The Story of Edgar Sawtelle Webcast Transcript
Oprah: Beautiful. Just like I pictured it in my mind's eye too.
David: Yes. That was great.
Oprah: How long did it take you to write it?
David: Over 10—in terms of calendar time, it was somewhere between 10 and 15 years, and I say between 10 and 15 years because that—the day that that idea package arrived, I didn't act on it right away. It occupied my mind. I made various attempts to get started. But it took me a couple of years and a few false starts to really get rolling on it.
Oprah: So how were you supporting yourself in between?
David: I've been a software developer since 1981, which is work that I love doing. It's very creative, and for me it occupies my imagination every bit as much as writing or any other creative thing that I've done.
David: So I love doing that.
Oprah: So we have Vontresa from Albany, Georgia, on the line, David. Hello, Vontresa.
Vontresa: Hi, it's Vontresa.
Oprah: Vontresa. Okay, thank you.
Vontresa: Hi, everybody. I just wanted to congratulate Mr. Wroblewski on his success, and I also wanted to know how he came up with the concept of the actual book and the imaginary breed of the Sawtelle dogs.
Oprah: The imaginary breed, yeah.
David: Hi. Hi, Vontresa.
David: I—the imaginary breed is—was not—it took me a while to understand how to write this story, and I made a few false starts, and one of the false starts that I made was to choose a specific breed of dog for the Sawtelle dogs.
Oprah: Right there. Yeah.
David: And what I discovered when I would workshop that material or show it to other people is they would—they would react to the breed of the dog rather than, in my mind, the dogs were—were all dogs. They were every dogs.
David: And so I—eventually I decided that I would try an experiment which was to take as much information out of the story about the dogs as possible and leave them underdescribed, and what I noticed was that people—
Oprah: Use their own imagination.
David: Filled in the details from their own experience, and that was immediately apparent that that was the right way to go. But it was an example of what I've experienced in writing many times over which is you try things and then you have to stand back and see if they work. Sort of listen to the work in progress and then sort of evaluate and go with what works and not impose an idea on it ahead of time, so...
Oprah: Thanks. Thanks, Vontresa.
David: Thank you.
Vontresa: Thank you.
Oprah: So "Fort" in that—Forte, the wild dog in the book, was he based on a real dog?
David: Yes. I actually call him "For-tay."
Oprah: You call him "For-tay"?
Oprah: I call him—I thought he was Forte since I have a friend named Forte but I thought, "Well, he couldn't be Forte."
David: He is Forte.
Oprah: He is Forte.
David: He is based on two different dogs. His name is drawn on a dog that we had when we were breeding dogs back when I was a kid. A very big dog, hence the name Forte. But his character is based on a different dog, a wild or half wild dog that I adopted when I was probably 11 or 12 years old who I called Prince. And Prince had been abandoned near our house. As in the story, people used to abandon their dogs. When they didn't want dogs, they would abandon them near our place because they knew we raised dogs. And so we found Prince running through the fields, he wouldn't come in. I spent a fair amount of time just coaxing him in, and we only ever got him sort of half domesticated, really. He wouldn't come into the house. He would not ever allow a collar or a leash to be put on him. But he was intensely loyal and very protective of the yard, and he took it on as his personal responsibility to round up every skunk within a mile and somehow corner it near our back door. So I spent a lot of—a lot of time washing him out after things like that, so...
Oprah: And does tomato juice work for skunks? I always heard—
David: I don't know. I wish I had even heard that at the time because we just shampooed Prince, and it didn't work very well, I must say.
Oprah: So Forte is based upon Prince.
Oprah: Okay. Jocelyn from Boston, Massachusetts, Skyping us from her family room. Hi, Jocelyn.
Jocelyn: Hi, Oprah.
Oprah: I heard you read every book club selection. Is that true?
Jocelyn: I have read every book club selection, so this is huge that I'm getting to be on through Skype and everything. This is crazy.
Oprah: Wow, this is crazy wild fun. Okay.
Jocelyn: Crazy wild fun. And, Oprah, I actually read this book on a Kindle.
Oprah: Was it—
Jocelyn: So I—I really have followed your book selection guidance and everything.
Oprah: That's good. Do you like the Kindle? Because some people love it as I do, and other people—how are you peopling about it?
Jocelyn: You know, I really, really liked it. I found that I read the book much quicker than I would read a normal book.
Jocelyn: Because, you know, it's—I can't tell how many pages I have until the end. You know, there's a little thing across the bottom, but it's very nice to get completely lost in the book without paying attention to—
Oprah: How much further you have to go, yeah.
Jocelyn: Exactly, yeah. So I loved it. I really loved it. And I loved the book.
Oprah: Was this your first Kindle read? Was this your first Kindle read?
Jocelyn: This was my first Kindle read. I got the Kindle actually for Christmas, and this was the first book I bought on it, and I read it in about—about a week and a half.
Jocelyn: And it's, you know, a huge book, so—
Oprah: Yes, I do.
Jocelyn: Yeah, so I—and I loved it. I absolutely loved it. And, yes, I have read every single book club selection.
Oprah: And don't you just love this one more than—
Jocelyn: I—I loved it. I loved it. And my question actually for David is the character of Trudy was such a strong woman, and I was wondering if you had a lot of strong female influences in your life that really helped you connect to that personality and if that was—if she was based on anyone in particular in your life.