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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Nancy Clark Townsend and Her New Book, Furred & Feathered Friends: Katrina Castaways

Nancy Clark Townsend was born in New York City's Borough of Manhattan, but lived most of her life in New York State's Lower Hudson Valley. She has shared her home or cared for an assortment of animals – dogs, cats, parakeets, ferrets, box turtles, chickens and goats among others. With her late trainer-driver husband, she owned and raced several harness horses. Nancy has been writing for pleasure since she was eight. She took Creative Writing courses from “Writer’s Digest” and studied writing at SUNY Empire State College. She has written several romance and suspense novels and is currently working on a personal memoir and a collection of animal memoirs. She is the editor/writer of her church’s newsletter, “Church Chatter,” for which she also creates a Bible Word Search and Acrostic. She was a legal secretary for over twenty-five years. Later, as an education secretary, Nancy worked with teachers to write and produce curriculum guides for elementary and high school students. In one, she re-wrote and modernized several of Aesop's Fables.

She belongs to two on-line writing groups – Advanced Writing Workshop and AARP’s Writing Memoir. Nancy has nine grandchildren.  Her son Greg is a police lieutenant in a city in upstate New York. Her daughter Karen, whom she describes as "the incredible soccer mom", lives in Virginia. Her stepson Michael is a Sergeant in the U.S. Army, stationed in Georgia, but he will be retiring in June 2012.  She is now retired and resides near Shreveport, Louisiana with her rescued dogs, Buddy and Luke. 

Tell us about the genre of your work.   

Furred & Feathered Friends: Katrina Castaways  is pure fantasy – the animals talk and do some pretty amazing things in order to survive until they are rescued.  It is completely different from my usual genre which I classify as a combination of suspense, mystery and romance.

Why did you choose this genre? 
With regard to  Furred & Feathered Friends, I live in Northwest Louisiana near Shreveport where we were sideswiped by Hurricane Katrina.  Not long after we were hit harder by Hurricane Rita.  Between those two storms, the Gulf States suffered a terrible blow.  The northern parts of each state were flooded with refugees, both animal and people.  It was a very upsetting and depressing time even if you didn’t suffer directly.  I remember feeling so inadequate because I wasn’t able to physically help and what little money I could afford to contribute seemed so small.  I think at the time I needed to focus on a story of survival because the news was full of horror stories about death and destruction.  I wrote this short novel about a group of animals who survive despite being left behind when their owners are forced to evacuate without them. 

What are some of your books, stories that have been published?
The short novel Furred & Feathered Friends is my first published book.  My story “The Dog and the Nike” has been accepted for publication in a short story anthology entitled “That One Last Shoe” edited by Betsy A. Riley which is due out in 2012.  My full-length novel The Witness Wore Fur is also due out in 2012.  All three books have been, or are going to be published by Betsy’s private imprint, Blue Dragon Press. 


"First-time author, Nancy Clark Townsend, should be very proud of Katrina Castaways. I loved how she swept me through the story, introducing each of the Castaways, their back story, and how they overcame hardship and fear to band together and preserve their home until rescue arrived. I have always loved stories where the animals communicated, and this one was both charming and delightful. Like any Disney tale, I could see the cats, dogs and the parrot working together to overcome their physical limitations. Humorous, sweet and memorable. I felt the ending could have been less abrupt. However, maybe that was just me wanting to read more. I highly recommend Katrina Castaways to all who love a well-told animal story." --
by Kimberley D. Kozlowski "Kimberley Dehn, author"

What ages do you direct your books?

Most of my novels and short stories are written for adults.  However, a teacher in a Texas middle school showed my short novel, Furred & Feathered Friends: Katrina Castaways to her colleagues and they have expressed an interest in it.  Those children are generally seventh and eighth graders, but it’s a simple book.  It could be read by and certainly read to younger children. 

Nancy, tell us where to find your books.

 Book (fantasy) - Furred & Feathered Friends: Katrina Castaways (short novel)

            By Nancy Clark Townsend

   (Kindle ASIN: B0076UH1JK) & paperback

            www.barnes& (Nook BN ID: 2940014021029)

   (paperback ISBN-13:978-0-9837356-1-8)

 The anthology, That One Left Shoe,  includes my short story "The Dog and the Nike".
Book sales will benefit the Carroll County chapter of the Maryland Writers' Association CCMWA)

Book (suspense/romance) - The Witness Wore Fur (full-length novel)
             By Nancy Clark Townsend

                                                 To be released in Spring 2012

Do your books have a teaching objective?  If so, what is it?

