Saturday, January 19, 2013

Pets and Their Authors ... with Ally Blake

Authors are famous for their furry friends, cats curled up on warm keyboards, dogs curled up on cold feet, cockatiels perched on their monitors.  Kurt Vonnegut wrote with his dog nearby.  Barbara Cartland is infamous for having a ball of white fur at hand.  Mark Twain's writing mate was a cat named Bambino.  So the Pink Heart Society has a new monthly column starting today - we give you...Pets and Their Authors!  First up Ally Blake tells us about the menagerie gracing her home.

I love books with animals.  Give me a great literary dog and I'm yours
In my books my husband names the pets.  It's the only way I allow him to be of any help - otherwise my contemporary romances would be swarming with UFOs and intergalactic warfare  ;) 

In real life, I grew up with cats and dogs.  With fish and budgies and a horse.  Animals have always been a big part of my life.  My border collie, Pete, gave the best cuddles of my childhood.  Any dramatic teenage tears were subdued by a snuggle with that black and white furry cushion who took it all as par for the course.

After growing up, marrying, and spending 10 years living it up in urban Melbourne where a goldfish was about the extent of our animalia, a couple of years back I moved with my young family to the leafy western suburbs of Brisbane where hills and trees and wildlife rein supreme.

My winter nights are filled with frog-song, my summer afternoons with more bird life than I can quite believe.  Kookaburras cackle in the tree outside my bedroom window.  The huge ghostly gums shadowing our backyard are filled with the squawk of sulfur-crested cockatoos, or turned to living rainbows as lorikeets congregate before jetting off to follow the dying light of a setting sun.

The other day I was inside with my kids when Miss 5 looked up and said "Will you look at that!" and I turned to find a cockatoo had simply walked into our lounge room.  We have spiders as big as a child's hand, legless lizards in the poll, and on any given day you might drive past the fields near home and see deer, including a magnificent albino father and son.

We have goldfish - in the house and in great royal-blue pots by the pool.  (Our fish are all called "geraniums" though, mind you - as in "have the geraniums been fed?" - in a great tradition started by my mother whose gold fish always died the moment they knew they were fish.)  We have guinea pigs - sweet, fat, shy little things named Oopy Doopy and Musical Rock (named by - at the time - a 4 and 2 year old.)  And we have chooks. There is no greater peace than looking out your kitchen window and seeing lustrous, healthy chickens outside pecking in the backyard.  Scratching, clucking, kicking up dust, leaving us the most delicious eggs imaginable.  It's a primal thing, I think.  A tie to the olden days.  To living off the earth.

My husband is also a breeder of reptiles.  At times in our home we’ve had turtles, black-headed pythons, and with his wildlife license in hand he breeds blue tongue lizards.

After our snakes - Mary and Frederik - passed on to the great grass plains in the sky, we decided to turn the snake cage into an aviary, and after much research ended up with Mork and Mindy, two gorgeous Kakariki parrots.  The hope was they’d pair off, but these things are never certain.  There’s no writing a happy ending for two crazy kids like in one of my books, it was simply up to them.

Mork was a show-off, a big glossy, colourful male who puffed out his feathers and dilated his pupils - on, off, it was a show and a half!   Mindy was a feisty little thing who turned her back on his efforts, flitting about the cage, playing hard to get like the best of them.

Until she realized Mork was a good guy.  He'd discovered the breeding boxes in the cage, and spent days checking them out, making sure they were comfortable, safe, right for his girl.  And despite all the chest puffing, that kind nature changed her heart.  They made kissy noises at each other, flitted about the cage together, and snuggled up tight at night.  We crossed fingers there would be babies soon.

Alas, a few weeks back, in the vein of many a great old romance, tragedy struck.  We've wracked our brains to figure out how we found them both alive in the morning, and perished in the afternoon. Perhaps we ought to have named them Romeo and Juliet.

But in the true spirit of animal-lovers everywhere we will forge on.  Til then I'll make do with my adored plastic lawn flamingos ;).

Apart from the guinea pigs, we've yet to go fur.  With three little kids we've planned to wait til they're older, til they can take responsibility - I know you're all laughing your heads off at that one, right???!!!

Though we've made a couple of trips to the local RSPCA of late, and I can feel the tug of the need for a furry friend growing.  An aristocratic Russian Blue, perhaps?  Or a bouncing beagle?  Either which way we have room in our home - and by my desk - for an adopted bundle of furry love.  As to what kind?  You, and Facebook, will be the first to know ;).

Ally Blake is the bestselling author of twenty-three fun, fresh, flirty romances for Harlequin Presents and Harlequin Romance.  Her work in progress boasts an Oreo-addicted Airedale named Earnest.

Her latest Mills and Boon Modern Romance, THE SECRET WEDDING DRESS, is out now in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, and  is set to hit North American under the fabulous new Harlequin KISS banner in April.  Her December Harlequin Presents extra  THE RULES OF ENGAGEMENT, was accused of having “So much sizzle you could toast marshmallows on it!” and  is still available worldwide in paperback and ebook.

Find out more about her books at


  1. I'm sorry about your parrots. You have such a great amount of animals both domestic and wild about your place that I'm not sure if you want a fur baby.

    1. Thanks Kaelee! My husband has been googling dog breeds...we are just a fish and fur and flying things kinda place ;).

  2. Ally, I look forward to hearing how you decide to expand your menagerie next. I have to say there's nothing quite like writing to the sound of doggy snores. So comfortable!