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Interview with Allie Larkin: ‘My stories tend to spring from my characters’

Allie Larkin

Allie Larkin lives in Rochester, New York, with her husband, Jeremy, their two German Shepherds, Argo and Stella, and a three-legged cat.

She is the co-founder of TheGreenists.com, a site dedicated to helping readers take simple steps toward going green.

STAY is her first novel.

You can visit Allie’s website at www.allielarkinwrites.com.

Q: Thank you for this interview, Allie. Can you tell us what your latest book, Stay, is all about?

Savannah “Van” Leone is heartbroken when her best friend marries the guy she’s been in love with since college.  She has to be the maid of honor in the wedding (and wear a hideous bright orange dress).  When the wedding is over, she goes home, has a few too many vodka and grape Kool-Aid cocktails, watches a Rin Tin Tin marathon and accidentally orders a German Shepherd off the internet from Slovakia.  The tiny puppy she thinks she’s getting turns out to be a 100lb beast who only responds to commands in Slovak, but Van quickly realizes that the dog, who she names Joe, is the loyal friend she’s been looking for.  Joe leads Van to Dr. Alex Brandt, a veterinarian with floppy blond hair and a winning smile.  But just as things start to heat up with Alex, the newlyweds come back, forcing Van to decide between old relationships and the promise of new ones.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

Van has a good heart, and she tries very hard to find her place in the world and do the right thing.  She’s also an awful housekeeper, a closet Boston fan, and someone I’d be proud to call a friend– if she were real. Janie, Peter and Diane are all people she’s known for a very long time.  One of the major issues Van has to navigate is how to keep people she’s known so long in her life when her life has changed so much.  How do you find a way to grow up and move on and still keep ties to your past?

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

Joe is loosely based on my German Shepherds, Argo and Stella, but otherwise, all of my characters are pure fiction.  I like to use real locations a lot in my work, but I like the freedom of writing about characters who don’t resemble people I know.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

A little bit of both.  I have a vague idea of some of the things that might need to happen, but my stories tend to spring from my characters, and as I get to know my characters better, I discover the details of the story.

Q: Your book is set in Rochester.  Can you tell us why you chose this city in particular?

I’ve lived in Rochester for ten years now, and it feels like home.  So many books take place in very big cities or very small towns.  I wanted to put Van in a location that would make her relatable, and I liked being able to use the places in Rochester I’ve come to know and love while living here.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

Van needed to start her life away from where she grew up, and Rochester was a great place for that to happen for her.

Q: Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

Van has just returned from the airport after picking up the 100 pound German Shepherd she accidentally ordered off the internet from Slovakia.  She’s not quite sure what to do with a 100 pound dog, and still a little afraid of him.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

The words on the screen were starting to blur, but I didn’t care. I needed a dog, and I wasn’t going to stop until I found one. I clicked from one site to another and then, I saw him.

He was a shaggy ball of fur. Jet black, except for a small pink tongue hanging out of his mouth. His head was tipped to one side like he was listening to something intently. One of his ears flopped over. The breeder was in Bratislava, Slovakia, and the site wasn’t in English, with exception of a few shaky translations. At the top of the picture of the puppy, it said something I couldn’t read, and then male 11/5. The puppy was only a few weeks old. He was just a baby. Under his picture, there was a link that said, order form. I moused over it, ready to click.

I took another long slurp of my Kool-Aid. I couldn’t just decide I wanted a dog and order one off the Internet. It was crazy. Crazy! I tried to go back to watching Rin Tin Tin, but I couldn’t stop staring at the picture of the puppy. It was like one of those paintings where the eyes follow you everywhere. From every angle, I felt like that dog was looking at me. He was going to be taken away from his mother. He was going to be given to some random family and he was going to get lonely and miss his mom and they wouldn’t understand. Not like I would.

“You need me, don’t you?” I asked him. I felt like his eyes looked more and more sad and lonely every time I looked at the picture.

I clicked on the link. The order form said that the cost for the dog was one hundred and forty thousand koruny, which, seven drinks in, I figured was like pesos or lira or something like that, where a thousand of them equaled a dollar. I thought about looking it up, but my vision was starting to blur, and I wanted a dog. Now. I didn’t want to wait any longer than I had to. What if someone else was sitting around in their pajamas watching the Rin Tin Tin marathon, realizing they needed a dog too? What if, in the time I took to look up the conversion rate, someone else bought my puppy? Someone else would get to cuddle up with that little ball of fuzz. Someone else would get sloppy dog kisses on their cheek. Someone else would have a true and loyal friend who would hop over burning hay bales for them, and I’d still be alone. And whoever got him wouldn’t understand him the way I would. It was probably really cheap. Cheaper than buying a dog from the United States even, I was sure.

I grabbed my purse off the coffee table and rifled through the mess of business cards and discount cards, dropping them all over the couch, until I found my credit card.

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Allie.  We wish you much success!

Thank you so much!

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