Bret Witter is an author of many books including 8 New York Times bestsellers including The Monument’s Men, Stronger (Jeff Bauman’s story), Dewey, Until Tuesday and more. He’s a full-time professional writer. Children recognize Bret Witter from reading about Dewey, the famous library cat in these popular children’s books.
Adult cat lovers can read about Dewey in these New York Times bestselling books…
I recently read Until Tuesday, Tuesday Tucks Me in, and Tuesday Takes Me There. These stories are about Luis Carlos Montalván, an Iraq war veteran and his service dog Tuesday. I was lucky to get an interview with this author to ask him some questions about himself and a few about the book Until Tuesday. You can see the Q&A with the author below.
Q&A with Bret Witter
Q: Could you tell readers a little bit about yourself? Perhaps something not many people know?
A: Well, I love needlepoint and croquet—not the sewing technique, but the game played with mallets, wickets and balls. I’m eight feet tall. I think octopuses are cool. I once ate a guinea pig at an Ecuadorian restaurant in New York, and it was terrible. A few years ago, I contracted a case of “awesomeness,” but it only lasted 15 minutes. Now I think my body rejects it, like it’s malaria. The best thing about being a ghostwriter is that nobody knows anything about me, so I can make up whatever I want, but two of the above things are actually true. Hint: it’s not the awesomeness. I’ve never been awesome, not even for 15 minutes.
Q: How does writing make you feel and does it come easy for you?
A: Writing is never easy! It’s impossibly hard, especially when you’re staring at the first blank page and you have 300 pages and 80,000 words to go. It’s a grind. But it’s the best grind in the world. I’m lucky. I get to write every day for a living. What could be better than that?
Q: What is your favorite childhood book?
A: Hardy Boys. My mom took me to the library every other day (she didn’t like books in the house—she had an aversion to things), I checked out five Hardy Boys books, read them, brought them back two days later, and checked out five more. In hindsight, they were terrible. Doesn’t matter. They taught me to love reading.
Q: How much research did you put into writing Until Tuesday?
A: I spent two weeks with Luis and Tuesday, including a full day at ECAD with Lu Picard, who trained Tuesday. I spoke to several of Luis’s platoon mates, several people who received service dogs from ECAD with Luis, and a few others in his life. I thought about researching PTSD, then decided against it. We wanted the book to be Luis’s authentic experience with PTSD, not a research project, so I only read books and reports that he had read and meant something to him. The one outside source I really remember is Achilles in Vietnam. Incredible book. It meant a lot to Luis. But I think focusing almost exclusively on Luis and Tuesday is what made the book special. It allowed people to feel what they felt, and to know they weren’t alone.
Q: How did you start your career as an author?
A: I was a book editor for almost a decade. I was a book agent for five minutes. My first client admitted, after six months of conversations, that she hadn’t started her book, even though it was due in four days. I went home and wrote the first half for her in a crazy 96-hour frenzy. It went on to be a New York Times bestseller—although my name isn’t on it, so you’ll never know what book it was! It took me three more years to work up the courage to start writing full time. That’s what happens when you have two kids to support. It’s tough to quit your day job.
Q: Do you have any favorite authors that influence your writing?
A: Elmore Leonard, because his books are fun. They never bog down or get boring. That’s how I try to write. Nothing pretentious. Everything toward telling a good clean story.
Q: I noticed on the books written about Luis and Tuesday that you are listed as the writer or the word (with) is before your name. Is that the same as co-authoring, or writing the entire book?
Q: How did you meet Luis & Tuesday?
A: Through our shared agent, Peter McGuigan at Foundry Literary. He had seen a small article about Luis and Tuesday in the New York Times. It said that, thanks to Tuesday, Luis had started leaving his apartment for the first time in years. I thought, “That doesn’t sound like a story. A guy sitting in an apartment with a dog?! Who wants to read that?” I was wrong. As soon as I met them, I knew Luis and Tuesday were incredible.
Q: Did you have interaction with Luis & Tuesday in order to write the books?
A: Of course! In addition to the first two weeks we spent together, Luis and I went back and forth editing the first draft for 3-4 months. We probably spoke or emailed 100 times. He was very involved and very smart about what he wanted to say. The writing process was hard on Luis. He broke down emotionally and psychologically several times—thankfully, Tuesday was always there for him! But in the end, he told me it was the best therapy he had ever had. That has always been special to me. Luis and Tuesday were my very good friends.
Q: What did you think about Luis and Tuesday’s relationship?
A: It was genuine. They were truly devoted to each other. Watching Luis clean and brush Tuesday at the end of the day, and watching Tuesday give him appreciation and affection in return…it was almost like meditation. It lasted at least fifteen minutes, and I always felt, How can the world be bad, if something like this is part of it? Of all the amazing stuff I saw the two of them do, that is the thing that sticks with me.
Q: Did you stay in touch with Luis and Tuesday after writing the books?
A: Yes, we spoke often and met for lunch in New York or Atlanta (where I live) every six months or so. Obviously, I follow them on Facebook, etc. They were prolific.
Q: Are you yourself a dog lover or do you have any pets of your own?
A: I have a dog and two cats. My cat pooped in my office this morning, while I was sitting two feet away—she’s angry because we adopted the second cat after her brother died. It’s been five months, Allie! Chill out. I still love her, though. She’s on my desk beside me right now.
Q: Have you read the new book “Tuesday’s Promise?” Is there a reason you didn’t write this final book with Luis?
A: Luis and I talked about the book extensively, and in the end, I decided to pass on writing it with him. Honestly, and I told Luis this, I thought Until Tuesday was pretty much perfect, and I wasn’t sure there was anything more to say—at least anything worth a full book. I didn’t want to do it just for the money. Obviously, Luis felt differently. He had many more things he needed to say, and the book turned out great. I know Ellis Hennican very well, he’s a fabulous writer, so I never worried. I knew Luis and Tuesday didn’t need me.
Q: Did you at any point think that Luis would take his own life?
A: No, not at all. Afterward, of course, I saw all the little pieces, but I never saw it at the time. It was devastating.
Q: Do you have a website? How can readers connect with you?
A: You can reach me at www.bretwitter.com, but the best way to know me is to read the books I’ve written. Everything I care about—and everything that would be of any interest to people who aren’t my family members—is in there, except of course for my love of croquet. Wait…was that one of the true facts? The world may never know. (Okay, it wasn’t. Sorry.)
I’d like to thank Bret Witter for his time and consideration with completing this interview to be shared with other readers like you…
You can find Bret Witter on:
Book’s by Bret Witter
Here’s a picture of the real life Dewey from Spencer, Iowa. You can read about him HERE.