I’m delighted to welcome Mavis Cheek to the blog today. Mavis is the author of sixteen novels and she’s joined me today to chat about Dog Days, the second one to be reissued as an ebook by Ipso Books. Dog Days is a novel about a woman who quits an unhappy marriage and starts over with her young daughter and Brian, the doggy Dad substitute she’s agreed to buy her. I cheered, laughed, cringed, winced and chuckled my way through it as Patricia attempts to manage her new life, home and job with well-meaning friends setting her up on dates, the neighbour’s monster rabbit, Bulstrode, proving irresistible to Brian and Patricia, despite all the progress she makes and intelligence she possesses, singularly failing to read some people and social situations. It’s full of truths and sharp observation about life and dating post-divorce but it’s told with plenty of warmth and humour.
Hello Mavis, and welcome. We’re usually all about the squirrels here at Nut Press but in honour of Dog Days being released, let’s talk Dog. And specifically Brian. He’s almost a doggy antihero. What made you choose him for your family?
Brian was a comic device for the story – and I enjoyed writing about him – as you say – he became almost a person – certainly a character – and it was nice writing about someone who was even more downtrodden than Patricia. Those anti-characters are great fun to invent.
Patricia freely admits to not being a dog person and only gets Brian because her ten-year-old daughter Rachel asks for a dog to make up for her parents’ divorce. Do you think she protests too much and is a dog person at heart, in the same way that she tries to persuade herself that she’s happier on her own with only Rachel and Brian for company, when in fact she’s a more sociable being than that?
I think Patricia is exactly like me – thinks she’s not a dog person but is always the one who ends up holding the mutt’s ear and stroking their nose and being kind to them. When my daughter and her boyfriend came to stay with their dog, dog and I would be sitting in the kitchen at some ridiculously early hour, me with tea, he with a mournful look, and I’d just hold his ear. And my dog walking friend arrives with her dog who promptly sits on my foot and gazes at me in rapture. It’s very seductive.
Patricia’s pretty brittle and quick to put up the defences. Do you think she should be more dog and be more open and friendly to people, or is she right to protect herself?
Yes – I do think she could drop the distancing and waspishness – but she’s got to learn to let people back in. She does, eventually. It is quote a life shattering thing getting a divorce, even if it also a wonderful liberation.
Before the ink is barely dry on her divorce papers, Patricia is being set up with dates by her well-meaning friends. If you were one of those friends and you could set her up with anyone, real or fictional (other than the men in Dog Days) who would you choose for her?
I would choose someone like Henning Mankell (sadly now dead – wonderful writer, wonderful man) or Gerry Robinson (full of good sense, entrepreneurial businessman, kind) or Martin Shaw (in real life or as either of his characters, George Gently or Judge John Deed). Patricia needs a man of honour but who has a twinkle in his eye – and a place in the world. You get the picture.
And who would make a good (real or fictional) doggy match for Brian?
Lady, in Lady and the Tramp – he would have to liven up then – because she’s so Princessy.
What is it, do you think, that drives people to try and pair up their single friends? Can friends find you a better match than you would for yourself?
It happened to me on a few occasions and it was never any good. I think people like you to be tidy. If you are single and everyone else is in a couple, you are a bit awkward, a bit untidy. But it does work for some. Sadly I had the reverse happen, too, in that one or two potential relationships were messed up by ill-wishing ‘friends’. Love and relationships are so personal – you need that oomph when you meet – and it’s much harder to have that feeling if you’ve been set up. But it’s never a bad thing. Worth trying.
Rachel originally chose a completely different dog to Brian and Patricia’s reason for rejecting him was completely understandable but hilarious at the same time, as the dog too much resembled her ex-husband, Gordon. What type of dogs would some of the other characters (such as Mr Harris, Miranda, Gertrude, Victor, Ruth, Roland, Rachel and Patricia herself) in Dog Days be?
Gordon would be a corgi, Mr Harris would be an indeterminate mongrel wanting to be a breed, Gertrude would be an Afghan Hound, Victor would be a whippet, Roland would be an Irish setter, Rachel would be a spaniel and Patricia would be a Collie – forever running around.
And lastly, if you were a dog, what breed would you be, and why?
I’d be a miniature King Charles Spaniel and sit on a lap all day long looking pretty and slightly sad – and getting a lot of sympathy and strokes. And I’d have fabulous long hair (those ears!)
Dog Days was re-issued as an ebook by Ipso Books on Monday. To find out more about Ipso Books go to their Website or Follow IpsoBooks on Twitter. You can find out more about Mavis, Dog Days and her other books on her Author Website and on Twitter. Readers can get two free short stories by email here. And here’s where you can catch up with the other stops on Mavis’ Dog Days Blog Tour this week.