Sunday, April 17, 2016

A Visit with Author Sam Angus

All the way from England, today I'm welcoming Sam Angus, author of Soldier Dog.  Pour yourself a cup of tea and let's take a "Book Break!" with Ms. Angus! 

Soldier Dog by Sam Angus is on the 2016 NYSRA Charlotte Book Award middle school ballot.    

Be sure to check out Sam's website.

Visit the Soldier Dog website. 

Readers should read my book because . . .  History lovers should read it for the little known side it reveals of the first world war and animal lovers should read it for the story of the dog and all adventure lovers should read it for the adventure of the story and but above all read it for the human story.

I came to write SOLDIER DOG . . .          Soldier Dog was my first book and the idea for this came from something I heard on the radio. When I heard it, I knew instantly that I would write about it, that I would tell it as a story and that it would be for children. At the time I wasn’t a writer, I was in the fashion industry and I was running late for a meeting and just stuck in this endless traffic jam and as I sat there in the car I heard the story of a World War 1 messenger dog called Airedale Jack and the story of Jack’s life was what made me take pen to paper and write my first book.  I spent almost two years researching the book before I came to write it and I do think that this is perhaps the best plotted of my books. Most readers seem not to have a sense of how the story will resolve itself.

Some of the pictures I discovered of World War 1 messenger dogs during my research for Soldier Dog. The first sketch is the image I used on my inboard for the character of Soldier.

My favorite place to read . . .  . In bed. I often start off in the living room on the sofa but end up creeping upstairs to bed. Ideally with a cup of tea. 

Oh golly, there are books everywhere in my house. Below are some pics of the shelves in my study.

A book that has touched my heart . . . 

But more than either of these. Ann Holme’s, I am David. Pure intense, brief, poetic, an ideal story. It think it must have moved me very deeply because it is the one I go back to again and again.

I collect my ideas and inspiration for writing . . . The settings or circumstances for my books tend to come from things I read. For example the book I am about to start will be based in an English stately home during World War II. The home, like many others, has been requisitioned by the government for use as a school for children evacuated from the cities. I just loved the idea of setting a school in a large old English home with the family still living there and I was looking at this book. The plot on the other hand, or what happens to the hero tends to come from something that has happened to someone I know, or that I’ve heard people talking about.

An image of me at my desk in London.

Readers should know . . .I love writing children’s stories because you can have happy endings. Adult fiction tends not to have happy endings and since I have a naturally happy temperament, I like to see the book end happily and as Oscar Wilde said, "the bad end happily," and I like things to happen in a story. I like the strong narrative children of work for children, of stories with beginnings, middles, and happy ends. Sometimes I think these are the hardest kinds of stories to write because you have to create a resolution , an ending that is happy, but that is also possible or plausible - so the plotting takes me a tot of time, sometimes as long s actually writing the novel and it is the bit I like least. Then, once I’m there, I start and if all goes well, and the main characters are fully developed in my mind, then the writing all goes along happily and then there’s a certain point where the characters tend to sort of stand up and take over and write the rest of the book themselves. 

A project that I'm currently working on . . . 
My next book come out in June 16. it marks a slight departure from my previous books about war an animals. It is less historical, and less concerned with war though may of the characters do go off to fight. This book is set in the West Indies and is about a gutsy, feisty young girl who is seedily taken from what she tough of as her family in England and transported to the West Indies where she finds she has inherited a sugar plantation. die The twelve year old Idie Grace finds that she issued by both the white plantation class and the local coloured population because she is neither one thing nor the other and worse there is a mystery in her family. Abandoned by her governess, lonely and alone, Idie Grace fills her beautiful home with monkeys and parakeets and toucans and turtles. She keeps her horse in the hall and her toucans on the drinks trolley and the turtles in the tub. She keeps a mongoose in her pocket and hummingbirds eat from the tips of her fingers and she grows to love the island until she is torn apart by a shattering discovery about herself.

I will tell you no more but do read it,  I think it is one of my best. 

Also, ideally, I would live like Idie, with all sorts of creatures coming in and out of the house. We did have a  lamb once that thought it was a dog and he followed by little white west highland terrier in and out of the house all day and trotted up and down the corridor. When Kevin grew big curly horns my husband evicted him and now he hangs about on the lawn looking rather sadly into the lit windows of the house. Sometimes we bring a pony into the kitchen, just for the fun of it, but on the whole I have found that other people are less keen on eating with horses at their table than I am. I’ve tried to get a pony to climb the stairs and have heard from other people that it’s entirely possible though none of mine seem wildly keen on the idea and then I worry I wouldn’t be able to get them back down again as going down has to be harder than going up for a horse.

Here’s a picture I came across which has inspired a section of the novel I am about to work on.  Here are the American troops practicing maneuvers on a beach in North Devon in the preparations for the d day landings of WW2. 

This happens to be my local beach and below is a snap of me and one of my boys riding on that beach!  So the Americans are going to play a large role in the story which is set in an English country house.

And then me in the country with our prize ram. He’s known as Kevin.

A great big thank you to Sam Angus for taking the time to take a "Book Break" with us!  Make sure you visit your school library to check out Soldier Dog.  And we look forward to the forth coming novel, The House On Hummingbird Island.


  1. Thank you, Mrs. Merrill, for introducing me to Sam Angus and her books! These sound fascinating, and especially wonderful for connecting students to history.

    1. My students are loving SOLIER DOG! I'm glad you found a new author to add to you To Read lists! Happy reading!