Those of you who read my books and follow me on social media will know, to use an understatement, that I’m fairly dog-oriented. I’ve owned and lost two much-loved and much-missed spaniels and now share my home and usually my lap, with a show type cocker and a cockapoo. I’ve written about lots of dogs: Westies and cockapoos (Millie’s beloved Trevor) and Merlin the Irish Wolfhound in The Little Book Cafe. Merlin is a rescue Irish Wolfhound and I’ve a soft spot for the breed as an ex-neighbour owned one. Befriending two on a recent dog walk, however, made me realise I’d seriously underrepresented just how enormous these dogs are! I’d love to go back and rewrite the scenes where Merlin and Tash get to know one another; Merlin simply isn’t big enough!
Fiction seems to foreshadow fact in my life and, having written about Trevor the cockapoo in Millie Vanilla’s Cupcake Cafe, I found myself with one of my own. Gorgeous Bella is now two and, after being the puppy from hell, has matured into the most adorable, comical, loving little dog.
I gave Matt, the hero of On a Falling Tide, Dolly the springer spaniel but realised I’d never written about a show type cocker. Weird because my adored Bertie was one. So, in the book coming out in January (more details coming soon) let me introduce you to Camilla the golden cocker. Camilla is very beautiful but not terribly bright.
Did I say life seems to imitate fiction? Cue Ralph, the rescue cocker who bounded into our lives just before Lockdown. Ralph, although an orange roan rather than golden, is also very beautiful and, while possessing a certain amount of cunning when it comes to biscuits and balls, isn’t very brainy. But don’t tell him I said so.
Dogs can be useful character development aides in fiction. Trevor is the family that replaces the one Millie lost. Rescuing Merlin gives Kit the idea of starting up the animal sanctuary in The Little Book Cafe. Want to reveal the softer side to a taciturn character? Show him bestowing love upon his dog. Need to hammer home how evil and wicked someone can be? Just reread the scene where Adrian ‘looks after’ Benji in Tash’s Story. Want the heroine to fall for the hero? Write a paragraph with him looking after his pet; it’s what tipped the balance for Charity in On a Falling Tide. Need a tricky situation to bring a couple together? There must a dog that needs rescuing. There’s a scene in the new book that has the hero and heroine flung together and in which Camilla plays a vital role!
Remember though, that dogs have to be cared for, fed, walked and are time-consuming so you need to factor that into your writing. Just as in real life dogs can be a tie in fiction too. It’s also far too easy to let the dog take over the page. I was so enthralled with Piglet, the puppy in While I Was Waiting who helps Rachel discover her more relaxed side, that I had to edit out an awful lot of puppy writing and remember who the story was really about! Dogs can also provide comic relief. Like most dog owners, I’ve quite a few funny and embarrassing stories. They get stored away for future books.
One reviewer remarked she thought there was too much dog talk in my books. For me though, the presence of a dog adds so much to the story that I can’t see myself giving them up any time soon.
Sorry not sorry!