Friday, April 5, 2013

Interview with Sieglinde C. Othmer

Here, we have a mini interview with Seiglinde C. Othmer, PhD., the author of 'Whims, Wits and Whiskers: A Californian Pet Tale' [reviewed here]. She shares her views on her book, 'juvenile fiction' and her future plans. Read on...

ZR: Did you always have this story, 'Whims, Wits and Whiskers: A Californian Pet Tale', in mind before you put it down on paper? What inspired you to come up with this beautiful story line?
SCO: I have always loved and been fascinated by animals.  I enjoy imagining what truly goes on in their minds and what happens when we humans are away.  Insight into animals can provide an intriguing parallel to humanity – behavior, motivation, satisfaction, and disappointment.

Once during a party that my husband and I hosted, I fantasized about what our pets were doing in the backyard.  Were they having a party of their own?  Who had they invited?  The neighborhood pets or the wild beasts from the woods or both?  What did they do?  Was it a success?  The story developed from there and transformed into this book.

One major inspiration was witnessing my daughter Julia create music. I was also motivated to show my granddaughters what matters most in life: problem solving, sharing, getting along and creating. I love nature, art, animals, traveling and languages. The story gave me a chance to mix them together.

ZR: Do you have a lot of pets whose behavior you observed over a long period of time?
SCO: Yes. The core of ‘Whims, Wits, and Whiskers—A California Pet Tale’ is true to life. The dogs and cats in my story were inspired by real family pets, and all were rescues.  They lived in Los Altos Hills, California, in Danville, Pennsylvania, and yes, the cats whose Mistress and Master are artists lived in Hollywood. Even the duck is true to life—Harvey was my neighbor’s pet who chose to never set a foot in water.

ZR: In your story, cats and dogs (born to fight) come together for the realization of their dreams. Is there an implied moral behind this, or is it just meant to be taken as it is?
SCO: Thank you for posing this question. The power of cooperation and appreciation of differences is one of my favorite themes. If we can effectively communicate, despite our differences, we can reach a point where all obstacles can be overcome and dreams of any sort can be realized. 

ZR: Which parts of your own book do you like the most? Which pets among all those mentioned, are your favorite?
SCO: What I cherish the most is the moment where the unlikely happens: cross-species communication. Mammals and birds talk (Chap. 4) and all witness how far we can go when that happens.

My favorite pet—and I never thought about this until you asked—is Lexi, because she develops the most.  From being a naïve sweetheart, she grows to muster the courage to play the lion role in the show.

ZR: How much time did the whole process take - from inception of the idea to the final product in hand?
SCO: Four years and many drafts. 

ZR: What, according to you, are the greatest works in juvenile fiction till date?
SCO: I love E.B. White: Charlotte’s Web.

ZR: Is there any sequel to this book in the pipeline? If yes, what would it be like?
SCO: I have plans.  At this time, I will keep them as my secret. But I hope my next story will be funny, meaningful and a total surprise.

Thanks a lot Mrs. Othmer!! 
It is actually heart warming to know that something with its roots in reality can be transformed and made into a story so interesting and meaningful. I am sure a lot of new authors will take inspiration from you.  And  we are all eagerly waiting for your next book.