The Interview: Bookbag Talks To Melissa Wareham
|The Interview: Bookbag talks to Melissa Wareham|
|Summary: We loved Take Me Home: Tales of Battersea Dogs by Melissa Wareham, her stories of what life in Battersea Dogs is really like, especially adapted for children. We couldn't resist the opportunity to ask her some questions.|
|Date: 1 February 2011|
|Interviewer: Sue Magee|
We loved Take Me Home: Tales of Battersea Dogs by Melissa Wareham, her stories of what life in Battersea Dogs is really like, especially adapted for children. We couldn't resist the opportunity to ask her some questions.
- Bookbag: When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?
Melissa Wareham: Mostly kids reading to themselves but also parents reading to their kids and possibly even the odd dog listening in too!
- BB: Looking back do you have any regrets about not becoming a vet? Could you have imagined a better job than the one you ended up with?
MW: At the time I was sad not to become a vet as I would have loved to 'fix' poorly dogs but I wouldn't have had as many opportunities and experiences as I had at Battersea Dogs Home. At Battersea I had many different 'hats' – kennel maid, behaviourist, rehomer, manager and television spokesperson. It really was my dream job.
- BB: How on earth do you resist the temptation to bring rescued dogs home from Battersea Dogs?
MW: It's not easy! But you have to be sensible, for example, if I had fallen in love with just three dogs a week and taken them home, I would have ended up with 2,340 dogs in a one bedroom flat!
- BB: Oh, gosh, that would be a little crowded! In Take Me Home you seem to underplay the reasons why dogs arrive at Battersea. I can understand when events overtake people and to a point I can understand when people haven't realised quite what looking after a dog entails. Did you encounter many dogs that arrived there because of human cruelty and do you think that the law does enough to prevent such people taking on more animals in the future?
MW: I saw many dogs that came into Battersea as a result of cruelty. Often they'd been seized by the RSPCA but that went only halfway to addressing the problem. The owners should have been brought to justice in every single case but in many cases were not. If they were, the punishment, in my opinion, was rarely enough to fit the crime and hardly ever resulted in the owner being banned from keeping a dog.
- BB: We agree with every word of that, Melissa. Does Battersea Dogs receive any government financial help? If not, how does it manage to raise what must be enormous sums to keep going?
MW: Battersea receives no government funding and does actively fundraise. Battersea Dogs Home has a very special place in the hearts and minds of the British people and they have always shown amazing generosity towards this much-loved establishment.
- BB: What inspired you to write 'Take Me Home'? How and where do you write?
MW: Take Me Home is an adaptation of Rescue Me – My Life With the Battersea Dogs. I left Battersea Dogs Home to go and live in Australia and when I arrived there I was desperately homesick and most of all, missing my beloved Battersea. Being away from Battersea gave me the time and space to look back on my 15 years at the world's most famous dogs' home and see what a truly amazing and special time it was. So I put pen to paper, hopefully so that others might be able to share those wonderful times, and found that reliving my Battersea dog days helped tremendously with my homesickness. The stories were so well-received that I rewrote them for children.
I try to be very disciplined when I write. Sometimes it takes me a while to get going but once I do I look up at the clock and the whole day has gone!
I wrote Rescue Me in Australia and Take Me Home in London. I always write at home (wherever that may be!).
- BB: Which were your favourite books as a child? Do you still have them and do you ever read them?
MW: My favourite book as a child was called, 'The Diggingest Dog,' about a dog that dug everything up!
I also loved all the Roald Dahl books, especially Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach.
I still have The Diggingest Dog and occasionally flick through it
- BB: I love Rhodesian Ridgebacks as a breed (I had to say that – one is stretched out next to me at the moment and I'm sure she can read). What's your favourite breed? Do you think mongrels are hardier than pedigree dogs?
MW: I definitely believe mongrels are hardier than pedigrees – physically more robust and sometimes more well rounded mentally! I love ALL dogs but mongrels are my favourite.
- BB: You can have one wish to make the world a better place. What would you go for?
MW: From this moment on, no more building on green spaces – anywhere in the world!
- BB: Now that would be good! What's next for Melissa Wareham?
MW: I have a few projects on the go. Possibly more tales of Battersea Dogs Home, I'm also working on a book of doggy short stories as well as a couple of other (non-dog related) kids' books.
- BB: Ooh, excellent. We can't wait to see them. Thanks for the interview, Melissa!
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