Today, I’m pleased to share an interview with Conny Manero, author of the upcoming RHP release of DEBBIE.
I think many readers must already know that you’re an animal lover, Conny, but perhaps many don’t realize that the star of your upcoming book was one of your pets. Can you tell us a little about the real Debbie?
Debbie was a character Robin, she was non- stop entertainment (when she was awake).
One thing we didn’t know about ferrets is how much they sleep. We thought they would nap the same amount as the cats, but they sleep a lot more and I do mean a lot. On average, they sleep about 20 hours a day.
Debbie would wake up around 6:00 a.m., have something to eat and drink and go back to bed. We wouldn’t see her again until 9:00 p.m.
In the evening, she would once again have something to eat and then expect to be entertained. She would chase the cats, nip at their tails, or clamber into the chair and expect to be petted.
Debbie also knew that 9:00 p.m. meant coffee time. She couldn’t care less about the coffee, but she was a fan of cookies. Given half a chance, she would steal one off the plate, carry it to her hide-away and come back for more.
She stole all sorts of things: the TV guide, the remote control, a cell phone, everything and anything was of interest and would be taken. If she couldn’t carry it, she would drag it. Whenever we were missing something, all we had to do was check Debbie’s hiding place! I remember once an Avon consultant came to visit, and within no time at all Debbie was in the woman’s handbag and had pinched her cellphone.
Debbie loved people. While the cats were scared of strangers and hid under the bed until they were gone, Debbie came to greet them at the door and would crawl onto their shoes, demanding attention.
Wow, sounds like she was very entertaining! And now, of course, you must tell us all about your book ….
After Debbie passed away, I felt the need to do something in her memory. We had many pictures, but I wanted to share more of her than just a photograph.
From what I heard and read online, ferrets are very misunderstood. People fear them, are afraid they’re going to be bitten by them, or think they’re like rats (dirty and smelly). That, of course, is not true. Debbie never bit us.
As for the smelly part … well, when she started to smell less than fresh, she got a bath. First, she was washed with shampoo in the bathroom sink, followed by conditioner and rinsed. Then we put clear, lukewarm water in the bath for her swim. She loved that. One of us stayed with her of course, because accidents happen so quickly, but we could see when she was getting tired. We would get her out and wrap her in a towel. What happened next was her least favorite part … the blow-drying!
Gradually Debbie became less and less active, and when she started losing fur on her back and tail we knew that she wouldn’t last much longer. Ferrets live only between six and seven years and Debbie was seven and a bit. She passed away in her sleep.
And do you have pets now? How many and what are their names?
Currently I have four cats: Chanel who is 13, Charlotte and Mickey are five, and Gabriel is four. Back in South Africa, I had seven cats and when we decided to come to Canada, they all came with me. It would have broken my heart to leave them behind and I’m a firm believer that you can’t build future happiness on past sorrow.
So all seven of them went to a luxury cat kennel where they were all housed together and had a big patch of grass to run around in. I went to check out the kennel first before committing, because I was terrified that they would be locked up in cages. I was very satisfied with what I saw and they really got first class treatment. Once I had secured an apartment in Canada, I got in touch with the manager of the kennel and the seven cats were put on a plane. They arrived in excellent condition.
That was 15 years ago, and all of them have passed on. The youngest was 11 when he died, the eldest was 20. Charlie (who is mentioned in the book) was the last to go. He left us on Boxing Day 2011.
As for the cats I have now, Chanel is a rescue and so is Charlotte. Mickey used to be my parents’ cat, but when my mom died and my dad decided to go into a retirement home, I took him to live with us. I was happy to have him and it gave my dad peace of mind. I rescued Gabriel from a breeder.
How do you feel about your book launch? Happy, excited, nervous?
All of the above! I can’t wait for March 30th to come, and I hope many people are curious enough to buy the book. I know they will enjoy Debbie’s story. It would make an excellent bedtime story, although I can imagine that a child would ask, “And then what happened?”
But I think that “Debbie” is not just for children. Anyone who has an interest in ferrets or who is thinking of getting one will find the book amusing and educational. Before pitching the story to the publisher, I had the manuscript read by a few children and they read it in one sitting.
I know you have other books that you self-published. What’s the difference between doing it yourself and having a publisher?
Having someone else taking care of the details is so much easier. This time I can sit back and relax. For one, the publisher takes care of the editing, which is something I was nervous about (English not being my first language). The publisher also gave me some valuable input regarding the cover of the book and arranged for illustrations.
That really was the cherry on top of the cake. I never expected they would go to such lengths to make the book appealing. We all know how much children like pictures. I’m sure they will like the story, but a picture is worth a thousand words, right?
What made you decide to write a children’s book? How is it different from writing a novel?
It’s quicker. “Waiting for Silverbird” and “Voice of an Angel” took me a year to write. “Debbie” was written in less than a week. I got the idea one night, started writing, and the words just flowed onto the paper.
Yes, I write with pen and paper. As soon as I’m faced with a computer screen and keyboard, my inspiration dies on the spot. There’s something about smooth paper and a pen scratching across the lines that puts my inspiration in overdrive.
“Debbie” is my second children’s book. The first one is “Kitten Diaries.” The first story I wrote after taking care of a Siamese kitten while her owners went on vacation for three weeks; the second, I wrote shortly after adopting Chanel. Her adoption was unique (to me at least) and I wanted to share that story.
Do you have any projects in the works right now?
Yes I do, but I can’t talk about it. I find that once I start talking about a story, I can’t write it anymore. I can tell you this much though, it’s a mixture of an expose (where I’m not holding back any punches) and a mystery, and a bit of love too.
What do you do when you aren’t writing?
I like to read and watch TV. I’m hooked on stories such as “Downton Abbey,” “Vampire Diaries,” “Hawaii 5-0,” “Castle,” and “Arrow”. I also enjoy movies. A while ago, I saw “The Expendables” (I’m a big Sylvester Stallone fan), recently I saw “Lincoln” and “Argo,” and I’m looking forward to the release of the sixth movie of “The Fast & Furious” saga. On Sundays I like to watch the beginning and the end of the NASCAR races.
Other than that, I spend a fair amount of time in the bowling alley. I play league bowling every Wednesday, and go practicing on Saturday mornings and Sunday nights. I also take part in bowling tournaments. Most recently I tried out for Team Canada.
To a certain extent I’m involved with the Toronto Cat Rescue. Creating awareness for this organization, advocating spaying/neutering and taking part in their annual fundraising.
Thanks so much for being with us today, Conny – I’m sure readers are happy to get a glimpse into your life, and the life of Debbie.
DEBBIE, by Conny Manero, will be released by Rocking Horse Publishing on March 30, 2013, in just three weeks!