I didn’t write Furred & Feathered Friends: Katrina Castaways  with a teaching objective in mind, nor did I write it for children.  I think it is a book that will be enjoyed by all ages of readers if they are as crazy about animals as I am.  I was pleasantly surprised when a woman in Texas wrote to me that she has shared the link to Furred & Feathered Friends with some of the reading teachers in the middle school where she teaches. She said that in order to spike interest they are always looking for ways to connect learning with real life or things their students are familiar with.  Texas was impacted by both Hurricane Katrina and Rita – Katrina sent thousands of refugees to their state and Rita did tremendous physical damage, displacing and killing even more people and animals.   

How do you come up with the names of places and characters in your books?

I avoid the names of people I know or have known and I use the Writer’s Digest book, Character Naming Sourcebook,  to help me name my characters.  Sometimes I use the actual names of cities or towns, but if I’m writing about a small town and I think the story might offend its residents I make up a name.  In that case I check my Atlas to try and avoid using the name of any real town in a particular state.   I am not, however, above using the names of the many animal friends I’ve had over the years.  I like to think they would be delighted.  Four of my characters in Furred & Feathered Friends: Katrina Castaways are based on animal friends from my past – Bruno, a large Newfoundland dog; Fawn, a little fawn-colored Chihuahua; Will, a yellow cat; and Jasmine, a Siamese cat.  The black and white pointer dog that is a main character in my upcoming novel The Witness Wore Fur is based on and named after my dog, Luke who came to me as a stray and adopted me.  I tend to use animals I’ve known as characters in my novels.  It is my way of memorializing them.   

How did you develop the character/s of your in each of your books (If you have more that one)?

I get the idea for a story or novel first.  Usually I have a vague thought of what the protagonists should be like, but I don’t plan them out.  Like people they tend to grow and change on their own and I follow their lead.  I keep a list of the characters, even if they are peripheral (barely mentioned), and I write down everything about them even though sometimes it’s not specifically mentioned in the book.  I’m sure that most of my characters have bits and pieces in them of not only me but of people I have known, but I try not to make it obvious.
Is there a unique character or a recurring character if you have more than one published or to be published book? 
I don’t have recurring characters – they come to life in one novel.  I think all my characters are unique in one way or another – at least I try to create them that way.  However, since Furred & Feathered Friends: Katrina Castaways has been so well received I find myself wondering – hmm, is there another adventure awaiting Bruno and friends?  I found it very difficult to part with them.

What is your favorite thing about your books? 

My favorite thing is the writing itself.  People ask me if I have a hobby, like crafts, knitting, sewing and so on.  I have to say that writing has always been my hobby.  I should get a bumper sticker that reads, “I’d rather be writing”.

Is your book illustrated?  If so, would you tell us by whom, and if you worked with an illustrator, can you discuss that experience? 

My book, “Furred & Feathered Friends: Katrina Castaways” isn’t illustrated, although the paperback version has some great animal silhouettes and paw prints that my publisher, Betsy A. Riley of Blue Dragon Press ( put in as segment dividers.  It definitely adds to the story.  However, I believe that the cover of a book is very important in attracting readers.  Betsy designed the front and back cover of this paperback and did a really fabulous job.  She also designed the cover for my upcoming novel The Witness Wore Fur.  It has been a great experience working with Betsy all around.  I’ve heard that some publishers don’t give authors any say with regard to the cover but from the beginning Betsy sent me her various ideas and I had a great deal of input. 

How is writing in the genre you write, different than other genre? 

As for my little trip down fantasy lane with “Furred & Feathered Friends”, it is not generally a genre I’m that comfortable with – it just happened to work.  I believe in the saying “write what you know”.  I would never try to write a purely medical or political novel or a book about spies or the military.  I don’t know enough about those genres.  I couldn’t pull it off even with technical assistance.  On the other hand, I know a lot about romance – I’ve been married and widowed three times and engaged once to a man who died before we were able to marry.  I have had my share of boyfriends before, in between and after.  So I know a great deal about love and relationships.  My favorite TV shows and reading material tend to be suspense and mystery with a smattering of romance – I love lawyers and lawmen.  I was also a legal secretary for many years, so I weave a lot of that knowledge into my stories.  I had a great many animal friends so I rarely write a story without animals involved.  I’ve written a couple of stories that involve harness racing because my second husband was a driver and trainer.   

Why and when did you begin writing? 

I grew up in a reading family and my earliest memories are of being read to.  I think that
 background plays a crucial part in becoming an avid reader and that is also necessary to 
become a writer.  I began writing when I was about eight years old.  I don’t recall why except I always enjoyed playing “let’s pretend”.  I think reading and writing fiction is an older child and adult’s way of being able to play “let’s pretend” without feeling silly.  If I have any regret it’s that I didn’t try harder years ago to get published.

