Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Writer's Wednesday - Using Pets for Inspiration!

This Wednesday, please welcome Carla Capshaw with a post about gaining inspiration in the cuddliest of places - pets!

As an author, I'm often asked where I get my ideas for my books. It's a tricky question, because, to be honest, half the time I don't even know. As writers, I think all of us are constantly on the prowl for the next plot idea or perfect setting. And we look for, and find, inspiration everywhere. Whether it’s in the people we love or love to hate, our home or travels, our own personal experiences or the experiences of others, we catalog ideas in our head and seem to pull magic out of thin air when we need it.

When I asked a few writer friends where they found inspiration for their characters, I wasn't surprised to find many an ex-boyfriend had been killed in the most painful of ways between the covers of countless novels. One friend said she based all her heroes on her own husband. Awww... Others turned their bosses into trolls or their whiny children into good little fairies--although one friend turned her kids into orphans. Yikes!

Me? I just use my pets. You see, I love my cats. How this happened I have no idea. I'm a dog person. I enjoy the loyal sweetness of a good canine and I was always raised with at least one mutt in the house. Cats and "cat people" (code for crazy) were on a different plain altogether. On the surface, felines are snotty little beasts, I'll grant you and the saying, "Cats were once worshipped in Egypt and they've never forgotten" is perfectly apropos. But what isn't so obvious is that once you've earned a cat’s love they're so adorable, you just want to spoil them.

I found this out three years ago when my cats adopted me. At the time, they were homeless little ferals who came and sat by my garage. I told myself, "Don't feed them and they'll go away," but I was soon learning the difference between Fancy Feast and Purina. After a mere eight months of clawed arms and sitting in the grass next to their dish while they learned to trust me, I had them tucked into their little beds every night and eating out of my hand. In so many ways, my experience with them was like living a Romance novel (minus the gorgeous hero who swept me off my feet, but you hopefully get the idea. :-) From the distrustful beginning, through the tumultuous middle, I wasn't sure where things would lead until the very end when my little wild cats turned into lap cats and we decided to live happily ever after. Since then, I've used the critters shamelessly. In my debut novel, The Gladiator, which hits stores next week, I turned my fourteen-pound tiger, Oliver, into a real tiger and made him a pivotal character. In my current WIP, my once abused little girl, Onyx, has been personified in the black-haired, golden-eyed beauty of my heroine.

I have no idea how my cats will inspire me in the future, but if I'm lucky they will for a long time. How about you? Have you ever used your pets for inspiration? Did you use them as pets or people or both?

Thank you Pink Heart Society for letting me visit with you today. Happy reading.

Carla Capshaw's debut novel, The Gladiator, is available next week from Love Inspired Historical and enjoying great reviews. In January 2010, The Duke's Redemption, set in Revolutionary War-torn Charleston, SC hits stores. Currently, she's back in ancient Rome working on a sequel to The Gladiator. She hopes you'll visit her website: to read excerpts of her books and come back often to learn more about her future projects.


  1. Oh my. I used to be a self professed dog person..then an orange tabby came into my life..and now I have a several kitties...two of my young ones look like your two. Mine are Skimble and Midnight!

    I look forward to reading your book! Maybe I'll get it to it before the reading challenge is over at eharlequin.

  2. Hi Mistress of the Dark,

    Looks like you and I are night people--unless of course you're in Australia. :-)

    Skimble and Midnight are such nice names. I did a study and found out my Onyx is a Bombay and Oliver is a Maine Coon. Does that sound about right for your two babies?

    Thank you for checking out The Gladiator. I hope you really enjoy it. I'm sure you'll love Cat. :-)

  3. Brilliant - I had no idea how pets inspired your stories. I can see it now and love the idea. Anywhere or anything that can give us ideas is perfect. Luckily for me I have living history where I live and I use it as the sugar and spice for my settings and a few characters. People I admire wind their way through my stories up until now. I am going to have to rethink the animal thing. I have some very special grandanimals to pick from. Good luck with your debut novel, Carla. I've heard it is amazingly well written.

