Must Love Dogs book group discussion

Wallace: The Underdog Who Conquered a Sport, Saved a Marriage, and Championed Pit Bulls-- One Flying Disc at a Time
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Jim Gorants answers to our questions

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Cara Achterberg (caraachterberg) | 19 comments Mod
Jim Gorant graciously agreed to answer our questions. He's not just an enormously talented writer, he's also an incredibly generous individual.

For your questions, keep in mind it’s now six or seven years since I wrote Wallace so some things get fuzzy.

How did you know Brad Mirren’s story?

Clara and Roo knew a bit about Wallace’s original owner. That was enough to get me started. I did some sleuthing and had a confidential source so I can’t say too much about some of it. Also, keep in mind that changing the story so the people were not identifiable, which was necessary, requires messing with (adding, subtracting, inventing) some details. In that situation, you want to relay the core of what happened, the essential truth, without making the actual truth explicit.

How did you first get involved with Wallace and his family (Roo and Clara)?

Roo and Clara adopted one of the dogs from Michael Vick’s fighting operation, Hector. When I was working on The Lost Dogs, in 2008/09, I considered making Hector one of the main characters and had a number of conversations on the phone with Roo. I ended up going another way, but Roo and Hector participated in a number of publicity events after the book came out, during which I got to know him better. He first proposed the idea of a book about Wallace.

How much time did you have to spend with Roo and Clara to write such an intimate story?

As mentioned, I’d known them for about two years before I started researching the book, so I knew some of their story. Also, for part of that time they were living about an hour away from me, so I saw them a little bit and at the least they were comfortable with me and there was a level of trust. Then, at the outset, I went to stay with them in Minnesota for four or five days. We visited a lot of the key sites and spent hours delving into their life. I went off and did other research and started working on the book, and once I got into the guts of it, for a period of maybe four or five weeks, I was on the phone with either Roo or Clara or both for an hour or two every night. Add to that an endless chain of emails.

Did Roo and Clara read the manuscript prior to publishing? Did they have much input?

One thing I was clear about before we started was that I was writing a book about their life with this dog, it wasn’t an "as told to" or "Roo and Clara with Jim.” That said, they read the completed manuscript before I submitted it for publication. This was a fact checking exercise, since there were no surprises in the book — considering 90% of the content came from them. I think Clara found one or two small inaccuracies that we fixed. I did, wherever possible, corroborate their recollection of events with other sources. There were some things that came from me — some of the teasing of Josh, and nailing Roo for his “yep” habit, etc. — but those made them laugh because they helped capture the reality of their lives.

How long did it take to write this story?

It’s hard to say. I wrote it in about seven months but that was while working a full-time job. Not sure how long it would have taken if it was the only thing on my plate.

Do you own a dog? What’s he/she like?

At the time I wrote the book we had a black-and-gray poodle/chow/shih tzu mix named Chester. He was a stocky 24 pounds and had one bottom snaggle tooth that stuck out, giving him a sort of Bowery Boys look. He was older when we rescued him so he was settled and mature and cool. Chester was your buddy, the dude you watched the game or discussed your troubles with. Unfortunately he got very sick about four years after we got him and we had to put him down in 2015. A few months later we rescued another poodle/?? mix and named him Cooper. He’s a bit of devil — his nickname is the Little Stinker — but he’s energetic and fun and silly and he loves belly rubs and licking faces and he curls up next to you when you’re reading or watching TV. Chester, while sweet, was way too dignified for any such tomfoolery.

What are you working on next?

Don’t know. I’m no longer at Sports Illustrated and am now writing/editing/consulting full time. Been actively looking for a new project but haven’t found the right thing yet. For better or worse, it will probably not be a dog book.


Gina Moltz | 14 comments Those were great questions! It is so cool to get to chat with an author. There are tons I would like to be friends with. Wouldn’t Maeve Bunche have been a cool aunt?


Cara Achterberg (caraachterberg) | 19 comments Mod
Gina wrote: "Those were great questions! It is so cool to get to chat with an author. There are tons I would like to be friends with. Wouldn’t Maeve Bunche have been a cool aunt?"

I love his descriptions of the dogs and his use of the word - tomfoolery! I looked up his other books and ordered Fanatic for Nick, I think he'll love it.


Gena - My Book Reviews for You | 7 comments Thank you! Those were great questions, some I didn't think of! I'm glad he wrote back to you. Sorry, I'm so late getting in on your conversation. I got laid off from a part time job 3 months ago. I really enjoyed that time to spend with my family and read more, but I had to go back to work for financial reasons. I just got hired somewhere and started this week. My first full time job in a long time so it's been quite an adjustment.


Cara Achterberg (caraachterberg) | 19 comments Mod
Gena - My Book Reviews for You wrote: "Thank you! Those were great questions, some I didn't think of! I'm glad he wrote back to you. Sorry, I'm so late getting in on your conversation. I got laid off from a part time job 3 months ago. I..."

Congrats on the job - good luck getting back to that every day grind!


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