fluid gesture she TRULY managed to capture the essence of canine skeet shooting...

Oddly, this cheered me up. The ABSURDITY OF IT. Because I've never hurt an animal in my LIFE. I"VE freakin' worked as a volunteer for the humane society MYSELF TOO. I used to be one of their dog-washers for their summer fundraisers, and I have dragged home AN INFINITE number of lost wandering animals and either found their original homes or, if no one claimed them, found good homes for them, and I am the one who, when my old cat died and I was left PETLESS for the first time in my life, realized I was sinking into actual clinical depression from NOT HAVING AN ANIMAL FRIEND IN THE HOUSE..The media reps over the top suggestions kinda put it all into perspective.

But later, tried and alone again, at the airport, I replayed my AWFUL THING I SAID over and over and fell back to brooding over my horridness. Then my phone chimed. I had a message. It was my very favorite media rep again, crooning to her dog that she had managed to get me out of town before I ate him, and then pretending to notice that the message was recording and saying she was calling to wish me a good flight. LORD but I LOVE her. She gets me. I half thought of going to her house and whanging her over the head and stuffing her inert body into my suitcase and taking her with me EVERYWHERE. FOREVER.

You think I am kidding, but considering the way I treat fictional PEOPLE, I wouldn't put it past me...

Posted by joshilyn at July 18, 2006 9:00 AM
Comments

Um...is this the whole post? Because I am now PANTING (not unlike a soon-to-be-shot Southern gothic dog) to hear the rest.

Posted by: Aimee at July 18, 2006 10:28 AM

WHOOPSIE! THERE the whole post is up.

It was human error... SEE! SEE HOW EVERY SMALL THINK I TOUCH TURNS TO POO? I am like a smellier version of King Midas these days.

I need a vodka martini SO dirty it qualifies as filthy.

Posted by: joshilyn at July 18, 2006 11:00 AM

You don't turn things to poo! If you did, how could you be so durn pretty? Now, if only you'd come to SoCal I could buy you the biggest martini ever just to prove it. Alas.

Posted by: Aimee at July 18, 2006 11:07 AM

Heehee... some people get their panties so firmly wadded that their vision is actually blocked so they can't see any farther than their own Special Important Issue...

Posted by: Heather Cook at July 18, 2006 11:09 AM

What Heather said.

BTW Joss is on the CGGG circuit this week. She's trapped at Natalie Collin's http://www.nataliercollins.com/weblog/

Joss, you are far too funny. I hadn't realised (until just this very last week) that there was such a HUGH demarcation line over killing off fictional Fluffy bunnies, little kitties, and kids in well FICTION. People don't get upset over a vicious dog killing granny, but darn, dont' kill the dog in your book.

Posted by: Cele at July 18, 2006 11:57 AM

What Heather and Cele said. I was so creeped out by how the little kid died in gIA and how the Crabtrees acted in BG that I couldn't get emotional about any of the dogs. If the dogs had survived the books without a scratch, I would've wondered if the human characters were playing with full decks.

Posted by: Elizabeth at July 18, 2006 12:48 PM

Monday, I promise, no dogs. ;)

Posted by: Heather at July 18, 2006 1:41 PM

oh, my, oh my, I can't breath.
Me: No, not in that book. Dogs get SHOT in BETWEEN. In GODS, they get beaten to death with shovels.
WHY OH, WHY, COULDN'T I HAVE BEEN BEHIND THAT WOMAN?
I do believe my genteel southern self would have been snorten' & guffawing all over the place...or peeing my pants. I don't know which, depends on how much coffee I'd had.
Your so pretty & funny, I just can't stand it!

Posted by: desi at July 18, 2006 1:51 PM

The new motto of my non-profit group: Save the fictional dogs! Of course I will have to take time out from my other fantasy do-gooder group, the Apostrophe Liberation Front, to work on this.

Posted by: Suebob at July 18, 2006 2:08 PM

Does this mean I should be worried about sharing a meal or drinks with you now?

Posted by: Autumn at July 18, 2006 3:36 PM

Well, thanks to that Media Rep, I'm leaving my puppy at home when I come to Charlotte tomorrow! No way are you getting anywhere near him.

Seriously though, I think I would have had a very hard time not either a)laughing or b) yelling. I mean, she did understand that you write FICTION, correct? And that you didn't actually shoot or shovel ANY dogs for research, correct? And that the death of dogs in general is not advocated by you in ANY way in EITHER of those books, correct? I know, I know, she wasn't mean, you made that clear. But still, I think I'm glad I was NOT behind her in line, because I'd have had a hell of a time keeping my big dumb mouth shut.

See ya tomorrow!! (Yippee, Yippee, it's finally almost here!!)

Posted by: dee at July 18, 2006 3:57 PM

This is OBVIOUSLY a horrible, HORROIBLE matter. Bring her to court!
Judge: Joshilyn Jackson, do you plead guilty to killing fictional dogs with fictional spades and fictional guns?
Joshilyn: Um. Yes.
Judge: You are shut away from society for ten years for harming imaginary dogs!

I mean, jeez, yell at people who kill REAL dogs. But fictional dogs? Not so much. ;)

Posted by: IrishGal at July 18, 2006 4:30 PM

Don't they make you put those little disclaimers in small print at the back, No Dogs Were Harmed etc etc?

Posted by: kate q at July 18, 2006 5:04 PM

Honta?

