Guest Blogger: St. Martin’s Press Editor Daniela Rapp
Daniela Rapp has been an editor at St. Martin’s Press since 2003 after stints in the performing arts and the agenting world and considers herself an omnivore when it comes to reading and books. This is reflected in her rather eclectic list of projects, which ranges from literary and commercial fiction, pet and humor books, to serious narrative nonfiction titles. Her recent and forthcoming projects include Dog Talk by by Harrison Forbes, Saving Cinnamon by Christine Sullivan and the Last Dog on the Hill by Steve Duno.
Blame it on Marley. Well, it’s not just his fault. Lava, Merle, Gus, Gracie, Sprite, Cinnamon, and Nubs had their share, as did Dewey, Oscar and Homer (the cats), Alex (the parrot), Christian (the lion), Wesley (the owl), and Freedom (the eagle). These charming, funny, exasperating and inspiring creatures are the reason I am currently inundated with pet and animal book proposals.
Pet memoirs and books focusing on the bond between humans and animals have become increasingly popular over the last few years, although they have been around in one form or another for quite a while: think James Herriot on the non-fiction side, or Black Beauty and Lassie in fiction.
So, why the sudden explosion of these books? To me, there are several factors that have contributed to the proliferation of the genre:
Most visibly, pet-focused TV shows such as the ones offered by Animal Planet are now aired during prime time. This has raised awareness and perhaps also interest in the genre for readers.
As a result of the economic downturn, people have focused more on their families, and pets are certainly considered family members. Annual spending on pet expenditures is currently at an all-time-high (at around $43 billion), and a chunk of that budget will go to reading material.
And lastly, humans have always been fascinated with that special bond between animals and people – we love to hear heartwarming stories of the dog that changed someone’s life, the cat that made everyone’s day brighter, or the bird that was able to communicate desires and dislikes. The wall between us and the animal kingdom is one of the last frontiers, and it is slowly being dismantled, as our understanding of animal behavior and communication grows.
That is exactly what attracts me to the genre – I love reading about wordless exchanges between a dog and its human, the psychological and physical benefits of being near an animal, the antics and tricks pets are up to, as well as the emotional connection that is built over years spent in each other’s company.
One of my favorite examples is the forthcoming Last Dog on the Hill by Steve Duno – it’s the story of a one-in-a-million feral puppy turned superdog and his owner, and it makes all of us long for that unique relationship. Steve gets it totally right in the writing of his memoir – humor is tempered with emotion, there is a great arc to the narrative, and you can’t help but fall head-over-heels for Lou, the canine hero.
This was also the reason I took on Saving Cinnamon by Christine Sullivan – an account of the nerve-wracking journey of a stray puppy rescued from Afghanistan. I rooted for adorable Cinnamon to make it home every step of the way.
There are many uplifting, poignant, engaging, and humorous pet stories out there, but what sells me on the ones that make it to publication is the strength of the voice and the strength of the bond, every time.