BEA'S BOOK NOOK "I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once." C. S. Lewis “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” ― Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Interview & Giveaway: Jonathan Unleashed by Meg Rosoff

Interview, Giveaway, Jonathan Unleashed, Meg Rosoff, Bea's Book Nook

Author Meg Rosoff, an owner of two dogs herself, was recently awarded the prestigious Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, and film rights for JONATHAN UNLEASHED have been optioned by Qwerty Films, with Michael Kuhn as producer (Being John Malkovich, The Duchess, Florence Foster Jenkins) with Rosoff writing the screenplay. Today I have a Q & A with the author and a print copy to give away. Make yourself comfy and enjoy!

Find Meg online:

website & blog

Jonathan Unleashed is a romantic comedy that follows Jonathan Trefoil, a twenty-something New Yorker who feels stuck and helpless, and the two dogs, Dante a border collie and Sissy a spaniel, that inspire him to lead a different life.  Why did you want to write a romcom?

I’m not sure Jonathan Unleashed actually IS a romcom. It is romantic, and it is a comedy, but it’s more about self-determination and figuring out what you want to do with your life than about finding “the one.” 

As for the process, I never really set out to write anything in particular; I tend to wait for the book to come to me — it’s like standing very still in a forest and waiting for a squirrel to run up your leg. In the case of Jonathan, I woke up one morning with the line “Jonathan came home from work one day to find the dogs talking about him” in my head. I knew instantly it was the next book, even though I didn’t know who Jonathan was, and why the dogs were talking about him. I thought, “I must write that line down,” but also knew that I wouldn’t forget it. The process of writing a book is made up of a thousand micro-decisions, and I think one of them wtih this book was that the news was depressing me quite a lot, and I thought a comedy might cheer me up.

As for romance, most of my books are about love in one form or another, or at least the search for love. This one is just a bit doggier than usual.

You have two dogs as well.  Were they the inspiration for Sissy and Dante?

Sissy and Dante are fairly wise whereas my dogs couldn’t guide a protagonist out of a paperbag. My dogs are not intellectuals, and even though I love them dearly I wouldn’t wait around for them to sort out my life. But I do have a theory that dogs completely manipulate their people, even if that just means getting their owners on a schedule and getting them out for a couple of long walks a day. My dogs hate my leaving them, so although I live in the center of a very expensive city, I don’t go out very much to places that don’t allow dogs — like restaurants, theater, art galleries, dinner parties, museums….So over the ten years that I’ve owned them, they’ve trained me to be the owner they want. I suppose you could say they’ve sorted out my life, though perhaps not for my benefit. Mostly for theirs.

You have said that dogs train their owners not vice versa, and that the percentage of people you know that say their relationship with their dog is the best relationship in their lives is staggering.  Why do you think we have become so obsessed with dogs?

It’s much easier to have a relationship with a dog than with a person. Dogs tend to be happy, affectionate, emotionally consistent companions. They don’t sulk or insist on seeing Spiderman when you’d rather see a foreign film.  They don’t come with in-laws and don’t mind eating toast you’ve dropped on the floor. It’s why every eight-year-old boy fantasizes about having a dog not a wife. Dogs are relatively simple, people are relatively complicated. Plus, dogs look better naked than most people do.

You’ve had a circuitous path to writing. First starting as an artist and then working in advertising, and when you were in your 40s your younger sister died of breast cancer and this loss was the event that launched you into writing full-time.  Could you explain further? 

I always figured that if I couldn’t write like Saul Bellow, I didn’t want to write at all. So I worked in all sorts of writing-related careers, like publishing, PR and advertising because writing was all I could do. I wasn’t what you’d call a successful career-person but I didn’t have the courage to risk writing a mediocre book. Then my sister died, much too young, and I felt that I couldn’t spend the rest of my life getting fired from advertising jobs, so I thought I’d try to write a book and would stop worrying about whether it would win a Pulitzer. 

By that stage of my life, I’d read about ten million books, but I had no real idea how to write one — the only advice I had was from the woman who became my agent — she said “write fiercely,” so I did. I didn’t worry about the market, the audience, anything. I just wrote the fiercest book I could. That was How I Live Now, which went on to sell over a million copies. The week it was published I discovered I also had cancer, but even during a year of gruelling chemo I wasn’t depressed. I figured even if I died, I’d finally done what I probably should have been doing all along. 

In retrospect, I don’t regret the fifteen years I spent in advertising quite as much as I used to. I learned a lot. Probably more than you’d learn in a creative writing class, though much more painfully.

You were born in Boston and live in south London now.  What brought you to the UK, and do you ever see yourself moving back to the States?

I left Harvard after three years to go to art school in London — that was 1977 and despite the fact that all my ancestors are Eastern European jews, I felt as if I’d come home. After spending the 80s in New York City, I returned to London aged 32, married an English painter and have been here ever since. I experienced a huge surge of patriotism when Obama was elected, but the current state of US politics isn’t enticing me to move back. It’s dispiriting having to peek at the newspaper between my fingers because I'm scared of what I’ll read next. 


romance, general fiction, humor, Meg Rosoff, interview, giveaway

 Jonathan Trefoil's boss is unhinged, his relationship baffling and his apartment just the wrong side of legal. His girlfriend wants to marry someone just like him--only richer and with a different sense of humor. He doesn't remember life being this confusing, back before everyone expected him to act like a grown up. When his brother asks him to look after his dogs, Jonathan's world view begins to shift. Could a Border Collie and a Cocker Spaniel have the key to life, the universe, and everything? Their sly maneuvering on daily walks and visits to the alluring vet suggest that human emotional intelligence may not be top dog after all. A funny, wise romantic comedy set in Manhattan, Jonathan Unleashed is a story of tangled relationships, friendships, and dogs. Rosoff's novel is for anyone wondering what to be when they grow up, and how on earth to get there.

Publisher: Viking
Release Date: July 5, 2016
Formats: hardcover, ebook, audio
Buying Links: Amazon* | OmniLit* | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository* | iBooks* |
* associate links; the blog receives a small commission from purchases made through these links.

The publisher is giving away one print copy to a US reader. Giveaway ends July 4th at 11:59PM EST. Please read my Giveaway and Privacy policies. You must be 18 years old or older to enter. No purchase required. Void where prohibited.

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  1. The book sounds charming and funny, and the author's interview is inspiring.

  2. I hope to read this one eventually. Great interview! Thanks for the giveaway!

    1. Congrats! you won the book. I sent you an email.


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