Annie Greer is a certified veterinary chiropractioner, radio host, animal behaviorist, farmer’s wife and AKC Canine Good Citizen evaluator who, with her veterinarian husband, Kent, runs three animal clinics and a 40-acre farm in Apopka, Florida.
Tim Vandehey is a journalist, ghostwriter and book collaborator who has written more than 35 books since 2004 in the sports, self-help, memoir, spiritual, financial, business, and healthcare genres. His recent published co-authored works include Blindsided (with Jim Cole, St. Martin’s Press, 2010), Running on Faith (with Jason Lester, HarperOne, 2010), Produced by Faith (with DeVon Franklin, Simon & Schuster, 2011), and I’m Here to Win! (with Chris McCormack, Center Street, 2011). Tim lives on Bainbridge Island, Washington, with his wife and two daughters.
The Chimp Who Loved Me is Tim and Annie’s latest hilarious endeavor.
You can visit their website at www.thechimpwholovedme.com.
Q: Thank you for this interview, Tim and Annie. Can you tell us what your latest book, The Chimp Who Loved Me, is all about?
It’s a collection of 26 stories from Annie’s bizarre encounters with chimps, cougars, backwoods pig farmers and horny goats. Annie’s had a life of strangeness when it comes to animals, and in owning three veterinary clinics, a pet resort and a 40-acre farm (as well as owning a petting zoo at one point), she’s had plenty of chances to continue that tradition.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for your book?
Tim: We were at a writer’s conference in Orlando, and I met Annie while she was working as a volunteer dispensing misinformation.
Annie: It was misinformation because no one had told me anything. I apprehended Tim apparently trying to shoplift a book that it turned out he had ghostwritten. Our friendship bloomed from there.
Tim: We got to talking and Annie told me about the time she was sexually assaulted in the shower by a chimpanzee. When I got up off the floor, I said, “I’m writing your book.” It was just a matter of deciding which stories to include. The title is a play on the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me.
Q: What kind of research did you do before and during the writing of your book?
Lots of interviews done over lots of wine. Thank God we recorded them because the handwriting would have gotten squirrely after bottle number 3.
Q: If a reader can come away from reading your book with one valuable message, what would that be?
That animals are amazing, unpredictable, precious creatures we should love and respect—and that no one should keep an exotic creature in a residential setting. It makes our blood boil when idiots confine bears, cougars and chimps in their backyards when they should be in zoos, preserves or the wild.
Q: Can you give us a short excerpt?
Sure. This is from the title story:
I started to undress by the shower door. Then I felt eyes on me. Sammy was watching me from the doorway. Hmm. Odd, but not threatening. I stepped into the shower and turned the hot water on. Chimps do not like water, so I figured I was safe, and I needed a little breather from carrying him all the time. Suddenly, I noticed my chimp child was gone, along with all the clothes and towels I had laid down on the floor. Suddenly, Sammy came full speed around the corner, hooting and grinning, and launched himself at me!
Fully Erect Sammy!
All I could think was, “Oh God! I’m going to be sexually assaulted by a chimp!” I pictured the 911 call. I saw the operator laughing so uncontrollably that she forgot to send help. I tried to peel Sammy’s pinching, prying hands off my naked, wet body and realized that I had to get some clothes on.
Q: In your own experience, is it hard to get a nonfiction book published today? How did you do it?
We cheated. We started our own publishing company. We actually got an agent named Kate Epstein back in 2008, and she gave it her all to sell the book, but editors didn’t want it. They wanted their animal books to be warm and fussy like Marley and Me or Dewey. Those have been bestsellers so who can blame them? But that’s not this book. Chimp is about sex, poop, pee and death—the real world of animals.
Q: What’s a typical day like for you?
Tim: I get up, get my daughter off to school, walk the five steps to the couch, fall onto the cushions with my MacBook Pro and start writing. Occasionally I shower. I’m a ghostwriter by profession, so I’m always working on two or three books.
Annie: I tend the cattle, pigs, special needs chickens and other beasties on our farm, and then my husband Kent, who is a veterinarian, and I head off to our main clinic to spend the day managing a three-ring circus of employees, pet owners and critters. It is never dull. Usually, I wind up the day by killing part of a bottle of excellent California zinfandel.
Q: What’s next for you?
Well, there are always more stories, so we hope to start collecting them in 2012 and producing a new book. The working title is Funny Farm, which says it all.
Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Tim and Annie. We wish you much success!
It was our pleasure. Thank you.