Why You Should Love Animals in Fiction

by Sarah Morgan, author of New York, Actually

I’ve always loved fictional animals. (I love real ones, too!)

When I was very young I remembering listening with rapt attention as my father read me “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi,” one of the lesser-known stories in The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling. In case you haven’t read it, “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” is the story of a young mongoose who protects his human family against a family of venomous cobras. The story is tense, you feel the heat, dust and tension and by the end you are seriously wondering whether every family should have a mongoose.

I don’t know if that was the first animal story I ever read, but it’s certainly one that stuck in my mind. As I grew older and chose my own stories, they frequently had animals in starring roles. I was a typical horse-mad teenager, and I devoured Black Beauty and the books by Mary O’Hara (My Friend Flicka, Green Grass of Wyoming, etc.). My favorite book by C. S. Lewis wasn’t The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (although I loved that, too), but The Horse and His Boy, about the talking horses of Narnia. I cannot begin to tell you how much I wanted a talking horse of my own. The characters stayed alive in my head long after the book fell apart in my hands.

But one of my favorite books as a child was Dodie Smith’s The Hundred and One Dalmatians. I read it so many times my copy fell apart. (I’ve included photographic evidence, although you can’t quite see that the pages are now separated from the cover!). At the time, I enjoyed it as a warmhearted, exciting adventure story populated by lovable characters (and Cruella de Vil!), but now I can see how much skill went into creating each canine character.

With my love for dalmatians, perhaps it’s not surprising that the star of my new release, New York, Actually, is a dalmatian. He plays a key role, and so he should, because the inspiration for the story came from him. I was on Facebook one day when I spotted a picture of a cute dalmatian with a heart-shaped nose. I fell in love with him on sight and knew he had to be in a book. I knew the heroine would love him more than any man (at the start of the story, at least!) and I called him Valentine. The dogs in this book played a much bigger role than I originally intended, and were central to the character development and the development of the romance.

Do you have a favorite fictional animal?

About New York, Actually:

One man. One woman. Two dogs. 

Meet Molly—New York’s most famous advice columnist, she considers herself an expert at relationships…as long as they’re other people’s. Still bruised from her last breakup, Molly is in no rush to find happily-ever-after—the only love of her life is her dalmatian, Valentine.

Meet Daniel—A cynical divorce lawyer, he’s hardwired to think relationships are a bad idea. If you don’t get involved, no one can get hurt. Until he finds himself borrowing a dog to meet the gorgeous woman he sees running in Central Park every morning…

Molly and Daniel both think they know everything about relationships. But as they try—and fail—to resist their undeniable chemistry, they’ll soon discover they just might have a lot left to learn…

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