1. When did you first start keeping rats as pets, and why did you choose rats for your pets?
I have had gerbils, dogs, cats, ferrets, hamsters, and guinea pigs. I was 18 years old when my friend told me about rats. He told me how smart his pet rat was. He told me how his rat would be waiting for him and climb up on his shoulder. He also told me how loving, smart, clean and playful she was. At first, I thought it was weird, but then I decided to adopt two rats for myself. I named them Cookie and Bella. I have been in love with rats ever since. Unlike hamsters and gerbils, rats love to play and be held. They love attention. I like hamsters and gerbils, but they do tend to nip and do not like to be held as much as rats do, and they sleep all day. I love rats because they all have their own personalities. They love to give kisses, sit on their owners' shoulders, play with their owners, and have little tug of wars--and they are easy to handle. Rats are really clean, cute, and funny, and they are really social animals.
2. What inspired you to write a children's book based on your experience having pet rats?
Honestly, I never thought I would write a children's book. I used to receive tons of emails about writing books, and I would just delete them. I had this pet rat named Cupcake; she was a sweetheart. We had such a strong bond, and after she passed away, I was so heartbroken. It took me awhile to get over her loss. After she passed away, I had a few ideas that popped up in my head, so I decided to write them all down. It did not occur to me right away, to write a story. I just started to write, and then I had a dream of the characters and the rest of the story. I wanted to honor my Cupcake and use her as the pet in my story. That's when I put it all together to create Millie and Cupcake.
3. What would you say to parents who feel hesitation around their kids having rodents as pets?
Based on my experience with hamsters, pets, rabbits, mice, and gerbils, I would compare them all to pet rats. I would explain to parents how wonderful rats are. I would explain to them that it's not true about rats being 'dirty." They are really clean, social, smart, funny, cute, and easy to take care of and handle. My pet rats make me laugh: after I handle my them, they always clean themselves. Rats love attention, and they do not sleep all day like hamsters and gerbils. Rats are also affectionate; they give kisses and love to sit on their owners' shoulders.
4. In writing a book based on your own experience, did you find it difficult to distill real life events down to a short enough story for a children’s book?
It wasn't really difficult. The only difficult part was making sure the story was clear and worded correctly. Part of my story is an expression of me. The little girl is shy and she loves animals.
5. Would you tell us a bit about the importance of animals and animal rights to you today?
I really love animals; I've always loved them since I was a little girl. They mean the world to me. It really hurts me when I hear those stories about people abusing or abandoning their pets. I just feel that people should speak up for and defend animals since they cannot speak for themselves. I adopt all of my animals. I do not understand why people use animals to make money like puppy mills. Why can't they treat them like animals instead of garbage? I would love to travel the world and save those poor helpless animals that no one wants.