Happy Birthday, Janga! Wishing you sunshine, smiles, and happily ever afters today and always.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Guest Author - Kandy Shepherd

I swapped a fast-paced career as a magazine editor for a life writing fun, feel-good fiction, says romantic comedy author Kandy Shepherd. She also states, Animals have always been a special part of my life and keep sneaking into everything I write. Her debut with Berkley Sensation, Love is a Four-Legged Word garnered great reviews. Please help us give a warm Romance Dish welcome to Kandy Shepherd!

Thank you Andrea for inviting me to The Romance Dish – and I’m waving to PJ too!

I adore animals and they seem to sneak into everything I write. In my debut romantic comedy, LOVE IS A FOUR-LEGGED WORD from Berkley Sensation, my doggy characters are as important as the human ones. Brutus, the ugly little mutt who inherits a multi-million dollar fortune, has such a strong personality I had to be careful he didn’t overshadow the heroine Maddy and the hero Tom!

My second book for Berkley HOME IS WHERE THE BARK IS (out in June 2010) takes up the story of Serena, Maddy’s best friend from my first book. Brutus appears,
as well as a cast of new doggy characters. The “hero” dog is a very big, very sad rescue dog named Mack.

How do I research my canine characters? My best research is a lifelong love of animals. I’ve had dogs and cats in my life since I was a small child. There was a parrot, rabbits and even a white mouse (not a great pet to cohabit with cats…) My daughter has horses and I’ve learned to love them too. Then there are our two miniature Dexter bulls, Squirt and Thimble, who are nothing short of adorable! Thinking of animals as characters with their own special personalities and quirks is second nature to me.

Is Brutus based on a real dog? Yes and no. Brutus is a purely fictional creation, an amalgamation, I guess, of many dogs I have known. The naughtier aspects of him probably come from a childhood dog named Copper. He was half bassett hound and half golden cocker spaniel and had a truly larger-than-life personality. Copper was utterly devoted to my brother and I have certainly drawn on that devotion in the character of Brutus. Their loyalty is one of the characteristics I love about dogs in general.

Brutus’s greed comes from my Miss Molly who is always looking for opportunities to snuffle up snacks. There’s a scene in LOVE IS A FOUR-LEGGED WORD where Tom is kept awake by Brutus’s scratching and noisy dog tags and that definitely comes from real-life experience of dogs sleeping in my bedroom!

Brutus’s name, however, was inspired by a real dog, my former next-door neighbor. The “real” Brutus is not a scruffy Heinz 57 varieties kind of dog like my fictional Brutus, rather a silky terrier of impeccable pedigree. He has such a sweet little face that his tough-dog name makes me laugh. He’s getting old now but still sprightly and raring to go at the mention of the word “walk”.

They say writers are “people watchers”. I’m that, of course. But I’m also an animal watcher. Yesterday I noticed how a little dachshund, walking unleashed on a busy sidewalk just ahead of her owner, kept looking back over her shoulder just to check he was there. I found that endearing and will probably write it in somewhere. Connie, the border collie whose work ethic was so strong she left her tiny puppies to herd sheep; Snowball and Snowden the sweetest bull terriers; Lily the discerning miniature poodle; Tiza the one-eyed shih-tzu; Fella the enormous mutt who thinks he’s still a pup; Benny the naughtiest-ever beagle; and all the dogs I’ve known, even for a chat over the fence, thank you for loaning me aspects of your unique personalities to help create my fictional dogs.

Like my human characters, at some stage in the writing my canine characters take on their own personalities and become as real to me as any flesh-and-blood-and-fur dogs. In my mind’s eye Brutus is a very real individual!

Important as my doggy characters are, I never lose sight of the fact that they are secondary characters in my stories. I’m careful that they don’t distract from the developing romance between the hero and the heroine. But the reactions of the human characters to the animals can give great insight into the human’s personality—I have a lot of fun with that! And vice versa. In LOVE IS A FOUR-LEGGED WORD, Brutus sniffs out the truth about handsome Jerome long before Maddy does.

I’m grateful to the animals in my life, not only for their companionship and love, but also for their help on my journey to publication. Could I have written LOVE IS A FOUR-LEGGED WORD without the inspiration of my animal friends? I don’t think so. If I didn’t genuinely love animals and know their habits so well I couldn’t write about them convincingly.

Do you have a favorite fictional animal character in a book, movie or TV show? For a chance to win a copy of LOVE IS A FOUR-LEGGED WORD, please leave your comment.

