Retired high school teacher RJ Mirabal (aka RJ the Story Guy) is the author of an adult fantasy series (the Rio Grande Parallax trilogy), a young adult fantasy (Dragon Train), and the children’s book series Trixie the Brown Dog. His newest release is Trixie: Round Brown Ball of Dog (November 2021), the second book inspired by his adventurous rescue dog. You’ll find RJ and Trixie on their websites at RJMirabal.com and TrixieTheBrownDog.com, on their Facebook pages at RJMirabalAuthor and TrixieTheBrownDog, and on Instagram and Twitter. To find out more about RJ and his writing, visit his SWW author page and follow the links to previous interviews.
What can readers expect from the second book in your Trixie series?
Trixie’s adventures continue as she looks for new things to do and has more Dog Fun with her people. She likes sniffing, walking, running, and playing but those take a back seat when the Brown Dog faces an unexpected challenge. Trixie still can’t talk the way her people do, but she communicates what she wants and how she feels through grunts, whines, whistles, barks, growls, and wagging her tail and body while singing her Dog Opera. Fortunately, RJ The Story Guy interprets all this for a reader’s enjoyment. Big things to overcome, toys to chew and tug, places to go, lots of exploring, and a new fantasy adventure await readers in Trixie: Round Brown Ball of Dog.
How did you get into the mind of the main character, Trixie the Brown Dog, and draw readers into her story?
I’ve always had a close attachment to animals because I am an only child who grew up in the countryside. My dogs and cats were constant companions. As a kid, there were always animals in our family, usually several, including cows and chickens for a few years. Apparently, by instinct, I watched and related to my animal friends very closely and came to understand what they were thinking. Even though the only language animals have is their body language along with barking, meowing, mooing, clucking, grunting, howling, etc., I could usually tell what their moods and desires were.
Since my wife and I have only Trixie as our family pet, we’re all in tune with each other. Once I could read her wants and emotions through her body language and dog vocalizations, I developed an understanding of her character and personality. At that point, especially during walks, I began to think of stories where she was the central character in a series of dog adventures. As a writer, I quickly realized I was developing a book about a rescue dog finding and relating to her new people in a unique way as a result of her personality and experiences. I naturally assumed other animal lovers of all ages would see their own dogs and themselves in the simple stories I told about her.
Was there anything surprising or interesting you discovered while doing research for this book?
My research was simply recording our experiences with Trixie. For Round Brown Ball of Dog, Trixie suffers an injury to what is a dog’s equivalent of the ACL (ligament) associated with the knee. What was surprising were the details of the surgery to repair the injury and how we had to follow a very restrictive regimen of recovery/therapy for several weeks. Going through that experience with Trixie was all the education I needed for story material. That and, of course, Trixie’s characteristic reactions to the gradual return to normal walking and playing. We were surprised that, although she was used to running hard and walking a lot, she adjusted to the restrictions fairly well. However, she was not at all happy about the pain and disability in the first several days after the surgery! Gradually she had a full recovery.
You wrote the Rio Grande Parallax series for adult fantasy readers and Dragon Train for young adult fantasy readers. Tell us why you went in a new direction with the Trixie books.
I wanted to explore a part of my deep experience with animals and make it accessible to others, especially children. The audience I had in mind was a child that had either little or no experience with a pet. I wanted them to learn how to relate to animals in a positive way. The Parallax series are very gritty stories with mature content while Dragon Train is an adventure story based on close relationships between people and other non-human beings.
The Trixie stories are meant to be fun with a few simple messages about love, loyalty, adapting to new situations, facing basic fears, and developing personal responsibility. The obvious target audience (including reading level) is children, especially those six to twelve years old. Yet, I’ve striven to make the stories high-interest for all ages since I envisioned adults sharing the stories with children and grandchildren.
What writing projects are you working on now?
I’m writing books two and three of the Dragon Train Quest Series. The second book, Dragon Train Rebellion, will trace the growth of the dragons’ rebellion against human enslavement and abuse of all three types of dragons. In my story, there are blue dragons who are intelligent and large, silver dragons who possess moderate intelligence and are the size of horses, while the small dog-like silver dragons have limited but very focused intelligence. Humanity is unaware of any dragon intelligence and self-worth, but my main character, a teenage boy, becomes aware of their true nature and joins the dragons to fight for their freedom. The third book, Dragon Train War, will explore the horrors of war and how enemies have to find a way to gain peace and guarantee freedom for the oppressed.
Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
I want readers to know that I welcome comments, thoughts, and reactions to my writing. I would like to engage directly with “followers” who have enjoyed my stories. And I want to learn why my writing appeals to them. Of course, suggestions and ideas are always something I like to share so I can strive to meet readers’ expectations while following my creative pursuits. I guess I’m talking about a fan club. Anyone want to organize one?
KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy has a new speculative fiction blog at klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.