Dori Hillestad Butler used to dream to become a successful author since her childhood days. And finally she has achieved one of the highest literary achievements in an author’s life. In 2011 her book The Buddy Files: The Case of a Lost Boy has won Edgar Award for the best Juvenile Mystery. In her interview with us regarding her award winning book, Dori talks about her concept of the plot, relationship equations, character portrayals, and her forthcoming releases along with her message for readers.
Thank you. It was a dream comes true. Really! I’ve always loved mysteries. I’ve known about the Edgar Award since I was a teenager, and I’ve always dreamed of winning it. When I heard my name called that night, I was in such shock that my husband claims he had to nudge me to get me to get up and go to accept the award.
How did you come up with the idea of writing a book based on a dog as a detective?
I was actually working on another project at the time. Another mystery series. But the characters and first story just weren’t coming together for me. I’d gone to the library one night intent on getting SOMETHING written on this project. Maybe the real problem was I just wasn’t as passionate about that other idea as I needed to be. My mind kept wandering…to this new dog I’d just adopted. I was hoping he would one day become a therapy dog. He was SUCH a character, and he had so much personality. I got to thinking; he’d make a good character in a book. In fact, a therapy dog that solves mysteries could be an interesting hook. I started playing with the idea…and in less than an hour I had a draft of a first chapter written.
How did you plot a mystery in such an easy- going and light- hearted manner?
By starting with a light-hearted character. The character directs the plot.
What is the friendship equation between Connor and King that it directly touches the chord of our hearts?
Well, in the first book, King/Buddy is torn. He’s with Connor, but Kayla still is human. In fact, he struggles with those conflicting loyalties through three books. I think this is something a lot of kids can relate to, especially kids from blended families. What’s it like to have more than one mom or more than one dad? Is it okay to love more than one mom or more than one dad? Is there a finite amount of love or love grows? These are questions Buddy is trying to work out…and so are many kids.
Tell us something about your character- portrayal of the chief attraction of your book- Buddy/King?
King/Buddy (let’s do it that way instead of Buddy/King since he is King first, THEN becomes Buddy) is my dog, Mouse. My Mouse looks different from Buddy. He’s bigger, for one thing. And he’s not golden. My Mouse looks like an over-sized BLACK golden retriever (he’s a mixed breed), but Buddy’s actions, thoughts, personality, that’s my entire dog. Or it’s what I believe goes on (or could go on) inside my dog. Creating the Buddy character was very easy.
I was with a friend and our dogs a few months ago and she said something to Mouse. I answered back in Mouse’s voice and she laughed and said, “You talk for your dog?” I was surprised when she said that because I’ve ALWAYS spoken for my pets. I thought all pet owners did that. Maybe what I’m really doing is creating more Buddy Files material.
What is your take on the supporting animal characters like Mouse and the Cat with no name?
Mouse is Buddy’s best friend and sounding board. He’s the one Buddy talks to, the one who helps Buddy solve mysteries. Cat with No Name is there for conflict. Dogs and cats are often in conflict. Cat (and his relationship with Buddy) can also provide comic relief.
How far this book does emphasize on the family bonding and relationships?
Ultimately, I think these are friendship stories rather than family stories. Certainly Buddy feels bonded to Connor and Mom (and even to his old family, too), but Buddy is a friend to all. That’s why I named him Buddy in the first place. Buddy is another word for friend, right? And Buddy is the most loyal friend you’ll ever have. He loves everybody…he’ll do absolutely anything for anyone…and he never gives up.
What is the educational message of your book for your young readers?
I don’t really set out to include a message in my books. I write to entertain first. But if readers take away ideas of kindness, loyalty, friendship, love, humane treatment of animals, well, that would be a bonus.
What is coming from you next?
Buddy Files #6: The Case of the School Ghost will be released February 1. Buddy Files #7 will be released spring 2013. And then I have a new series for early chapter book readers coming in summer 2013. It’s called the Haunted Library and it’s about a misfit ghost boy and a misfit human girl who come together to solve mysteries.
Any message for your readers?
To follow your dreams and never give up.