Many thanks to Victoria (Tori) Zigler for the below guest post. Tori’s latest book, Home Squeak Home comes out tomorrow (Wednesday 29 April 2015).
My book “Home Squeak Home” was inspired by two things: our gerbils, and some of my own books.
The “Kero’s World” series is a series of seven books that are semi-fictionalized accounts of the events in the life of my beloved Westie, who we lost in August 2014. They show his take on the events of his life: his walks, a vet trip, a couple of the big holidays, etc. I have a shorter series – this one with just two books – where events are shown from the point of view of my pet degus; in this case it’s just cage cleaning and Christmas.
I’m a big fan of animal stories myself, and I loved writing the stories; even the final “Kero’s World” book, which is a sort of sad story, and my way of saying goodbye to the real Kero. So, I wanted to include more of my pets in future stories. I mean, they say to write what you love, don’t they? Plus, I’ve had a lot of pets in the past, so I have plenty of characters to choose from; and some of them were real characters, let me tell you!
I decided to start with the gerbils, because, at the time I came up with this idea, they were the only pets I had who didn’t have their own book, since we either no longer had the others for various reasons, or – as in the case of my rats – hadn’t gotten them yet.
But the big question was: what kind of book should I make it? Another semi-fictionalized account? Or, perhaps, something entirely fictional this time, but just using the gerbils as characters? I also had to consider something else: regardless of whether it was semi-fictionalized, or complete fiction, I needed to figure out a topic.
After some thought, I decided I wanted to do a semi-fictionalized story. Even now I’m not sure why; it just felt like the right way to go.
So, what could I have the gerbils involved in? Cage cleaning? Nope! I did that with the degus, and the stories would be too similar. Celebrating Christmas? Maybe, if I found a different angle, but better not to just yet, since I have Christmas books for both Kero and the degus. A trip to the vet? Again, maybe, but since I’d already done that for Kero, I’d need a new angle, and besides… Our gerbils have never been to the vet, though I could imagine how it would go as I’ve taken hamsters to the vet before, and I know what our gerbils are like. Anyway, you get the idea, I’m sure.
Then, at last, I thought of something I hadn’t covered with any of the others, but which was a big event in the lives of our little gerbils; and would be a big event in the lives of other pets, as well as the children who would potentially be getting a pet. I’m talking, as you may have guessed by that last sentence, about bringing them home from the pet shop.
I’ve seen several books where a child gets a new pet, and you see that child learning to care for it. But what I was interested in was the pet itself. How does the pet feel when it leaves its family, and finds itself in a strange place, surrounded by strangers? I think this has been explored with puppies, and possibly also with kittens, but what about gerbils?
I took a look around, and nothing immediately jumped out at me to say it had already been done; the gerbil books I could find seemed to be either factual care guides, or fictional stories about adventures gerbils have had while on the loose. So, I started writing; taking in to consideration what I’ve learned about our gerbils’ personalities in the time we’ve had them.
In the first draft I used their real names, but I decided not to do this for the final draft, so changed them during the second draft. My reason for doing this is to avoid potential complications with copyright issues. You see, the gerbils’ real names are Bilbo and Baggins; names any fan of JRR Tolkien would immediately recognize. If they’d had names that weren’t so obviously taken from a specific author’s work, then I wouldn’t have worried about it, but since their names are instantly recognizable as being those of the main character in “The Hobbit” – and aren’t really the kind of names that might appear elsewhere just by accident; not with the popularity of JRR Tolkien’s books – I decided a name change was my safest bet, and they became Sooty and Scamp.
Will there be any more books about the gerbils? I don’t think so; I have no plans to do more, anyway. But there will be plenty more animal stories where my other past and present pets will make an appearance. Some of these may be semi-fictionalized, but I expect most of them will be stories that are complete fiction; with the exception of the fact the main characters will be based on my pets, named after them, and carry their personalities.
Author bio & social media/website, etc:
Victoria Zigler is a blind author of children’s fiction and poetry. She has a very vivid imagination, and spends a lot of time in fictional worlds; some created by her, others created by other authors. When she remembers to spend some time in the real world, it’s mostly to spend time with her hubby and pets, though sometimes to indulge in other interests such as doing crafts, listening to music, watching movies, playing the odd figure game or roleplaying game, and doing a little cooking and baking. Tori was born in the shadow of the Black Mountains in Wales, UK, has been writing since she knew how, and became a self-published author in 2012. To date she has published 6 poetry books, 33 children’s books, and a fantasy story in a sci-fi and fantasy anthology, with plenty more planned for the near future.
Her books can be found on Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, and a few other eBook retailers that Smashwords distributes to.