On my son’s seventh birthday, I let him go to Barnes & Noble and pick out any book he wanted. He spent 15 minutes roaming the aisles, overwhelmed by all of his options. Finally he stopped in his tracks and pulled out Dog Man, by Dav Pilkey, laughing aloud when he saw the cover. “This one,” he said excitedly. From that moment on, he was hooked. Both of my children have been longtime fans of Dav Pilkey’s work, from Dog Man to Captain Underpants, and they were thrilled at the opportunity to interview him about his latest book in the Dog Man series, For Whom the Ball Rolls. Thank you, Mr. Pilkey, for answering their questions, and for taking my son’s editorial suggestions in stride. Like you, he’s a boy full of ideas!
Cooper (Age 8): I have seriously loved Dog Man since the first book. Half man, half dog—it was such a great idea. Did you get the idea because you have a dog that’s really smart?
Dav Pilkey: Actually, I DID have a really smart dog when I was a kid. I’m sure he helped inspire me because I made my first Dog Man comic book when I was in the second grade. Dog Man was a lot different back then. He was a regular dog who got super powers when he was struck by lightning!
Addison (Age 10): I just finished fourth grade, which George and Harold from Captain Underpants were in when that series first started. What were you like in fourth grade? Did you get in trouble a lot?
Dav: Yes, I did get in trouble a lot. I had ADHD (they called it extreme hyperactivity back then), and so it was often difficult for me to sit still and pay attention like most of my classmates. My teachers were frustrated with my behavior in the classroom, so they would make me sit alone at a desk in the hallway. It was sad at first, then I discovered that I could draw and write stories out there. My days in the hallway gave me lots of time to practice, and that’s where I first discovered a love of storytelling.
Cooper: Do you have a sister? Does she like to tattle to your mom?
Dav: I DO have a sister, and she was a HUGE tattletale. As you can imagine, we didn’t get along very well when we were kids. Now that we’re both grown-ups, she almost never tattles on me anymore so we get along just fine.
Addison: In the last Dog Man, Brawl of the Wild, Dog Man was sent to prison for something he didn’t do. I kept thinking how mad I would be is something happened to me like that. What gets you mad?
Dav: Sometimes I get mad at myself (frustrated is probably a better word) because I still have ADHD and it is still difficult for me to pay attention. But I try to focus on the positive and think of my ADHD as a superpower. I created the character 80-HD in the Dog Man books to show readers that having ADHD is not a bad thing. In fact, because of it, I’m able to hyper-focus and write and draw more Dog Man books. So a perceived challenge could be turned into something good.
Cooper: In Dog Man, you have a lot of cool animals, but have you ever thought of adding a giraffe? They’re my favorite and I think it would be cool to see a giraffe partner with Dog Man or something.
Dav: Cool idea! Hey, why don’t YOU make a book about a giraffe? The great thing about writing books and making comics is that you can take something that you love (like a giraffe) and build a story around it. If you start with something you’re passionate about, you’ll be more creative and come up with better ideas!
Addison: Cooper, are you telling him how to write his books? Don’t worry, I won’t offer any ideas, but I did want to know how you came up with your new book, Dog Man: For Whom the Ball Rolls? Does it just hit you and you write it all at once or does it happen over time?
Dav: Usually I start with a title and a theme. I liked the title because I’m a fan of Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls. Once I settled on the themes of “perspective” and the importance of “doing good”, the story began to develop in my mind.
Cooper: So I love giraffes, what can I say? If you could be two animals put together, what would they be? And nope, you can’t say Dog and Man.
Addison: Dog Man has some fears in this new book, which is kind of nice to see because kids are afraid of stuff. What are you afraid of?
Dav: The thing that scares me most is writing. Even though I’ve been writing books for more than thirty years, I‘m sometimes afraid that I’ll never be able to think of another story again. When these fears strike, I do my best to push through them. I force myself to write every day (whether I feel inspired or not). My ideas are not always good, but it’s better to write a bunch of bad ideas than to write nothing at all. Sometimes bad ideas can turn into something good or funny. In fact, many of my best ideas started out as bad ideas.
Cooper: Last question—if you could hang out with Dog Man for an entire day, what would you do together?
Dav: We’d probably chase squirrels and roll around in garbage. That sounds fun!
Thank you, Mr. Pilkey, for taking the time to answer our questions! We can’t wait to read your new book!
Dog Man: For Whom the Ball Rolls is on B&N bookshelves August 13.