Saturday, May 23, 2009
Introducing Holly Hook, her writing and Pet Tarantulas
Tonight I’m going to welcome another writer and animal lover, Holly Hook. She’s going to talk about her writing and her pet Tarantulas.
Welcome to my blog, Holly. What are you working on at the moment?
Right now I'm working on an upper middle grade/young adult series titled Reta Morse. I'm planning on five books. In the first, Reta Morse and the Sinister Shadow, fourteen-year-old Reta is infuriated when her favorite cousin bans everyone under 18 from the local hangout for no apparent reason. When she, and her friends resort to pranks to get revenge, mysterious shadow people from another world stalk her. She later learns that these people are part of an organization called the Shadow Regime, a group of immortals that oversees and controls all forms of discrimination based on age. With the help of some human helpers, they have gained control over Jerry and forced him to work for them.
The Regime's powerful leader, A. Gist, seems to be after Reta specifically, as if the two have met before. Reta gets other teens to lobby against Jerry, which may free him from the Regime's control. When this happens, A. Gist gets fed up and decides to take Reta to his own dimension for an unknown, sinister purpose. As he and his minions close in from all sides, she must use extreme measures to escape his grasp.
I have also almost completed the first draft of the second book, Reta Morse and the Treacherous Traitor.
I know that you’re a writer and you love animals, but is it true that you keep tarantulas for pets?
Yes. Right now, I have 25 of them. Several are full-grown adults but most are babies in varying sizes.
Tell us more about them and how they inspire your writing.
I always like things that aren't conventional, hence the tarantulas. I couldn't resist slipping one of my pets into the first Reta Morse book. In this book, Reta has a mean Biology teacher named Mr. Gorfel who happens to keep a tarantula in his classroom as well. When I got a spider that looked like his, I named her Suzie, after the tarantula in the story.
Most people think tarantulas are all black and hairy. While some are, they actually come in every color of the rainbow. I've got a few orange and black ones, one that's black with a red butt, a bronze one, one with white stripes on the legs, one with a shiny pink head, one with bright pink feet, one with gray zigzaggy patterns, one that's red, purple, and green, and even one that's metallic blue all over if it's held in the right light.
Oh, yeah. I also have one that's black and hairy.
Are they affectionate?
It depends on the tarantula. Some species, like the Rose Hair and the Mexican Red Knee (Suzie) I can pick up and hold with no problems. I even have one (A Mexican Red Leg) that will just sit there and let me pet it. Also, my Pink Toe and my Curly Hair are easily handleable too. In my opinion, they're safer to handle than hamsters (and far less likely to bite you.) I've never been bitten by a tarantula. In fact, there are no recorded deaths from tarantula bites anywhere in the world. There are a few species that can give you some unpleasant symptoms but most tarantula bites just result in some puncture wounds and some pain around the area.
As for my Sunburst Baboon and my Cobalt Blue...I have a 10 inch pair of tongs that I use so I don't have to stick my hand into their tanks. Any tarantula from Africa or Asia has an attitude problem and shouldn't be handled unless you want to be bitten. They're display pets only. Tarantulas from the New World (North and South America) tend to be mellower, though some aggressive types do exist there too. New World tarantulas do have a drawback, though. Most of them have irritating hairs on their butts that they can kick at predators. I've had hair kicked at me lots of times but luckily I seem to be quite resistant to the effects.
Do they communicate with you?
If you count kicking hair at me, yes. I have one, a Blood Leg Tarantula, that will start kicking hair at me if I even look at it. Otherwise, I'm not sure.
Oh, I would love to see that. Tell me, how much time each day do you spend with them?
I always check them before and after work to make sure they have water. When it's time to feed them crickets (and that only comes once a week) I'll take a full hour to get through them all. Tarantulas only need to eat one or two crickets a week at the most; they have very slow metabolisms. Tarantulas involve slightly more maintenance than rocks.
I hope to have many of mine for decades. In some species, like the Mexican Red Knee and Mexican Red Leg, the females can live up to 30 years or more. Both of my specimens are still babies and one I know is a female. In other species the females may only live 12 or 15 years or so. Males, however, die within two years of becoming adults.
Do you ever have to take them to a vet?
If I took one to the vet, they'd probably scream. I don't know of any vets that will see them, so if one gets sick, you're on your own. Just recently, Suzie, my Mexican Red Knee, had a complication with shedding her skin. (All spiders shed their skin periodically to grow.) Two of her legs got stuck in the old skin and were being dragged under her, and they got all mangled and injured. Later that night I had to grab onto one of her injured legs and help her pull it right off. Luckily it came off cleanly. The other leg is dried up and ready to come off as well, but the good news is that tarantulas can withstand losing a leg or two and even have a mechanism for detaching them if things get bad. Then, as the tarantula continues to grow, the missing legs grow back. If she makes it through her next molt she'll probably be fully intact again by time she's an adult.
I was lucky, though. Bad molts are a top cause of death in tarantulas.
Thank you so much, Holly. That was fantastic information. It will probably help some other writers too. I will look at tarantulas in a different light from now on. I never knew they could live so long. That’s amazing.
Good luck with your book Reta Morse and The Sinister Shadow, Holly, and I hope one day you write a whole book about tarantulas.
Thank you very much, Trish, for interviewing me. It's not often I get a response to my tarantulas other than "Ewww, a spider!"!