Title: Love is a Four-Legged Word
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Trade Paperback, 328 pages
ISBN: 978-0-425-22784-8


  1. Hi Kandy! (waving)

    I enjoyed Love is a Four-Legged Word so much and Brutus was a big part of why I did. You're right. He could have easily stolen the whole show (grin) but you very skillfully kept him in check and allowed Maddy and Tom to take the lead. I can't wait to see what you have in store for Serena!

    Rescue dogs have a very special place in my heart so I have no doubt that I will probably fall in love with Mack. My last three dogs have all been rescues and I have a new rescue staying with me for a week (we're taking each other for a test drive) who is already claiming my heart.

  2. One of my favorite fictional animal is Colone, the heroine 's lovable dog in Cach of the Day (Kristan Higgins).
    He's basicaly our heroine's best friend and the only guy she really can count on. This book is a must-read the the realtionship between Maggie and her dog is part of the reason why.
    Of course I'm a dog person... even in books I prefer dogs ;-) !!

  3. Emmanuelle, I love Kristan Higgins's books and the dogs in them! :)

  4. Hi PJ, thanks so much for having me on The Romance Dish, the blog is fabulous and seems so well-established already!
    They say rescue animals know you've saved your life and have a special attachment to you and I believe it. Good luck with your new rescue, I am sure he/she is trying very hard to win your heart!

  5. Emmanuelle, I have only just read Kristan Higgins TO GOOD TO BE TRUE and loved it, especially Angus the West Highland Terrier. I must read CATCH OF THE DAY, I love the cover.

  6. PJ, Susan Elizabeth Philips writes wonderful dogs doesn't she (well, she writes wonderful anything, really!)

  7. Hi, Andrea and Kandy! This sounds like a fun read. My fave fictional dog is based on a real dog. It's a picture book written in rhyming verse and brings tears to my eyes every year when I read it to my students. It is called THE CHRISTMAS COLLIE, but I can't remember the author's name. It tells about a boy and his Christmas puppy, Toby, and how they grew up together. Then the boy becomes a man and leaves for military duty during WWII. The man comes home, marries, and gives his son a Christmas Collie. It's a very tender story.

  8. Hi Kandy!
    I adore animals as well!! ^^ It's kinda obvious at my house with my six rabbits, two dogs,and not to mention the three other family dogs. I also run my own pet sitting/walking business on the side of uni. I'm definitely going to have to look for your books. ^^

    In terms of the question, i usually produce a "squee" of joy whenever a bunny appears on the screen, book, or tv show. My favorite animal is Thumper and of course his little sisters. They remind me of my buns and are so cute! I also loved Paul Anka from Gilmore Girls. I always cracked up at his antics and little quirks. ^^

  9. Hi Kandy!

    My favorite fiction animals are Mo the big goofy dog in Nora's Key trilogy. I think it was really the interaction between Mo and his pet, Finn LOL.

    And the FAMS in Robin D. Owens Celta books.

    Yours sound wonderful and will be a definate add to the TBR pile...

  10. I love dogs--real and fictional. SEP has created some great animal characters. Tater the Elephant in Kiss an Angel is my fave of hers. But I believe Fred in Anyone But You belongs to Jenny Crusie, PJ. Crusie's dogs are terrific. I echo the praise for Kristan Higgins's canine creations.

    My all-time favorite fictional dog is Lufra, the Baluchistan hound, in Heyer's Frederica. Barbara Metzger has also created some marvelous animal characters. I recently reread Christmas Wishes and was reminded of the delight that is Pansy the pig. :)

  11. You're right, Janga! That's what I get for posting before I'm completely awake. Thanks for the correction!

  12. Correction:

    Fred, from Anyone But You by Jennifer Crusie is one of my favorite fictional dog characters.

  13. Hi Kandy,

    What a lovely blog! Well, of course you watch animals like you watch people. Doesn't everyone? I love their personalities and foibles. We used to have a dog (a fairly small one) so attached to my father he used to climb ladders after him. If dad was on the roof mum would find him 3/4 of the way up the ladder, front legs hooked over the rung and back legs shaking like mad, trying to get up there.

    As for fave fictional animals, I'm not sure I could pick one. My heart always squeezed tight in the old movies when the faithful old dog died. I have to say Brutus and his lady friend made a huge impression and made me smile a lot. I'm looking forward to your next story enormously. The debut book was such a beauty! Someone recently asked me about fave books for 2009 and yours was on the list.

  14. Oh, PJ, wasn't Fred in 'Anyone But You' gorgeous? Such a character!

  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

  16. I know how those early morning posts go, PJ. Once I attributed a Liz Carlyle book to Suzanne Enoch and just recently got the new Enoch title wrong. Both times Ms. Enoch herself tactfully corrected me, but ouch! I'm still red-faced.

