In the year that I’ve had this blog I’ve been presented with many opportunities, but this one absolutely knocked me off my feet. Late last month I was invited to review A Pug’s Tale by Alison Pace, a nationally published author of five novels, one of which I read several years ago: 2008’s City Dog, the story of a writer and her quirky West Highland White Terrier. I was charmed by the novel and marked Alison in my mind as an author to read more of in the future. Funny old world, isn’t it? Having had such a positive previous experience with Alison’s writing, I dove into A Pug’s Tale with the comfort and excitement of visiting an old friend after a lengthy absence.
A Pug’s Tale, the standalone sequel to her 2006 novel Pug Hill, promises Alison’s beguiling wit, an amiable heroine with a smart canine companion, a fascinating mystery and countless insights into the art world as the novel’s story unfolds inside New York’s famed Metropolitan Museum of Art. It floats effortlessly through genres, at once a Chick Lit novel, a cozy mystery and an honest examination of character. And at the center of it all is a wise pug named Max.
Max is spirited, adorable and regularly smuggled into the Met by art restorer Hope McNeil. One night when a pug-centric party is being held in honor of Daphne Markham, the Met’s substantial new donor, Hope decides it’s the perfect opportunity for Max to experience the social side of the museum; what she doesn’t anticipate is that the evening will end with the honoree’s pug being chased into a fountain and a priceless nineteenth century painting stolen, a fake decoy left in its place. Now Hope finds that it’s up to her to solve the mystery and restore the lost painting before she herself becomes implicated in the crime. With the help of Max’s quick intuition, eccentric senior citizen Daphne and cryptic clues from an unseen messenger, Hope works to make sense of her suddenly wild circumstances. In between scavenger hunts throughout the Met and determining the possible motives of her suspicious coworkers, Hope is also struggling to maintain a long-distance relationship with her boyfriend Ben, running into ex-boyfriends in the park and continuing to overcome her once-unrequited crush on the man who is now her boss, events that test Hope and reveal a strength of integrity she may not have known she had.
The charm of A Pug’s Tale is sure to captivate its audience, and Hope’s sharp narrative will have the reader chuckling aloud as she endeavors to organize the chaos of her life and live out her happily ever after. Alison’s writing style is smart, funny and refreshingly original, paired with a story and characters that brim with appeal. Seasoned with fascinating bits of art history and the quirky antics of loveable pug Max, A Pug’s Tale becomes a novel for art lovers, dog lovers and mystery lovers alike.
I was thrilled to have the opportunity to ask Alison some questions about her books, as well. Check out what she had to say:
1. Among the cast of your books are cheerful canines, from Pugs to Westies and beyond. Are the breeds you write about in your novels sentimental for any reason? I do tend to write about breeds I’m partial to. I love pugs, obviously, and terriers, but also a huge fan of mix-breeds, too. Pretty much any kind of dog. I view dogs very much as full characters (in life and in writing) so in the way that I might say, this character is tall and has brown hair and great style, I’ll say, this character is a black pug who is a little overweight.
2. You hold a degree in Art History, a passion you draw on for A Pug’s Tale among other novels. What motivated you to turn to novel writing? I think this is the same for so many writers, but I’ve always loved writing, and for as far back as I can remember I’ve always been writing. But yet in college I caught the art history bug and majored in that. For the decade I worked in the art world, I daydreamed a lot about one day becoming a writer, and eventually I stopped daydreaming. I wrote my first novel, If Andy Warhol had a Girlfriend, while working at an art gallery, about, among other things, working at an art gallery. I’ve written four novels since that one, and the art world has played a role in three.
3. Art restorer Hope McNeil made her first appearance in your 2006 novel Pug Hill. Do you intend to continue writing her story in the future? I do, yes. I love Hope as a character for all her searching and angst and her good heart. And I love Max. I so want to see what happens to them after the last scene of A Pug’s Tale so, as of this writing, I’m hoping they’ll be back.
4. Would you tell us a bit about your experience writing A Pug’s Tale; did you take special trips to the Met for inspiration? I took many, many trips to the Met and to Central Park for inspiration. I walked the routes Hope walked in the museum, in the public museum at least, and my dog and I walked the same routes Hope and Max walked. I like to do that when I can to get a real sense for the sights, sounds, feel of a scene. And the Met and Central Park are my two favorite places in New York so it was a truly lovely research experience.
5. And lastly, many of The Girl Who Stole the Eiffel Tower’s readers are burgeoning writers as well. Do you have any advice for those who have publishing in their sights? Oh, lots! First and foremost, keep writing. Even if it’s just a sentence a day, a note jotted down on a napkin, try to do something every day until you have a first draft. And once you have that first draft don’t be afraid to cut a lot of it and revise, revise, revise. And read: read everything. And start taking a lot of long walks, that’s when the really good ideas tend to come. A dog is a great motivator for that.
And lastly, I’m ecstatic to share the book with two of my readers in a special giveaway. Alison has kindly offered an autographed copy to one of my American readers, and I’ve bought an additional (unsigned) copy for one of you overseas.
Simply leave a comment with your name and country (example: Casee Marie, USA).
The contest will be closed on Tuesday, June 28th. On Wednesday, June 29th, I’ll randomly select an American winner for the autographed copy as well as an international reader for the extra, unsigned copy.
Happy reading, lovelies! If you want to purchase a copy of A Pug’s Tale yourself or connect with Alison, here’s everything you need:
Tremendous thanks go to Lisa Fielack for approaching me with the invitation to receive a free pre-release copy of A Pug’s Tale for review, for organizing this wonderful Q&A and giveaway, and for being such a general pleasure to work with!