Interview with Sheila Boneham

Jen: For the next couple days, Sheila Boneham will be our guest at Book Talk. Sheila, will you please share a short bio with us?
Sheila: I have many interests, and have tried to follow a number of them throughout my life. In my teens and early 20s I competed in equestrian events. When I finished college, I went on for my master’s in linguistics, and was fortunate to be able to study, work, and travel in the Middle East and Europe in the 70’s and 80’s. I went back to school for my doctorate in folklore with lots of supporting work in cultural anthropology and linguistics, and then taught writing at several universities. I have also worked as an editor, both salaried and freelance, and I still enjoy editing on a freelance basis. I enjoy teaching writing workshops and classes from time to time, and I speak on writing and on pets to a variety of groups. (I’m always open to possibilities — )

Jen: Tell us about Rescue Matters: How to Find, Foster, and Rehome Companion Animals: A Guide for Volunteers and Organizers and where it’s available.
Sheila: My most recent release – my 17th book – is Rescue Matters: How to Find, Foster, and Rehome Companion Animals: A Guide for Volunteers and Organizers, published by Alpine Publications and released in August 2009. It’s available from all the usual places – Barnes & Noble stores, Borders, and independent booksellers. Remember that booksellers are happy to special order if they don’t have the book in stock. Rescue Matters is also available on line at, (a specialty vendor for dog books), and directly from the publisher at

Jen: At what age did you discover writing and when were you first published? Tell us your call story.
Sheila: Oh my! I think I’ve always been a writer. I wrote my first book when I was about 9. It was about a Cocker Spaniel – shades of things to come, I guess. My first publication was actually a poem published in a city magazine when I was in the 7th grade. I filled many notebooks with writing of all sorts throughout my school years. My first serious publications were academic articles for scholarly journals, published while I was in graduate school and, later, teaching writing at universities in the U.S. and overseas. Eventually I began writing articles about cultural topics and selling them to magazines. In the early 1990’s I founded a rescue program for Labrador Retrievers, the first formal group for Labs in my state, and I co-founded another group for Australian Shepherds. At that time there was very little information available, so I decided to write the book I needed myself. That resulted in Breed Rescue: How to Start and Run a Successful Program (Alpine, 1998), which won the Maxwell Award for Best General Interest Book of the year in the Dog Writers Association of America’s annual writing competition. I have been involved since the late 1980’s in many aspects of the dog world, and have had 13 more books about dogs, and 3 about cats, published since Breed Rescue came out. Two more of the dog books have won Maxwell’s; all 3 cat books won Awards of Excellence from the Cat Writers Association, and 2 won Muse Medallions for Best Health & General Care books in their publication years (the other book was a finalist). I have 2 more books about dogs coming out in 2010. I also had a short mystery story published in an anthology.

Jen: Are there any other writers, published or not, in your family?
Sheila: My maternal grandmother published quite a bit of poetry in the 1920’s-40’s, but she’s the only closely related writer I know of.

Jen: Describe your writing in three words.
Sheila: reader-friendly, down-to-earth, conversational

Jen: How do you approach your writing? Do you plot or go with the flow?
Sheila: With non-fiction I work from an outline, although I’m quick to rearrange anything that doesn’t work as I originally thought it would. I’ve written one mystery novel (it’s with my agent now) and am working on another. With those, I had a loose plot, but had to revise it more than once because the characters don’t always do what I expect! So I would say a combination – I’m pretty balanced in terms of being left- or right-brain driven.

Jen: What kind of research did you do for this book?
Sheila: Rescue Matters combines my personal experiences as a rescuer, shelter volunteer, dog breeder, buyer, adopter, trainer, competitor, and life-long animal lover with information acquired through interviews, observation, and reading. I interviewed a variety of people, including rescue organizers and volunteers, pet owners, veterinarians, breeders, exhibitors, and even a few people who really don’t care much for animals. I’ve been involved with animals all my life, have taught equitation and dog obedience, and have owned or fostered a lot of animals, so I have had many opportunities to observe and interact with people and pets of all kind – and it’s all research!

Jen: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing? Easiest?
Sheila: With non-fiction, the biggest challenge it making sure that information is accurate and up-to-date, especially information about health care, which is always changing and improving. For me, the easiest part is actually the writing itself – I love writing, and revising, so I’m lucky to work at something that is, for me, pleasurable in and of itself. I would write even if I didn’t write to publish, so getting paid is a bonus!

Jen: What’s the most rewarding aspect?
Sheila: Knowing that something I’ve written has helped a reader in some way.

Jen: Do you do anything special to celebrate a sale, new contract, or release?
Sheila: I don’t know that I would characterize it as a celebration, but I go into sort of a de-cluttering frenzy when I finish something, and right before I start the next project. I’m not a naturally tidy person, but at least I begin with the semblance of tidiness! I am, though, very fussy about tidying up my manuscripts before I send them, so I guess that’s where I spend my allotment of organizational energy!

Jen: What has been your highlight of your career to this point?
Sheila: Oh boy. You know, nothing beats the thrill of holding that first book in your hands. But I have been very honored to have my books win the Maxwell and Muse awards, which are peer judged and very competitive. So I guess that’s several highlights!

Jen: What’s the most interesting comment you have received about your books?
Sheila: A longtime friend read one of my books a few years ago, and she said, “I love reading your book – it’s just like talking to you!” I hope she meant it was like hearing me talk – that’s the way I took it. That was fun to hear because it means my writing voice is strong and natural – at least to her!

Jen: What’s next for you?
Sheila: I’m finishing up a little book on Brittanys for pet owners, just turned in a proposal for a slightly different type of non-fiction book, and am looking forward to getting back to my second mystery, which is about half finished. I usually have my hands in several fires at once.

Jen: Where can you be found on the web?
Sheila: and

I also have a Facebook page which is linked to Twitter, and Rescue Matters has a FB Page of it’s own – fans always welcome! Just search Rescue Matters on Facebook, and it should come up.

Jen: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?
Sheila: There are all sorts of studies of reader behavior and how people decide to buy or read books. Studies are nice, but I like to hear from individuals. How do you pick a non-fiction book when you want to learn?

Jen: Sheila is giving away a copy of The Multiple-Dog Family OR The Multiple-Cat Family to one random commenter. To enter the contest, you first need to leave a comment or question for Sheila. Then to complete your entry, your must either leave your email address in your comment or send a message to The contest winner will be chosen on Tuesday, January 12.