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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Pets in Books

I have four cats and one dog. Some would call me a Crazy Cat Lady. That term wouldn’t be too far off. I once said I could sum up my life with LOLcat pictures from People thought I was joking. I wasn’t.

Chaos & Yoda
Pets are an important part of my life. Although I have a husband and three children who are around much of the time, the animals are my constant companions while I write. Right now one of my cats, Spirit, is keeping me company while I write this post. Another cat, Smalls, is asleep next to me. If it wasn’t so warm, I’m sure the dog would be upstairs with me instead of napping downstairs where it’s cooler.

I love putting pets into my romance novels. Before I had furbabies of my own, I used other people’s pets for inspiration for my animal characters. A friend from college, Mike, had a cat named Francis who was named that for two reasons—Frank Sinatra and Shakespeare. I used both the name and the basis for his name in my first Silhouette Romance If the Ring Fits….

A deep longing for a dog led me to create Denali, a blue-eyed Siberian Husky, who appeared in my Harlequin Romances Rescued by the Magic of Christmas and Christmas Magic on the Mountain. Giving a heartbreaker-player type hero was a way to show a different side of him. And if he was willing to commit to a dog, maybe he wasn’t quite the confirmed bachelor he claimed to be. (We ended up adopting Chaos, a Norwegian Elkhound, after realizing a husky's personality wouldn't be a good fit for our family.)

Our newest cat, Yoda, who we adopted from a local Humane Society and is pictured above with Chaos, ended up being the inspiration for a stray black kitten taken in by my hero in my Harlequin Romance Not-So-Perfect Princess. 

It was so much fun to use Yoda, who is known as the Master of Disaster and Ninja Kitty, to create Boots. The kitten not only is the catalyst for my heroine and hero meeting, but the cats brings them together throughout the story. I fell in love with my fictional kitty when it came time to make Romance Trading Cards for my characters I made him one, too!

Here’s a little taste of a scene from that book with my hero, Alejandro, and the kitten:

Lying in bed, Alejandro Cierzo de Amanecer heard a noise outside his room at the beachfront villa. The stray kitten he’d found at the boatyard must want something. He opened his eyes to see sunlight streaming in through the brand-new floor-to-ceiling windows. Most likely breakfast.
The bedroom door burst wide-open. Heavy boots sounded against the recently replaced terra-cotta tile floor.

Not again.
Alejandro grimaced, but didn’t move. He knew the routine.
A squad of royal guards dressed in blue and gold uniforms surrounded his bed. At least they hadn’t drawn their weapons this time.

Not that he would call another intrusion progress.

“What does he want now?” Alejandro asked.
The captain of the guard, Sergio Mendoza, looked as stoic as ever, but older with gray hair at his temples. “King Dario requests your presence at the palace, Your Highness.”
Alejandro raked his hand through his hair in frustration. “My father never requests anything.”

Sergio’s facial expression didn’t change. He’d only shown emotion once, when Alejandro had been late bringing Sergio’s youngest daughter home from a date when they were teenagers. In spite of the security detail accompanying them, Alejandro had feared for his life due to the anger in the captain’s eyes. 

“The king orders you to come with us now, sir,” Sergio said.

Alejandro didn’t understand why his father wanted to see him. No one at the palace listened to what Alejandro said. He might not want to be part of the monarchy, but he wasn’t about to abandon his country.

He’d founded his business here and suggested economic innovations, including developing their tourist trade. But his ideas clashed with those of his father and brother who were more old-fashioned and traditional in their thinking.
A high-pitched squeak sounded. The scraggly black kitten with four white paws clawed his way up the sheet onto the bed. The thing had been a nuisance these past two weeks with the work at the boatyard and renovations here at the villa.
“I need to get dressed before I go anywhere,” Alejandro said.

“We’ll wait while you dress, sir.” Sergio’s words did nothing to loosen Alejandro’s tense shoulder muscles. “The king wants no delay in your arrival.”

Alejandro clenched his teeth. He wanted to tell the loyal captain to leave, but the guards would use force to get him to do what they wanted. He was tired of fighting that battle. “I need privacy.”
Sergio ordered the soldiers out of the room, but he remained standing by the bed. “I’ll wait on the other side of the door, sir. Guards are stationed beneath each window.”

Alejandro rolled his eyes. His father still saw him as a rebellious teenager. “I’m thirty years old, not seventeen."
Sergio didn’t say anything. No doubt the captain remembered some of Alejandro’s earlier…escapades.

“Tell me where you think I would run to, Captain?” Alejandro lay in bed covered with a sheet. “My business is here. I own properties. My father’s lackeys follow me wherever I go.”

“They are your security detail, sir,” Sergio said. “You must be protected. You’re the second in line for the throne.”

“Don’t remind me,” Alejandro muttered.
“Many would give everything to be in your position.”
Not if they knew what went with being the “spare” entailed. No one cared what he thought. Even when he tried to help the island, no one supported him. He’d had to do everything on his own. Alejandro hated being a prince. He’d been educated in the United States. He didn’t want to participate in an outdated form of government where too much power rested with one individual. But he wanted to see his country prosper.

“Guard the door if you must.” Alejandro gave the kitten a pat. “I won’t make your job any more difficult for you than it is.”

As soon as Sergio left, Alejandro slid out of bed and showered. His father hadn’t requested formal dress so khaki shorts, a navy T-shirt and a pair of boat shoes would do.

Do you have any pets? Do you like books that have pets in them?



katsrus said...

