Back to Article List

Inspiration: why I love animals – and writing about them : 0% read

Page is loading, please wait...


Inspiration: why I love animals – and writing about them

A gorgeous horse I see every day on my walks: he might just feature in my new novel…

Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened

Anatole France

I have a disproportionate love of animals. I dream of owning acres of land and filling it with a whole menagerie of creatures. My husband and my two cats might need some convincing but Tennessee Skye would definitely be on my side: she adores animals.  

My darling Vi (Viola) – one of our two faithful and long-suffering and slightly bonkers ‘Doodles’.

A bit like children, I feel that animals have a particular insight into life that we, as adults, are removed from – a kind of spiritual, sixth sense awareness.

In other words, animals are magical.

The animals I have lived with have all been unique characters: warm, quirky and fantastic companions. Animals are particularly important to children, as I explored through Milo’s relationship to his pet pig, Hamlet, in What Milo Saw. When his dad leaves his mum and his gran gets taken into a nursing home, Hamlet is a tremendous comfort to little Milo, and a confidante too. Similarly, in The Astonishing Return of Norah Wells, the dog, Louis, a great shaggy poodle-St Bernard cross, weaves between the members of the Wells family, helping them come to terms with the shock of Norah’s return. You might also encounter a fox or two…

Louis & Hamlet as croched by Victoria Stott – Tennessee, my little girl, loves them. They often join us at the dinner table.

When children feel lonely and misunderstood, animals can provide that warmth and intimacy that they struggle to find from other human beings.

Animals are often the first creatures that children learn to care for, to feed and clean and nurture, to love in way that will teach them to care for their friends and family as they grow up. Losing an animal can also be a child’s first experience of grief, an important milestone and one which can help children cope with the greater grief of losing a relative further down the line.

The neutrality of animals, their lack of judgement and their constancy can be deeply comforting to us all. What’s more, animals often see much more than we do – Louis was the one who watched Norah walk out and he was the first to sense her return. 

On a lighter note, animals often bring humour to a novel and give light to offset the shade. Imagine, for a second, a micro pig running loose in a nursing home…

The novel I’m working on at the moment has a lovely, scruffy, three-legged cat called Hop and my YA novel, Wishbones, has a rather naughty escape artist of a goat called Houdini. Animals make the writing process fun and are as important to me as my human characters. 

Mrs Fox as drawn by the talented Ginny Baker.

I recently teamed up with the wonderful Victoria Stott who croched all the animals from my novels, as well as the talented artist, Ginny Baker, who created visual representations of Hamlet, Louis and Mrs Fox. 

Books with animals have formed a huge part of my literary life and I am always swayed by a new release that has a furry creature or two thrown into the mix. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Spill, Simmer, Falter, Wither, The Humans and A Man Called Ove are just a few examples of such books which have charmed me lately.

Victoria Stott’s lovely mini-Louis.