Interview with Barbara Lampert, author of 'Charlie: A Love Story'

Barbara Lampert is a Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in relationships. She’s been in private practice in Brentwood, California for over twenty years. She considers her work a calling and loves what she does. She has a doctorate in medical sociology and two master’s degrees – one in psychology and one in sociology. Barbara has adored dogs her whole life. They’re her passion! She notes that for a lot of people, their dogs are their best friends. She loves helping people know that’s ok – that a soul-satisfying relationship may be found with any being and needs to be treasured. Besides her love of dogs, Barbara is an avid gardener and finds herself gardening in much of her spare time. She sees her garden as a work of art. She loves being in nature – the miracle of growth, the ever-changing landscape, its beauty. Today Barbara lives happily in Malibu, California with her husband David (married twenty-eight years!) and their six-year-old Golden Retriever, Harry. Barbara hopes that Charlie: A Love Story will be a tribute not only to a magnificent dog but to all dogs everywhere. You can visit her website at


Charlie: A Love Story tells of the beautiful love between Charlie, a Golden Retriever, and the author, Barbara Lampert. It takes place in Malibu, California. When Charlie turned eleven years old and started having some health problems, a journal Barbara was keeping about her garden quickly became mostly about Charlie. Charlie: A Love Story is an intimate look at an incredible connection between a canine and a human. And as a psychotherapist who specializes in relationships, Barbara brings that sensibility and understanding to Charlie’s story as well. Charlie was Barbara’s loyal confidante and best friend. He was indomitable, had a zest for life and an uncanny emotional intelligence. Charlie: A Love Story is about devotion, joy, loss, and renewal, about never giving up or giving in. But mostly it’s about an extraordinary dog and an extraordinary relationship.

Q. Welcome to The Writer’s Life, Barbara. Can you tell us how long you’ve been writing and how your journey led to writing your latest book, Charlie: A Love Story?

As far as writing a book, this is my first one. But in one form or another I’ve been writing most of my life, primarily either journaling or writing papers for school. Lots of papers for school, because I’ve obtained a number of advanced degrees.

Charlie: A Love Story actually came out of a gardening journal I was keeping. When Charlie was eleven years old, he began having some health problems. At the time, I was keeping a gardening journal while I was landscaping our property in Malibu on almost an acre of land. Very quickly that journal became mostly about Charlie, for a number of reasons. Mostly, I was struck by his Buddha-like attitude in dealing with his health issues. He’d bravely and with a very light attitude face one health issue after another. Also, he and I had always been extremely close, and it helped me so much to write about him and his very courageous way of facing his life’s challenges. He seemed to bounce out of each challenge joyfully, with a renewed zest for life.

Q. How did you choose your title and was it your first choice?

Ah, the title search! My title is my second choice, but you know what, I now like it better than my first choice, Charlie and Me. In 2005 when John Grogan’s Marley and Me came out, I of course had to find another title. At first I was really disappointed. I remember walking into Barnes and Noble in the fall of 2005 and seeing rows and rows of Grogan’s book and just thinking “now what?”

Before I settled on Charlie: A Love Story, I came up with a long list of possibilities. I let them roll around in my head, I asked various people their opinions, I spoke with the publisher, and I gathered lots of information about the title selection process and reasons people liked one title or another. So the title I finally chose came after much deliberation. Eventually though, I started thinking that Charlie: A Love Story fits my book so much better, because first and foremost it’s a book about Charlie, and secondarily it’s also about our beautiful relationship. So I’m really happy with the title now.

Q. We all know that publishers can’t do all of the publicity and that some lies on the author. What has your publisher done so far to publicize the book and what have you done?

A little before and right after my publication date of January 27th, 2012, I felt as if a whistle blew, the gate flew open, and I was in a race. I kept hearing how important the first few months are when promoting a book. And it’s been nonstop since then. I think I have publicized my book far more than my publisher has, which I’ve heard and believe is usually the case. The publisher sent out lots of pitch letters and books for review, which helped the book get known and which garnered some wonderful endorsements, a radio interview, and some notices in newspapers.

