One of the things that is a definite balm to the soul of a writer of children’s books is those moments where you get feedback that lets you know that you have reached a child’s imagination.
I was lucky enough to be approached by a teacher friend who has some students reading my first book, A Ghost Called Dog and they had some questions about the backstory of the dog prior to his becoming deceased.
I was more than happy to answer them and I am sharing them here in case you enjoy the answers too as children ask the best questions.
I should warn you that there are some spoilers here so you may want to read the book first if you want to get the story completely unprepared but otherwise I hope you enjoy.
To Mrs Allen’s students,
I was very happy to receive your questions that Mrs Allen passed on, and I will do my best to answer them shortly, but if you would allow me the time I would like to spend a moment preparing you for the answers.
I suspect that humans have been telling stories since there have been humans. Since the days we first huddled round fires in the dark and started to talk to each other. Stories are one of the ways we make sense of the world around us and they have a special kind of magic of their own. A good story will fire your imaginations but in the retelling it takes on a life of its own. Whether by accident or design a story will always change in the telling, even the book you have read is different to how the story first appeared in my head.
I tell you this not to say my book is good or special, but to say that I am truly grateful that you cared enough to ask these questions. I will do my best to answer them from the world which I have created but please remember that if you don’t like my answers, you can always make up your own.
Keep doing that and maybe you’ll write you own books one day.
Why aren’t there more ghost dogs?
There are very few ghosts in the world at all and even fewer ghost animals. Usually, something bad has to happen to someone to make their spirit need to linger with the living. For animals this is rare because animals are consumed with animal things like food, and head scratches but not so much with complex human things like mathematics or history. However, there is a sacred tree in Abby and Chris’s garden which is a link to the Land of Fairy and powerful magic. When Abby and Chris awaken a spirit by playing in the sacred tree, magic seeps back into the world and calls the spirits of animals that were buried nearby into the world. The ghosts in this book are unique as far as I know.
How did the dog die? Did it get hurt?
These are really good questions. This is a writer’s way of stalling for time, but the honest answer is that I don’t know but there is a reason for this. Even if Chris had asked Dog how he died (and I don’t know why he didn’t), I’m not sure woof would explain the answer. However, we do know that there were a series of pets buried in the garden that came back as ghosts thanks to magic, and I like to think they were all much loved family pets who reached a good age and then died of natural causes. Why else would they be buried in the garden?
Why doesn’t the dog have a ghost collar? Why isn’t the dog with its ghost owner?
As I said, I don’t know for certain what happened to Dog but I believe his owner is still alive as dogs live much shorter lives on average than humans, and Dog was only brought back by the stray powerful magic that seeped into the garden. A collar is a human thing to denote ownership of a pet, but you can’t own the spirit of something and so when the magic brought back the spirit of Dog, his ghost came back as an animal without a collar.
I hope this answers your questions, or at least gives you something to think about.