In the original draft of her young adult novel, Between Shadow’s Eyes, Jill Hedgecock's canine character was a fluffy border collie mix modeled after her own rescue dog. But then fate intervened and suddenly she was inspired to transform the shadow figure into a Doberman with a red zippered nose.
Christopher Locke knew from the start of his journey as a writer that he wanted to stand up for animals and took the opportunity to educate his readers about dog fighting in his second book, Vincent and The Dissidents.
Here they discuss how they wrote about vicious races.
What made you write about races that are often misrepresented in the media?
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Jill Hedgecock: I started writing a dog rescue column for The Diablo Gazette, an entertainment magazine based in the Bay Area, in the fall of 2017. In discussions with the publisher about the mascot and the title of my column, he suggested using Ruby, a Doberman with a red zipper nose and a large Instagram audience, as the avatar and “Ruby Dooby Do to the Rescue” as the column title. I didn't know that much about the Doberman breed at the time, but since Ruby had a huge following, it sounded great to me. It wasn't until September 2018, when my column included an interview with Ruby's owner Charles Lindsey, that I realized how cute Dobermans can be. The idea of putting people on the soft side of the breed was the impetus for switching dogs in my novel.
Christopher Locke: In every book by The Enlightenment Adventures, I mix entertainment with education to shed light on various animal rights issues. In Vincent and the Dissidents, I decided to uncover the cruel world of dog fighting, which is more common than you think. What these poor dogs go through in training and dog fighting is terrible. Not only did I want to inspire people to actively try to end the dog fight, I also wanted to show that pit bulls are unjustifiably classified as malicious. If you've ever met a pit bull they are darlings.
What surprised you most about writing about vicious races?
Jill: How many Doberman Pinscher owners are there and how passionate they are for the breed! While searching for book endorsements, I met John Walter of Doberman Planet who shared my vision of promoting information about the Doberman breed. And then there's Ruby's fan base. Her owner, Charles Lindsey, is a photographer and his pictures do an amazing job of capturing Ruby's personality. This Dobie has some die-hard fans and many were thrilled to see her picture in my novel. A woman had stamped the cover of my novel while walking around Europe. I had the privilege of meeting Ruby while my book trailer was being made, and seeing her deep dedication to Charles firsthand was perhaps the best surprise of all.
Christopher: It is important to me that the books accurately reflect the topic I am covering, so I do a lot of research. There was so much I didn't know about dog fighting before I wrote the book. Cruel as you think, it's worse. For example, people obviously cannot take injured dogs to veterinarians, so they do operations on the dogs to stitch wounds and the like, and of course these people have no medical training and do not use anesthesia. There is a lot of money in dog fights. When a dog loses a fight people get angry and sometimes kill the dogs in the most hideous ways.
One of the reasons people use pit bulls for dog fights is because they are really loyal dogs. Even though humans abuse them, dogs still want to please their humans. It is so sad that people take advantage of such a noble trait. If you're looking to adopt a dog, consider a pit bull. Shelters are often filled with American Pit Bull Terriers in need of loving homes.
How do your books reveal or expose preconceived notions about your particular dog breeds?
Jill: In the first novel, Between Shadow's Eyes, Shadow comes into Sarah's life after losing her father. Sarah doesn't want to adopt a dog, but like in real life, dogs tend to find us. Like most canines, Shadow senses the vulnerable condition of their new owner and readers can see the sweet, loving, loyal side of Dobermans. In From Shadow's perspective, Shadow is the foundation for her adaptation to her orphan life and transition to a new high school. In addition, I include an afterword in both books that speaks about the breed and how many times it has been maligned by the media.
Christopher: The main character in the dog fighting department is a kind hearted dog named Rasha. They follow their lives while forced to endure strenuous training and when trying to survive multiple fights with other dogs. Throughout the experience she is appalled by what she is being forced to do. She doesn't want to hurt other dogs and yet, in order to survive, she has to go against her cute nature and fight. I hope that everyone who reads Rasha's story will be moved to act on behalf of all of these dogs caught in dog fighting rings. The biggest compliments I get from people who have read my books are when they say that the books inspired them to show more compassion for animals, or that the books revived their activism.