Interview: Garth Stein – Speed Writer
Jan 07, 2010
Using a wise and endearing dog as his narrator, The Art of Racing in the Rain author Garth Stein has put motorsports on national best-seller lists.
Come on. A talking dog? Named Enzo?
When I started writing the book, the dog’s name was Juan Pablo. We were about to have our third child. If it was a boy, I wanted to name him Enzo. And my wife said, “Absolutely not.” She told me, “You’ve got to name the dog Enzo.” Recently, I got an e-mail from somebody who named his kid Enzo after Enzo the dog.
Enzo even gets a thrill ride around Thunderhill Raceway Park in a BMW.
I thought that scene pushed the boundaries of credibility. But I got a call from Bob Bondurant, and he said, “Oh, I loved it when you had Enzo in the car! I take my dog Rusty out all the time.”
Dogs and race cars . . .
People say, “Well, it’s so obvious. You’re so manipulative.” But when I wrote this book, I had to fire an agent over it. My agent said, “Nobody reads racing books. You can’t narrate from a dog’s point of view.” Now it’s in twenty-five languages, and we’re up to almost a million copies in print.
Are you a racer yourself?
I raced a Spec Miata with SCCA for about four years. I stopped racing when I put my car into a wall-in the rain, of course-in Seattle. Then I wrote this book and my wife said, “You know, I wondered why you were doing that racing thing. Clearly, it was just research.”
The book really captures the allure of competition driving.
I think racers appreciate the book on an entirely different level from the general fiction-reading audience or the dog crowd. I had a guy who wrote me a long e-mail, and he said, “My wife and my family and my friends have no idea why I’ve been racing for twenty years. They don’t get it. They don’t understand why I bother doing it. It doesn’t make any sense to them at all. Now I have this book, and I gave it to them and I said, ‘Just read this. This will explain it to you.’ ”
Is racing a metaphor for life?
When you go to your first racing school, they tell you, “If something happens to your car, it’s your problem.” It’s about personal responsibility and taking charge of your life. You don’t like your job? Change it. Don’t say, “It’s somebody else’s fault that I have this job.”