 What is your writing schedule?
 I’m retired so I don’t have a set schedule.  I write whenever the mood strikes me and I don’t feel pressured to do something else – like housework or shopping.  Of course my dogs, Luke and Buddy, don’t take too kindly to being ignored – fortunately they like to sleep a lot.  When they’re awake I have to make time for feeding, walking, rubbing tummies and playing.   In addition to working on my projects I spend some time writing on line.  I belong to an AARP community group called Writing Memoir that I recommend to seniors out there even if you aren’t a writer ( and look up Community and Groups.  I also spend time posting on a small private website – Advanced Writer’s Workshop.  That is actually how I came to be published because Betsy A. Riley is the Administrator and a member.  I shared my rough story about the Katrina castaways; she read it and now it’s a published book. 

 What projects are you working on now, or plan for the future?

I’m in the process of helping my publisher, Blue Dragon Press, to edit my full length novel, “The Witness Wore Fur”.  A widow finds a dog that has been stabbed in the woods behind her home and she and a State Police Senior Investigator meet and fall in love.  The story evolves around who, what, when, why and how the dog was stabbed.  Otherwise I plan to edit novels I have already written over the last two decades – one at a time – for as long as I’m mentally and physically able.  If I achieve some success then perhaps my children will decide to publish the novels I leave behind.  I do have an idea for a new novel, but that’s all it is right now – an idea. 

What kind of advice or tips to you have for someone who wants to write and get published? 

Keep writing.  Keep writing.  Keep writing.  Don’t give up.  There are so many venues now with e-books, print-on-demand, the Internet, self-publishing.  The world is wide open to you so explore your possibilities.  Network.  Make friends with other writers.  I think we are a generous group of people and always willing to help others to achieve their dreams.  Become involved with on-line writing groups and your state and local writer’s associations.  Just be cautious in how much you share because unfortunately there are those who would steal it and make it their own. 

Are there any other comments, advice or tips that you would give to beginning writers? 

I think the future is wide open for authors in all genres.  The venues may change but I really hope the time doesn’t come when books as we know them disappear.  I love to curl up with a good book hard cover or paperback book, and at this point I don’t own a Nook or Kindle e-book. 

What do you do when you are not writing? 

I am Treasurer for my United Methodist church, and have led a number of adult Bible studies in the past couple of years.  I’m preparing a study now on “The Passion and Death of Jesus” but admit I’ve been somewhat sidetracked by what is going on in my writing life.  I have two wonderful dog companions who do their best to get me up in the morning when they decide it’s time – who needs an alarm clock.  They also make sure I do my chores (like feeding them).  There’s Buddy the adorable mixed breed who is 9 and Luke a handsome black and white pointer who is about three.  Both wandered into my yard as starving and abandoned older puppies and promptly adopted me because they recognized a soft touch.  They are much smarter than me.  I also enjoy interactive games on line – Scrabble and a similar word game, Lexulous, through Facebook.  I’m an avid advocate on Facebook for a number of animal rescue groups and animals that need to be saved from kill shelters. 

Anything else you would like to add?

Although I enjoy the writing I don’t care for the business end of the process.  I am so grateful
 that my publisher took all that off my shoulders.  I have a few good friends to thank for 
encouraging me and helping my dream come to fruition - bbdunne, Sara Van der Wansem, and the author Kimberly Dehn – not to mention Betsy A. Riley and Blue Dragon Press. 
What “Made It” moments have you experienced in life?
I was unable to have children, so my first husband and I adopted two infants – a girl at 6 weeks and 3 years later a boy at 4 weeks.  Those were my supreme “made it” moments – becoming a mother.  I’ve lived an interesting life despite its ups and downs, and I have a lot of great memories mixed in with life’s inevitable struggles and tragedies.  I had to pass up one of my “made it” moments many years ago because my family came first.  I had the opportunity to work in the District Office of a newly elected Congressman.  I had been his Assistant Legislative Secretary during the time he served in the New York State Assembly.  I knew it was a job that would require many long hours away from my husband and children, so I turned it down.  He went on to serve twenty years in the House of Representatives so I have had some regrets about that, but on the other hand I know I did the right thing.  It took me 74 years to get here, but publishing “Furred & Feathered Friends: Katrina Castaways” is definitely a “made it” moment.  I’m PUBLISHED! Wow! 

I have an author page on the Blue Dragon Press website ( and also at author and cat-lover Kimberley Dehn’s website (  If anyone would like to write to me I'd love to hear from them –

Note from Sylvia: You can visit my other blog at: features my journey of writing my new book, Traveling a Rocky Road with Love, Faith and Guts. Book trailer and more.

1 comment:

Betsy A. Riley said...

The Witness Wore Fur is published and available on Amazon, Kindle, and Nook. I just ordered a gift copy for a friend who loves romantic suspense (and is a big animal lover)--this is one birthday gift I know she'll enjoy. Nancy's Furred & Feathered Friends series is growing. A sequel to Katrina Castaways, titled Junkyard Dogs is in final production stages!