The thing about cats is that, well… they’re furry, aren’t they? Which is a good and a bad thing.
Good: because there’s nothing like stroking the smooth fur of an arching back for a taste of tactile pleasure. I’m talking about cats’ backs, here. And if they purr while I’m doing it… that’s my day made.
Several years after I gave my cats away, the fluffy devil came to tempt us again. This time it was the children who pleaded for a kitten of their very own (“promise we’ll take care of it, Mummy”). I explained they would have to choose between a furry pet and their Papa. After suggestions of sleeping in the garage (their Papa, not the desired kitten), they agreed that life was hard and full of difficult decisions to make. And they waited a whole week before asking again.
So, being catless, I found the most obvious solution. No, not borrowing the neighbour’s cat for secret stroking. And not giving up my job to work in a cat shelter. I wrote about them. Subconsciously.
There was a cat in my Novel Zero. There’s a cat in my short story Quark Soup. And there’s a cat – called Acrobat – in Tree Magic. The lovely literary agent who read Tree Magic many years ago said she loved the parts about Acrobat best (but didn’t represent YA authors). I find there’s something about a cat that completes a mental picture of a person or a place.
When I wrote Tree Magic, there was a special cat in my mind. Here he is, Monty, in the early 1980s with my little sister (sorry about the quality – it was my first ever camera). In Tree Magic, this is what Acrobat does when Rainbow first meets him, which is why she calls him Acrobat (soon shortened to Batty or Bats). Acrobat is actually ginger.
It was only when I entered Curtis Bausse‘s Book a Break competition, however, that cats became the protagonists in a story. In his novel One Green Bottle, Curtis had written that two tabby cats deserted his protagonist. The cats’ story was never told. So, for the competition, Curtis gave us the paragraph and asked us to tell him about the two tabbies. It didn’t need to have any link to One Green Bottle – which was just as well, as I hadn’t read it at that point. (Having now read it, I’d thoroughly recommend this crime story set in France).
Here’s Curtis’s paragraph:
A long time ago, when life was tolerable, almost good, he had two cats that kept him company. How old was he? Seven? Eight? Before his father began to question the worth of his existence. Back then, presumably, he was cute, almost as cute as the tabbies. He never knew what happened to them but they disappeared, both of them, all of a sudden, and he was left only with an inconsolable sadness.
My story, Three Goddesses, is about the way cats make a place feel like home and how they can bring people together. Or not.
Atthys J. Gage, author of Flight of the Wren, Spark and Whisper Blue, judged the competition, after which Curtis spent loads of time compiling his favourite 21 stories into an anthology.
Like T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (on which the musical Cats was based) the anthology contains cats – and stories – of very different types. From spooky to cultural to historic, there’s something to suit every feline taste. Curtis himself has also contributed, via the cat ‘Smith, Terror of Taunton’, who writes the preface. I’d like to meet Smith. He seems to have a great sense of humour.
So here we are, at the objective of this furry, purry blog post: the illustrated ebook and paperback versions of Cat Tales will be on sale tomorrow, 15th December 2016, here on Amazon. The proceeds go to two charities: Against Malaria Foundation and Cats Protection. There’s also a facebook page where you can leave your comments and follow news of the contributing authors.
Many thanks to Curtis for organising the competition and the anthology. It’s been fun to work with the other writers.
Breaking news: next year’s Book A Break competition to win a weekend in Provence is now open. The deadline is 19th February 2017, the length 2000 words and the theme is The Journey (prompt: “They had a long journey ahead of them.”). 2016 winner, Ingrid Jendrzejewski, will judge the competition and winners will be announced on 19th March. There are more details on Curtis Bausse’s website here.