Animals As Minor (or Major) Characters - by Hywela Lyn

Anyone who knows me, knows that I love animals, in particular, horses.

Flikka at 30 in her stable
I'm not sure from where I inherited my love of horses, any more than I know where I got my love of writing. We weren't a horsey family, and didn't have any land to keep a horse or pony. However, my  father loved all animals, and passed down this love to my sister and me. I can't remember a time when we didn't have a dog when I was growing up in a small seaside town in Wales, and I spent my school holidays helping out at the local riding school. As soon as I left school I saved up every spare penny for five years, to buy my first horse, a bay Thoroughbred cross, Flikka, who stayed with me until she died at the ripe old age of 35 years.

Sal and me after a long distance event
I suppose it was my love of horses that gave me my fascination with the Old West, so much so, that I bought a Western saddle, learnt to ride in the Western style and retrained my horses in this gentle, relaxed way of riding.

I'd been writing since my early teens and spent many happy hours 'plotting' in my head whilst riding Flikka in the beautiful Welsh countryside. I wrote several western romances and a couple of horse stories,  and had some short stories published. But then, working full time, helping a friend run a riding school, and later becoming involved in long distance riding, left little time for writing.  

When I took it up again, and submitted my first novel, 'Starquest', it, and the  sequel 'Children Of the Mist, were actually futuristic - but to me, the Science Fiction or 'Space Operas' I write are 'Westerns in space', they convey a spirit of adventure, with brave men and women facing unknown dangers in an alien environment, which reflects the situation facing the pioneers of the Old West.

Despite being set in the distant future, with starships and sentient computers, I still managed to include several horses in both stories, by setting much of the action on a snowy, sparsely inhabited planet, where the settlers used genetically enhanced horses developed from the Norweigian Fjord ponies.

Soon after  'Starquest' was accepted for publication, I was invited to join eight other writers to produce a series of novellas based on the nine Greek Muses.  I chose Terpsichore, muse of dance, although I knew nothing about dancing and very little about Greek mythology.  The research was deeply interesting  and I became fascinated both by the Greek legends and the sensual oriental style of dancing, or 'belly dancing' as it is commonly known. I felt sure Terpsichore would have danced like this.  I sent her to 5th century Wales where she met another legendary character, Myrddyn ab Morfryn and had a brush with the Fates. 

Last year I regained my rights to the story, 'Dancing With Fate' and took my first steps into the world of self publishing. 
The story is now available on Smashwords and Amazon and is also available in print, with a stunning new cover, designed for me by an American author friend.

Even a Greek muse needs a means a mode of transport on her journey.  I gave Terpsichore a golden horse called Sal, based on my little endurance mare, Sally, who sadly passed on to the Rainbow Bridge a few years ago, and Myrddyn rode 'Harri' a black Welsh Cob, who is one of the two  horses I currently own.

Of course it's easier to use horses in fantasy than it is generally in Science Fiction, but I'm now working on a futuristic story set in the not too distant future, where a man made catastrophy wipes out a large proportion of Earth's population and technology grinds to a halt - so the survivors have to turn to our old friend the horse.  I'm giving my 'mare with attitude' T'pau, a starring role in this one!

I love dogs as well, and have a rescued Jack Russell called Bouncer. He's had a hard time in the past and is nearly blind, but despite that, he is a very loving, happy little chap, and a real character.  He'll end up in the Western I have on 'the back burner'.

Do you have animals - if so do you find them demanding a place in your stories too?

(Hywela Lyn)

You can find out more about Lyn and her books on her  WEBSITE
She also blogs at her own BLOG, and THE AUTHOR ROAST AND TOAST


I'm with you on the horses, Hywela! I too spent every free hour helping out at the local riding stables when I was a kid, and later worked in racing stables. Sadly I've never had a horse of my own... but I'm still saving up for one, so maybe one day!

I've written a whole book with a horse viewpoint: "I am the Great Horse" (a historical novel told by Bucephalas, Alexander the Great's war horse), and am very excited to have just got the rights back from my publishers so look out for it on Kindle near you soon...
Ruth Harris said…
Hywela, I love this post! I love your horses & the way you use them in your fiction—especially in SciFi! Whether dogs, cats, pigs or horses, every animals I have known is an individual with unique quirks & personalities.

I expanded my own coterie of animal friends in my recent novel, ZURI, which is set in Kenya & is about an orphaned baby rhino and her friends, animal & human. Rhinos, it turns out from my research, are very interesting creatures indeed. They bond well with humans, are nearsighted but have superb hearing and excellent memories—all characteristics I was able to use in my plot.

Right now, ZURI is available only on Amazon but she's going wide soon!
Hywela Lyn said…
Hi Katherine,

I hope you get your own horse one day - I've had to sacrifice a lot to keep mine (I still don't have my own land and have to rent stables and grazing) but I wouldn't be without them for anything.

Your book told by Bucephalus sounds fascinating and I'll certainly be looking out for it - let us know when it's available!
Hywela Lyn said…
Hello Ruth,

I certainly agree, every animal I've ever known, too, has been unique and different with their own very individual personality.

Zuri sounds like a really interesting and original book. I've read a lot of books about wild animals, but can't ever recall reading one about a rhino. I'll have to look out for 'Zuri'.
Hywela, I'm a complete horse nut - or should that be pony nut? Lovely seeing your beasts, past and present. I adore stories that make credible, interesting characters out of animals - although my favourites are the non-fiction works of Gavin Maxwell. He is a masterclass in bringing to life the peculiar and individual characters in the creatures around us.
Hywela Lyn said…
Hi Roz

It's great to be a horse nut isn't it! :)

I love Gavin Maxwell's books too - cried buckets over 'Ring Of Bright Water!'
Eigon said…
I had a little dog, part border collie and part - something else - who I wrote into my first attempt at a novel. When I started writing, she was young and fast and full of bounce. She died last year, and spent most of the last year of her life being pushed around in a shopping trolley because of her arthritis. She's still there in the story, young and fast and full of bounce.
Hywela Lyn said…
Hi Eigon,

Sorry, only just seen your post! Aw, isn't it good that you were able to immortalize your little dog as you remember her best, young, fast and full of bounce!

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