Joni lives in the beautiful mountains in New Jersey on the East Coast of the United States, works to save our Earth's environment and biodiversity and loves life with Rio and Romeo.
Rio - A Love Story: How My Dog Saved My Lifeby Joni darc ShepherdPublish: Oct 29, 2019Biographies & Memoirs
I've been living in the New Jersey mountain area for almost 30 years and have visited it since I was a child, at which time I fell in love with the mountains and dreamed of living here. I always loved these mountains with beautiful views, forests, parks and farms, and although it has become quite developed through the years, there still are a lot of bird varieties and other wildlife that pass through my yard every day. It is a beautiful area.What motivated you to start working to save our Earth's environment and biodiversity?
I grew up learning about nature and appreciating it when I was very young. My family didn't have a lot of money, so I didn't have a lot of toys and other things to occupy my time. I recall a Christmas where my Mom could only give me a pair of socks and underwear because there was no money for anything else. So my brother, sister and I enjoyed what we had surrounding us every day - nature. We played in the yard every day, enjoyed watching the wildlife, trying to identify all the birds and mammals, watching insects especially lightning bugs, watching the clouds and trying to identify pictures and figures that they were showing, and trying to identify the many star constellations at night. Vacations were mainly days at the Jersey shore. At the beach, we watched the seabirds, seahorses, starfish, crabs, and fish in the ocean, and horseshoe crabs and birds on the bay side. We marveled at the beautiful shells on the shore. As I got older, I noticed that there were less and less wildlife, and my heart and soul felt the need to work in the environmental field to protect them. As I've grown older and have been blessed to travel to some of the natural wonders in other countries such as the rainforests and African plains, my love for nature and the importance of protecting the biodiversity of our dear planet has grown as I've come to better understand the preciousness and fragility of all of these ecosystems.What is your reading comfort zone? How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
My perfect reading comfort zone is on a couch with my dogs on my lap and a cup of herbal tea. I love to read, but in the last many years, because of other commitments, I haven't read as many books as I'd like. Books are so very special. My comfort zone has been to read mostly non-fiction, including nature books, history, and biographies, but I do love historical novels, and recently, my attention has been very focused on inspirational books.If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
I don't have just one favorite book. I love many and would be thrilled to have been the author of most books that have been published. There are so many talented authors in all genres. But two of my favorite books are: 1) Biodiversity by E.O. Wilson, an environmental hero of mine. It is a very beautiful and important book that tries to alert us to a very urgent global problem - the quickening loss of both animal and plant species due to extinction .... 2) The other book that I love is by Oprah Winfrey, What I know for Sure. I find this book very inspirational with so much common sense guidance that I read a sentence or page from every morning and evening and it faces me in a positive direction. I would be very honored to have the skill, experience and knowledge to have written either or both books.Why did you choose to write a memoir? Have you ever considered writing in any other genre?
I decided to write a memoir as a tribute to my family and my dog Rio who has been such a great inspiration to me in my life. I am considering writing in a totally different but related genre, a very moving love story.What inspired you to start writing, "Rio - A Love Story"?
Both my sister and Mom passed from cancer and I vowed to write about them and their experiences as a tribute to their wonderful lives and souls. When Rio entered my life and uplifted me after the passing of Pat and Mom from cancer, I had an amazing life-changing experience. Rio inspired me so much, changing my life dramatically. I vowed to include him in my book. Shortly thereafter, I was driving to work one day and turned on a radio station that I can only get for about 10 minutes because I am driving away from its coverage. It was a quarterly fundraiser, and a gentleman was on that hour, talking about how one can write a book in a weekend. The chances of me hearing this person speaking were slim. But it was meant to be. I signed up for the weekend webinar and wrote about 55,000 words in about three days - the beginning of and a large part of my book. I signed up for his book publishing program, and here I am.What are some elements you consider when figuring out a book title?
For my book, the title came to me immediately, from my heart and soul. The name felt right, it described my book, and I am not sure about many things, but I was sure about this title. Everyone I discussed the title with loved it.What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of a good story?
I think the story must be told with the heart, soul and love of the writer. That makes so much of a difference to the reader. Of course the characters must be well defined, and I love a great plot and suspense in the story and challenges and successes in overcoming the challenges that are faced by the characters. And personally, I love an exciting happy ending.Do you have any quirky writing habits or rituals?
My rituals include a wonderful cup of tea and having my dogs by my side or on my feet when I am writing. I do best when I set aside some personal time for writing for several hours at a time. That is when I can get focused and do my best writing. I love to edit at night. At the end of the day, it is easy to let my thoughts and deepest emotions flow.What do you like doing apart from writing? What are some of your other interests?
I have many interests. Life is beautiful and offers so much to do. I love international traveling to see the beautiful wildlife and cultures that the world has to offer. But at home, I most enjoy my time with Rio and Romeo, going for long walks in nature, dog training and trialing. I so love my time with my dear friends, loving old ones and meeting new ones. I also enjoy organic gardening, cooking, and reading.What is the most challenging part of writing a memoir?
I found it very emotional. I relived my life and while editing, I did a lot of self examination. I learned a lot about myself and what I loved about my life and identified some major things that I needed to change. It was emotional and at times, very painful.Share something your readers wouldn’t know about you.
I love ballroom dancing, especially the tango and other Latin dances. The tango is a beautiful dance that one can get lost in. I love to feel the music in my heart and soul and become one with the music. And since I don't have my own dance partner when I'm not in dance class, Rio has happily stepped up to dance with me! Rio and I dance every morning and often at night. And even though he has two left feet, he dances beautifully!What does Joni darc Shepherd’s weekend near water look like?
A weekend by water would either be at New Jersey beaches or at an amazing waterfront while traveling with a good friend in the States or internationally. Having dinner by the ocean or taking a small boat cruise through romantic neighborhood canals would make me very happy.Which is the next book you are writing? When will it be released?
I started outlining a romance novel and hope to release that in about 2 years. I plan to put a lot of creativity and heart and soul into this book as well. I've also been asked to write a children's version of Rio - A Love Story after the book is successful. and I've been asked to ghost write a book for someone to memorialize some of their best moments working with and taking care of animals.
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