In this blog, Teresa Basset discusses authors and their animal muses, placing particular focus on the pets beloved by Authors Reach.
Jed, Noodles, Lucy and Oscar
We often hear about authors’ muses, unique individuals who have inspired literary works
down the ages. For F. Scott Fitzgerald it was his wife, Zelda, whose diaries he supposedly
raided for his work. John Keats had Frances “Fanny” Brawne, who inspired some of the
finest poems in English literature.
Not all muses are human, however. For many writers, the role of muse has been filled by a
furred or even a feathered friend. Charles Dickens’ pet raven, Grip, often made cameo
appearances in his stories. Edgar Allan Poe was obsessed with his cat, Cattarina, who “purred
as if in complacent approval of the work proceeding under her supervision”. And Sir Walter
Scott, a keen horse rider, is said to have composed his poem Marmion while on horseback.
Here at Authors Reach, we can relate to that. Several of our authors have special animals in
their lives - treasured companions offering comfort, love and inspiration during those lonely
hours spent with pen or keyboard.
Richard with Oscar
Author Richard Hardie, who writes the Temporal Detective Agency novels for young adults,
wouldn’t be without his trusty dog Oscar.
“Being an author is probably the loneliest job on the planet … with the exception of night
watchman in a haunted castle,” he says. “Luckily I’m an author and I don’t even have a ghost
writer. I do however have a muse.
“He’s a cocker spaniel, now aged 6 ½, mostly white with brown speckles and colouring. We
got him a matter of weeks after our previous cocker passed away at the ripe old age of sixteen and the house needed the sound of a pup and the joy a dog brings. And I needed a muse."
Richard with Oscar
“From the day little Oscar joined our household he was my dog. He followed me everywhere,
and decided that, when I was in my study, sitting on the sofa and tapping away on my
keyboard, he could perch on my shoulder. That way he could keep an eye on me, as well as
watch the world going by through the study window. He still tries to drape himself on the
back of the sofa around my neck, though now he’s no longer a feather boa and more of a boa
“So far Oscar hasn’t appeared in any of my books, though I have every intention of
remedying that before too long.
“Every author needs a muse, even if it’s only someone they can discuss plot points with.
Oscar fulfils this role perfectly. When we go for long walks, especially on the beautiful
Gower Peninsular, I talk over plots and he gives me his considered opinion … one bark for
Yes, two barks for No!”
Shani's ghost dog, Jed
Author Shani Struthers’ muse is also a beloved dog, but one with a difference.
“My animal muse is a black Labrador called Jed – a ghost black Labrador!” she says. “I write a series called Psychic Surveys. It’s about a group of psychics who specialise in
domestic spiritual clearance, in other words if you feel your house is haunted, it’s them
you’re gonna call – the real life equivalent of Ghostbusters!
"When I was writing the first book in the series – The Haunting of Highdown Hall – Ruby Davis, who heads up the team, and one of her colleagues, Ness Patterson, had been called to a house where the new owners kept hearing a dog barking, despite owning no such animal. That animal was the very loyal Jed, who hadn’t quite cottoned on that he had died and that the family he once belonged to had moved on. Ruby and Ness sent his spirit to the light – or so they thought! As Ruby was driving home, Jed materialised in the footwell of her car, intent now on being her protector!
“Since then, Jed has become the real star of the show in the Psychic Surveys books, always
there at Ruby’s side, through thick and thin (she’s the only one who can see him, although the
others in the team can sense him at least). Readers adore him, but here’s an insight: when I
started writing the series, I had no idea a spirit animal was going to feature, he just sort of
wrote himself in, and right at the beginning of the series too!"
"Dogs are the best of us."
“In the Psychic Surveys books, Jed inspires everyone to keep going, especially Ruby, through
some very dark times. He is akin to a beacon of light, he is love and positivity, the balance
during situations that can spiral out of control. He inspires me too, as a writer – he is at once
magical but so down to earth – the best of his kind and our kind. I always say that dogs are
the best of us, and that we have so much to learn from them – their sheer joy at simply
existing, the love they offer not bound by conditions. He is an integral part of the team and
always plays a pivotal part in each Psychic Surveys book. Writing scenes with him in it make
me smile, I simply can’t imagine the books without him.
“Jed features only in the Psychic Surveys series, however, I have been asked numerous times
to write perhaps a novella on his backstory, something I am seriously considering. He
intrigues me, where he came from, the family that he was originally so intent on guarding,
and what happened to him, how he died in his prime. So, yeah, watch this space… Jed might
soon have his own little book!”
Noodles the Cat
The relationship between psychological thriller author Veronica McGivney and her muse
Noodles got off to a decidedly rocky start.
“Nine years ago, Noodles would have seemed an unlikely animal muse,” she says. “A builder
who was working on my then house told me he was taking a cat to an animal rescue centre.
The cat in question was a young and very thin, black and white moggie with numerous bald
patches, and on an impulse, I suggested he left it with me (my last cat having died two years
“I rapidly regretted this impetuous decision. Max, as he was then called, was virtually feral.
He scratched at the doors and walls, hurled himself at windows, and tore at the curtains and
furniture. Although he seemed to like human beings, he invariably responded to strokes by
biting the stroker’s hand. As soon as I let him out of the house, he engaged in ferocious
audible battles with all the neighbouring cats."
"Virtually every day he dragged mice, birds and fish (from neighbouring ponds) through the cat flap and, once, somebody’s frozen chicken. He ruined a potential house sale by exploding into the house during a viewing with a large and terrified pigeon in his jaws, and proceeded to chase it –with feathers and blood flying – through the house.
“Nine years and a house move on, Noodles (as I renamed him) is still a demon feline warrior
but he has turned into an affectionate and eccentric pet whose favourite activity (apart from
threatening passing dogs) is to sit on my lap with his paws on my shoulders. This he does,
irrespective of my activity, so I often find myself writing or painting with a large black and
white purring cat stuck to my chest.
“While Noodles hasn’t directly inspired any of my books or paintings, he has, especially
during the lockdowns, created a constant atmosphere of calm companionship that has made
these activities possible.”
Teresa with Tarski in the 90s
Teresa Bassett, who writes mysteries for young adults set in her home county of Cornwall,
has had various animal loves throughout her life.
“I first saw Tarski in 1990,” she says, “when our eyes met through the bars of Birmingham
Dogs’ Home. He was a miserable scrap of a dog, so painfully thin that his head was all out of
proportion with his body. It sounds weird, but I firmly believe that we somehow ‘recognized’
one another – it was love at first sight. After I got him home, he blossomed into the most
amazing, faithful friend – healthy, loving and strong.
“I miss him every day, but am glad to say we had many happy years together. He was my
constant companion, sitting beside me in my chair while I tapped out articles and stories for
magazines on my old Amstrad word processer. When I wasn’t working, we walked many
miles together, including to the top of Mount Snowdon – twice!
Lucy looking for mischief
“My current animal muse is Lucy the cockatiel, whom my husband and I inherited in 2015
after the deaths of both my dad and stepmum. Feisty Lucy has the run of the house – or
should that be the fly of the house? She certainly rules the roost. She’s really a Daddy’s girl,
but deigns to sit on my shoulder sometimes while I write, before wandering around my
bookcase looking for mischief.”