Seven questions with Arin Greenwood

The author of the (soon-to-be-bestselling) Your Robot Dog Will Die answers our questions.

Your Robot Dog Will Die launch party

Gulfport History Museum, 5301 28th Ave. S., Gulfport.

Apr. 20: 7 p.m. (doors open at 6:30 p.m.)

Adoptable dogs from Suncoast Animal League, and a portion of the proceeds from the evening's book sales go to them. Dog-friendly. Well-behaved kids also welcome. Learn more. 

click to enlarge So far, Greenwood and her husband do not have a pet skunk. Yet. - Courtesy of Arin Greenwood
Courtesy of Arin Greenwood
So far, Greenwood and her husband do not have a pet skunk. Yet.
Friday night (Apr. 20), Arin Greenwood's official book launch party takes place in Gulfport, complete with adoptable pups from Suncoast Animal League. Greenwood occasionally contributes animal-related stories to CL, and she's big-time into animals (yes, that's a photo of her holding an albino skunk). After reading (and reviewing) Your Robot Dog Will Die, it became clear she'd based the book on Gulfport. We chatted with her about animals, moving to Florida, and why she set her latest in this unusual town. 

Why are you so passionate about animals?
I've always loved animals. I was just born this way, I think. I was the little kid who would point at dogs and shout "doggie!" — then go run over to beg their owners to let me play with them. Basically, I am still that little kid. I became a vegetarian when I was six years old because I loved animals so much. My bat mitzvah speech was even titled: "Animals are people, too." My parents were not happy about that, by the way — they thought my speech should be called "I appreciate my parents and everything they have done for me." I was too bratty then to really appreciate my parents but I do now — and am also still interested in animal personhood.
I didn't get to work in animal welfare until I'd stopped being a lawyer and had become a journalist, back a while ago now — that's when I realized that there was this whole wonderful, rich, important beat, writing about animals and animal welfare. I've been doing that for about six or seven years now. I love it.

You're a Rhode Island native who lived and worked in DC; how did Florida become home?
Though very good luck and very good timing. My now-husband and I had both spent some time in Florida when we were in our 20s — more than a decade before we'd met. He was the editor of a publication in Palm Beach, and I'd dropped out of college for a little while and was selling shoes at a mall in Naples. We both harbored dreams of coming back. A few years ago, when we were living in DC, we'd both gotten our jobs to where we could do them from anywhere — and decided to seize the moment. We moved around here because we just liked it. We had no ties, nothing really to bring us here — it's just an exceptionally nice place!

How did Gulfport inspire Your Robot Dog Will Die?
That's a great question. I'd been wanting to set a novel at a dog sanctuary for a while, but I didn't have a real image in mind for what it would look like. When my husband and I came down to check out this area, thinking we might want to move here, that's when Dog Island really started taking shape to me. I could just see it, then. We were living in Gulfport when I started to write Robot Dog — being there sparked so many ideas. Like the Casino is such a beautiful, unique building; I knew I wanted to set some scenes there. Gulfport's close community was how I pictured Dog Island's close community. I walked my dog Murray around Clam Bayou most mornings, and that seemed like the perfect place to set The Ruffuge — that's the area of Dog Island where the last remaining real dogs live. I don't think I could have written this book without Gulfport, to be honest.

She was just the nicest, nicest cat. I called my husband to come meet her. He was positive that we were not going to adopt this cat until she sat on his lap and purred.
You moved to St. Pete, though — what about the 'Burg appealed to you both?
I loved Gulfport. Just for the record: We did not move to St. Pete because we don't love Gulfport! We just had more housing options in St. Petersburg. Also, I like to walk a whole lot, and I can walk to many things here. Like I walk to the movies and to the grocery store. So yeah, we live in St. Petersburg in large part because I don't like getting in a car.

How many pets do you have, and how did you get them?
We have four wonderful pets: One dog and three cats. Murray is the dog. We adopted him from a D.C. rescue group about eight years ago. He's such a good boy. We didn't actually mean to adopt any of the cats but here they are, and we love them so much. We adopted Elfie in 2014. It was a Saturday or Sunday, and I was supposed to be catching up on some work but I didn't feel like it. So I took myself for this long walk, then didn't want to walk home. I called my husband and asked him to pick me up. But then I didn't feel like going home, either, so I insisted we go somewhere. He agreed to go to a bookstore, which was in the same plaza as a PetSmart. I popped into the PetSmart to see if they had any animals I could play with. They were doing a cat adoption fair. This one cat insisted that I pet her — she threw herself at the side of her kennel to get attention. I picked her up, and she purred so much. She was just the nicest, nicest cat. I called my husband to come meet her. He was positive that we were not going to adopt this cat until she sat on his lap and purred. There was just no way we weren't bringing her home. The other two cats are Jackie and Chappy. They both started off as fosters. Jackie, from Cat Depot in Sarasota. Chappy, from Meow Now. I swore up and down that I was going to do fostering the right way: Take good care of the kittens to get them well-socialized and healthy, so they could be adopted by someone else. Anyway, with both of them pretty early on I started bawling at the thought of them not being with us anymore. So we adopted them. My husband is pretty opposed to us fostering again for obvious reasons but I think we should still try to do it; fostering is such an important part of animal sheltering and rescue, of saving animals' lives.

click to enlarge Hopefully Murray won't dog-ear all the pages. - Courtesy of Arin Greenwood
Courtesy of Arin Greenwood
Hopefully Murray won't dog-ear all the pages.
What are some lesser-known ways people without oodles of time or money can help?
Foster, adopt, volunteer and donate. Cut down on the amount of meat you eat — you can try eating more vegetarian food. See how you feel. 

What's your next book about?
I just started working on a new book. I don't have a title for it yet. It's about a couple who adopt a dying pit bull. They commit to giving her the very best life, for as long as she has, and she has a powerful effect on them as well. My cat Elfie just came to sit next to me as I typed that out. She's purring as usual. And that also reminds me that I've started working on another YA book involving a girl and her magical cat, too, but I'm a little stuck with that one right now. Perhaps I need to come back to Gulfport for a spell.

About The Author

Cathy Salustri

Cathy's portfolio includes pieces for Visit Florida, USA Today and regional and local press. In 2016, UPF published Backroads of Paradise, her travel narrative about retracing the WPA-era Florida driving tours that was featured in The New York Times. Cathy speaks about Florida history for the Osher Lifelong Learning...
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