All of my books so far but one include animal minor characters. In my novelette, Hunted, a big, chatty, black beast of a cat named Picante owns and demands obedience from our hero, Simon. I mean, come on – nothing says sexy like a man who puts his kitty cat’s safety before his own. In Hunted Past, Aunt Mona, who actually plays a pretty important role in the book, possesses a passel (Herd? Pride?) of cats, all named after cheeses. (Because cats and cheese, people!) In a manner not even slightly reminiscent of one of my many rants, Aunt Mona rather pointedly extols the virtues of spaying and neutering and rescuing homeless pets. Cough, cough. Anyway, in Hunted Dreams, a beautiful, blue pit bull named Mina fearlessly accompanies our hero, Reed, as he searches each night for his sleeping beauty, the Rubenesque Katana.
When writing The Tithe, I admit to spending a ridiculous amount of time wondering how I could sneak an animal into a book situated in an abandoned bunker in the middle of the Mojave Desert. I pondered snakes, scorpions, and even rats before realizing: 1. A pet scorpion? Really? Really?, and 2. Squeezing a spunky pet rat into the mix might bring a little too much Disney into my post-apocalyptic opus.
I love me the animals, and I’m not the only one. According to the ASPCA, we homo-sapiens-Americans faithfully serve 150-200 million dogs and cats. Around 40% of lucky households feature at least one furry overlord. And sure, not every person loves their animals enough to – oh, I don’t know – make them their maid of honor and best man in their wedding or something (just a totally random example), but we Americans go pretty gaga over our pets. We spend around $60 billion a year on their food, vet bills, toys, and, you know, that obscenely adorable satin tuxedo for the, ahem, hypothetical canine best man.
When I read a book or watch a movie, I fawn shamelessly over any non-human beasties. (Heaven help the writer who brings a hint of harm to any of those furred, scaled, or finned protagonists! Allow me to assuage the fears of all current or future readers: No animal, real or fictional, will ever be harmed in the penning of my prose.) To serve the interests of fellow animal lovers (and we are legion), I devote at least part of my storytelling capacity to honoring the millions of beautiful beasts that exist alongside and enhance us.
So, yeah, my novels tend to teem with animal life. My made-up worlds just don’t feel as much like home without some furry distractions. How could I do otherwise, given how much I wrestle with my cats for possession of the keyboard and type one-handed while tucking my dog in the crook of my left arm?