An Interview with Victoria J. Coe
By Chloe Grant, Read to Them Staff
Hi friends! We hope you’re enjoying the first few chapters of Fenway & Hattie. This week we’re pleased to be sharing an interview with Victoria J. Coe, creator of Fenway and the author of your read. She warmly shared her insights on the book, and even offered a few extra ways to interact with the text. Check it out below!
What was your relationship with reading like growing up?
When I was a kid, I loved books, but I never considered myself to be "a reader." It took me a loooong time to finish a book. It didn't help that my sister, who is a year younger, could read circles around me!
It was only when I got older that I looked back and realized how much those books meant to me. They were not just stories to me - they were part of my life.
Now I fully own the title of "reader." I frequently tell kids that if they love a book - even if it's only one book - then they are "a reader," and they shouldn't let anyone tell them otherwise.
How did you find your way to becoming a writer?
Fenway and Hattie was my first published book, and it took me many, many years of attempts before I got there. I joined writing communities, took classes, and ultimately worked with a former top New York editor one-on-one before I developed the writing chops to realize my dream. Like my character Fenway, I never give up.
What was your inspiration for writing Fenway & Hattie?
The idea behind Fenway and Hattie came from my real-life dog Kipper when my family was preparing to move. He realized something was going on, and he totally freaked out.
He got into our car that was parked in the driveway and sat in the front seat shaking for the entire day - even though we were just packing. It was obvious to all of us that he was terrified that we were going to leave without him.
That kind of broke my heart a little bit, but then it took hold of my imagination. And that's how Fenway was born.
What made you choose a Jack Russell Terrier for Fenway’s character?
I have always thought that if I were a dog, that's the kind of dog I'd be. My own personality is full of the same energy and enthusiasm that JRT's are famous for, plus, as I said earlier, I'm a very hard worker and I never give up!
How did you decide upon Fenway & Hattie being from Fenway’s perspective? How would the story have been different if it was from Hattie’s perspective?
My original idea was a dog who was afraid his family would leave him behind when they were moving. So I knew from Day One that I'd write from his first person POV.
I wanted to explore why he was so afraid and what life was like from his perspective. To me, that's what's most interesting about the story.
People often ask me about Hattie's side of the story, and the truth is - I DID write Hattie's side. I just told her story backwards!
If you read Fenway & Hattie carefully, you can infer her entire storyline from her actions, body language, her brief dialogue, and even her scents.
What can we learn from Fenway & Hattie’s relationship?
Fenway and Hattie are best buddies. He loves her more than anything else in the world.
He thinks that she needs him, but really he's the one who needs her. Not to spoil Fenway & Hattie (or the other three books), but it's his love for her that allows him to overcome whatever obstacles he has and "save the day."
What is something you hope families get out of reading Fenway & Hattie with Read to Them?
Reading a book together as a family is something I did with my own two boys when they were growing up. Those times together and those stories were an important part of our day and were real bonding experiences.
Books that made us laugh - as well as led to great discussions - were by far our favorite. Knowing that families are connecting in the same way over a story that I wrote warms my heart!
Similarly, we’ve really enjoyed how engaged you’ve been with our program. In addition to Read to Them content, do you have any bonus Fenway & Hattie materials you’d like readers to be aware of?
I certainly do, but I can't claim the credit. Because Fenway & Hattie was the Global Read Aloud for young readers in 2017, teachers and education companies created all kinds of resources that are available on my padlet for free. Families can access digital material like videos and interviews right there, or download documents like bone-shaped paper or bingo cards.
On my web site, there's also more information about me, news, FAQ, and info about how schools and homeschool families can connect with me directly.
Like Fenway and his adventures in his new home, COVID has allowed us all the time to get used to our surroundings. What have you been doing during your time at home?
The coolest thing I've done during my time at home is I "met" the dog who's on the covers of my books. He's a professional model who lives outside of Chicago!
When Fenway and Hattie in the Wild (Fenway and Hattie #4) came out in paperback last May, one of Boston's wonderful independent booksellers hosted a Zoom launch party where he was my special guest! Everyone got to admire him sitting proudly in his adorable director's chair while I asked his handler about his life in show business. It was pretty cool! (You can watch the video here.)
What advice do you have for young readers & writers?
To readers, my best advice is to read whatever you want. Read what interests you. Read what makes you feel all the feels. Read whatever you enjoy reading. That's the most important thing.
To writers, my best advice is to read. The more you read, the more those stories will become part of you, the more you'll just "know" what makes a great story.
My other best advice is to always keep a writer's notebook where you can brainstorm and jot down ideas. You don't have to write everyday, and you don't have to show it to anyone. Let it be a place just for you to let your imagination go wild.
Oh, and never give up!
We love Coe’s advice, and are so grateful for her time and thoughts. We hope Fenway & Hattie continues to interest you and make you “feel all the feels.” We’ll see you on Friday to close out our first week of this read. Stay kind!