Bonjour, mes amis! I’m so excited to welcome author Allie Larkin to chat about her debut novel, Stay. The book is about Van, a lovelorn young woman who, while drowning her sorrows with a few cocktails, accidentally buys a German shepherd puppy off the internet. Mayhem ensues, but in the end, could a dog named Joe possibly be the cure for a broken heart? I sat down with Allie to chat about unconditional dog love, real-life canine inspiration, and her favorite books about dogs.
Where did the idea for this book come from?
Stay started as a writing exercise in my senior creative writing class in college. I sent the story out and got some good feedback, but no bites. A few years later, I went back to it, just intending to polish it up and send it out again. Something wasn’t working, but I didn’t know how to fix it. I decided to write a scene as something of an outtake, in the hopes that it would influence my story if I knew more about my characters. And that’s where Stay starts. Eventually, I realized I wasn’t writing a short story anymore.
How did you create the character of Joe, the book’s 100-pound German shepherd puppy? Is he based on a real dog in your life?
Joe is the only character I’ve ever written that is based on a real being. Our dog, Argo, was the inspiration for Joe (and the cover model for the hardcover). Argo is from the Catskills, not Slovakia, and he wasn’t the result of a drunken buying spree. But he did change my life. Argo has taught me so much about unconditional love and friendship. I laugh every day, and I’m a better person because I get to share my life with him. I wanted that for Van, but I knew she’d never go about getting a dog the right way. She needed one to just kind of appear in her life.
Joe has the same open-heartedness that Argo does, and many of Argo’s mannerisms, but Argo transitioned into living with us very easily. When we adopted Stella, I found the perfect muse to help me create some of Joe’s more difficult moments. She has since settled down and stopped chewing everything in sight, but we had some inspiring incidents before she relaxed. Stella, by the way, is the subject of an essay that will be published this fall in the anthology, I’m Not the Biggest Bitch In This Relationship.
How does Van, your main character, benefit from her canine relationship?
Van was so stuck in her life. She had put herself in a place where she was very alone and wasn’t doing anything to change that. When she orders Joe, he gives her a family. She’s not alone anymore. There’s something amazing about the unconditional love we get from dogs. Joe makes it easier for Van to put herself out there, because no matter what happens, she’ll go home to a dog who loves her and is happy to see her. And, of course, there are those trips to the vet…
What are your favorite books about dogs?
I love Must Love Dogs by Claire Cook and Alison Pace’s books. When I was younger, I loved Call of the Wild and Julie of the Wolves. I had a fascination with the very real relationships people have with animals. Actually, I still do.
Lovely, funny, heartfelt, Stay is a novel about real relationships — male/female, human/canine. Curious? I’m delighted to give away a copy thanks to Allie’s publisher, Dutton! To win, leave a comment below with your favorite pet name (real or imaginary). The winner will be chosen at random next Friday, July 22.
Update: The winner is Lindsey! Thanks for playing, everyone!
(Top photos from Allie Larkin, bottom photo from Alice Jamieson.)