About Me

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Dogs (and Cats and Raccoons) and their Writers

By Olivia Levez

Neil Gaiman and one of his beloved cats

Life has been manic and hectic and frantic, so I haven't had the time to blog or tweet or work on Book Two, what with Ofsted hovering menacingly near our school, but still not actually arriving yet. And then there are school visits of a different kind to organise for when The Island is officially published (can't believe it's only one month away...) and my big book launch event to arrange, and assemblies to give at my school, and indie bookshops to talk to and competitions to plan and...

And breathe.

So in a rare lull, I am going to immerse myself in all things Dog (And Cat and Raccoon) in the final post about the special relationship pets have with their writers. Here, then, in no particular order:

Neil Gaiman often used to write about his cats, Coconut, Pod and Princess. He was very close to his dog, Cabal, who he rescued by the side of the road.

'We were a sort of an Odd Couple, both of us fascinated and delighted by the other one. Both of us protective.'

But not all writers stick with cats or dogs as their inspiration. Over to Sox the Raccoon and his writer, Melissa Bowen, aka BB Taylor:

Sox the raccoon and Melissa Bowen

Sox came to Melissa at about 3 days old as his mom was struggling to feed him. He is one of 5 raccoons that live with Melissa and spends a lot of time educating people about raccoons and visiting special people such as children in hospices. Sox is the star of one of Melissa's books: Sox and Pals. She writes under the name BB Taylor.

Sox and Pals

Kurt Vonnegurt and Pumpkin, ahhhh...

'I cannot distinguish between the love I have for people and the love I have for dogs.'
Next up...

The Dog that Owns Rowena House

Rowena House's adored mutt

Although Rowena's darling dog has never appeared in a story of hers, he might one day. 'He's not what you'd call a literary hound, and spends most mornings lounging on my bed, whining about me being at my desk again. But he leaps off instantly if I get up, barking like mad to tell me it's time for a walk. Most days we go to the cliffs or beach for an hour's serious playtime.'
And what does he think of Rowena writing books? 'If I can't eat it, chase it, or bark at it, what on doggie earth is the point of a book?'

You can follow Rowena  @houserowena. She is the author of Angelique's Geese in War Girls (Andersen 2014) and currently finishing a structural edit of The Butterfly's Wing, a coming-of-age story set in France during WW1.

Steinbeck's little Charley...

'I need a dog pretty badly. I dreamed of dogs last night. They sat in a circle and looked at me and I wanted all of them.'

Next up is the indefatigable Roly, writing companion to SCBWI member Kellie Jackson:

'This is Roly. He's 77 in dog years. My constant companion and mud-rolling champion. Smells like clothes left in the washing machine overnight. Eats anything and everything. Terrible breath. Fire hog. Likes barking at the postman and specialises in scaring delivery people but allows baddies into the back garden to steal bird feeders. Nervous of pet rabbits and dog groomers. Once ate a whole Stilton. Main goal in life: to catch a squirrel.'
From this point on, Roly took over the interview somewhat:

'Kellie, my dog-mother, spends a lot of time upstairs in her study talking to herself and tapping away at that awful computer. I wait at the bottom of the stairs WILLING her to take me for a walk, or failing that, feed me a biscuit. Biscuits are referred to in our house as a ‘B’ - she thinks I don't know this. She uses the ‘B’ word to get me to do things I don’t want to do, like shift from my spot beside the fire, but I’m on to her. I happen to love the smell of my own fur singeing even if she doesn’t.
Kellie’s been trying to write a novel since before I was born. The poor thing. I feel a bit sorry for her. I hope to Dog Heaven she succeeds or no one in this house will ever get any rest. That includes our postman. She’s written a couple of short stories which have been on the radio apparently. I only remember this because Kellie forgot to shut the front door after the postie delivered a contract last spring. Kellie didn’t notice I’d pinned him against the garden gate because she was too busy doing an embarrassing dance on two legs. Who dances on two legs? It’s unnatural, right?
Speaking of unnatural, Kellie spent most of November doing something bizarre called NaNoWriMo. ‘Knocking out a crappy first draft’ she said. IS SHE MAD? November, that glorious month, with the park haunch high in fallen leaves and deep muddy puddles, not to mention all those fluffy-tailed squirrels to chase…Still, she’s all I’ve got. All my dog-brothers have grown up and my dog-sister is busy doing A-levels. At least Kellie takes me out for a walk everyday. I don’t mind that she rabbits on endlessly about her ‘WIP’, whatever that is. I try not to let on but I have no idea what she’s talking about most of the time. It’s quite possible she’s unhinged. But as long as she keeps the biscuits coming I’m hers for life.
Btw you can tweet my writer @KellieAJackson.'
Santa Paws

Elizabeth Barrett Browning was deeply attached to her cocker spaniel, Flush. In a letter to her friend, she wrote:

'You understand — don’t you? — that Flush is my constant companion, my friend, my amusement, lying with his head on one page of my folios while I read the other.'

Klaxon! And now to our SCBWI Gallery of Pet Plotters....

SCBWI member Helen Lapping's Becky. Woof!

Nicola Keller's much missed ginger girl, constant companion and foot warmer...

...and Ottaline, Nicola's new line manager, enjoying some relaxing music.

Smile for the camera! Jane Howard's Archie

Watson Jones, posing nicely for his writer, Eloise Williams

Jeannie Waudby's writing buddy and plot advisor, Dougal

Karen Minto's loon

Another of Karen Minto's loons
Sally Poynton's writing companions, enjoying a moment of snuggliciousness

Marie Basting's Polly, who steals and throws things to ensure her writer takes regular screen breaks

As everyone knows, cats are the ones that ultimately rule in any writing household. So the last word, or picture, must go to Julia Underwood's Fudge...

Julia's secretary cat, a Tonkinese named Fudge