Kindness as a Superpower: An Interview with The Doggy Diva Diaries Author Susan Marie
Back in 2018, Susan Marie and her dog Miss Olive published Miss Olive Finds Her “Furever” Home, the heartwarming first book in The Doggy Diva Diaries trilogy. The book soon became a hit, earning accolades such as the Dog Writers Association of America Maxwell Medallion, a Moonbeam Children’s Book Award, and top honors from National Parenting Product Awards (NAPPA). This year, the duo released Miss Olive Finds Her “Furever” Friends, the second part of the trilogy.
Of course, Susan isn’t a newcomer to the animal community for dog lovers. After Susan and her husband rescued a petite little Italian Greyhound named Sophia in 2001, Susan was inspired to start The Doggy Diva Show, a radio show where she, her fur family, and a variety of guests could share information with pet owners everywhere and serve as a voice in the animal community.
Life has changed quite a bit since we talked to Susan in 2018 about her family, the show, and her first book. We checked back in with Susan about the response she received for Miss Olive Finds Her “Furever” Home, how it impacted the second book in the trilogy, and what else has been going on for her, Miss Olive, and the rest of their family.
Bil-Jac: It’s been a couple years since you published the first book in The Doggy Diva Diaries. What was that experience like?
Susan: I have to tell you that it was pretty amazing. In Miss Olive Finds Her “Furever” Home, it was about this sad and lonely little pup – she had special needs and was trying to find her forever home and forever family. With the help of her fairy dogmother, Sophia the Doggy Diva, she learned a valuable life lesson that it really doesn’t matter what you look like on the outside, it’s the love that you have on the inside that counts and that your dreams really can come true.
My goal with that book was to help children and adults learn about the importance of looking at animals who have special needs and how they make greats pets. To my surprise, I also had a base who loved it because it was a rescue book, but then I had moms, grandparents, and children sending me letters and emailing me because they had a loved one who was ill or had a special need that impacted their life. It took on a whole new meaning.
One of the grandmothers had a granddaughter who had a life-threatening illness at the time and was hospitalized. The grandmother brought her up a basket of goodies that included the book. The little girl took Miss Olive’s book and had her grandmother and her mother read it to her over and over. She wouldn’t let the doctor examine her, so the doctor had to read the book with her. She loved Miss Olive so much and she kept the book through as she was discharged from the hospital all the way until she was home and recovered. She still loves the book.
She fell in love with the character because Miss Olive is not perfect and yet she found that her dreams came true, so I think it inspired children in a whole different way than I thought it would. It had a whole different outcome. From that book, we won the two awards and received top honors from National Parenting Product Awards. I was surprised; I had no idea that the book would get so much recognition.
Bil-Jac: What was it like when you realized that your book had that special meaning to a whole different group of people?
Susan: It meant a lot to me. It helped me as I was writing my second book. I felt that if she had a forever home in the first book, how about if she had forever friends. Children experience things adults do, such as bullying, whether it’s face to face or online. I thought that maybe I could write something that could impact children about the importance of having forever friends, but also that when you encounter bullying or challenges in your life that there are special friends – and in Miss Olive’s case, she also had her fairy dogmother watching over her – and that your superpower can be kindness. If someone is challenging you because of the way you look or the way you act, bullying is not okay – but it’s okay that when you make your forever friends that they love you for who you are and you love them.
I’ve been helping rescues for many years and taking in special needs and senior pets, so the book was in part based on that. I also wanted to incorporate a different meaning so children could relate to it, which I’m hoping it does. It’s okay to be nice.
Bil-Jac: Did it feel differently putting the second book together compared to the first book?
Susan: Kind of. In the first book, I wanted to write about rescue and adoption and have it from a perspective of this little dog. She’s in a foster home and isn’t getting selected, so she asks her foster mom if it’s because she only has three legs, but the foster mom tells her “no” and that she’ll find a forever family who loves her for who she is. That was my first thought. I already had the second book written, but with the response I got from the first book, I changed the second book a bit to appeal toward the children.
I would also say that this appeals to children and adults no matter who you are, because it’s all about kindness. The premise of the second book is that my husband, her sisters, and I take Miss Olive to a dog park to celebrate her birthday and she’s received well by some, but there are a couple dogs who do not receive her well and she’s sad. With children, sometimes it’s hard to make friends. In Olive’s case, it’s because she looks a little different, but it all turns out to be okay.
Bil-Jac: How important do you think the idea of kindness as a superpower is in this day and age?
Susan: It’s so important. Through interacting with people with Olive, I’ve found that there’s kindness in everybody. Sometimes a little help and guidance from friends – or looking at things from an aspect of kindness instead of a critical one – can change your perspective. It makes it easier to live your day-to-day life, and that was a lesson Olive learned. That’s what I think we need to do every day because the world is challenging right now, and not only for a three-legged dog.
Bil-Jac: In addition to the books, the Doggy Diva Show has been going strong since 2003. What can people expect to hear if they haven’t tuned in before?
Susan: As you’ve said, we’ve been on for many years. We have health and lifestyle professionals, pet industry experts, and representatives from the rescue organizations and special needs organizations. We also have a large group of best-selling authors on the show, most of whom donate proceeds to rescue groups and organizations, so they pay it forward.
Kim Gaebelein from Bil-Jac is one of our health and lifestyle experts. She incorporates health, nutrition, first aid, training – there’s so much she brings to the show. We’ve interviewed Dean Koontz and Bob Barker, as well as Alison Eastwood – she does a lot of work with rescues – and Julia Cameron. We’ve had “America’s Veterinarian” Dr. Marty Becker on for a few of my anniversary shows. He’s a huge proponent of animals and a great guy.
Bil-Jac: Life seems to be pretty busy for you, Miss Olive, and the rest of your family. Any big plans for the future?
Susan: We have the third book coming out in The Doggy Diva Diaries trilogy and that will be out in 2021. Again, it’ll be a book about kindness, but also a holiday-themed book about hope and joy. That’s what I’m working on now.
I think this will be the end of The Doggy Diva Diaries, but then again anything can change. The whole concept of what I did changed. It was originally planned to be a trilogy, so I may start an “adventures of Miss Olive” idea that has a different theme to it. The original theme for trilogy was that love and kindness conquer all.
Bil-Jac: Where can people go to learn more about you and Miss Olive and check out your work?
Susan: They can go to our website: thedoggydiva.com. We also have a Facebook page for The Doggy Diva Show and Miss Olive does a feature every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. She also does an animated feature every Wednesday where she actually tells who the upcoming guests will be for the Saturday show. People interested in the show can tune in on Speak Up Talk Radio, iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, and PetLifeRadio.
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