Today on Paws4Thought we welcome Rocking Horse author Jeff Scoggin. Jeff’s first book Elf: OFF the Shelf was published by Rocking Horse Publishing in 2013. Now in February 2014 he is releasing a children’s picture book, How Tuffy Got His Bark. Tell us a little bit about yourself, Jeff.
Let’s see—I was born in Detroit, but moved to the Dallas area shortly after turning 6 and have been here ever since. I guess my Texas roots run deep, as I’ve never even given leaving Dallas any serious consideration. Even with the summer heat, Texas is home. My mom and two of my three sisters still live in the area, as well. I have a number of interests other than writing, including sports, advocating on behalf of shelter dogs, and volunteering with children and young people. I also love to cook, but have trouble cooking for just myself. Not a good thing, considering that I don’t care for leftovers.
When did you first start writing?
I started writing early on, probably around 6th grade. I always enjoyed writing assignments in Junior High and High School—it wasn’t until college that I came to understand that professors, like critics, could be a little sharp in their critiques. I would often write stories or poetry just for fun, but never gave being published any serious consideration for a number of years. Why? Because I didn’t believe my compositions were good enough…
Who are your favorite authors?
Katherine Kurtz, who wrote in the Fantasy genre back in the 1980s, is probably my all-time favorite author. I also enjoy Mark Helprin (a true master at painting pictures with words), Wally Lamb (a truly under-rated author, in my opinion), Pat Conroy (Beach Music should be in everybody’s personal library), and Kim Harmon Gatlin (another Dallas author).
What inspires you to write?
For the most part, I’m inspired by day-to-day events. Even if I don’t actually start a story that day, I’ll make mental notes that will, eventually, lead to a story. I should probably carry a notepad with me, as I’m sure a number of story possibilities have slipped by me.
Tell us a about Tuffy.
I’m very excited about Tuffy! He is based on Brutus, a small dog who adopted me in January 2014. I noticed Brutus seldom barks, and was inspired to write the story about Tuffy while watching a local news story about bullying. I’m presently volunteering with younger children (aged 4-6), so I naturally wrote with that age group in mind. One interesting thing about Tuffy is my writing style also appeals to people to whom English is a second language. This came out in one of my first test reads. I’d not anticipated that! I try to include a lesson in each of my Tuffy stories, but do it in a fun way that will hopefully stick with the young readers.
What are you currently working on?
I’m mentally story-boarding the fourth Tuffy book, which will touch on how we deal with differences between ourselves and others. I don’t want to give away too much, but I will say that Tuffy and his friends will be going to farm and making new friends there.
What do you like to do to relax?
I’m very much into volunteering and good works—not to draw attention to myself, but because my growing writing career continues to open doors for serving others. I’m passionate about shelter rescue, and am working with my local shelter to both increase adoptions and to find ways to improve the shelter itself. I foster for several different local rescue groups, and wish I had about 10 acres of land. I’d literally have a zoo! I also love to cook, as I mentioned above I (have a recipe for a chilled chipotle macaroni salad that is wonderful in the summer), and spending time with my girlfriend, Carrie.
Are you planning any release events?
I’m working on a release party sometime in March. My thinking is to do a “soft” launch on February 25, and celebrate a few weeks later. I want the launch party to be family-oriented, which presents an entirely different set of challenges regarding both location and time. If I could, I’d just rent out one of those pizza buffet places with games and stuff and just let the kids go nuts!
Tell us about your dogs.
What can I say? They actually own the house—I just live there with them (laughs)! Seriously, my dogs are my kids. All of them are shelter rescues or strays, and each has had to overcome past abuse or neglect. I refer to them as the Bumpus Hounds (after the neighbor’s dogs in “A Christmas Story”), and all of them have a name that starts with “B.” There’s Baby (a 12 year old Doberman), Buddy (a 10 year old German Shepherd), Bonnie (a 4 year old Lab/Pitbull mix), Brigid (a 3 year old Lab/St Bernard mix), Brutus (a mutt of unknown age, who was the inspiration for Tuffy), and Bella (a female Chihuahua who was surrendered to the local shelter because she was “too loving). Bella has her own story coming out later in 2014, with all of my royalties being donated to The Colony Animal Shelter. As you can imagine, it’s a full house!
How can readers connect with you?
I don’t have a website (yet), and am learning how to use Twitter. Readers can follow me on Twitter (@JeffS_Writes), and will hopefully soon be able to follow Tuffy on Facebook. I just have to figure out how to set up a profile for him…