Monday, May 4, 2020

WRITING HER INTO EXISTENCE: Guest Post by Sheena Kamal

Writing Her into Existence

My Nora Watts series heavily features a nymphomaniac dog with an ornery personality. Her name is Whisper and, to me, she is the heart and soul of those books. Writing scenes with Whisper is one of my life’s greatest pleasures, because she is a dog with the personality of a cat, who will not be ignored and also knows her worth. She is a delightful mix of contradictions and I’m personally invested in her health and well-being for the series. More so than Nora herself at times. (And if you’ve read what I put Nora through on the regular, you’d understand what I’m talking about.)

I first started writing Whisper several months before my family adopted a large four-year old Newfoundland dog named Alice. Before I met Alice, I thought I was an old hand at unrequited love—but then she came into my life and I realized I had never known such longing. Such painful desire to be treated with affection and respect. To be a desired companion.

I was the one to pick Alice up from her breeder, a journey that took several hours by car and by ferry. When Alice first laid eyes on me, I felt an immediate connection. What expressive eyes! What a smooshy face! What a nose, like rubber on a warm day! I fell in love with her on sight, and I thought she loved me, too.

Sadly, though, I could not have been more wrong.

She quickly identified the person in my family she loved the most was my mother and that even though I was around, I wasn’t often there. She viewed me as an untrustworthy sort, a small, insignificant addendum to her life.

I couldn’t believe it. I’d driven for hours and took a ferry for her. Surely there must be some affection in her heart for me. I would do anything to get her attention. Show up to take her for hikes, sneak her treats, wrestle with her.

It was during one of those wrestling bouts that she realized she was physically larger and stronger than me. One day she just pushed me over as though I weighed no more than a gnat, dropped her huge body over mine and licked my face (in what I can only describe as a show of domination) as I shrieked. It was then she knew, for a fact, that she could bend me to her will and she’s been doing it ever since. When I walk her, she pretends she is deaf to my calls. I know I can’t physically budge her, and she uses her size and strength to her advantage. Recently I returned to see my family from a two-month trip abroad, she ignored me completely until my second day back, when she allowed me to take her for a walk.

Whenever I give up on her, and think “okay, she’s never going to love me, I have to move on” she gives me a warm-ish sort of look and I fall in love again! Those expressive eyes. That smooshy face. The rubber nose….

I think dating experts call this kind of thing ‘bread crumbing’. You know, when someone is about to leave, you give them a little bit of affection and they come right back. That’s what she does to me. She breadcrumbs me so that I’ll always be a walk/treat option for her.

It took me a long time to realize this, but I think what happened was I wrote a nightmare version of Whisper into existence, and instead of her being the heart and soul of my life, she is the boss of it. Alice has decided that I am her pet and treats me as such. It is undignified. I am a published author. Surely that means I deserve a little bit of respect?

But, you know, when all is said and done, I’m just happy to have her in my life and that she still allows me to walk her. She doesn’t push me over anymore, though she is absolutely aware she can.


Sheena Kamal made a name for herself in the crime genre for her debut novel The Lost Ones which was inspired by her experience working as a researcher on crime and investigative journalism for the film and television industry as well as her activism around the issue of homelessness for which she was awarded a TD Canada Trust scholarship for community leadership. She holds an HBA in Political Science from the University of Toronto, and was awarded a TD Canada Trust scholarship for community leadership and activism around the issue of homelessness. Her bestselling debut The Lost Ones won her a Kobo Emerging Writer Prize, a Strand Critics Award, and Macavity Award for Best First Novel. The sequel It All Falls Down has been called “a stunning, emotionally resonant thriller” in its Kirkus-starred review. No Going Back and her first YA novel Fight Like A Girl are being released this year.

1 comment:

Charles Harris said...

Very interesting. It's only too easy to be sentimental about animals. I love and respect animals, but they are ultimately animals - just like us - with their own flaws and strengths.