Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts author Lucy Dillon and her basset hounds


Lakeland romantic novelist Victoria Routledge found inspiration from an unexpected source.<br/>Emily Rothery reports

As a best-selling Lakeland author, Victoria Routledge, knows that inspiration can come from the most unlikely sources. Nothing prepared her, however, for the impact that Violet, a three-year-old basset hound,would have on her writing and her life.

It was love at first sight. Victoria explains: ‘Violet, a beautiful doe-eyed girl, had become withdrawn after being returned to the breeding kennels when her first owner was too ill to care for her.’

On seeing Victoria she brightened and, in a touching show of trust, resolutely found her way onto Victoria’s lap and into her heart. Violet refused to budge. She had just chosen her new owner. ‘That was that,’ she confesses.

A whole new world of dog walking and canine conversations opened up and the idea for a novel with dogs at the heart of the storyline began to germinate. Violet became Victoria’s inspiration and constant companion, staying close to her as she wrote, often through To Victoria’s delight, in2010 the resulting novel of a woman in her 30s taking over a kennel, Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts, written under the pen-name of Lucy Dillon, was named Romantic Novel of the Year.

Seascale-born Victoria, ever mindful of her pet’s needs, decided that Violet required company and along came Bonham. The noisiest and biggest of the litter, the boisterous pup was named after the hellraising drummer from Led Zeppelin and he has truly lived up to his name.

Whereas Violet is happy to doze by Victoria’s desk, Bonham has a keeninstinct for his industrious owner’s better interests, insisting that she takes regular breaks.

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Walking with the dogs gives Victoria the opportunity to reflect on her work and even rehearse some dialogue but only when there are no other dog walkers within earshot, she confides. A brisk walk also helps her to reconnect with people and the beauties of the slowly changing seasons.

Victoria, who now lives in the Wye has strong ties with the Lake District and finds that the landscape, towns and people continue to feed herimagination. The Georgian town of Whitehaven and its people have been a particular inspiration.

‘I come home as often as I can, which isn’t often enough – I miss Wastwater and the wild loveliness of the Western lakes.’ Violet and Bonham share their mistress’s enthusiasm for the untamed beauty of the Western lakes, and beaches where, like over-excited small children, they love nothing better than the thrill of exploring.

Victoria brings all of these ingredients to her heart-warming romantic novels which show how love, friendship and dogs help us through life’s big and small struggles.

Should inspiration run dry she simply looks down at her loveable hounds with their quizzical ginger eyebrows, hang-dog expressions and doleful eyes, and the words begin to flow.

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