Q&A – Gillian & Inbali

Inbali, hi! I am incredibly excited that you’re going to be joining the Erin Hunter team – a huge welcome to you from the rest of us!

First things first – tell us a little about yourself, and how you came to be joining us in the Erin Hunter project!

Okay, here’s a little bit about myself! I live in London, the crazy, colourful, vibrant capital of England. I am an animal lover, a globetrotter and a fan of hazelnut coffee – and, of course, an avid reader. The coldest place I’ve ever been is Iceland; the warmest place I’ve been is Arizona; the wettest is the Amazon rainforest, where I saw a viper and swam with piranha!

I am really envious of you living in London – it is a fabulous city! (And my part of the world is probably more like Iceland!). As for the piranha – wow. Most people go for dolphins, Inbali…!

So, I know how thrilled I was when I was invited aboard the good ship Erin – what was your reaction?

I’ve been a Warriors fan since my own feline fantasy came out in the US in 2008 and I discovered Erin Hunter. I was bowled over when I was invited to join the SURVIVORS Pack – my tail hasn’t stopped wagging! The Erin Hunter team had read my book, THE TYGRINE CAT, and thought I’d be a good fit. I was even more excited when I found out that a friend of mine, a certain Gillian Philip – who happens to be one of the best writers I know – was already on board. I knew that the series was going to be phenomenal!

Ah, you’re very kind, Inbali! As you know (because I’ve raved about it), I read and loved THE TYGRINE CAT – and I’m not a bit surprised the Erin team wanted you to join us. You have such a way of getting into animals’ heads!

You’ve already been working on books in the SURVIVORS series. Now, I’m crazy about our dog Packs and all their various members – what was it like getting to know such a wildly differing bunch of pooches?

I have loved getting to know each dog and watching them develop through the books. I felt so sorry for the Leashed Dogs in THE EMPTY CITY as it’s so tough for domestic pooches without human company. Some of the dogs could hardly bear the changed world they were living in, like little Sunshine, who was so prissy and helpless at the start of the series.

Oh yes, poor Sunshine – my heart just ached for her in those early days…

I know, she was so vulnerable. But it’s wonderful to watch the dogs grow as individuals and learn to hunt and work as a Pack. And I’ve enjoyed seeing Lucky develop from avowed Lone Dog in THE EMPTY CITY to reluctant Pack Dog in A HIDDEN ENEMY. He’s a conflicted character, torn between a sense of duty to Bella and the other dogs and his thirst for independence.

I read much of A HIDDEN ENEMY behind my hands – things get pretty scary there. And that cliffhanger ending!

Between you and me, I was scared for them while I was writing it! Lucky certainly is conflicted, isn’t he? I’ve loved watching him change and adapt.

I’ll confess that I have other favourites among our dogs, and sometimes it’s hard when a group decision is taken to, um… hurt a particular character! Do you have favourites? Have you had to bite the bullet and be ruthless with any of them? (No spoilers, of course!)

I am fond of all the pooches, even the beastly ones… but yes, I have favourites. Mickey is very close to my heart, being such a kind, loyal sort of dog, and there’s a puppy in DARKNESS FALLS who I would love to take home with me… It’s upsetting when bad things happen to beloved characters, and I’m afraid to say that there is plenty of drama to come, and even some heartache….

Oh… that sounds ominous…!
And I know how much you love and relate to animals – both real and fictional ones. THE TYGRINE CAT is about a heroic young cat who travels from a distant land to follow his destiny. How does writing SURVIVORS differ from that? And does it feel strange to be focusing on dogs?

Like all the “Erins”, I’ve been crazy about fur people my whole life. I begged my parents to let me have pets. I was four when I made my first fur friends – a couple of gorgeous gerbils called Coffee and Goldie. After that it was hamsters, a guinea pig, rabbits, degus and three of the sweetest cats I’ve ever known. The most recent addition to the family is a Japanese Spitz pup called Michi.

Seeing the world from a cat’s perspective seemed very natural to me, because I grew up with cats and have always felt a strong connection with them. Cats are mysterious, thoughtful, independent – there is much to discover in their sparkling green eyes. Shifting my gaze to a dog’s perspective was an exciting challenge. As a dog owner, it was clear that they see things in starkly different ways to cats. A dog’s world whirs with frenetic energy, with jeopardy, joy and opportunity.

A lot of Erin fans have told me they’d like to see the Warrior Cats encounter the Survivors! I’d love to know how your own feline hero Mati would react to meeting Lucky and company!

While plenty of cats and dogs are friends, I’m sorry to say that Mati probably wouldn’t think much of our dog Pack. The feral cats he takes up with refer to mutts as “oolfs” and generally do their best to avoid them!

Heh! I love the word “oolfs”! And speaking of Packs, tell us about your own! You’re obviously a very proud Mom to the beautiful Michi – tell us about him! How do you think he’d cope in the situation Lucky and his friends have to face?

Thank you, Gillian, Michi is rather a charmer. I don’t rate his chances in the tough climate following the Big Growl – he’s a Leashed Dog who enjoys his home comforts too much. On the other hand, Michi is a friendly little chap, and I feel sure he would be a successful Pack Dog. I hope for his sake that he’d be high in the pecking order, as Alpha’s Pack is fiercely hierarchical – food is distributed according to rank – and Michi is a dog who likes his food!

Oh, I know a Labrador like that! Does spending time with Michi help you when you’re writing about our Pack members?

Spending time with Michi has been incredibly useful for my writing. Watching him closely as he gambols in the park, sniffing deeply, his tail wagging at the sight of his friends, his ears flicking back in excitement, has opened up a world of canine play and communication to me. Dogs have quite established social rules, and seeing these at work has given me lots of material for Lucky and his companions.

Is there another animal that’s a favourite of yours – something other than dogs or cats that you’d like to write about some day?

There is an animal that is very special to me – somewhere between a cat and a dog, both loved and hated by the world in equal measure. Amber eyed; fleet of foot; a beast of folklore and fable, but often misunderstood. One day I hope to write this creature’s story.

Oh, that’s mysterious and very intriguing… So – the big question – what are your upcoming plans for the Survivors? I know Book 3, DARKNESS FALLS, is coming out very soon – can you give readers any teasers?

Ah yes – well, without giving too much away, you can expect some revelations over coming books. In DARKNESS FALLS, Lucky encounters some nasty old enemies and makes some new friends. But when he introduces his friends to the Pack, not everyone is happy. Meanwhile, his visions are growing more vivid. He senses the freezing cold and dreams of wisps of snow. Is the Storm of Dogs just a terrifying nightmare – or is it an omen of things to come?

Inbali, I have chills and thrills just thinking about it! I am SO looking forward to your books in the series, and I can’t wait for Erin fans to read them too. The fans are the absolute best, and you’re going to have a fabulous time! Welcome again, and thank you so much for talking to me today!