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Steven Rowley, author of the debut novel, “Lily and the Octupus,” speaks during one of the Rancho Santa Fe Library’s Emerging Authors events. Photo by Christina Macone-Greene
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Author’s debut novel about dog captures readers

RANCHO SANTA FE — Debut novelist Steven Rowley made a special appearance at the Rancho Santa Fe Library for its Emerging Authors Series on June 29.

Rowley has been swept up in a whirlwind since striking a deal with Simon & Schuster for his novel entitled, “Lily and the Octopus.”

Rowley, who resides in Los Angeles with his partner, said that his past experiences in writing included working as a freelancer, a screenwriter and a newspaper columnist.

The impetus for writing the book emerged after his Dachshund, Lily, passed away.

On a purely emotional level, he wrote about love and how difficult it was to let go — finding that pathway towards reconciliation.

“And not just a loved one,” said Rowley, adding how anger can also be part of something that needs to be let go of as well. “It’s to let go of the things holding us back.”

And by doing so, the acceptance of new things can begin.

Rowley had first intended that this piece be a short story. However, that all changed when his boyfriend read the first chapter and encouraged him to keep on writing.

Creating a fiction piece about his beloved dog, Rowley wrote for a hundred days straight.

When he finished the novel he contemplated how he would go about pitching the story of a man, his dog, and an octopus affixed to his dog’s head to literary agents. The octopus, by the way, represents the canine’s tumor.

With so many self-publishing options, Rowley decided to take that route and have a freelance editor based in New York polish his manuscript. When it was “printer ready,” he received a surprising call from the editor and she told him how she wanted to forward the manuscript to Simon & Schuster for consideration.

He agreed, and in just a matter of days, the publishing house made an offer. And that’s when the literary whirlwind journey began.

“I’m still stunned to be here,” he said, addressing the crowd. Rowley added later, “It’s been a huge surprise and delight.”

Readers have connected with the story and praise for the novel has been exceptional.

For example, Sara Gruen the bestselling author of “Water for Elephants,” provided the quote, “A quirky and deeply affecting charmer of a novel, ‘Lily and the Octopus’ is funny, wise, and utterly original in its exploration of what it means to love any mortal creature. This brave little dachshund will capture your heart, as will her prickly, tenderhearted, and irresistible owner. Don’t miss their adventures together.”