Hi, I’m JL Merrow. Thanks to RJ for welcoming me here today as part of the Relief Valve blog tour. :D

Giveaway


I’m offering a free signed paperback copy of 2013 Rainbow Award winning romantic comedy Slam! (I’m happy to ship internationally) to a randomly chosen commenter on the tour, plus a $10 Amazon gift certificate!

I’ll be making the draw around teatime on Monday 7th April, GMT. Good luck! :D

The Blog Post

Today I’m pondering the following question:

Why do fictional characters have pets?

For some animal characters, of course, the question might more properly be phrased, “Why do fictional pets have humans?” Think of Lassie—does anyone even remember who her nominal owner was? Or what about Flipper the crime-fighting dolphin, Willy the freedom-loving whale, or Skippy the Bush Kangaroo?

Here, the animals were the stars of the shows, and indeed their whole raison d’être. But what about shows, or stories, where the animals play only bit parts? Why include them at all?

Well, for one thing, it makes the human characters seem more real, more sympathetic and relatable. Although not always—the image of James Bond villain Ernst Blofeld stroking a fluffy white cat springs to mind. Here, the bad guy is rendered more grotesque by juxtaposition with a cute little furball. But generally speaking, a character seen stroking his ferret, tickling his pet trout or playing fetch with his dog is rendered more likeable.

Many famous fictional characters have pets. Harry Potter has Hedwig the owl, although she is a working pet, being the wizarding equivalent of a Muggle teenager’s mobile phone. The Earl of Grantham, master of Downton Abbey, has his yellow Labrador retriever, Isis. And, of course, Sherlock Holmes’ companion Dr Watson famously kept a bull pup.*

Pets add colour. They give the human characters something to do with their hands. And, of course, they can be a sly way of illustrating character.

You can judge the character of a man by how he treats his fellow animals – Paul McCartney

In Oliver Twist, we know Bill Sikes is a wrong’un when we see him beating his dog, Bull’s Eye. But it need not be so blatant: in Mansfield Park, the indolent Lady Bertram dotes on her lapdog, known only as “pug” – an overbred, highly strung, unattractive animal of no practical use whatsoever. Well, they do say pets and owners grow to resemble one another!

I’ve always liked giving my characters pets. In Slam! my main character and narrator Jude has a little dog, Bubbles, who is, shall we say, not the most intelligent of animals, but incredibly affectionate and loyal.

In Pressure Head and Relief Valve, of course, Tom has his two cats, Arthur and Merlin. I’ll leave it up to the reader to discover just what they illustrate about Tom and Phil! ;)

Question: Do you have a favourite fictional animal?

* But nobody knows what Doyle actually meant by this. It probably wasn’t, in fact, a dog!

JL Merrow

JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea. She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance, and is frequently accused of humour. Her novel Slam! won the 2013 Rainbow Award for Best LGBT Romantic Comedy.

She is a member of the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet organising team.

Find JL Merrow online at: www.jlmerrow.com, on Twitter as @jlmerrow, and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/jl.merrow

Relief Valve

If you dig up the past, be prepared to get dirty

It hasn’t been all smooth sailing since plumber Tom Paretski and P.I. Phil Morrison became connected at the heart, if not always at Tom’s dodgy hip. Neither of their families has been shy about voicing their disapproval, which hasn’t helped Tom’s uneasy relationship with his prickly older sister, Cherry.

But when Cherry is poisoned at her own engagement party, the horror of her near death has Tom’s head spinning with possible culprits. Is it her fiancé Gregory, a cathedral canon with an unfortunate manner and an alarming taste for taxidermy? Someone from her old writers’ circle, which she left after a row? Or could the attack be connected to her work as a barrister?

Phil is just as desperate to solve the case before someone ends up dead—and he fears it could be Tom. At least one of their suspects has a dark secret to hide, which makes Tom’s sixth sense for finding things like a target painted on his back…

Warning: Contains a strong, silent, macho PI; a cheeky, chirpy, cat-owning plumber; and a gag gift from beyond the grave that’ll put the cat firmly among the pigeons.

Now available in ebook: Samhain Publishing | Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk


28 comments:

  1. I've always liked ferrets since I saw Beastmaster with Marc Singer. I also like parrots like in the movie Pauley. I also like JL Merrow's work. I'm a big fan of RJ's and follow your blog daily. Thx, Kendra. kjpattersonrn@yahoo.com

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    1. Ferrets are cute, but I've never actually known anyone who's had one - I wonder if they're more common as pets in the US? And oh, yes, parrots! I'm actually surprised I've never used a parrot. They have a lot of comic potential... *schemes* ;)

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  2. I've always loved pets in fiction, sometimes I like them better there than in real life! One of my favorites? PITA from J.L. Langley's Without Reservations. Adorable!

    ashley.vanburen[at]gmail[dot]com

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    1. Heh, yes - fictional animals are much more likely to do what you want them to!

