Notes from the Author – Spring 2006
when readers ask whether the things that happen in my books have happened in my
real life, I tell them that only small bits of my life work themselves into my
novels. Listen!, however, is something else again.
While all the human characters are fictional, the setting (Eagle Lake, near
Charlotte, North Carolina), is real. It's where I live. Coyote is the wild dog I
first met in August, 2000 in the woods across the lake from my house (which is
Charley's house in the book). I named him Coyote because that day he looked far
more like a wild animal than like anybody's pet. Much later I learned from the
researchers at Wolf Park in Indiana that Coyote had probably never lived with
humans and was, therefore, really wild. The process of persuading him to become
a member of our family is reproduced as accurately as possible in the pages of
the novel, though it actually took a great deal longer. It was three full years
before Coyote would come inside the house!
The other dogs that appear in the book are the dogs that lived at Eagle Lake
when I first encountered Coyote. All but Sadie have their real names in the
book-Coyote's beloved golden retriever, Casey, was one too many "C" names for
readers to keep track of, so she became Sadie instead. "Tree" is real, too-a
noticeable presence at the edge of the lake. Living at Eagle Lake for seven
years has taught me a great deal about listening.
husband took this photo of Coyote and me (it also appears on the back jacket
flap). Those of you who can read the facial expressions of dogs will see quite
clearly that Coyote did not enjoy the photo shoot. (When he's happy, his ears
are up, and though we took picture after picture that lovely spring day last
year, not a single one showed his ears in happy mode. He was patient, but he was
not happy.) Here's another photo of him resting under one of our azaleas, just
to show what he looks like when someone isn't trying to make him stay where he
doesn't really want to be.
Linda Carmichael Rose, a good neighbor at Eagle Lake who designs theatre sets
and is a partner at InArtDesigns, drew the Eagle Lake map for the book and the
line drawing of Coyote that appears on the title page. I'm enormously grateful
for her help!
you read Listen!, you can walk the woods trails with
Charley, visit the Pine Grove, cross the causeways between the lake and its
ponds in your imagination, just as Coyote and I do for real every day. These
days Samantha, the chow-shepherd shelter pup we brought home as a companion for
Coyote when he'd been with us a year, goes along. And so, surprisingly, does
Puck, the golden tabby cat who came to live with us last fall.