I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to be interviewing today’s guests. I can honestly say their photographs on Facebook always make me smile. If you like dogs then you are going to adore today’s guests – Leland Dirks and Angelo!
Leland lives in the middle of a beautiful nowhere that is Colorado’s San Luis Valley. Angelo, the world famous Border Collie, and Maggie, his black Lab philosopher mix, allow him to share their off-grid home. All three tolerate The Cat who does a merely adequate job of rodent control.
Leland has built the majority of the 1800 square foot all-solar home over almost four years, but is grateful to friends and neighbors who have helped with some of the heavy lifting.
Leland I am genuinley over the moon to have you here on the blog at long last. Welcome to you and the utterly adorable Angelo. Before we chat about your books, I have some nice easy questions for you.
Definitely “Happy Days.” The Fonz. Oh yeah. The picture of cool, and that leather jacket!
Snoopy or Garfield
Roller skates or a pogo stick?
Roller skates… it’s not as far to fall.
Bruce Springsteen or Leonard Cohen?
Springsteen. Jeans. Born in the USA. The way those denim pockets….
Did you ever own a lava lamp?
Did and do!
What was your worst fashion disaster? (Mine was a purple tank top with flared brown jeans and platform shoes.)
Remember the movie Saturday Night Fever? Those Angel Flight pants that John Travolta wore? Yeah, I had those, and a gold chain. They didn’t show it in the movie, but the pants were polyester, and when you’re dancing, and the lights go dark for a moment, there are these static electricity sparks that light up your, um, nether regions. Never wore those things again.
I have no words to follow that, Leland! Maybe we should move on. Can you tell us a short joke?
I never make fun of short people. Blonds I make fun of because I am one. Oh, you mean a brief joke. Sure!
A farmer had a border collie, which much to his surprise and consternation starting speaking English one day.
“OK,” said the farmer “if you’re so smart, how many sheep are in that field?”
“40,” the collie replied instantly.”
“Ha!” said the farmer “I knew you weren’t that clever, there’s only 38.”
The collie shrugged “I rounded them up.”
Brilliant. I see Angelo is laughing at that one. What makes you laugh most?
Dogs. Definitely dogs. They are wonderful clowns, able to put on the saddest face while doing the silliest things. As I’m answering your questions, I’m watching Angelo look at a chipmunk through the window, tilting his head, as if he’s trying to understand what the chipmunk is saying. He’s a very good listener.
What is your happiest childhood memory?
I remember being pulled in my little red wagon by a very loving and patient dog named Trixie.
What was the first record/tape/CD you ever purchased?
Isn’t it funny? I’m not sure if it was a cassette of Beethoven’s sonatas or Neil Diamond’s Moods. I got them both at about the same time, and I drove my parents mad with my listening to them over and over and over and over. ::hums to self, Song sung, blue, everybody knows one…::
Oh no. You’ve set off Mr Grumpy. That’s one of his avourite songs. Better shut the door so we aren’t disturbed by him. Right, onto you and your books … What genre do you write?
My books don’t fit neatly in a genre. Which of course is a dilemma when it comes to marketing books. Almost all of my fiction has dogs or other creatures in them. Most of them have a gay character or two. And most of them involve searches for answers to life’s questions.
What got you into writing?
I have always loved words. I learned to read at a very young age, before kindergarten, and have been reading everything ever since. My oldest brother wanted to be a writer, but sadly he passed on before he published. I think he encouraged me to think about putting pen to paper most.
You have a most unusual life. Can you tell us a little about it and why you decided to become a hermit?
I used to travel a lot, for both business and pleasure. I lived for a while in San Francisco and for bit in Antwerp. I lived in a very old neighborhood in Denver for about twenty years. One day, I’d just had enough. The noises, the smells, the thoughtlessness of groups of people finally did me in, and I knew it was time to kind of return to my roots. I grew up on a farm and longed for the quiet. At about the same time, the war was going on in Iraq, and I was appalled that we were sending soldiers and Marines into areas just to secure our cheap energy sources. I vowed that I would be as energy-independent as possible, that no one would ever need to die to make sure I could turn the lights on. Over the next couple of years, I found a piece of property in the middle of a beautiful nowhere in southern Colorado, designed a house, and quit my job to build that house. How remote am I? Let’s see… there are no power lines that come anywhere near my property, no telephone service, and my only link to the outside world is through a satellite internet connection. The nearest grocery store of any size is more than thirty miles away.
I would love you to tell us all about Angelo. He is such a star and you post some amazing photos of him on Facebook.
Angelo is my miracle dog. When I moved down here to build, I had a beautiful little shiba inu named Suki. She and I went everywhere together. I had a small RV and we visited forty-six states together. The first day I moved into a little 10-foot-by-10-foot shed that would be home until the house was built, she was killed by a hit and run driver on a road that didn’t see more than three or four cars a day. I was devastated. The next morning, I woke up, and there was a black-and-white dog staring in through the window. No one knew where he came from, he just showed up out of nowhere. I put up posters and no one called. I was doubtful of having another dog so soon after losing Suki, but a friend of mine reminded me that dogs are like Jell-o, there’s always room for one more. I couldn’t very well name a dog Jell-o, but I thought of him as an angel, and so the two words fit together to give him his name: Angelo. As luck would have it, I was reading a dog about a Border Collie at the time, so I had some vague idea of what the breed was like.
The first day, he started proving his intelligence. He walked all over my five-acre property, finding all the toys that Suki my shiba inu had left lying around during our camping trips down here, and he deposited them on her grave.
I list him as my co-author on almost everything because he disappeared for 40 days and 40 nights, and was found more than twenty-five miles from home. To come to grips with that frightening experience, I had to imagine what he’d gone through in those 40 days… out of that imagining came our first novel, Angelo’s Journey, which is a fictionalized account of that time; of why he left, what he did while he was gone, and why he came home.
Where do you think up your ideas for stories?
The oddest places. News stories. Memories of people and dogs I’ve known, places I’ve lived, and of course, I always listen to what the muse tells me.
What would you most like to do on your bucket list?
Write a New York Times bestseller!
Could you please put a few brief words about you – something that doesn’t show up on your website. Surprise us!
I learned to read upside down before I learned to read upside up. My mother and oldest brother used to read to me when I was a child, and Mother, especially, had a habit of running her finger along the words she was reading aloud to me. Since I sat opposite her, I saw all the words upside down, and somehow my little child’s brain made the connection.
Leland, Angelo, it has been such a pleasure to have you here. I wish you every success with all your books. Thank you.
Leland has written some beautiful books including Angelo’s Journey and Rainbow’s Edge
A prodigal son is left in a coma by a car accident. His father — a devout Nebraska farmer — visits him in the hospital and discovers they are able to communicate telepathically. Through a week of mental conversations and time travel, they revisit the events and secrets that drove them apart. A dog with two names shepherds them through the path of betrayal, abuse, and — eventually — reconciliation. Told with devastating simplicity and magic, this small novel will change the way you look at rainbows forever.
Sometimes knowing someone for just a week can change your life; enough to take a road trip from San Francisco to Alaska to understand the man in the cowboy hat, with the help of the people and the dogs who knew him. Travelogue, unrequited love, and canine devotion, all wrapped up in one story. In Kindle and paperback at www.amazon.com/dp/B008QHXSC6
A collection of small stories about farewells of one sort or another. More than 90 stories (and two poems!) in the collection. I call them bite-sized fiction. In paperback and Kindle editions at www.amazon.com/dp/B01FOLGSLY
If you would like to find out more about Leland and his astonishing dog check out the following links: