By Octavia Findley
If the clouded sky did not bring an air of remembrance to the Book House, then the people did, holding thinly bound, sunset toned books in hand, milling around the store, waiting for the author of God Needed a Puppy. I somehow expected a much thicker volume but it was a heartwarming tale of a child that just lost his dog. In short order, I was taken aback by a room of adults and children, telling stories of pets passing suddenly, being put to sleep, and being hit by cars. The fond memories were more telling of their love for their fur babies than their accounts of their deaths. John Gray walked in a bit later, accompanied by his own family and a white Australian Shepard named Keller. The line for signatures was there in a flash with children held close to the waist of their caregivers. I waited until the crowd had dissipated before taking an interview, in the few minutes I took, the line had returned in earnest:
Octavia Findley: Why did you choose a children’s book for such a universal experience?
John Gray: It is the story that came out of me. I didn’t really make a choice; I just sat down to write, first for myself. Then I realized it was a story for children.
OF: How long did it take you to write?
JG: I started it on a Sunday and was finished on a Thursday.
OF: Wasn’t it intense?
JG: It was. The first draft was for myself. The second draft, I had realized I did not want to be about me, it was something for kids. The final draft was just fine-tuning the ending…It came from a place of love; if you write from a place of love, it comes easier. If you told me to write a book on how to run a store in a shopping plaza it would have taken me three months and it would have been a lot harder.
OF: Has the penning of this title helped you in your grieving process?
JG: It has. It helped me when I wrote it; it made me feel a bit better when I wrote the story. Seeing how many people that it helped, it made me feel that losing this puppy had a purpose that I didn’t understand as I lost him. It helped me understand that this was his purpose.
OF: Were you an author previously?
JG: I’ve written previously for newspapers, but nothing like this. No books, no children’s stuff, always columns and articles. It was all journalism.
OF: Would you be willing to continue this as a secondary career?
JG: Yes, I’ve written a second book which is coming out in February, another children’s book about a different topic: a dog with disabilities who struggles to fit with a child that has disabilities and they find each other. They help each other. It’s based on a dog I have, named Keller. He has his own book now.
OF: Do you have any advice for your readership in this shared experience?
JG: My advice would be to listen to your heart. You’ll never really go wrong.
OF: As a new author, do you have any advice for people just starting out in marketing and publishing?
JG: Yes, it’s as hard as you think it’s going to be. You’ll hear “No,” a lot more than you’ll ever hear “Yes.” Just keeping trying. Keep knocking on doors. Eventually one will open for you.