Ericka Waller Dog days is a debut novel about how dogs can bring out the best in us in the face of life’s challenges. We had the pleasure of chatting with Ericka about everything Dog days, plus writing, book recommendations, and more!
Hi, Ericka! Can you tell our readers a bit about yourself?
Hello! I’m 39 years old and I live in a small village outside Brighton in the UK with my husband, three daughters, three dogs, a domestic rabbit, a turtle, a guinea pig, a canary and some fish. There is a duck pond in the middle of my village, a church and an old English pub. It’s tiny and quaint and used to lots of smugglers.
I love books, Earl Gray tea, cakes, watching Superstore on Netflix and walking by the sea. I am very friendly, much like my Labrador. I love to talk about books. I love to talk actually.
I have rheumatoid arthritis and spend a lot of time in the hospital. I love an afternoon nap. I am an excessive and very curious supporter. A typical but kind Virgin.
After the chaos of 2020, have you set any goals for this year? If so, how do they get so far?
To complete the second book. Read more books (classics that I don’t know too much about) to best support other authors. Give up the sugar in my tea (that will never happen) give up the cake (that will never happen either).
Quick round lightning! Tell us about the first book you remember reading, the one that made you want to be an author, and the one you can’t stop thinking about!
Nancy Drew – Secrets Can Kill
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara
When was the first time you discovered your love of writing?
When I was in elementary school. I loved to write stories and poems.
Your first novel, Dog days, released on May 11e! If you could describe it in just five words, what would they be?
Funny. Sad. Surprising. Optimistic. Honest.
What can readers expect?
Laugh at the highlights, the tearful moments. Honest, imperfect, and relatable characters. A twist or two.
Where does the inspiration for Dog days comes from?
I have lost more than one close friend in sudden and tragic circumstances. My experience of death and grief was sudden and sharp as a knife. George is my experience of loss, turned into a man. An angry, scared and lost old man.
I was enormously influenced by “A little Life” and the love between the main characters. I didn’t want to write romance, but wanted the book to be imbued with different types of love. Platonic, sexual, maternal. Animal.
I wanted to write strong female characters. If women do something “unsavory”, society is looking for a reason. They must be “crazy” or “bad”. Men haven’t applied this to them. When they hurt, kill or break the law, it is accepted and not explained. It is human to fail, to lie, to cheat, to steal, to break, to hurt.
I wanted to explore how women are viewed by other women and how we need to force them into a form that we can understand, which goes hand in hand with the stories we tell ourselves. It always depends on how we feel, so we alter reality or bend truths to match what we need the world to be.
My dog cannot walk past a lamppost without toasting it. He barks at mailboxes. He does not hide his fear or his happiness. When he sees the man at the post office, who once gave him half a stale digestive cookie, his tail wags so much that he can no longer run straight. He must throw his head back and cry out for joy. Dogs do not have a “game”. They are faithful and easy and straightforward. I wanted to pit them against people struggling with depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and abuse. It highlights the best and the worst of everything.
Can you tell us about the challenges you encountered while writing and how you were able to overcome them?
Walking the line between too sad and too funny to hurt. Make the characters unkind. Sometimes believing in myself enough to finish it.
If that’s not too much of a mess, were there any favorite moments or characters that you really enjoyed writing about or exploring?
I loved writing Betty and George. George is based on a dear friend called Maurice whom I lost six years ago in an air disaster. A cranky old man, with a heart as soft as the inside of a boiled egg, he was the best friend I could wish for. He made me laugh, he was proud and stubborn and deserved to be transformed into a character.
Betty was also fun. We all need someone like her in our lives. I also loved writing Atticus and Dan Falling in Love. Red, White and Royal Blue is one of my favorite books and has had a huge influence on the love story.
What has been the road to becoming a published author like for you?
Long and full of potholes. A lot of no and not quite. Dog Days is my third attempt at a book. Often times I wanted to give up, but I believe anything is possible if all it takes is hard work. I had to prove it, for my daughters. If I can do this, they can do it all.
What are the best and worst writing tips you’ve received?
Best – read lots of books. Leave your manuscript for a month between edits (okay, I never wait that long but …)
Worse – Write a book that will sell well. Never! Write the book that is in your heart. The characters that revolve around your brain!
What’s the next step for you?
Book two, and hopefully book three, four and beyond!
Finally, do you have any book recommendations for our readers?
Buckle up as a gang!
Invisible Furies of the Heart – John Boyne
Transcendent Realm – Yaa Gyasi
Getting up early in the morning – Katherine Heiny
Old Luggage – Lissa Evans
A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara
Red, White and Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston
Little Pleasures – Clare Chambers
Accidental Tourist – Anne Tyler
Beartown – Fredrik Backman
American Dirt – Jeanine Cummins
Asking Yes Again – Mary Beth Keane
A good neighborhood – Therese Anne Fowler
Most Fun We Ever Had – Claire Lombardo