Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Holly Connors is talking with Katy McQuaid, author of Everybody Loves Grace: An Amazing True Story of How Grace Brings Love to Everyone She Meets, Book 1.
FQ: First, thanks so much for sharing Grace with us. It was a pleasure getting to know her. Now on to our questions! We learn in the story that when Grace was adopted by you, she had to fly on a plane to get to your home. Where did you first learn about Grace and what made you decide to welcome her into your house? What was it about her, or the ad (video, friend’s recommendation?) that told your heart she was the one for you?
MCQUAID: I was looking for a companion for my 15-year-old Finnish Lapphund, Tinto, and he was very clear he wanted a female companion, but not a puppy. He also said, ‘I want a dog who looks just like me.” So, I sent out a letter to all the Finnish Lapphund breeders in North America to see if there was a female Lappie who needed a home.
That’s when I learned that Grace’s owner was looking for a new home for Grace. She also thought it was sweet that Tinto wanted a younger sister, so she agreed to have Grace come live with me.
I just knew after hearing Grace’s story that she was meant to come live with Tinto and me. Once I knew, I had faith that everything would work out and it did. Tinto and Grace bonded the moment they met.
FQ: What was that first meeting like? From the book, I’m guessing you met at the airport. With all that noise and for Grace, strange smells, how did she handle that meeting? Did your heart melt when you first saw her?
MCQUAID: I remember our first meeting like it was yesterday. Grace arrived at the cargo terminal at the Denver International Airport. When I walked into the cargo office to pick her up, there was a woman behind the desk and Grace was in a crate.
I opened the crate door and Grace quickly looked at me and then down at the ground like she was shy. In that quick glimpse, I saw such beauty and sweetness in her eyes. We walked down a set of stairs and walked over to a grassy field so she could go to the bathroom.
It didn’t take long, maybe five minutes, and Grace looked straight into my eyes and into my heart. That was the moment our hearts connected.
FQ: How old was Grace when she came to you? Was the transition from farm life to city life difficult for her?
MCQUAID: Grace was four years old when she came to live with me. While living in the city was a big change, she adapted easily. Right away, she seemed to enjoy the “good sniffs” and followed Tinto’s lead. He showed her where all the best sniff spots were in the neighborhood. I would take Grace on frequent hikes in the mountains or for a walk in a city park so she could enjoy open spaces. I also think that meeting people who stopped to say hello and pet her, helped Grace adjust to life in the city.
FQ: Tinto sounds like he must have been a wonderful dog too. How did he handle having to “share” you with a new dog?
MCQUAID: I think Tinto really enjoyed having a little sister. He was 15 years old when Grace came, and there was a new bounce in his step after she arrived. It makes me want to cry just remembering the day Grace walked in the door and Tinto was waiting for her at the end of hallway. He was so gentle with her. He got up from his resting spot and came right up to greet her.
In a way, I believe Tinto knew that he was handing over the baton. I showed him pictures of Grace for weeks before she arrived, so he was prepared. It was as if he was going to enjoy his time with Grace and prepare her to take over when he died.
FQ: When did you first realize that Grace had a special talent for knowing when someone needed some extra love? Were you surprised at her gentle nature and desire to help others?
MCQUAID: I started to notice this when I had friends over for book club. Invariably, Grace would sit next to the person who was going through a difficult time in their life. One night I had a small group of friends over for dinner and Grace spent the evening sitting next to this one guy who had recently lost his best friend to a heart attack. Grace wouldn’t leave his side the entire evening. He still talks about it.
FQ: In the story, Grace meets a few people at different times who are in wheelchairs. Many dogs would be frightened or quite cautious around a wheelchair. Did Grace immediately go up to these people, without fear, and shower them with love?
MCQUAID: Tinto used to visit residents in a nursing home every week as part of the Pets on Wheels volunteer program in Northern Virginia. I think Tinto had a way of communicating to Grace and he taught her how to approach a person in a wheelchair. He was so good with people in wheelchairs, and he made sure Grace was good at it too.
And yes, Grace has always been discerning with people and she maintains a sense for who in a room (or on the street) needs the most love.
FQ: Your background is quite interesting. How did you go from being a senior executive with the Central Intelligence Agency to being a children’s book author?
MCQUAID: I had an amazing 32-year career with the CIA where I got to live and work in some very interesting places around the world. I was also surrounded by intelligent, dedicated and creative colleagues.
I can honestly say I never planned to be a children’s book author. I thought I might write a book one day, but I never thought it would be a children’s book. It just happened one day after I was walking Grace as she was doing her rounds at Denver Health. The head of the Paramedics stopped dead in his tracks as he was walking into work. After he petted Grace and looked in her eyes he said, “if only I could start my day like this every day.”
When I got home from that walk, a thought occurred to me - the book I was supposed to write had nothing to do with me. I was supposed to share Grace’s story and that’s what I’ve been trying to do. Grace’s story is filled with love, kindness and the ability to work through change in a positive way.
FQ: I see that you have your own company - McQuaid Corporate Performance LLC. Would you tell our readers a little about your company? It sounds like it grew out of your experiences in the CIA. We’d love to learn more!
MCQUAID: I work as a strategy adviser to people and organizations. My goal is to lead, inspire and empower people and their organizations to drive through change so that everyone can flourish.
I look at an organization and help identify underlying operational issues and develop strategies for optimizing performance. I like to look at the big picture with someone and help them figure out the steps they need to take to get where they are going.
FQ: There are currently five books in your “Everybody Loves Grace” series. Would you tell our readers a bit about the other books and if you have plans for more books in the series?
MCQUAID: As you know, the first book is about Grace coming to Denver and it shows how her simple acts of kindness change people’s lives and that every day is an adventure.
The second book, Everybody Loves Grace: An Amazing True Story of Grace’s Adventure to the Grand Canyon, offers readers two new insights:
* The journey is an important part of every adventure.
* Good things can happen on the “trail less traveled.”
The third book in the series, Everybody Loves Grace: An Amazing True Story of Grace's Adventure to Texas, reminds readers that:
* Good friends remain good friends even if they don't see each other often.
* Moving to a new place is a chance for new beginnings and the opportunity to make new, special friends.
The fourth book is Grace’s adventure to Utah and the book provides uplifting new insights for readers of all ages:
* Going places with "just the girls" is empowering.
* People and places change over time so, even when we visit a place we've been before, it's always a new adventure.
* Have courage to do the things you want do.
The fifth book is Grace’s Adventure to Pennsylvania where there are new life lessons for children and adults:
* Go for the things you want to do in life
* Don’t put off your bucket list
* Prepare for key events and be flexible when changes are necessary.
I’ve written a sixth book and Susan Lavalley is hard at work on the illustrations for Grace’s Adventure to Washington, DC. This is another beautiful story where Grace reminds us to go our own pace and there’s no place like home.