Thursday, June 16, 2016

Steven Rowley & Tilda Swinton

Who is in the photo at right?

I'm Steven Rowley, author of Lily and the Octopus. With me is Tilda Swinton, a terrier mix my boyfriend and I adopted in January 2015. Like many rescues it's impossible to know her actual age, but we guess she's around 8 years-old.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

When I sit down to write each morning, I always do so with a cup of medium-roast coffee, one Stevia, a little cream. Tilda joins me for the first few sips, but quickly loses interest and finds a good spot for a morning snooze. (Without caffeine, I'd probably join her.)

Any treats for you or Tilda on this occasion?

A treat for us both is an afternoon walk and an iced coffee later in the day.

How were you and Tilda united?

My boyfriend (Byron Lane, creator and star of the award-winning web series Last Will and Testicle) and I found Tilda at The Lange Foundation here in Los Angeles. The Lange Foundation takes dogs out of LA city shelters with immediate medical needs that make them more-or-less unadoptable. They pay for medical treatment and then house them until they can be placed in well-screened and loving homes. When Lange found Tilda, she had been shot repeatedly with a BB gun -- someone had obviously used her for target practice. She lost an eye and had two ribs broken in her ordeal, but she knows nothing but love now.

How did your dog get her name? Any aliases?

When we met Tilda she was called Sofie, which didn't seem quite right. She's shockingly blond, is tough as nails and has a steely aloofness. To us that screamed Tilda Swinton. She's Tilda mostly, but also TSwint, Baby, and Monster. My previous dog, Lily (the inspiration for the dog in my novel Lily and the Octopus), had dozens of aliases -- there's a whole chapter in the book devoted to them. But Tilda is a serious girl and nicknames aren't really her style.

Does Tilda do more to help or hinder your writing?

Tilda helps my writing by napping a lot while I'm working, and being game for walks whenever I get stuck or need time to clear my head or work through a problem. Also, novel writing is such a solitary occupation, it's comforting just to have the company. I like to glance up from my desk and watch her sleep, to see her chest rising and falling, knowing that I am not alone.

Has Tilda inspired the creation of any fictional dogs?

Not yet, but I'm working on an idea. After all, it worked once! My dachshund Lily, who I raised from puppyhood into old age before she succumbed to cancer is absolutely front and center in my debut novel.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Mild interest in squirrels, but oblivious unless they pass in sight of her remaining eye.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Bully sticks. This girl likes to chew.

What is Tilda's best quality?

After Lily passed away, I was wary of getting another dog. I was ready to open our home, if not 100% my heart. Tilda was ready for a safe home, but maybe not 100% ready to trust new people after her ordeal. We gave each other a wide berth. Tilda's best quality? She is authentically herself. She doesn't try to be like Lily, or take her place in my heart. She has allowed me to develop my own relationship with her that is separate and special.

If Tilda could answer only one question in English, what would you ask her?

What was your life before we met? Tilda is harboring secrets, and as a writer (and someone who loves her) I'm dying to know what they are. Did she know kindness in her previous life? Was there only abuse? Who was her family? She was found dumped in someone's backyard, but she came house trained, so I know she lived with someone else once. I want to know everything. Alas, on these subjects she is silent.

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Tilda could speak, who should voice her?

Here's the thing: since the day we brought her home she hasn't made a peep. Occasionally she'll whimper in her sleep and it saddens me that she may be reliving something awful. But she never barks -- not even at the mailman -- so it's hard to imagine her speaking. That said, it would have to be the actual Tilda Swinton, no?

What advice would Tilda give if asked?

Everyone, relax. Like, actually relax. Naps are everything.

Visit Steven Rowley's website.

My Book, The Movie: Lily and the Octopus.

--Marshal Zeringue


  1. What a wonderful thing you've done for Tilda, and she for you. May you enjoy many more years together!

  2. I have just finished reading your book about Lily as I am a huge lover of dogs and I have to say I was amazed at your imagination ! Now I see you have rescued another dog called Tilda ( you wonderful human being )so will you be writing about her one day ?
    Keep on doing what you are doing :)