      A bit like men, really! ;)

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  3. Because I just finished it recently so it's fresh in my mind, I'm going to go with the horse from Dana Stabenow's Everything Under the Heavens. If you've ever seen the movie Tangled and enjoyed the horse in that one, then you could understand why North Wind is such a great character in that book. Of course, Ms. Stabenow has the Kate Shugak series with a wonderful half-wolf/half-husky character. I would never call either of these pets, if only because they are like another "person" in the story. I enjoy when an author uses animals in a way that advances the story, even though I'm not particularly drawn to stories because they have animals. Thanks for the post, JL. It was fun to think about those pet moments in some of those books. That "the wizarding equivalent of a Muggle teenager’s mobile phone" line so made me laugh. I'm not sure I wouldn't pick the owl over the phone!

    caroaz [at] ymail [dot[ com

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    1. I recently saw the film of a stage production of War Horse, and I have to say, those equine characters were marvellous. I'd always been a bit "meh" about the idea of puppet horses, having just seen pictures of them, but when you saw them in motion they were incredible--they lived and breathed, and you totally forgot they weren't real horses.

      And heh, you'd have to be careful if you picked the owl over the phone. It'd make playing Angry Birds a lot more hazardous to your health! ;)

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  4. As a devoted cat person, I love all cats in fiction, starting with the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland when I was a child and catless. I find animals in fiction very humanizing and illustrative of character. I've read most of JL's works and I follow RJ daily.

    skadlec1@yahoo.com

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    1. I loved the Cheshire Cat - what on earth was Lewis Carroll on? ;) In case you weren't aware, he also appears in Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next novels (although apparently, due to boundary changes he is now technically referred to as the Unitary Authority of Warrington Cat) which are well worth a read. :)

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  5. I am the proud mama of 4 motley cats; I'm very well trained to attend their various needs! :) Off the top of my head, I love Bella, Rand's dog that adopted Stef in Mary Calmes' After the Sunset. JL, I gotta tell you that Slam! was a fantastic book. I work with a lady that teaches karate (no idea what belt she is but she's waaaay up there) and read some of those sections to her. She loved it!

    marsha483@gmail.com

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    1. Heh, I wonder if your friend ever had a student quite like Jude? ;P Glad you enjoyed the book!

      I'd have to confess, dogs can be great - particularly Bubbles, whom I adore - but cats are definitely my pet of choice.

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  6. Cats in fiction, I love 'em all. And dogs. Oh hell, I'm basically indiscriminate and love all animals fictional or real. I've bought Relief Valve because I loved Pressure Head, and I look forward to reading more about Tom's cats. And the lovely fellows, too.

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    1. LOL! Tom's not miffed you mentioned the cats first. Honest. ;D
      And I hope you enjoy Relief Valve!

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  7. Even though he's not in a book, I always felt for Sprocket the dog on FRAGGLE ROCK...poor guy was the only one who knew about the Fraggles, and Doc thought he was crazy. I still want a Muppet dog for a pet, drat it! (Right now I'm also amused by Cat Lucky in Eden Winters' CORRUPTION...)

    Trix, vitajex(At)Aol(dot)com

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    1. Aw, poor misunderstood mutt! ;)
      For some reason, it always tickles me to see dogs called Dog and cats called Cat, etc. (I was once part-owner of a couple of goldfish, which we imaginitively dubbed Goldie and Fishy...)

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  8. I don't have any pets myself but I do like reading about them. The pets in your books are always great - distinct characters themselves and so much fun to read about. I enjoyed reading about Tom's cats and Jude's dog!
    amaquilante(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Thanks, Antonia! I guess I see pets as just more secondary characters, and I've always felt secondary characters are where an author can have a lot of fun - you can be a lot freer with them than you can with main characters. :)

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  9. After reading Naked Tails by Eden Winters, I've kind of liked possums. I also love cats in fictional stories. I use to have a cat growing up and when it had kittens, my mother gave them away. But I still remember all cuteness and feeling when we the at first arrived.

    humhumbum AT yahoo DOT com

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    1. You can't get much cuter than a kitten, it's true! And I'll have to check Naked Tails out - we don't have any possums in this neck of the woods, so they're an animal I know nothing about. :)

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  10. Fictional animals are not my cuppa te- oh, sorry - coffee. They're too often written as actually responding/talking to the human - and yes, it might happen occasionally that your dog woofs at just the right time when you're talking or your cat meows, but why do they never get in the way or beg for food or a walk or do SOMETHING that animals actually do?
    *sigh* let them BE animals, for Frigg's sake!

    BTW - knew a guy whose fish was named Sushi. Hehe

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    1. Well, I like to think my fictional pets behave like animals - Tom's cats are always pestering for food, and Wolverine in Hard Tail even threw up behind the sofa - but I know what you mean. I guess it's easy to get carried away and anthropomorphise them.

      Love Sushi as a fish name! ;) After Goldie (see above) died, we worried Fishy would be lonely. So we bought Chippy to keep him company. *g*

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  11. No, I don't have a favorite fictional animal. I like to read them in a story, but for me they are mostly background additions to move a story a long.

    penumbrareads(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. You're inspiring me to write a pet with a story of searing pathos.... ;)

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  12. I just read a novel in which the heroine was given a pet ermine by one of her (for want of a better word) fans. It's every bit as unpredictable and prone to bite as the ferrets I've known. I like ferrets: you can't grown up around northern agricultural shows without encountering an awful lot of them, but I'm never convinced whether they make particularly good pets (as opposed to working animals).

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    1. I've heard ferrets can be affectionate, like cats, but I must admit I've never really had any contact with them apart from watching ferret races at the annual Village Day. :)

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  13. Don't have a fav

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

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    1. All animals are equal,eh? Thanks for commenting. :)

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  14. I don't need to be entered to win anything, just wanted to say that I adored this book! I stayed up till dawn finishing it. Excited to see what comes next for these guys! :-D

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    1. Aw, thank you! You've made my day! :D

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