  4. It's lovely to 'meet' you , Carla - I read about your new novel on Michelle Styles blog and I'm looking forward to reading it.

  5. As myself Dogsitter. I love dogs .. They are very inspired to me , they love to have someone there, give them lot of pats and entertain them, especially likes snuggle with ..
    I grew up with cats and dogs. they are great companion pets for us because God did create them perciously.

    I have been counting the days to read your book .. Can't wait..

  6. Carla, right now I'm housing 4 'red' Golden Retrievers, 1 gorgeous Standard Poodle, 10 baby Doodles, one mother cat and 5 adorable kittens.

    I think PETA has a contract out on me, LOL!

    I love having a farm, having my animal friends, breeding and raising puppies, but I haven't tried using them as characters.


    I could cast my reluctant Golden female as a tortured soul, unable to 'bond' with the hero...

    Giggling here because we ALL know what that means...

    And Mick is a radically good-looking 'dog hero' btw! His actual name is "McDreamy"... I mean seriously, what normal gal wouldn't...

    But I digress.

    Carla, I can't wait to read The Gladiator and I'm tickled pink to see that the opening has been featured in multiple Love Inspired books as an enticing 'treat' at the end.


    That opening chapter is an instant draw. Well done.


  7. Carla,

    Loved this post. I looooooove cats. Dogs, too. No matter how old they are I call them all kitties and puppies. They seem to like that. ;-)

    As far as pets for inspiration, I actually put one of our cats in my February 2010 novel. Name, gender, personality and all. It's gone to her head, though. Just what we needed a more arrogant cat than before. sigh

    P.S. LOOOOOOOOOVED The Gladiator. What a fabulous, emotional, well-written story. Congrats!!!!


  8. Carla, I have three cats. I know what you mean. They are a great source for inspiration.

  9. Carla, We've always been dog people until we moved from a house into an apartment. We got two tuxedo cats who make us laugh and are very doglike. However, one of the main characters in DEEP IN THE HEART was our buff cocker spaniel. An earlier cat was in a book I wrote for Avalon. My pets aren't my inspiration, but I usually include one in a book. What they do is keep my sane enough to write!

  10. I often have beloved dogs and horses in books. An occasional cat, now that I think on it. You have inspired me to add a cat to my current story.

  11. Carla -- what a great post. I once used my brother'in-law's dog in one of my Dry Creek books -- looks, temperment, and all. Good old Boots.

  12. Hi Carla. My dogs have "appeared" in some of my wips - if not in person then their names have been used. Hope to get a copy of the Gladiator - Michelle Styles had a bit about your new book on her blogsite the other week and it sounds a great read! Take care. Caroline x

  13. Hi, Carla!
    Of course the critters make great characters. I featured Crash the Border Collie and Rebel the Smooth Collie in Silent Witness! My Civil War novels always have horsie characters, and Exiles on the St. Johns features a houn' dog named Nip. They warm up a story something fierce!

  14. Hi Alison and Caroline,

    Michelle Styles is so awesome. I love her.

    Thank you both for dropping in today. I hope you get a chance to read The Gladiator and let me know what you think. :-)

  15. Terrie,

    I'm so glad to see you here today. Thank you for visiting! You are so right. Our pets are little blessings from the Lord. They give us so much for very little in return. Hugs!

  16. Ruth,

    I do so enjoy your posts. You *always* make me laugh. You are a true joy! Thank you so much being here today.

  17. Renee, Jane, Cheryl and Janet,

    Ya'll are so wonderful! I love being able to be counted among you at LIH!

  18. Hi Margaret!

    It's always so nice to hear from you. And it's great being in the company of another cat mom. :-)

  19. Lydia!

    Thank you for commenting. I love your books and how you use your critters in every one. :-)