Friday, August 5, 2011

Elizabeth Speller & Erwin

Who is in the photo at right?

That's me, Elizabeth Speller, and my dog. I write poetry, books on history and travel and, more recently, novels set in the 1920’s. My dog is an eight month old Hungarian Viszla, his name is Erwin. Viszlas (or Vislak, correctly!) are very loving and are scarcely ever more than a few inches away (some people call them Velcro dogs). When they are at any distance they are 100% energy and bounce a lot. Mostly they believe they are lap dogs. This was OK when he was a puppy but is becoming more overwhelming!

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Erwin believes he shares every part of my life. I wouldn’t yet trust him in a coffee shop but he likes to pretend to relax next to me in the garden as I have my summer’s day coffee in the hope I’ll put my mug down within tongue reach.

What's brewing?

Nespresso. I choose entirely on pod colour – I love the dusky pink pods and deep sinful purple ones, cream ones and a summery sky blue. Not keen on bile yellow or the unattractively cold dark green. Mornings I have cappuccino. Later I have decaf espresso (deep terracotta): Erwin likes it too though is not allowed to have it. He also likes the discarded pods and I am often to be found with my hand deep in his mouth retrieving them.

Any treats for you or Erwin on this occasion?

My treat is sunshine and the paper but I feed him chews to distract him from what would be his greatest treat: trying to share my coffee or eat the newspaper.

How were you and Erwin united?

I shared rooms at Cambridge with a friend who was training to become a Vet. She is now qualified and breeds Viszlas and offered a puppy to me as she knew I was looking for a new dog and she said his hair was the same colour as mine.

How did he get his name? Any nicknames?

After Erwin Schrödinger – the Hungarian physicist (being a Hungarian dog). I am not sure his genius is reflected in my dog’s psyche (though he may be biding his time) but quantum mechanics is a bit of a mystery to me too.

Does Erwin play any role in your writing?

Distraction, mostly. He tries to climb on my lap and when he succeeds bashes his great paws on the keyboard. He also eats my reference books given half a chance.

Does Erwin have a favorite place to go for walk?

I live in the Cotswold hills in the west of England. We can walk straight from my garden through a wood with an ancient Roman spring and, in May, lots of bluebells, and on into valleys full of challenges (squirrels, partridge mud, badger setts, rotting things) for a growing dog.

Squirrel, postman, cat...?

Wily postman carries dog biscuits and Erwin’s attempts to be a cat-vanquisher have come to grief with my very old stiff cat who chases him off, sits on his chair, eats his food and generally shows him what’s what in the matter of power dynamics.

What is Erwin's best quality?

His affectionate, gentle nature and his handsomeness.

If your dog could change one thing about your children, what would it be?

That they would share their Haribou.

What's Erwin's proudest moment so far? His most embarrassing?

Proudest moment – catching a fly.

Most embarrassing – (apart from causing me to explain to American Express that he’d devoured my card) he chewed up my daughter’s Kindle. I was all set to deny it was him but as someone who writes mysteries, had to accept the tooth-marks were a pretty incontrovertible clue.

Visit Elizabeth Speller's website.

Her new (in the U.S.) novel, The Return of Captain John Emmett, is now a Richard & Judy Book Club featured book.

Speller's second novel, The Strange Fate of Kitty Easton, a mystery set in 1924, in the ancient landscape between Stonehenge and the Savernake Forest, is available now in the U.K. and arrives in the U.S. in the coming spring.

--Marshal Zeringue

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