It’s A Dog’s Life

Blog: It’s A Dog’s Life

Saskia Sarginson


My dogs are part of my writing life. I have two cats as well, but being cats, they come and go as they please. Like furry muses, they slink across my keyboard, wander past my desk with a knowing look, and disappear to do more interesting things. But dogs are different. They are faithful companions.  We have long walks together every morning, whatever the weather. You can’t tell a dog it’s too wet, or you don’t feel like it.  It’s my favourite way to start the day.

I find that my dog walks are a great time to mull over plot points and work out writing problems. I can sound characters’ voices inside my head or proclaim them out loud. The act of walking for an hour or so helps to get my brain into gear. I arrive home, feed the dogs and make my coffee, and I’m ready to settle at my desk for several hours of work. The dogs follow me up to my room and find comfy places to snooze while I type. Sometimes I have to confess that I am working inside a distinctly doggy aroma, but I don’t mind. And I find their sleep whimpers and paw twitches comforting rather than a distraction. Funnily enough, I can’t bear a person sitting in the same room as me when I’m working, but the dogs don’t impinge on my thoughts, restrict my imagination or irritate me. I hardly notice them when I’m immersed in the story. I think I must be aware of them on a subconscious level though, and their supportive, patient, unquestioning companionship centres me. They only stir when they know it’s time for another walk and supper.

I  don’t write real people into my books, but I’ve put Sacha, my lurcher into Without You, changing his name to Silver. And one of my cats, Tilly, is in my next book, The Stranger. The heroine of The Other Me, Klaudia, desperately wants a pet when she’s a child, but her father won’t let her have one.  I’ve kept cats all my life, but I’ve only had dogs since becoming an adult. I was persuaded to get our first dog, Maisy-the-border-terrier, for the children, but quickly became a dog-lover without the incentive of any extravagant pet-care promises from my kids. I was happy to take on all the responsibility myself. Who couldn’t fall for a dog’s loyalty, unwavering love, joy, sense of fun, bravery and beauty? And they are the best writing companions: accepting my obsessive attachment to my laptop without complaint, listening to me tapping away or reading paragraphs, wagging their tails in encouragement. As far as they are concerned, it’s all five-star material. And when I’m tired or feeling blue, a hug with a dog will always make things seem better.

The Inspiration behind The Other Me

Blog: The Inspiration for The Other Me

Saskia Sarginson


The main inspiration for The Other Me was a deeply personal one –about ten years ago I discovered the identity of my father. By the time I’d tracked him down in France he’d died. I’d missed him by months. But I did meet my half-brother, Vincent, who showed me photographs and was able to fill me in on my family history. To my surprise, I discovered that my father had been Jewish, of Portuguese and Dutch blood. He’d lived in Paris since arriving in the city as a young man. He’d been an artist in the COBRA movement in the early 50’s. He’d always loved horses and dogs and jazz.  It was strange to have these facts about him and to feel a connection through them – I love horses and dogs; my daughters are artists. My son plays jazz piano. These were tangible things that seemed to have come down to me through him.

As a blonde, slightly Scandinavian-looking person, I’d never though that I might have Jewish blood. It made me take a new interest in Jewish culture and religion, and of course, I immediately had a different take on WW2, knowing that some of my relatives would have been caught up in the anti-Semitism and quite possibly died in the Holocaust.

I began to think about the importance of knowing our parents – how our identity hinges on who they are.  Having stories and facts and anecdotes about my father filled a void. As I stared at the black and white photos of him, searching for similarities, I knew that I wanted to write a story about identity, and about the uncertainty that comes from any ambiguity around the question of parentage. I believe that at some level a child will always know if a parent isn’t their biological one. I knew this from personal experience. I’d been brought up by someone that I called ‘Dad.’ Yet I understood deep down, without anyone telling me, that he wasn’t my real father.

I’d already played with this idea in my second novel, Without You. In The Other Me I wanted to develop the idea further and I wanted to add a historical element, because it occurred to me that  I might just as easily have discovered that my father had had links to Nazi Germany, especially with my Saxon colouring. And I asked myself how I’d feel if that was really the case: would I suddenly inherit guilt? Would I become ashamed? Would it change the way I thought about myself?

These were the questions that were in my mind when I began to construct the story of The Other Me.