  17. Waving Hi to everyone what a great blog Kandy I have your book on my must have list I have heard so many great things about it. I gotta get it can't wait to read it.

    I don't think I could manage without pets in my life I have 3 dogs at the moment 2 from the RSPCA and one Tootsie was my Mums dog and she rules the roost even though she is the smallest.

    One of my favourite movies is Homeward Bound the bond those 3 shared on their journey is awesome and I just can't think of their names at the moment (it is very early here in Oz) and I know there have been many dogs and cats in books that I have read and loved. I think that they add to a book.

    Have Fun

  18. Helen,
    Homeward Bound is so sad at the end! My class went to see it when i was in elementary school and i remember crying when i thought the golden retriever was going to die.


  19. Hi Dishies! So glad you have Kandy here as a guest today! She's fabulous. I loved Love is a Four-Legged Word, Kandy! Congratulations on all your success. Can't wait to read Home is Where the Bark is.

    What an interesting take on animal watching. I think as writers we tend to watch all sorts of stuff, not just people. I was watching the leaves on a tree yesterday and thinking how I'd describe it. Hmm, wonder what will be going on under that tree when I write it! Snort!

  20. Deb, THE CHRISTMAS COLLIE sounds like something I would love too. Those heartwarming stories of animal and human loyalty that bring tears to the eyes are so special.

  21. Hi jedisakora, rabbits are such sweet pets aren't they? Thumper must be the most memorable of fictional bunnies, I wonder how many pet rabbits have been named Thumper since Bambi came out! I adored Gilmore Girls and Paul Anka was such a character.
    You sound like you are very busy with all your pets and studies, thanks for taking time to visit!

  22. Hi Joan, I wonder is it a coincidence that bestsellers such as Nora Roberts, Jennifer Crusie and Susan Elizabeth Philips have memorable animal characters in their books? I think it shows how wonderful their characterization is as they recognize how important animals are in so many peoples' lives. I haven't read the CELTA books, I must look them up. Thanks for visiting!

  23. I loved your book, Kandy! I like Wilbur from Charlotte's Web along with all the other barn yard characters. The family fave is the 1972 animated musical version......fine swine, wish he was mine, what if he's not so big, he's one terrific, radiant, humble, thing-a-ma-jig of a fine phenomenon....' :-)

  24. Hi Janga, I remember Lufra! I'm also taken with Wolfram in Anna Campbell's UNTOUCHED. Pigs seem to be getting more "air play" in novels recently. CC Coburn has a cute one (and some lovely dogs) in COLORADO CHRISTMAS. And of course there was Wilbur in CHARLOTTE'S WEB. It all makes me want to explore the possibility of a pig pet one day, but it would have to be one of the miniature ones!

  25. Hi Annie, thank you for your kind words about LOVE IS A FOUR-LEGGED WORD. I was beyond thrilled when you listed it in your favorite books for 2009.
    I adore your story of your father's dog on the ladder! Please may I use that in a story one day?!

  26. Hi Annie, thank you for your kind words about LOVE IS A FOUR-LEGGED WORD. I was beyond thrilled when you listed it in your favorite books for 2009.
    I adore your story of your father's dog on the ladder! Please may I use that in a story one day?!

  27. Hi Helen, great to see you here and so nice to read about your pets! I love those animal journey movies where they finally make it home against all odds. There was another very cute journey home movie about a ginger kitten and a pug but for the life of me I can't remember the name. Maybe I should go Google it...
    Got it! MILO AND OTIS with Milo the kitten and Otis the pug, very amusing. They found lurve along the way too (I mean with members of their own species!)

  28. Hey Anna - great to see you here! Leaves... Hmm... I will watch out for an interesting scene involving leaves in your next book!
    Seriously though, you write your settings so well. Cornwall and Guernsey in CAPTIVE OF SIN and, most beautiful of all to me, the Scottish highlands in CLAIMING THE COURTESAN. I can still "see" that countryside through Verity's eyes...

  29. Hi Fiona, thanks for calling by! I loved the animated musical of Charlotte's Web too. My daughter played it so often we all knew those songs off by heart. But it was so uplifting and fun. I haven't seen the latest version as sadly daughter has moved on to more adult movies... However we have our eight-year-old niece visiting for Christmas, will have to get it and watch it with her!

  30. Great post, Kandy! If I had a tail, I'd wag it. I loved LOVE IS A FOUR-LEGGED WORD and can't wait to read the follow-up.

