A Dog of Her Own

I had a lot of fun writing A Duke of Her Own, not in the least because I fell in love with Oyster, my heroine’s dog. Oyster is a pug – a rather naughty, sweet, bumbling pug. In the past, I’ve avoided putting animals in my novels: they seem to me to pose big problems for writers, akin to those surrounding children.

After all, a romance focuses on an intense period of lives of two lovers. Babies and animals can seem to be thrown in for the heck of it, something akin to the cheap thrill of a Hallmark card with a puppy on the front. Mind you, I love puppies – here’s my picture of Oyster, which I found on-line somewhere while trolling for puppies.

26-oyster

So I made up a rule for myself when I thought up Oyster, Eleanor’s little pug.

Oyster could be in the novel, but he had to have a crucial place in the plot. He couldn’t simply be a live accessory, a dog who appeared only for the sake of generating cute images in the reader’s mind. My model? Jennifer Crusie’s use of dogs, especially in my favorite Crusie novel, Crazy for You. The dog in that novel instigates the break-up of the heroine and her stalker boyfriend. In fact, the stalker’s craziness is accelerated by the presence of the dog – and as his mental state continues to break down, the dog is the tool Crusie uses to reveal the stalker’s innate cruelty and instability.

Well, I had an unstable character too, though in a very different way, and I thought that a dog might be just the way to reveal her inner self. But how to do it? Obviously, sweet little Oyster was going to have to be put in harm’s way. Enter the wonderful Connie Brockway, who knows everything about dogs!

I called her up and she told me exactly what physical symptoms a dog would show after being knocked unconscious. It allowed me to make that scene so intensely visual that though it’s only been ten days since the book was published, I’ve already received over a hundred emails, mostly talking of that one scene.

My newest project is a fractured version of Cinderella. It’s proving quite tough. A short list of my problems: Cinders herself is a bit pathetic, the prince is a black hole in the story, and then there are all those animals! If you go with the original story, you have rats and mice. If you go with Disney, you get a few other animals thrown in… either way, I’m obviously stuck with some more four-legged characters.

So what’s your favorite romance with a dog – or another pet? How does the animal work within the plot? Just what would YOU do with the rats in Cinderella?

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