Monday, December 7, 2009

Jane Finnis & Copper and Rosie

Who is in the photo at right?

I'm Jane Finnis, author of the Aurelia Marcella mysteries, which are set in Roman Britain. With me are our two cocker spaniels. Copper, the gorgeous red-gold one, is six and a half; black Rosie is three and a half.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

I work at home mostly, so coffee with my husband Richard and the dogs is a regular occurrence. When it's fine we like to sit in the garden; there are plenty of colorful spots, but our favourite is near our summer-house, watching the fish and frogs in Richard's pond.

What's brewing?

Instant coffee - Nescafé gold blend, with a dash of milk. No goodies or treats for any of us with morning coffee - later in the day we may succumb to temptation, but my willpower is relatively strong in the morning. Anyhow I've not long had breakfast!

How did the dogs come to be united with you?

We found Copper in a dog rescue kennel aged just over a year. He was beautiful, but two homes had already found him impossible to live with, hyperactive, destructive, and aggressive with small children. But Richard and I know and love cockers. They are happy, affectionate dogs, slightly crazy, full of fun, but if they've had a bad start in life you need time and patience to bring out the best in them. Puppies, like kids, need to be sure they are loved, but also to know where the boundaries are. Five years later Copper is a pleasure to have around: still excitable and slightly crazy, but much calmer, happy with children, and no longer intent on wrecking the house. Our second dog Rosie must take some of the credit for calming him down; she's from a working strain of cocker - they've been gun-dogs for many years - and they're bred for smartness and steadiness rather than looks. She's a laid-back, sweet-natured dog, playful and impossible to tire out for long. She came to us aged ten months from a couple in the village who were very fond of her, but were starting a new business which occupied them away from home 24/7, and they weren't prepared to leave Rosie on her own all day. She settled in here straight away, and she and Copper are good friends, and justify the traditional description, "the merry cocker spaniel."

How did the dogs get their names?

Rosie has a pedigree as long as your arm, so she was already named when we got her - her kennel name is Onyx Rose. Copper probably has a pedigree too, but that's something the dog rescue homes don't pass on. He was Bobby when we got him, but at that time we had a cat called Poppy, and the names were too similar, so we changed him to Copper because of his lovely red-gold coat.

Where are your favorite dog-walks?

I walk the pair first thing each morning behind our house, in trees surrounding a golf course; safe, pleasant, with birds and flowers that change with the seasons. Usually we meet friends with dogs, so they can all play together. Richard does the afternoon walk (and an evening one in summer,) and they often go to the beach. Rosie loves swimming, and they both enjoy chase-games.

What sort of mischief do Copper and Rosie get up to?

None, of course!...Who am I kidding? Copper chases planes - not literally, but if one flies over, (which fortunately is rare) he barks at it to drive it off. And it flies away, and he comes back inside wagging his tail as if to say, "OK. Job done." Rosie pinches odd socks if we unwisely leave them about; she'll carry one around for a while, unnoticed inside her mouth, then dump it somewhere unexpected. Well, doesn't every home need a sock in the hall or the driveway occasionally?

Are dogs important in your books?

Yes, though not spaniels, because my period, Roman Britain, is too long ago of course for today's canine breeds. They certainly had dogs in Roman times for herding, guarding, hunting, and as pets, so I couldn't leave them out of my stories. Aurelia Marcella's dogs play quite an important part in the first book, Get Out or Die; among other things they find a body. In the second mystery, A Bitter Chill, another dog and her litter of pups play a key role, by ... no, I'd better not say.

Jane Finnis' Aurelia Marcella novels tell of life and death in first-century Roman Britain, the turbulent province of Britannia, on the very edge of the Roman Empire. There are three books so far in the series: Get Out or Die, A Bitter Chill, and the latest, Buried Too Deep.

Among the early praise for
Buried Too Deep:
"Finnis's well-crafted prose subtly weaves authoritative detail into a believable portrait of everyday life near the turn of the millennium. More historical adventure than conventional mystery, but highly readable and endlessly absorbing."
Visit the official Jane Finnis website and The Lady Killers blog. Follow her on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue