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Author Q&A: Trixie

Do you deliberately put a dog in each book? — Tom M. from NY

I think there are actually some books that don’t have dogs in them, not even as walk ons. Most of the time, though, there is at least a walk somewhere in the story. I have long had a love of dogs. I never had a Golden Retriever until 8 1/2 years ago when Trixie came to live with us. Anyone who goes to my website at www.deankoontz.com and clicks on Trixie’s page will find that she has great input to the website so there’s a lot of material there that she has provided.

All dogs are special but, for me, Goldens are just something else. They have such great personalities and sweetness to them, such devotion to people and giving personalities. I look at them and think, “If only humanity could more regularly show the qualities that this dog shows me every day, we’d be a much better planet.”

I’m usually asked if I had a Golden when I wrote WATCHERS. I didn’t. I was familiar with Goldens because I knew people who had them. I admired the breed, but hadn’t had one at that time. I wrote my perception of what a Golden would be like, which was second hand and not what you’re supposed to do, but I did it anyway. It seems to have worked.

Now that Trixie, your dog, has published two books of her own, will you finally admit she also helps write your novels?–Lawanda, Michigan

It’s true. She does help. She checks my sbelling.

I loved your dog's two books [LIFE IS GOOD and CHRISTMAS IS GOOD by Trixie Koontz, Dog]. Is she writing a third?—Nancy, Ohio

Trixie has not been at the computer in weeks. Lately, she’s been spending a lot of time composing a piano concerto.

I have friends who eat at a restaurant where you and your wife go. They say you take your dog. Is that true? They say you wear Hawaiian shirts? Is that true, too?––Kelly, Arizona

Well, now you’ve blown our cover, Kelly. The owner of the restaurant and the waiters had no idea that Trixie was a dog. We dressed her nicely, put sunglasses on her, and everyone thought she was an unfortunate teenage girl in need of a depilatory cream. Yes, we often eat at restaurants where dogs are allowed on the patio. Trixie is so well behaved that many people don’t even realize she’s there until we get up to leave. She never barks; she never begs. She receives one chicken breast, grilled plain. She sits up to eat it, piece by piece, has a drink of water, then lies down and observes surrounding humanity, which she finds endlessly amusing. And yes, I’m fond of Reyn Spooner shirts, which are not as flamboyant as some Hawaiian shirts, classic. But I’m not sure why your friends find the Hawaiian shirts newsworthy. I would think they would be more surprised by my elaborate feathered hats and the necklace of live reptiles.

I'm in the middle of reading HIDEAWAY. Is it a coincidence that Regina is exactly like Leilani from ONE DOOR AWAY FROM HEAVEN? Also, I read all of Trixie's articles, and I just want to know… how do you get her to pee on command, and why would you want to do that? My dog just pees on every tree, and as we live on a farm with many trees, sometimes this takes quite awhile. — Another nameless reader, from a nameless place

I loved Regina, who was not one of the three leads of the book but was, indeed, the heart of the book. I wanted to write a novel in which she was more explicitly a lead character, but I didn’t want to write a sequel to HIDEAWAY. A version of her later surfaced as Leilani in ONE DOOR AWAY FROM HEAVEN. They share the same physical disabilities and the same level of intelligence, but they really are not otherwise alike. Regina is absolute innocence, quick on the uptake but fundamentally naive. Leilani is far from naive; she has seen too much, experienced too much, to be naive. She is a more mature and complex character than Regina. As for Trixie…she was a companion dog for a young woman in a wheelchair. After elbow surgery, Trixie had to retire at three. She had two years of training and performed dozens of tasks for her human companion. Because many disabled people have mobility issues, dogs like Trixie are trained to toilet on a schedule related to their feeding times. Because, as you well know, dogs can wander around a lot before deciding on the precise best spot to deposit their “products,” and because disabled people in wheelchairs cannot keep them on a leash and follow them all over a grassy meadow, it is necessary for the dogs to learn to toilet on command. That they are able to do so and are content to do so says a great deal about the amiability and intelligence of dogs–and about the incredible skill of trainers with such organizations as Canine Companions for Independence, which was where Trixie came from.

Did Trixie like THE HUSBAND?

Yes, Trixie liked THE HUSBAND with one complaint. She felt that the role of the golden retriever, in the first two chapters, was too small. She felt that the book would have been a lot better if Mitch had proved not to be at all resourceful and if, instead, the golden retriever had found Holly, captured the various malevolent types in the story, and been given a significant part of the bad guy’s money for squeaky plush toys.

Why does there always have to be damn Question #10? We could be outside in yard, wriggling in grass, chasing hummingbirds. — Trixie, California

There has to be a Question #10 because this column is called “Author Q&A.” Now let’s go rip the guts out of a plush-toy duck.

I love the photo of you and Trixie on BROTHER ODD. Is she as happy as she looks? –Roberto, presently in Rome

Even among golden retrievers arguably the happiest, most affectionate of breeds–Ms.Trixie is an exceptionally affectionate and happy pooch. At 11, she is a svelte 69 pounds–though her glorious thick fur coat makes her look more formidable–and her painful arthritis has been banished by a daily measure of Metacam in her food. For those of you whose aging dogs have joint pain, I cannot recommend strongly enough that you consult your vet about using this wonderful liquid anti-inflammatory. Two or three weeks after Trixie began this medication, she was limber and by all indications pain-free. She has been romping around like a five-year-old dog.

The dedication in FOREVER ODD has me worried. Did something happen to Trixie? –Jill, Maryland

Unless I just took a ghost dog out to pee, she’s fine. Several people wrote with condolences–misinterpreting, I think, the line of the dedication that says Trixie is “an angel on four feet.” She has been an angel since the day that she came to us, but always very much alive. I’ve made a couple of verb-tense changes in the dedication for the paperback edition, just to avoid confusion. Trixie is 10, turns 11 next October, and with the veterinary care and healthy diet available to dogs these days, she should be with us another five years or more, especially as she is on the small side for a golden, weighing in at 68 pounds, except in those weeks when she cages a few corn chips and extra peanut butter, but even then she has never ballooned to more than 236 pounds.

Will you take me out to pee right now? –Trixie, California

Of course, short stuff. Let’s go.

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