What: She earned a Ph.D. in English, taught college literature and writing, produced and wrote episodic television, published articles, book reviews, and poetry. Her Charlie & Rose series includes DEAD IS BETTER, DEAD IS BEST and DEAD IS GOOD.
Where: Los Angeles
Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.
I just read DEAD IS BETTER. What inspired such an original concept?
Looking back, I think a couple of things inspired me: I’m in my 60s and the fact that I have an expiration date has become impossible to ignore. So I guess I found myself contemplating death in a serious, curious, voyeuristic and prolonged way.
Taking home a dusty, confused and thirsty dog that had been dumped in a Home Depot parking lot on a very hot day in 2008 is what led, I see now, to writing the book. This dog that someone felt could be discarded like trash—we named her Lucy—changed my world and changed me. I’d always had cats and had no instinct for the canine temperament, but Lucy was a very patient teacher. Lucy is one of the smartest, kindest and most interesting beings I know. She and our other dog, Lola (she was dumped in an alley behind our house) will be 10 in February. They’ve led me to new experiences, new friends, and often allow me to see the world from a canine point of view.
And once a dog was part of my life, I was in a position to see the everyday, casual cruelties inflicted upon them. Gross acts of neglect and cruelty make the news, but in parks, backyards and on the street, I witnessed unkindness—too-long periods of confinement; chains; choke collars; prong collars; electronic shock collars, and so many violent yanks of the leash—which made me feel helpless, sick and angry. I once asked a man to stop and he choked his dog again right in front of me. I learned to shut up.