For my part, I printed 1,000 five-by-seven-inch postcards and started handing them out to everyone I could. I took them to shops in my hometown of Malibu and also in nearby Montecito, where some of Charlie’s story takes place. Most shopkeepers were so gracious about keeping these postcards on display. The postcards are also prominently on display in my psychotherapy office and of course will be there for quite a while. I’ve spoken with three book store owners about book signings and so far have had one fabulous book signing at Tecolote Book Shop in Montecito. I have promises from the other two book stores for signings in the next month or so.

I’m now in the middle of a blog tour, which I think will be help with internet visibility and further spreading the word. Due to my efforts, my book is now being carried in three book stores including a Barnes & Noble in the Westlake/Thousand Oaks area not far from my home. My book is also being carried by our local newsstand. I feel very lucky about the reception my book has received from so many people and places. The very positive feedback makes it easier and easier to promote it. I love my book and hope to get as many people to read it as possible. Besides being a great dog story because Charlie was a great dog, I think it will be extremely helpful to people and their pets. The wonderful feedback I’ve gotten has already shown this to be true. Which makes me so happy.

Q. Open to a random page in your book. Can you tell us what is happening?

This is a fun thing to do! I opened to page 13. Yes, and there is the story of Charlie when he was six years old and rescuing a bird the size of a thimble. He only wanted to point it out to me, didn’t try to get it or move it, just tried to let me know that it needed help. I still remember that day. I can still see Charlie standing over that tiny bird and wagging his tail and not moving until he got me to come over there. “What a kind, gentle soul…”

Q. Do you plan subsequent books?

Yes, and I can’t believe I’m saying that already! I’m thinking about a gardening book but who knows, maybe another dog book. There are no words to describe how much I love dogs, so I could write about them endlessly. Maybe I will.

Q. What is the one thing you learned about your book AFTER it was published?

About the book itself, I learned how much I really liked the way it turned out! Publishing it was lots of work—the details, the back and forth with the publisher about various things, the waiting and waiting and waiting. At times I thought my head was going to explode.

Also, after it was published, even though I thought it was a really well-made book starting with the editing of it, I am so happy about the wonderful comments I’m getting from so many people. What a wonderful reward after all that work.

Q. What is your most favorite time of the day or night to write?

I love writing in the early morning. It’s quiet, nothing has happened yet to stimulate my mind. But interestingly enough, most of Charlie’s story was written in the afternoons or evenings, after the day or when something was happening or when I got to work after being with Charlie and in the garden in the morning.

Q. What is usually better – the book or the movie?

The book is usually better than the movie, because the book is usually a more fully developed story, and so often the movie just misses capturing the story in the book. Once exception to that is a movie I saw recently, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” I think the movie was quite good – not as good as the book, but quite close. Also, the book generally is read before the movie is seen, and it’s difficult to override a first impression. Also and by necessity, the movie can’t include all the detail that’s in a book.

Q. You’re about to write your next book. What did you learn from your previous book to help you write your next book?

Without hesitation, I can say I learned that the writing of the book is the most enjoyable part, the part that should be savored because the next part, publishing, is almost always quite tedious.

On a very practical level, I’ve learned a lot about grammar, punctuation and writing in general. I think this will help me tremendously the next time. However, there is no way that anyone is going to convince me to use semicolons, unless absolutely necessary. I have trouble seeing semicolons in a work of art.

Q. Finally, what’s your best tip you can give to writers who want to be published?

Same old refrain: You have to want being published badly enough to endure all that it takes to be published. There’s a lot of hard work involved, but there’s a wonderful reward at the end of it. I’ve found that all that work was worth it. Though there were times when I just wanted to throw my hands up in the air. Have some good support around you, have a cheering section, whatever it takes to achieve your goal. It’s not just about being published, it’s about touching other people’s lives with your words. And that’s a wonderful feeling!

Q. Thank you for your interview, Barbara. Do you have any final words?

You’re very welcome! I liked answering these questions and I hope my answers help. And I wish anyone who wants to publish lots of success. Please know that after you have published your book, you will be happy that you were able to endure the publishing process and that you did not let its difficulties stop you. And that, after you publish your book, you will need to promote it – you are its best promoter. People want to meet you, talk with you, and tell you how they feel about your book. That’s a wonderful part too! So enjoy it!

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