Something Furry Underfoot is a funny, touching book about pets that Amy's husband brought home and how Amy ended up helping care for, and falling for, most of them. In addition to frogs, iguanas, dogs, a stray cat, rabbits, and lots of hamsters, you will meet a male hedgehog that escaped three times to mate with a female hedgehog, a ferret that cost $1,200 in vet bills and a domestic duck.
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When did you become interested in books. Reading & Writing?
I have two fond memories from my childhood about books: my Grandmother Peterson reading me the stories of Br’er Rabbit in her southern accent in a way that made the characters seem alive, and my father making up stories before tucking me and my two siblings to bed. Both of those stuck with me, and somewhere along the line, I thought it’d be so cool to be able to tell fun, memorable stories. When it came to writing, I enjoyed every writing assignment in school and college, entered a few essay contests now and again, but didn’t really make time to write seriously until I married a guy with four kids and realized I might have an interesting story to tell. That was the basis of my first book, From Zero to Four Kids in Thirty Seconds, a humorous, touching memoir about becoming a stepmom. At the same time I was figuring out my role as a stepmom, my husband, Mark, kept bringing pets into our home, and that is the basis for my new book and second humorous, touching memoir, Something Furry Underfoot.
What made you decide to sit down and actually start writing your memoirs?
I wrote From Zero to Four Kids in Thirty Seconds after I realized I had experienced something that might help other people.
The kids were 3, 5, 13 and 15 at the time I met them, so I experienced the innocence and bend-ability of young kids, with a lovely double-dose of teenager. I hadn’t a clue what I was doing most of the time I was figuring out my role as a stepmom, which makes the book a fun read. My original intent in writing Something Furry Underfoot was simply to document the various animals we’d raised, but as I wrote down the details of each animal, it became more and more obvious how different each animal was. For example, one of the hamsters Mark wanted turned out to be pregnant. We kept all eight babies and every one of them was different in what they liked and didn’t like—some liked to run on their wheels more than in a hamster ball; some liked certain foods over others; some tolerated being petted, some did not. As with every pet, I enjoyed trying to figure out what made each one tick.
How do you decide what to share and what not to share?
That’s a great question. Part of the difficulty with a book like this is that pets die and I didn’t want to gloss over that or pretend it didn’t happen, AND I didn’t want to dwell on the sadness and make the book a real downer. So I tried to share that each pets’ passing was a bummer to me without sharing the play-by-play except for a couple of the pets. Other details were left out to add to the humor.
For example, while I describe how the ferrets ran in and out of the cupboards, I left out the fact that we actually rinsed and cleaned the pots and pans the ferrets ran in and out of, to add to the humor.
You have written 4 children picture books (about some of your pets) and one self help book for new stepmothers. Why a memoir about living with pets?
The four children’s picture books are short, rhyming books that kids can read to see what having a certain pet—a dog, a cat, a ferret, or a domestic duck—is like. The books are: Dusty, the Angel Pup; Purrkins, the Cat; Goodnight, Big Wuzzy; and Bumpkin Gets Big. Each ends with a message for parents to consider before taking on each of the pet, and each one is written from the animals’ perspective to better share what they need, like and dislike.
Something Furry Underfoot is a memoir with details about those four pets, plus many, many more pets. The book also includes tips, making it a bit of a primer for pet care, too. Some proceeds from all of my animal books will support animal rescue organizations.
What's a typical day in your life like?
I need to do a blog posting about that, because it’s quite complicated. Lately, it starts between 3:30 and 5:30 a.m. when one of our two puppies, Winston and Snickers, decides it’s time to go outside.
Because my husband is retired, he’s the one that lets the pups out while I try to go back to sleep, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. I usually get up around 6 a.m. and am greeted by the two pups and a middle-aged cat, Purrkins, who is less than thrilled with two crazed pups in the house. After I shower, Purrkins gets fresh water out of the bathroom sink while I the pups try to run off with my towel. I get dressed, feed Purrkins three different types of food, put the humming bird feeder outside, fill several bird feeders outside and make a pile of seeds for the chipmunks, squirrels and our new friend, a groundhog. After topping off thistle feeders, replacing empty suet blocks and ensuring the birds have water, I’m off to work.
At 4:30, I am greeted by two rowdy pups, Purrkins and Mark. After saying hello to each, I feed Purrkins and let the puppies out and back in again. After a two-mile run, I help with dinner, clean up and sit down for sporadic bits of work at the computer.
I get very little focused time because over the rest of the evening we make time to train the pups and play with them; take pups in and out a half dozen times; retrieve items that walk by in the mouths of pups that aren’t appropriate (a shoe, a paperback book, a card game) and replace them with something else; empty the kitty litter pan; feed the hamsters; put the younger hamsters in hamster exercise balls; feed and play with the mynah birds; return hamsters to their cages; make sure hamsters have water to drink; make sure mynah birds have deonized water to drinkand bathe in; bring in the hummingbird feeder so the raccoons don’t slurp down the sugary water; check a couple of live traps in the basement because we’ve had a mouse and shrew problem in the past; and feed fish in three fish tanks. We go to bed wondering what time in the morning Snickers will whine to be let outside to start the day tomorrow.
How did your love of animals come about? Your husband?
I’ve always loved animals. I grew up watching Jacques Cousteau and Wild Kingdom and loved every critter underwater and on land that I saw on TV.
I spent a lot of time outdoors romping around as a kid and had dogs from about the age of 12 on up. One of the things that attracted me to Mark was his love of animals. I just had no idea he’d want to bring so many different kinds of animals into our house!
You are also a photographer. What created your interest in this field?
My Grandfather Peterson was an amateur photographer and he once spent most of a day near a particular building waiting around for the best light of the day to create a photograph he had envisioned. I have a great appreciation for photography because of the time it can take to get a still photo, and for those once-in-a-lifetime wildlife photos that people get when they make the time, have the luck, and get that shot nobody else has taken.
What book(s) are you currently reading?
I tend to read whatever Mark has in the house, which right now is a series of books on the Civil War by Michael Shaarah and Jeff Shaarah. These are excellent books because they get into the thoughts/mind of some of the prominent soldiers in the Civil War.
You will be stranded on a deserted island and. Bring 3 items.
My husband and my two puppies?
If you could have dinner with anyone, past or present, fictional or real, who would it be? Why?
If I could invite one person to dinner, I’d want to invite someone who makes me laugh, likes pets and is well connected so they can help me sell books. The first person that comes to mind is Ellen DeGeneres.
After a light-hearted dinner, I’d try to persuade her to buy some copies of my book to give to the people in her audience on her next show. And maybe she’d invite me to be on her show so I can tout my book and share my new YouTube video about Bumpkin, the duck.
You can see my Bumpkin video on my website, by clicking on Videos.
Fave Season of the year: Fall. No, spring. No, fall. No, spring.
Fave Dessert: Chocolate mousse.
Fave Book you wrote: Something Fury Underfoot
Fave book written by another author: Erma Bombeck.
Random Fact: I love fishing, especially if fishing takes me to another country. And most especially if I catch a bigger fish, or more fish, than Mark.
Amy has been published in numerous magazines and does weekly blog postings on her web site, amylpeterson.com, about nature, pets and life. Like her book, most of her blog postings are humorous if not also sometimes information. Amy works m for the state of Michigan and lives with her husband and a variety of fuzzy animals, all of which provide good material for her next book.
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