TALKING to Gina is about the Scottish cartoonist Ottilie Hainsworth, her family and the dog that came into their lives and turned it upside down. It’s so everyday, so ordinary, a story.

And yet it touches the heart (and by the end -  SPOILER ALERT - probably breaks it).

Here, Hainsworth talks about her debut graphic novel and shares more stories of friendship, love, loss and fictional canines.


Talking to Gina is such a simple yet universal story. Why did you want to tell it?

It's simple because I more or less just told it the way it happened. Gina was a strong character of a dog, and she didn't seem to want to be gone yet. She kept popping up in my drawings. I think it maybe seems universal because of that simplicity, as well as the age-old bond between human and dog.

Like all stories about our pets, this is a love story, isn’t it?

Yes, my family and I fell in love with Gina, though she wasn't always the easiest or best-behaved dog in the world. The book is also a love story to my family and friends who became part of it, and in a way to the urban-land that we walked on and the bit of life that Gina had. 


Did Gina look as you drew her? What’s the balance you wanted to strike between being an accurate representation of your pet and having fun as a cartoonist?

Gina had pointy ears and her tail really did curl up like it does in the book! I don't think I'm a very accurate kind of artist, but I do try to draw the way things sort of "feel", and I am quite observant of things like posture and facial expression, which I think people can recognise in my characters (dog and human).

Edinburgh plays a part in the story. Can you tell us what happened?

Though I live in Brighton now, I come from Edinburgh originally and all my family still live there. There was one mad Christmas when we decided to take Gina up on the train. She had a brilliant time up there, but taking her and my sister's dog up Calton Hill on Hogmanay wasn't a very good idea … In our defence, we did think the fireworks would be miles away, at the Castle!

How difficult was it to draw the book’s final section?

I still find those drawings hard to look at. They make me well up. Those were some of the first, raw images I drew, and they are just very real. 

What do you think our pets give us?

Pets are totally non-judgmental, they soak up your emotions and whatever you project onto them, they are often cuddly and some are highly intelligent. When Gina came into our lives she seriously disrupted it, and she energised us. It's amazing having a strong connection with someone non-human. 

What are you working on next?

Well, I'm always working on my graphic diary, that's been a constant for about three years. I've got some ideas springing off from that, but we'll have to see. 


Finally, who’s your favourite dog in literature?

My first favourite was loyal little Greyfriar's Bobby. I remember my parents telling us about him when we were kids, and seeing his statue, surrounded by tourists. Later I loved Jack London's fierce wolf dog White Fang, but my current favourite (apart from Gina of course) is Louis de Berniere's "The Red Dog". He is a chunky, scruffy Australian stray who travels around the outback on buses and trains and in stranger's cars. He's great.

Talking to Gina, by Ottilie Hainsworth is published by Myriad Editions, priced £9.99