Dagny McKinley – Author Interview

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

Wild Hearts, Dog Sledding the Rockies is a coffee table book based on my experiences over the past three years working as a dog sledding tour guide at Grizzle-T Dog & Sled Works. The book takes a look at the life of these dogs, their strength and passion and how much they have affected my life. The photography captures a bit of their wildness, their innocence and their loving natures. The book covers what the dogs eat, how they are bred, their friends, their loves and how a dog sledding kennel runs.

Being pulled through the snow by a team of dogs who love what they do is one of the most incredible experiences.

Tell us something about yourself.

The first story I remember writing was ‘How the Leprechauns Got Their Name.’ I was in elementary school and loved creating stories. No matter what else was going on in my life, I found time to write stories, screenplays, articles, books and plays. I received my MFA from Naropa University three years ago and have gone on to write for local and regional magazines as well as publishing my book. I also write the column ‘Audrey Rose,’ about a whimsical girl whose first love is nature – www.SweetAudreyRose.com.

What inspired you to write this book?

After my first season of dog sledding I made a book for the staff as a remembrance of the year. My boss, Kris, had it displayed in the warming hut where guests enjoy a hot chocolate or cider after the trip. Guests started asking where they could buy one, so I decided to jump in and put together the book. There was no better inspiration than the dogs. To be able to capture their personalities and share them with people makes me smile!

How did you choose the title?

I wanted to emphasize the fact that these dogs are wild animals. They aren’t house dogs, but they have the biggest hearts. Their unconditional love has helped me through some rough times in my life.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

I have loved writing for as long as I can remember. At 32 I realized I needed to make a go of a writing career or put it out of my mind. Getting my MFA gave me the confidence (and financial debt) I needed to get my work out into the world. Once I had my MFA, I approached the local paper and asked if I could write a fiction column for them. They had never had a fiction writer, but they took a chance on me. It turned out to be a great endeavor for both of us. I also approached local and regional magazines and offered to write a piece for free. If they liked it, they could pay me, otherwise we could part ways. I never had an editor who didn’t pay.

Do you have any writing rituals?

My writing happens in spurts or under deadline. The only reoccurring aspect of my writing is the fear I have of sitting down to start a new project. There is always the possibility that nothing will come out, or it will be horrible. Once I get to it, I relax, but that fear still nags me.

Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?

I learned a lot about how to market a book and speak in front of people. As a part of giving back, I will travel anywhere in the US and talk to school kids about dog sledding. My sled dog, Alma Rose, accompanies me and I do a humorous slide show and talk. The only requirement is that the school buy five books in the state of Colorado, or ten books outside of Colorado. The books can be used as prizes for reading or writing contests. I pay all travel expenses. I’ve spoken at bookstores, at schools in Colorado and last year traveled to Virginia to speak to a school there.

If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?

The only thing I would do differently is add more pictures. Every day there is something new to capture.

What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?

My heart was swept away by John Fante’s ‘Ask the Dust,’ and Dow Mossman’s ‘Stones of Summer.’

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

My next book will be based on my character Audrey Rose. The novel revolves around her experiences in a mountain town, her love of nature and her struggles to find her place in society.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

Don’t give up. No matter how many rejections you get, or how busy life gets, make time to write.

Who is the perfect reader for your book?

This book is definitely a book for dog lovers. Kids of all ages like the pictures, but for the text, kids around 6 or seven through adults will get the most out of it.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

The book can be purchased on my website at www.DogSleddingTheRockies.com or through Amazon.