Friday, March 11, 2016

Books, Chocolate and Wine with Kathleen Gerard

Photo Credit NJ Media Group - The Record
Today we have a special treat, an interview with Prozac, a therapy dog (with a high IQ and an even higher opinion of himself!) on a mission to rescue blocked romance writer, Meredith Mancuso. Please give a warm Books, Chocolate and Wine welcome to author Kathleen Gerard and Prozac.
Remaining Open to Love - On the Page and Off
Hi Prozac! Congratulations on serving as a dual narrator in The Thing Is. Please tell us about yourself.
Thanks for hosting me! I was hoping to narrate THE THING IS on my own, but Kathleen Gerard (the writer) made me share story-telling duties with her female protagonist, a romance writer in grief. I think Kathleen set up the narrative duties this way because I have a tendency to brag and toot my own horn. With that in mind, let me cut right to the chase–I'm an adorable, super-smart Yorkshire terrier, which is a cuddly, spunky, crafty, toy-dog breed. And while I may be all of five pounds (give or take a few table-scraps of rotisserie chicken now and then!), I'm also a highly accomplished and evolved "Spirit Guide Dog," which means I get the best of all worlds: I come to the planet furry and with four legs, but I'm also equipped with the unique capacity to experience a fully human perspective while also embodying the power of the divine. I might look and act like other Yorkies, but being blessed with unique insights into the human condition, I perceive a lot more than your average, garden variety dog.
What's your mission in The Thing Is?
The job of any evolved "Spirit Guide Dog" is to offer companionship and help people to grow and move on to new things in life. Sometimes, however, that requires taking a hard line—even being a little devious—to light a fire under a human. My original mission in The Thing Is was to serve as a Yorkshire terrier for a nice older lady who was all set to dote on me and spoil me unmercifully until I was unexpectedly re-assigned to a depressed, New Jersey-based romance writer named Meredith Mancuso. It's not until I'm dumped unwillingly into her life that I learn that canine-averse Meredith is deep in the throes of grief (she is mourning the death of her fiancé), and she is suffering from severe writer's block. Ugh—nothing like a double whammy combination slam of challenges!  But gifted as I am, I come to believe, over the course of the story, that it's my job to help Meredith transcend her grief (once and for all) and help her return to the land of the living.
And just how do you that?
Well, it wasn't easy! However, being something of a "Human Whisperer," I soon devise a plan (through a comedy of errors) to launch Meredith into Phase Two of her life by enlisting the help of some older folks in Phase Three of their lives at an independent living facility where I visit each week as a therapy dog.
Romance…where does that figure in for Meredith?
Well, to say that Meredith is "romantically challenged" would be to say that not playing the lottery makes you Powerball challenged! In other words, you've got to be in it to win it. And being around folks in Phase Three of their lives isn't really a romantic hotbed of opportunity for a 33 year-old, reclusive homebody the likes of Meredith Mancuso. However, I will say this: with Meredith, baby-steps to love—the lightness and sweetness of romance—work best in trying to navigate the stormy seas of her own romantic vulnerabilities. In the end, adult children and relatives often visit older people and check in on them. If someone's in the right place, at the right time—especially with a clever Spirit Guide Dog on their side—it's very possible love can bloom…catch my drift?
What makes you qualified to guide Meredith in the romance department?
You'd have to read the book! But with my doleful eyes and moist little nose…the way I endearingly tilt my head at high-pitched sounds…the glee-filled wag of my short, docked tail...and how my tiny paws rarely touch the ground, as I always serve as someone's arm candy...why, I'm cuteness and love personified! Most everyone I meet (outside of the postman) falls madly under my spell. What additional qualifications could I possibly need?
Any strategies or advice you can give readers out there who might be like Meredith—greatly wounded by love, but still open to romance, be it on the page and/or in real life?
Well, I'm not afraid to say it—dogs can always teach humans a thing or two because: 
a) We have a great attitude. (We fall down and get up. We shake ourselves off and forgive and forget.)
b) We explore every opportunity. (We follow our nose, wherever it leads.)
c) We relentlessly believe in "being ourselves" (Accidents on the carpet, doo-doo and all!)
d) We greet everyone with enthusiasm. (The tell is in the wagging tail!)
e) Loyalty! Loyalty! Loyalty! (Enough said?)
f)  We go to great lengths to protect those we love. (And sometimes even those we don't!) and
g) We love unconditionally.
In the end, you have to remain open to love (on the page and off) and believe that anything is possible. Dogs…they never quit on love—and neither should anyone whose heart is still beating!
Thanks for joining us, Prozac!  If you'd like to learn more and spend more time with Spirit Guide Dog, Prozac, and his romantically challenged mistress, Meredith—I encourage you to read THE THING IS by Kathleen Gerard!  It'll be time well spent…Woof-Woof!
The Thing Is
Can a woman mired deep in the throes of grief have her heart and soul rallied by a therapy dog named Prozac who has supernatural wisdom and a canine Mensa IQ?
Meredith Mancuso is depressed. Ever since the death of her fiancé, she has shrunk from the world. Even with her successful writing career, she's not motivated to work. When her sister, Monica, begs for a favor, Meredith wants nothing more than to say no. But she’s ultimately roped into pet-sitting an orphaned Yorkshire terrier named Prozac.
Blessed with spiritual wisdom and a high IQ, Prozac is an active pet therapy dog. To heal broken-hearted Meredith, he rallies his fan club at Evergreen Gardens, an independent living facility, where he visits each week.
Prozac and the community of resilient older folks challenged by losses of their own propel Meredith, often against her will, back into the land of the living. Meredith learns that most people carry some sort of burden, but it's still possible to find meaning, purpose, and joy—and sometimes, even love—along the way.
Reviews for The Thing Is
"A story brimming with humor and heart, and an ending that's as unexpected as it is satisfying." -- Claire Ashby, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of When You Make it Home
"Great story! Unexpected, delightful, uniquely creative…Kathleen Gerard not only understands the canine brain, but she gets people too. The Thing Is reminds us of how intricate and interwoven relationships are—and Prozac teaches us about grace and unconditional love."  -- Melody Carlson, author of The Christmas Joy RideFinding Alice, and The Christmas Dog
"Everyone could use a little Prozac. Kathleen Gerard's heartwarming and uplifting book will have you heading to a pound as soon as you put the book down (if you can ever manage to do it). An absolute page turner, The Thing is provides all the proof you'll ever need that dogs are truly nothing less than Four Legged Angels."  -- Mary Curran Hackett, author of Proof of Heaven and Proof of Angels
"A truly humorous twist on the issue of human frailty interacting with animal charm...offers a new take on grief recovery, which is both lighthearted and insightful!" -- Trudie Barrares, Amazon "Vine Program" Top Reviewer
"Kathleen Gerard captures the powers of caring, connection, and resilience in her wonderful novel, The Thing Is. Prozac, the book's funny and wise canine hero, helps humans of all ages overcome their losses and grief, find happiness and adventure, and renew their joy in love and life." -- Susan Sipprelle, award-winning documentary filmmaker at Tree of Life Productions (Over 50 and Out of Work; Set for Life; Soldier On: Life After Deployment)

