Q&A with J. Paul Henderson

Hi guys! I am absolutely thrilled to have J. Paul Henderson on the blog today. Three years 20467872ago (THREE years already!) I read and incredibly enjoyed his novel “Last Bus to Coffeeville” (here you can read my review) – I can still tell you what the book was about and why I liked it so much, and it is really a sign of a VERY good novel. This year the author is back with another book and already it had me at the  35224222title: “”Larry and the Dog People”. I am right now looking at this novel, it is on my TBR pile and well, I am so sure that it’s going to be one of my next read. In the meantime, though, I have a great Q&A with Mr. Henderson. Enjoy!


Tell us a little about Larry and the Dog People and what inspired you to write it?

Larry MacCabe is a well-meaning man who unwittingly drives people nuts and can’t get anyone to befriend him on Facebook.  He’s a retired academic, a recent widower and apparently a person born to lose:  a man who walks along the hard shoulder of life with an empty gas can in his hand and unlikely to make it to a service station without the help of another.

Fortunately for Larry, the administrator of a care home he’s been banned from visiting takes pity on him, and at her suggestion he adopts a Basset Hound and joins her at a local park one Saturday.  He becomes a regular visitor and, for the first time in his life – and largely on account of his dog – finds acceptance.  It’s the idyll he’s longed for, but one that proves to be of short duration.

While his new companions prepare for the annual Blessing of the Animals service on the Feast Day of St Francis, Larry puts the finishing touches to a conference paper he’s due to present in Jerusalem and arranges for someone to house-sit his dog while he’s away.  Neither the service nor his visit to Israel go to plan, however, and on his return Larry is inexplicably charged with conspiring to blow up a church and complicity in the deaths of four people.  All that stands between him and conviction is a personal injury lawyer – and things for Larry aren’t looking good!

I have friends who live in Georgetown, a suburb of Washington DC, and they exercise their dog in a local park that doesn’t enforce leash laws.  I used to accompany them there and I was struck by the strange mix of dog owners who frequented the park.  Volta Park was the ideal setting for a story of oddball characters, but for a long time I was lacking a central character who would act as the cornerstone for the book.  And then I hit upon Larry, a character I based on a long-winded professor I’d known in Mississippi, and the novel started to take shape.

The plot came in fits and starts, but the key element of the story was always for Larry to be the victim of circumstances.  I was already familiar with the Desert Land Act of 1877 and the story of Masada, and I was lucky enough to stumble on other subjects that I could weave into the story – dyspraxia, animal blessings, waterfall tuning and Christian Buddhism, for instance.  I always knew how the book would end, but I was never sure just how I’d get there.  It turned out that dyspraxia, animal blessings, waterfall tuning and Christian Buddhism were good vehicles to get from one chapter to the next.


What was your favourite chapter in Larry and the Dog People to write, and why?

It was probably chapter 10:  Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch…  For the plot to be believable I had to find a way of bending the equivalent of iron bars, and the toughest of these are to be found in this chapter:  Wayne’s completed back-story, the re-appearance of Kevin, and the logic – if there was any logic – to their decision to blow up a church on the Feast Day of St Francis.


What’s more important:  characters or plot?

Both are important.  It’s like love and marriage or a horse and carriage:  you can’t have one without the other.  Or, at least, you shouldn’t have one without the other.  I don’t like plot-driven books where the characters are wafer-thin and seemingly there for the sake of being there, and neither do I enjoy entering the world of well-rounded protagonists who do little more that eat pizza and contemplate the world between slices.  If I don’t invest in the people then I’m unlikely to invest in the plot, and if I don’t invest in the plot then I’m unlikely to invest in the people.  It’s one of those love and marriage things, one of those horse and carriage things:  you can’t have one without the other.  Or, at least, you shouldn’t have one without the other.  (This is like answering an exam question where you say the same thing three times and hope that the examiner only notices the length of your answer).


Do you have any writing rituals or routines?

I always write in the same room and at the same desk and usually from 11am.  The day starts gently.  I’m not a big fan of silence and so I listen to music while I write, usually Planet Rock which, for a man of my generation, is the equivalent of easy listening.  This is about as interesting as it gets.  I don’t go in for ritual.


If you could tell your younger writing self something, what would it be?

Don’t get an agent.


Reading Challenge 2015

Hello, hello, welcome to the blog and to my last but one post this year. And what a year it was…

I’ve challenged myself to two challenges in 2015 – Goodreads Challenge (easy – peasy :) I’ve already read 211 books out of planned 200. Some of them were shorter, some of them were longer, the main point is, I was reading like crazy :) ). The second challenge was a little different, and here is what is was about: Reading Challenge 2015.


1. A Book with more then 500 pages

Here we are: „The Hourglass Factory” by Lucy Ribchester.

2. A classic romance

I am guessing that a classic romance is „Jane Eyre” for example, so no, this year I didn’t have a chance to read such a book. But I’ve read many other, „not classic” romances.

3. A book that became a movie.

„The Longest Ride” by Nicholas Sparks.

4. A book published this year.

Haha! Plenty of them! For example, „High Tide” by Veronica Henry. And alsmot 200 others :)

5. A book with a number in the title.

And very funny was it, too! „7 Years Bad Sex” by Nicky Wells.

6. A book written by someone under 30.

Thought it’s going to be a tricky one, but in the end it turned out there are a lot of authors under 30. For example Elle Field and her novel „Kept”.

