Happy Zoo and Aquarium Month! You may have mixed feelings about wild animals in captivity, but zoos and aquariums do an important job nurturing and protecting endangered species and raising public awareness by allowing us to interact with and appreciate animals we would never be able to see in the wild. And zoos have come a long way since I was a child, with much more attention being paid to re-creating natural habitats whenever possible.
When I was thinking about this topic, I looked for ways to connect it to writing. After all, our love of writing is what brings us together. Many (most?) writers include animals in their stories, but usually those animals are pets--dogs, cats, hamsters. I recently read a book by Kristan Higgins in which the heroine is forced to pet-sit her father's snake while he's in prison.
But what about more unusual animals? Certain animals are inherently funny and can bring a whimsical spark or fall-off-the-sofa fit of laughter to a story. In our house, we have a saying that you can never go wrong with a monkey...or a chicken...or a penguin...or a squirrel. Some animals add natural humor to any situation, and if a writer lets her imagination fly, the results can be hilarious. I'm a particular fan of Janet Evanovich's character of Carl the monkey, who flips people off and shrieks "Eeep!" whenever he's stressed. For those who don't know him, Carl has many other idiosyncrasies that add spice to some already very funny books.
Do you have favorite books that feature animals other than common house pets? Have you ever considered adding exotic animals to your own stories? I'm playing around with an idea for my contemporary bodyguard series where I saddle my archaeologist hero with a bad-tempered Barbary macaque named Balthazar. Just considering the possibilities makes me chuckle.