Who is in the photo at right?
That's Caesar and his mama, novelist Kate Quinn. I've written three historical fiction novels set in ancient Rome, and Caesar is an 18-month-old pup from my local animal shelter. Like all the mixed-breed dogs I have owned, I made up my own breed for him. Caesar has been christened as a member of the fabulously rare and exotic breed known as the Outer Mongolian Temple Dog.
What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?
Mornings chez Quinn are always like “Night of the Living Dead,” only instead of “Brains ... brains ...” the resounding moan is “Coffee ... coffee ...” Every work day starts out with me pouring a massive cup of joe and settling down on the couch to read emails from my publisher until I'm awake enough to start writing. Caesar does his part by curling up against my hip and trying his damnedest to get a slurp out of my Boston Red Sox mug whenever I look the other way.
I would drink lighter fluid as long as it was black, caffeinated, and came in a sufficiently large vat.
Are you and Caesar celebrating the release of your new novel, Empress of the Seven Hills, with any special brew or treats?
No coffee for him; he's hyper enough! But it's a special occasion, so he can have a biscuit. Or two – this dog has the metabolism of a hummingbird.
Please tell us about the new novel. Any dogs in it?
Empress of the Seven Hills takes place in 1st century Rome under the reign of Emperor Trajan. Take one brash young soldier on the hunt for glory, throw in a senator's daughter with a yen for adventure, stir in a scheming villainess, two wars, one prophecy, and lots of political intrigue, light on fire, and serve! And yes, I've got dogs in this book – my villain is a big dog-lover. He's a historical figure, and he could be a right bastard to the people in his life, but history records that he doted on his dogs.
How did Caesar get his name? Any aliases?
I named him Caesar for his calm Imperial gaze, and his willingness to charge into battle utterly outnumbered but confident of victory. And if he doesn't curb the instinct to take on Rottweilers twice his size like they're barbarian hordes at Alesia, he's about as likely as Julius Caesar to die violently! As for aliases, whenever he's a bad dog he goes by the name of Cesare Borgia: his evil alter ego.
How were you and Caesar united?
My husband and I finally moved to an apartment big enough for a dog, so we went to the nearest animal shelter and started looking. We saw a little all-black guy with big ears waiting quietly in a cage, giving us the eye. The minute we took him out, he gave us one comprehensive up-and-down glance and curled up on my husband's feet. That was that.
Does Caesar have any influence on your writing?
He's a crucial part of the creative process. I do all my writing cross-legged on the couch with a laptop balanced in my lap, and Caesar's job is to curl up against me, carefully positioned for maximum cuteness while at the same time making it almost impossible to reach either the mouse or any of my research books. It's a hard job, but he's dedicated.
Does Caesar have a favorite place to go for an outing?
I've got a beautiful stretch of woods on my doorstep, wound through with hiking paths. Caesar and I go for a three mile ramble every day once I've met my page quota. I muse over plot problems, and he looks for things to pee on or pick a fight with.
Squirrel, postman, cat...?
He will chase them all with equal happiness, but his favorite target is the sock-sized Pekinese next door. Those two have a vendetta like Julius Caesar and Marcus Brutus.
Who is Caesar's best pet-pal?
His monumental “You want a piece of me?” attitude keeps him from socializing with other dogs at the moment. I'm hoping he mellows once he gets older.
What is Caesar's best quality?
Loyalty. I swear this dog thinks he's auditioning for Where the Red Fern Grows. He would happily throw himself between me and a charging cougar. In the absence of cougars, he vigilantly protects his mama from squirrels, joggers, and moms with strollers.
If Caesar could change one thing about you, what would it be?
He'd make me more forgetful. If I would just forget to close the fridge now and then, or leave my lunch unattended on a low table a bit more often, I would be the perfect owner in his eyes.
If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Caesar could speak, which actor should do his voice?
Why not Ciaran Hinds, who played Julius Caesar in HBO's Rome?
Visit Kate Quinn's website and blog.
Writers Read: Kate Quinn.