Thursday, May 29, 2014

Anthony Bidulka & Kona and Magic

Who is in the photo at right?

My name is Anthony Bidulka and I’m the author of two series, a long-running mystery series featuring detective Russell Quant, and a new suspense series featuring Disaster Recovery Agent Adam Saint. Fifteen years ago I left a long career as a CPA to write full time and spend more time with my dogs. Today I’m with my two labradoodles. Kona is the blond, five years old, and Magic is her four-year-old half-sister.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

One of our favourite things to do on the weekend, is to go for a long walk around the border of our property, with something great to drink for me, and lots of exciting things to sniff for Kona and Magic.

What's brewing?

Starbucks Dark Roast, with just a splash of heated skim milk.

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

Just the fresh air and the wind in our faces.

How did your dogs get their names? Any aliases?

We’d gone a few years without dogs after we lost our first girls, Mocha and Bali, within a couple months of each other. They were such great dogs, could never be replaced, and we wondered if we were done as dog owners. Plus, we travel a lot and didn’t see that changing. Of course, a house used to the kinetic, loving, exuberant, cozy energy of dogs, simply radiates a certain barrenness without them.

Turns out, it was travel that got us thinking about it again. We remembered how we named Bali after our first trip to Indonesia. And it was while we were walking the beach in one of our favourite getaway spots in Hawaii, that we started chatting about what we would name a new dog if we happened to get one. Kona came to mind. It was a nice blend of the names of our first pair, Mocha (like Kona, another coffee flavor) and Bali (named after a resort we loved, whereas Kona is the name of a popular Hawaiian district). Slippery slope as they say. Once we had a name the actual dog soon followed.

Magic came to us a year later. We actually made a list of dog names we liked. Molly was the top. But when we finally met Kona’s sister, her demeanor and black coloring just shouted out Magic. We often call her Magical, because of her sweet spirit.

How were you and your dogs united?

Both dogs were bred by the same woman, Margaret, who lives in a city several hours away. We’d heard good things about her and her dogs raising practices, but with our busy schedules we were having a hard time finding time to see her puppies when they were ready. Understanding our interest, she told us that she just happened to be delivering a puppy to another owner nearby, and she would be willing to drop off the puppy we were interested in (we’d only seen photos) to spend the day with us. As it happened, I was in California on a book tour, so only my husband was home to share the time with the pup. Of course, the puppy never went back with Margaret, and was firmly ensconced in our home by the time I got back.

I think Margaret knew exactly what she was doing, because a year later, when we were considering a companion for Kona and called her, she told us the same story: she just happened to be delivering a puppy to another owner nearby, and she would be willing to drop off the puppy we were interested in to spend the day with us. Strangely enough, this time it was my husband who was out of town, and by the time he returned from his business trip, Kona’s sister Magic was busily casting her spell over our (her) home.

How do your dogs help--or hinder--your writing?

In four very important ways. First: I prefer solitude and complete quiet when I am in serious writing mode. No radio, no chatter in the background. Dogs fit perfectly into that kind of scenario. They are always present, but quiet, often doing nothing more than having a snooze on the couch in front of the desk where I write. But they lend a certain coziness and familiarity and groundedness that I associate with a good writing day.

Second: When things aren’t flowing quite right, or something needs a bit of a think-over, there is nothing better than to take a walk around the grounds, have a quick game of fetch in the back yard, or a brisk jaunt around the neighbourhood, to clear the head and get some new thoughts brewing. I don’t know how many times I’ve been off with the dogs and the perfect idea or heretofore stubborn solution suddenly springs to mind.

Third: In pretty much all of my books, especially the Russell Quant series, I also have dog characters. They don’t usually have too big a role, and they don’t talk or solve crimes or anything like that, but they do the same thing they do for me - create an atmosphere and lend a special flavor of reality to fiction, especially if you write them well. It doesn’t take much, just a certain wag of tail or sniff of nose to communicate a great deal. And how a character interacts with animals can speak volumes about that character. Having the pets I’d had in my life has been invaluable in helping me do that, if for no other reason than to teach me that dogs, and other animals, are just as unique and quirky as the rest of us. One dimensional characterizations don’t work for humans and they don’t work for animals.

Four: Writing can be a butt-numbing endeavor. It can be easy to allow your inner world take over in favor of the outer, including physical exercise. Kona and Magic are generally well-behaved, and I know they say dogs can’t tell time, but these two definitely know if I’m late for our regularly scheduled walks and make me aware of it. They need it, and I do too.

Have any actual dogs inspired fictional dogs in your writing?

Oddly enough, the two dogs in the Russell Quant books are Standard Schnauzers. I’ve never owned Schnauzers, but I’ve met quite a few and always liked them. And one in particular, a little character named Alex, was definitely the inspirational starting point for my literary creations of Barbra and Brutus. The dogs I write about in the Adam Saint books are rough amalgamations of the dogs we had when I was growing up on the farm.

Squirrel, postman, cat....?

Living where we do, on an acreage outside a city, Kona and Magic don’t get to see a postman. We have no squirrels. But there is a neighbor cat who does make regular appearances in the night and who loves to drive Kona mad by posing on the other side of a glass door knowing full well how safe she is. Kona has been known to go after the odd gopher, rabbit, and just the other day she gave her best at chasing down a low flying pair of geese. Magic is little more restrained and seems to have the opinion: if it can’t pet me, why go after it?

Who are your dogs' best pet-pals?

Definitely each other. They had their alpha-dog fight-to-near-death competition in their first six months together (Kona won quite handily), and ever since are best pals. When we travel, Kona and Magic move in with a mother-daughter team who board a few special dogs (taken in only after an interview process!), and I think Kona may use these opportunities to have quiet affairs with a young fellow named Miguel.

What is each dog's best quality?

Kona has an independence which is admirable. Generally all four of us tend to hang out a lot when we’re all at home. But if we’re outside and she’s hot, she’ll simply disappear and we’ll find her on the other side of the yard in a hidden shade area, whereas Magic just sweats it out just to be near us. If it’s late and she’s tired, Kona will simply totter off to the bedroom without a backwards glance. Yet, she still manages to balance this independence and confidence with just enough affection and silliness and kindness to make her endearing.

Most definitely Magic’s best quality is how sweet she is. She truly loves nothing better than to be next to you, or within sight of you, and if your hand happens to be rubbing her belly or scratching an ear, all the better. She’s the one who will come up to you, plop down on her haunches, and stare up adoringly into your face, just because.

If your dogs could change one thing about Saskatonians, what would it be?

For Magic, they would come over more often and pet her, rub her belly, scratch her nose, bring treats. For Kona, the vet and groomer would move far far far away from Saskatoon and never be heard from again. For both of them, as much as they seem to enjoy visiting the sitters when we’re away, I think they’d much prefer it if we never left home, ever, not even for a second.

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which your dogs could speak, which actors should do their voices?

Kona: Julia Roberts. Magic: Drew Barrymore.

If your dogs could answer only one question in English, what would you ask them?

Do you really—as the vet and dog professionals suggest—prefer the same, albeit healthy, round, brown, dry kibble every day?

Visit Anthony Bidulka's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

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