Posted by: rams at July 18, 2006 5:06 PM

rams is worried about 'honta' in the blog post.

Don't worry rams, Joss is Very Tired & spell-check is off. She meant 'Hanta' as in Hanta virus. But no worries, no one will get Hanta virus from reading her blog. Unless they're sweeping up their own home-grown mousy droppings as they read.

Posted by: Lulu at July 18, 2006 8:55 PM

Take heart Ms. J. If the Lord above weren't dropping these off-beat characters at your book events, what on earth would make us laugh and snort our own martinis out our noses? Take them as the blogging manna from heaven that they are meant to be and rejoice that the quirkiest of characters make for good bloggin'.

Posted by: Kim G. at July 18, 2006 9:29 PM

This is one of those situations that is really hard to articulate, but it's true. One of the things we've learned in bookselling is that you really shouldn't kill dogs or kids unless you're trying for that gut-wrenching-deep-epiphany sort of book that everyone says you should read but you don't want to because it'll leave you depressed. You know the kind I mean, the kinds of books that win awards and end up being taught in schools but no one really wants to read them because they're too sad.

Litrachure, I believe it's called.

But if you're writing that most awful of all types of books (from a litrachure perspective you understand!), the Popular Novel, then you have to have really good reasons for killing off dogs - or any animal really, if it's warm and cuddly at some point in its life - and kids, or whoever does it has to meet a seriously gruesome end. SERIOUSLY gruesome!

I've read both books and you've done wonderful things, Peach! And the Humane Society people will agree once they've read it, honest they will.

And I have to say that, "in GODS, they get beaten to death with shovels" had me laughing until I cried! Keep writing, oh yes, keep writing!

Posted by: Fran at July 18, 2006 11:50 PM

That in-gods-they-get-beaten-to-death-with-shovels revelationary moment? Oh, to have been a fly on the wall; to have fallen off the wall from laughing at her expression -- and yours when you realized what you'd just said. It would have been worth the bruises.

Posted by: David at July 19, 2006 7:41 AM

Darling, do not get a beagle mix. They HOWL, and also they SMELL.

Plus they're sort of hard to kill with shovels.

Hmmm. I sort of see Maisy riding off into the sunset on a Labradoodle. Or a mini SCHNAUZER (which is what I want; I am biased)!

*petpet* You will survive tour. You will survive tour. And look at all the good stories it's giving you ALREADY!

Posted by: Mir at July 19, 2006 8:11 AM

ROFLMAO I am *really* looking forward to hearing you speak tomorrow.

Posted by: Shannan at July 19, 2006 1:43 PM

I just got home from Lexington to find a box from Alabama Booksmith with "Between..." in it! :::Prance::: I don't care if you fictionally shot, stabbed, bludgeoned and/or drowned big-eyed dogs, fluffy kitties, cuddly small children, and a bus full of singing nuns in it - I can't wait to read it!!

Posted by: DebR at July 19, 2006 5:27 PM

Oh, my. I have to confess that I had never ever heard of you before tonight, but the title of that post got me. (I have 5 dogs. Everyone in the world knows, just from glancing in my direction on the freeway, that I am the biggest dog sucker in the entire state. Really.) Then I read the rest of it, and nearly fell out of my chair at the gerbils... I have pet mice too. There's a dreadfully cute one sitting beside my monitor now.

Anyway, I love your post, and I'm off now to read some more... and find out who you are and what you write so I can go find that too, at the nearest bookstore tomorrow morning. Thank you for a wonderful read.

Posted by: Kim at July 19, 2006 9:31 PM

Nothing to do with this post, but yesterday when I opened my Southern Living (hooray! best day of the month is when SL arrives in the mailbox).... there in live print was Between, Georgia, on the "Books About the South" page!! Don't know about you, Joshilyn, but that's about The Pinnacle in my estimation. :) Congrats.

Posted by: el-e-e at July 20, 2006 7:51 AM

Great. Now I want a hot dog.

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Posted by: injury knee pilates reformer at July 20, 2006 10:15 PM

Well, just letting you know that if you ever manage to wander over to the West Coast you are more than welcome to come on over to my house and bathe anyone of my numerous critters (you DID say you use to help out by bathing dogs at the Humane Society, right?!) and you may also snuggle and ruffle said critters ears to your heart's content! Be it known that I have 4 dogs and two cats, so that's lots of snuggling and ear-ruffling! Fictional characters are just that--FICTIONAL. You gotta follow your muse or do what the girls in the basement tell you to do. Sometimes that means killing someone (or something) off. Doesn't make you a bad person. Just honest. And real. Keep on being true to yourself--obviously it is working!!

Posted by: Sheri at July 21, 2006 3:42 PM

THANK YOU. I feel much better about the whole thing, and YES I meant HANTA. I am on the road and cannot even proofread due to the limited amount of blog time I have.

ALSO!!!! MOCK NOT THAT FINEST OF ALL DOGS, the hound.

I LOVE that Hound smell. Hobbes was sort of a RANDOM houndy-like object, and Tobidog was a full on Bassett I got from Bassett Rescue.

Hounds are the BEST DOGS and I find the odd sorrowful howl to be ENDEARING. The beagle mix puppy was Half Beagle, Half Bassett with a sprinkle of only-God-knows, and the cutest dog EVER.

Posted by: Joshilyn at July 23, 2006 11:17 AM