Kat has always felt drawn to the innocence of children and animals. While she was growing up, her family rescued and adopted a lot of animals, from dogs and cats to ponies, and even a timber wolf! After graduating from UCLA, she spent a long time indulging in entrepreneurial careers. Finally, with the release of her first book, she’s found her way back to her first loves- writing, children and animals! This book is inspired by her brother’s dog Primo (See the Featured Photo). Visit her- www.KatEErikson.com Twitter-@KatE_Erikson , Amazon- Author Page
- Please describe your book in a single sentence.
Can animal-obsessed Francie Waggit score her first rescue dog . . . for keeps?
- Which books do you think have affected your life the most?
My sister and I were both horse crazy as kids, and we read every horse story we could get our hands on. Black Beauty had an enormous emotional impact on me. Seeing the story unfold through the horse’s eyes truly spurred my lifelong interest in animal welfare.
The Velveteen Rabbit taught me that the more we love something, the more real and beautiful it becomes.
Lastly, The Secret Garden showed me how one true hearted person can uplift and transform the world around them. Dickon’s joy and love for all things living inspired and healed the two main characters, Mary and Colin, as the three of them nursed the neglected garden back to life.
- How much of your book comes from true events?
While Pet-Friendly Francie is primarily a work of fiction, the main conflict follows a very real challenge my brother faced with his first rescue dog, Primo. Primo loved my brother so much that he’d escape everyday to follow him to school, which was a real challenge for my parents, much like in the story. Primo was clever and could pull off many tricks, but I won’t tell if he really tried out for the 49ers football team!
Also, my father and uncle grew up on the Presidio in San Francisco. As a young woman, my mom moved to San Francisco and fell in love with my dad (who is an actual PET—physical education teacher), so the setting has historical significance to our family.
- You often describe yourself as a wildlife conservationist and animal rights activist. How did your interest in such things arise?
My mom grew up on a farm, and as a young girl she started her own veterinary clinic and raised her own baby deer. Later, when she moved to the city and met my dad, they connected through their mutual love of animals. Thanks to my folks, we kids had many pets growing up, everything from Aristotle the tortoise to Ratty Rascal, our inquisitive and gentle pet rat, to ponies, horses and birds. We also had many adopted cats and dogs over the years, including a timber wolf named Buck. All of them brought us so much joy. We learned that every animal has its own unique personality and depth of feelings, just like humans do.
I’ll never forget the day my sister and I decided to write our first animal welfare letter together. We huddled under a tree on our elementary school playground, #2 pencils in hand, and asked a big company to be kinder to animals. All these years later, we’re still at it.
- What do you do when you’re not writing?
A few years ago, I was lucky enough to move to the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Being a city girl all my life, I didn’t realize what I’d been missing. Known as the Jewel of the Sierras, the Lake Tahoe area is hiking heaven, and I’ve fallen in love with exploring trails and discovering the simple treasures one finds in nature.
- Do you have a special message for your readers?
Like the teacher in Pet-Friendly Francie says, “Kindness is contagious.” Throughout my life, I’ve seen the power of kindness produce miracles. Whether it’s being kind to others, to our animal friends, or to ourselves, I find it’s like a secret knock that opens the door to a bright and shiny world. Kindness brings out the best in each of us, including animals. As the noted philosopher Dr. Albert Schweitzer said, “Until man extends the circle of compassion to all living things, man himself will not find peace.”
- Is there anything about you that people might be surprised to know?
My younger brother, his wife, and two children happen to live in the Himalayan foothills of India, halfway around the globe from the rest of the family! We spend a fair amount of time travelling to see each other. On one recent trip to India, we visited a wildlife sanctuary for endangered Bengal tigers, and we had the rare treat of spotting (from the safety of a jeep) two tiger cubs, playfully pouncing on each other in the wild.
- What was the hardest part of writing this book?
To quote my older brother Steve, who inspired Pet-Friendly Francie, “A challenge is only a challenge when you’re not sure you can do it!” He was like a superhero who found overcoming huge obstacles to be great fun (whereas I tremble in my boots). Despite having written a draft of another novel, I decided to shelve that one and work on a children’s story instead, based on the love between Steve and his first rescue dog, Primo. Not long after I began, I got the devastating news that my brother had been diagnosed with a serious form of cancer. I vowed to finish and publish the story, no matter what, in honour of Steve, since that’s how he lived his life—he was unstoppable.
My challenge was to use the true storyline of how Primo followed Steve to school every day but to set the story in San Francisco and make the main character a girl. I also wanted to include the 49ers and Giants (Steve was a long time fan, and so is my dad) and real animal welfare organizations we support, like Best Friends and PAWS, in a way that felt organic to the story.
Through a recent Amazon review of Pet-Friendly Francie, I learned that some youngsters who read the book have been inspired to become wildlife conservationists when they grow up. I teared up when I read that—it’s the best compliment I could ever receive!
- Lastly, what’s your motto in life?
“Love is more powerful than fear.” I’d even venture to say that love is infinitely more powerful. All miracles come from acts of love, and if there were only one thing I could master in my lifetime, it would simply be to love more.
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