Buy Links for The Thing Is Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, Kobo  
Except from The Thing Is
Always keep a camera close by at weddings, baptisms, and bar mitzvahs.
That was the cardinal rule of survival I'd devised when trying to navigate my life as a shining example of unexpected spinsterhood. The world, I'd learned, traveled in pairs—like Noah's Ark—or with families. But people, perfumed and ready to party, could never resist mugging for a photo. Latching on to a camera could create a sense of security and purpose, something to hide behind. In my case, I had a tendency to cut off people’s heads in pictures. But that didn't matter. Aiming a camera—a point-and-shoot or even just my smartphone—and pressing the shutter was a simple enough task that could occupy my time while couples were out on the dance floor.
The thing was that, after a while, there were only so many pictures to take and so many trips to make to the ladies' room. At some point during social events, I always found myself alone at my table, surrounded by empty chairs, dirty plates, crumbs, and soiled napkins as I slugged back another sip of wine and wished—wished so hard that it hurt—that they'd hurry up and bring out the cake to signal that the party would soon be over.
That was the very dilemma I was facing at the bar mitzvah that day. The firstborn son of my old college roommate, Sarah, was celebrating his coming of age, while I was sitting alone at my empty table. I forced an admiring smile as dolled-up couples and pimply-faced teenagers crowded the dance floor, shaking and shimmying to a live rendition of "That's the Way I Like It."
At first, I didn't even realize that Sarah's youngest, five-year-old Jed Jr.—JJ—had climbed onto the chair next to mine. But when I felt a tug on my sleeve and heard him ask, "How come you don't have a husband?" his presence was announced, loud and clear.
"How come you don't have a wife?" I countered.
"'Cause I'm too little," he said. "What's your excuse?"
I laughed. JJ certainly had no inhibitions. And he was a real cutie. His fair skin, disheveled angelic-blond hair, and saucer-like blue eyes guaranteed he'd break hearts someday. "Well, not everyone is married."
"Mommy says your husband died." Thanks, Sarah!
"He was my fiancé. Not my husband."
"What's a fiancé?"
I had to stop and think. Even though I wrote books for a living, award-winning romantic sagas with convoluted plots and subplots, my trying to define the word fiancé for a precocious child was like reconciling the meaning of the universe into a single sound bite.
"Well, before people get married, they get engaged, like when a man gives a ring to his future bride. Did you ever hear of that?"
"Of course. Everybody's heard of that, dummy." So much for little Prince Charming!
"Well, before the wedding, that's what a bride or groom is called. After the engagement ring is given, you would say, 'He’s my fiancé,' or in your case, you would probably say, 'She is my fiancée.'"
"How did your fiancé die?" What's taking so long with that damn cake?
"Well, the thing is…"
I froze and stared at a tiny drop of red wine that had spilled on the starched white tablecloth, suddenly transported back three years to the night of my thirtieth birthday…