    Who would've thought that cute little terrier would grow into the name 'Brutus'?

    One of my favourite fictional animals is the famous Mr Ed. I always wanted a horse, and one I could truly converse with would be even better!

    ~ Vanessa

  31. "A horse is a horse, a horse of course..." Vanessa isn't it amazing that after all these years I can still remember the song and how Mr Ed spoke... Loved him!
    I always liked horses and admired them but was scared of them and they sensed it. Now my daughter has her own horses and I really love them. Spud is 17.3 hands and flighty and I'm a bit cautious around him but Banjo and Toby are so friendly I don't know how anyone couldn't adore them! Star our rescue horse is really only happy around females so is fine with my daughter and me but not so relaxed around males. Both vet and farrier have said it must have been a man who was cruel to him. So sad as he is a lovely boy but not 100 percent trustworthy...
    That is probably way more than you wanted to know about my horse friends. I'm so glad you liked LOVE IS A FOUR-LEGGED WORD!

  32. Hey, thanks, Kandy. I really love writing setting - and I love the Scottish Highlands so much, I really put my heart into those descriptions in CTC.

  33. Hi Kandy,
    I loved "Love is a Four-Legged Word", and I'm looking forward to the next fabulously titled book.

    Our Maltese x Tibetan Spaniel also looks over her shoulder when we walk her to make sure we're following. She's on a lead so naturally we are! It's so cute.

    As for fictional animals, when I went through my horse craze as a child, there was a TV show with a horse called Champion. He was a beautiful Palomino and I loved him. Lassie came a close second. :)

  34. Fun blog, Kandy! Love is a Four-Legged Word is a gorgeous read, funny and warm. I'm looking forward to Home is Where the Bark is!

    I've always loved stories where animals play a big part. When I was growing up, I used to devour books and TV shows with a horse or a dog in it. My Friend Flicka, Thunderhead, The White Stallion. Mr Ed and Fury and Rin Tin Tin and Lassie. (sigh) I've had a lovely walk down memory lane, Kandy! Thanks!

    Thanks for having Kandy to visit, Dishes!


  35. Hi, Kandy! I'm a sucker for animals. I have two rescue dogs and two rescue cats....and a houseful of love and hair! LOL

    One of my favorite animals in a book is Galahad the cat in the In Death series by JD Robb.

  36. Hi, Kandy!! I'm so sorry that I'm late to the party. I've been going non-stop since 6am and I'm just now able to sit. And only because my children are in bed! Congrats on the success of Brutus and LiaF-LW!

    I will totally agree with everyone about Kristan Higgins's books! Love her!

  37. Oh, I love Mr. Ed!! I remember watching that show on Nick at Nite when I was younger . . . when Nick at Nite had GOOD shows on. ;-)

  38. Kandy, thanks so much for visiting with us today. It's been a pleasure having you here. I'll be looking forward to Home is Where the Bark is!

  39. I grew up with Lassie and she (he) is still my favorite...but then Mr. Ed runs a close 2nd. I just loved that talking horse.

    mitzihinkey at sbcglobal dot net

    Happy Holiday to Everyone!!!

  40. Hi Cheryl- I think it's so cute the way your little dog looks over your shoulder at you when she is on the leash. Just checking!

  41. Hi Sharon, thanks for calling by. Glad you enjoyed the trip down memory lane. Like you, I was thinking of all the old animal shows. Then I thought about the more recent and remembered Meerkat Manor. I loved watching those Meerkats and Flower the matriarch was truly memorable!

  42. Hi Gannon - it sounds like you have a well balanced pet household with even numbers of cats and dogs! Isn't the hair a problem? I don't think there is a chair or sofa in my house that doesn't have fur on it, no matter how hard I brush and vacuum!

  43. Hi Mitzie - Lassie was just beautiful wasn't she/he? All collie dogs seem noble just because of that show, I think!

  44. Hi Andrea and PJ, thank you so much for inviting me to The Romance Dish - it's been such fun and I'm thrilled to be part of your wonderful new blog!

  45. Hiya Kandy! Hey when you get a pig pet, I'll come visit, okay? Thanks for mentioning Louella from Colorado Christmas. She was so popular, she's returning in book 2 of the O'Malley men series in a smaller (non-speaking part) Snort!
    I love rabbits but they are totally illegal in the state I live in (but we still had one) :-)
    Penny (who turned out to be a Benny when we took her/him in to be dexesed) used to love being chased around the yard my our yellow Lab Freddie. Unfortunately, I think she did one too many laps of the yard and expired of a heart attack. That was sad, but the tree we planted on top of her is doing great!