One neat thing about being a novelist is even if you’re writing in the “real world” (versus creating an entire world as fantasy and sci-fi writers do), you get to play “God” and modify your characters to your heart’s content. And you even get to give them things — like pets.

I gave Alec a cockatoo because he was a bird lover and having him all alone on his boat struck a few of my early beta readers as just being way too sad. (Plus it significantly lightened a very dark part of the novel.) I didn’t plan on giving Brose a pet, but as I was developing the scenes where we see Brose at age thirty-seven, I felt like the scenes needed something a little more. That’s when I decided I wanted him to have a pet — and what better pet for an embittered, disillusioned, and depressed cardiologist who is closed off to the world than … drumroll … 

A lionfish.

Or, as Helen, who doesn’t like Brutus terms it, “An underwater porcupine.” 

But not just any lionfish. Nope, I figured Brose (who is an experienced aquarist as evidenced by the giant reef tank he keeps in his office) would choose a particularly cool species of lionfish and most likely he’d want something which came from the Indian Ocean. After much research, I settled on making Brutus a clearfin lionfish, the species Pterois radiata. This species lives in the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean, and as you can see from the photo above, the clearfin lionfish is a striking and truly eyecatching fish.

In the novel, Brutus is 17 cm, but the clearfin lionfish species can grow up to 24 cm. Like all lionfish, the clearfin is a carnivore and a glutton. They are mainly nocturnal, making it a good pet for a busy doctor to keep in his home office when he is rarely home except to sleep.

If you’d like to learn more about keeping lionfish as pets, the most valuable resource I found in researching was the Lionfish Lair’s Lionfish Care Guide. (How can you not like a site which has the subtitle, “Things With Stings!”) This site also has a gallery of beautiful photos of clearfin lionfish to enjoy, too. (It makes me kinda want to convert from being a freshwater fishkeeper to a saltwater one, but I am too attached to my pleco. 🙂 )

Cool photo of a clearfin lionfish by The High Fin Sperm WhaleOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, High Fin Sperm Whale; used under Creative Commons.