Kyle and I were having a beautiful, candlelit dinner on the patio at Andrea's, my favorite Italian restaurant. We watched a mango-colored July sun slip down into the evening sky.
Kyle held up his glass. "Happy birthday, Meredith. I'm looking forward to spending all of your birthdays with you."
That was the same thing he’d said when we'd first celebrated together on my twenty-third birthday…
Our bellies full of pasta, crab-filled calamari, veal parmigiana, espresso, and tiramisu, we walked arm in arm back to the lot where we’d parked the pickup. Kyle kept whistling the birthday song…
A St. Florian medal and a replica of Kyle’s fireman badge dangled from a chain looped over the rearview mirror. I leaned toward Kyle, and the light from the dashboard illuminated the warm pools of his brown eyes as I pressed my lips tenderly to his…
And then a jolt—the urgent sound of a fist rapping upon the driver's side window. "Yo, get a room! We're waitin’ for this spot. You leavin' or what, dawg?"
My heart pounded in my chest.
The menacing, crazed face of an eighteen or nineteen-year-old kid filled the square window frame. He was wearing a ski cap, and lots of gold chains surrounded his neck.
Kyle reached to open the door.
"Don't," I said, my fingers firming around the sleeve of his polo shirt and his rock-solid arm.
 "You only promised me dinner, not fireworks. C'mon. Let's go."
"No," Kyle snapped. "This is exactly what's wrong with the world."
Even with both my hands clamped to his arm, Kyle swung open the door and forced the kid to take a step away.
"You stay here," he ordered. "I'll be right back."
"Kyle, please," I pleaded, but he broke free from my grasp and hopped out of the car…
About Kathleen Gerard
Kathleen Gerard's work has been awarded many literary prizes and broadcast on National Public Radio (NPR). Kathleen's woman-in-jeopardy novel, IN TRANSIT, won "Best Romantic Fiction" at the New York Book Festival. To learn more visit
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1 comment:

  1. Ruth, Thank you for hosting Prozac (and me) and featuring more about THE THING IS! :) Kathleen