I love pets in books. I think it neat when authors use their own pets. I have 5 cats myself. Son calls me crazy cat lady cause my who house is filled with cat items. LOL.
Sue B

Jeanette J said...

I'm glad you put pets in your books. I have bought books just because I see there is a pet in it.
It makes the characters more real to me somehow when there is a pet.

heather said...

I love alot of humor in my books and you can definitely do that with a pet. I'm an animal lover and easily fall for a animal that has a strong yet loving, witty personiality :)

Sarita said...

I love the photo, Melissa. They look so relaxed and sweet!

We did have two cats. Now there's just me on the farm.

I do like it when a book has at least one pet in it. I'm just about to write a stray something into the wip...I'd been playing with the idea of a ferret but I don't know a thing about them and worry Miss City might think it's a weasel.

Thanks for alerting me to the party here!

Stacie said...

I have a 1 year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. She pretty much runs our house. I love pets in stories. You can discover more about a character's personality based on how they treat animals.

User1123 AT comcast DOT net

Meg said...

I like to put pets in my writing as well. It really helps humanize the characters. Nice post!

Robin said...

I love pets! And pets in books!

Robin D
robindpdx (at) yahoo (dot) com

Laura Ann Dunks said...

I love pets in books. My family have a couple of owls, and I really want a puppy.

I love pets in books. My WIP has horses, a border collie, a rabbit, and a siamese!

Best of luck with the writing!

Laura xx

Michelle Somers said...

Hi Melissa

I love the idea of pets in books, and totally agree with your comment, that it can make the most severe of characters seem sympathetic.

Up till mid last year we had a beautiful golden retriever. We lost him to lymphoma, and even now I still miss his company. The house seems empty without his enthusiastic greeting each time I arrive home and open the door.

Congratulations on the books.

Michelle Somers

Virginia said...

Congrats on your new release. I love pets in books, they are awesome. Do authors use their own pets in books or are they fiction pets? I have always wondered this.


Donna B said...

I personally don't have any pets (although my daughter wants to get another bunny - ours died last year), but my best friend (who lives across the street) has three cats and one dog - just like you. She's had up to 4 cats once, but swears when these are gone she's not getting anymore. Nope, I don't believe her. She just won't be able to do it. Besides, who's lovable purring felines would I be able to hold and pet?

shiderly77 said...

I adore reading about pets in books! I have a cat, a dog, 10 birds, and fish! I would love to add a chicken to my menagerie!

Dawn said...

At this moment, I have 4 dogs and 6 cats in my home. They aren't all mine but I care for them when needed...I love pets and yes, I like books with pets...

Melissa McClone said...

katsrus - I would love to have 5 cats. Hubby has drawn the line at 4!

Jeannette - I agree about characters seeming more real with pets!

Heather - humor and pets work so well together!

Sarita - Thanks! Glad that you stopped by! Maybe it's time you got a little feline company ;)

Stacie - I know that breed. Very cute dog. My daughter shows our dog in Jr. Showmanship and your breed wins a lot!

Meg - thanks! It's nice to know other writers feel the same way.

Robin - I agree!!!

Laura - Thanks. Owls? Now those would be cool pets!

Michelle - Thanks. I'm so sorry about the loss of your dog. Hugs.

Virginia - Thanks. For me it's a mix. I definitely use my own pets for inspiration, but the pet characters do tend to take on a life of their own.

Donna B - I used to make do with other's pets, but now I couldn't imagine not having them now.

Shiderly77 - I hope you get the chance to add a chicken. Sounds like quite a group of furbabies to love.

Laura Kaye said...

I LOVE that you have a trading card for the cat! That's so awesome! I have a dog, so I like pets, and enjoy them in books, particularly when you pair a pet with a hard-edged hero who has a soft spot for one!

Laura Kaye
laurakayeauthor at gmail dot com

Melissa McClone said...

Laura - thanks. I had to make one for my kitty!

Melissa McClone said...

Dawn - it sounds like you have a houseful of love! I would love to have a place big enough for lots of furbabies!

JohnF said...

Pets are cool, and black cats have the best personalities!

Na said...

I absolutely adore pets in books. I don't have a pet so the ones I read about sort of become like my own. I favour ones with their own personalities and I think they can bring a lot to a story. Chaos, she's a cutie! Aww look her small Yoda is. I'm glad she inspired Boots in your book.

Vonnie Davis said...

My cat, Jazzie Miles Davis, lays against my foot while I write. I always include pets in my stories. Great excerpt.

vonnie(dot)davis at

Melissa McClone said...

JohnF - Cats do have great personalities. Mine crack me up all the time.

Na - it's hard to believe how small Yoda was in that picture!

Vonnie - thanks! I've always got a couple cats on me when I write, too.

lisagkendall said...

I like books with pets and we seem to be lucky enough to keep collecting pets. We have 3 dogs of our own, and then we were called upon to babysit two for our oldest son who is in the navy, and then our youngest son moved out, moved again and we now have the privilege of babysitting one for him. Six. and they are all sweet and special in their own way. Man, they really grow on ya.
Thanks for the excerpt. lisagk(at)yahoo(dot)com

Naomi Bellina said...

Animals are great muses! Most people can relate to them, so it's good to include them in stories. And you can give them such great personalities!

Melissa McClone said...

Lisa - sounds like a houseful and a lot of fun.

Naomi - I agree. They are great muses!

Amy W. said...

Loved how Boots was named in the book. We decided to keep the names our two new kittens were given when they were living with their foster mom and foster mom-cat.