7. A book with nonhuman characters.

At the beginning I was thinking I must read a book about aliens or something like thiat, but hello – the dogs are also nonhuman characters, right? So here we have for example „Waiting for Doggo” :)

8. A funny book.

There were many funny books. One of them was „Snowflakes on Silver Cove” by Holly Martin – I snorted my way through this story.

9. A book by a female author.

I read books mostly by female authors. For example „The Chocolate Lovers’ Christmas” by Carole Matthews.

10. A mystery or thriller.

I wasn’t a fan of mysteries r thrilles, but the older I am the more I appreciate this genre. This year I read for example „The Life I Left Behind” by Colette McBeth.

11. A book with a one – word title.

Ha! Not so easy, as the titles are getting longer and longer! But no worries, there was „Disclaimer” among them :)

12. A book of short stories

There are few of them on my TBR. Unfortunately, didn’t have enough time this year :(

13. A book set in a different country.

A different country to what? Probably to where I’m living? No problems here, for example „The Love Detective” – set mostly in India.

14. A nonfiction book.

Thought am not going to make this one, but ha! We’re talking about me, right? So I’ve read „I Call Myself a Femisnist” – brilliant book!

15. A popular author’s first book.

Reading a popular author’s first book means going back through my bookshelf with all the books that I’ve read – and loved, and searching for for example Jill Mansell, Marian keyes or Carole Matthews’ first novels. Maybe when a day has 48 hours :)

16. A book from an author you love that you haven’t read.

This is tricky. How can I love author if I haven’t read their books? But I understood it like this: a book by the author that I haven’t read yet and that I loved. In this case, it’s „The Dandelion Years” by Erica James.

17. A book a friend recommended.

There are many of them, but lately I was recommended to read „The Secret by the Lake” by Louise Douglas.

18. A Pulitzer Prize – winning book.

Nope. Sorry.

19. A book based on true story.

„The Silent Hours” by Cesca Major. It took my breath away and I couldn’t settle for other book for a long time.

20. A book at the bottom of your to – read list.

I tried. I started to read 3 such books but haven’t finished any of them.

21. A book your mum loves.

My mum loves lots of books, and she sent me one for this Christmas even, but haven’t read it. Yet.

22. A book that scares you.

Firstly I thought it must be a horror or something like this. But then I’ve read „Asking for It” by Louise O’Neill – and this book scared me. I can’t believe the world I’m living in.

23. A book more than 100 years old.

The closest I was with „Jamaica Inn”, that was published in 1936 first, but it’s not 100 years old. Not yet.

24. A book based entirely on its cover.

Not sure how to understand this one – that there is the whole story on the cover? Or that I loved the cover with all my heart? In this case, there were many such books, and one of them was „A Parcel for Anna Browne” for example.

25. A book you were supposed to read in school and didn’t.

Eeeek, no way. I’ve read all the book that I had to in school, even the most boring ones (was really scared with my professor – though loved him, too :D).

26. A memoir.

Nope. Not my kind of read.

27. A book you can finish in a day.

Haha, „Polly and the Puffin” by Jenny Colgan. Lovely read, for the adults as well.

28. A book with anytonyms in the title.

Ah, I have „Lost and Found” on my TBR pile for example, but haven’t managed to read it yet :(

29. A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit.

Oh, that’s easy, as I’d love to visit almost the whole world :) For example, „One Wish in Manhattan” by Mandy Baggot.

30. A book that came out the year you were born.

No idea which book should that be. I was looking, but haven’t found any.

31. A book with bad reviews.

For example, „Girl in the Road”. Some bad reviews – with my among them (if I have written it…)

32. A trilogy.

Nope. And it’s Elle Field’s fault :) I’ve read „Kept”, I’ve read „Lost”, and was waiting for „Found”.

33. A book from your childhood.

Sure. Together with my daughter we’ve read a „Snow White”.

34. A book with love triangle.

There were some of them. For example „Thoughtful”

35. A book set in the future.

Yep. „A Girl in the Road”.

36. A book set in high school.

The above mentioned „Asking for It”.

37. A book with a colour in the title.

The fantastic, beautiful „A Memory of Violets”.

38. A book that made you cry.

Oh, there were some of them this year! For example, „The Things We Do for Love” by Alice Peterson.

39. A book with magic.

No problem – „Put a Spell on You” by Karen Clarke.

40. A graphic novel.

I’ve tried, really tried, but couldn’t see a single word on my kindle.

41. A book by the author you’ve never read before.

Sure – „The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy” by Julia Quinn for example.

42. A book you own but have never read.

Of course. I own tons of books that I haven’t read yet. For example „A Mother’s Story” by Amanda Prowse.

43. A book that takes place in your hometown.

No. There are not many books that I read taking place in Poland :)

44. A book that was originally written in a different language.

„The Hunter of the Dark” by Donato Carrisi.

45. A book set during Christmas.

But of course! „Bella’s Christmas Bake – Off” by Sue Watson.

46. A book written by an author with your same initials.

Tadah! „Letting You Go” by Anouska Knight. AK :)

47. A play.

Nope. At school, yes, but not in 2015 :)

48. A banned book.

Also not.

49. A book based on or turned into a TV show.

Oh yes. „How to Get Ahead in Television” :)

50. A book you started but never finished.

yes. And I’m very surprsied because I’ve never had problems with this author before – „What a Girl Wantes” by Lindsay Kelk.

Ha! Not bad, no?