This is the second installment of a two-part informational post based of questions written by fiction authors Patricia Fry (the Klepto Cat mystery series), Debbie De Louise (the Cobble Cove cozy mystery series), and Sandra Murphy (short stories), for Communicating, Capitalizing, and Connecting in a Fictional World, presented at the CWA Conference in 2019.
I am a cat writer. That means my stories usually have a large amount of cat content. In this post, I address the subject of creating engaging cat characters. Whether cats, dogs, people, or other, a character needs to be believable and real – even the magical ones!
CAT WRITING QUESTIONS:
~How many cats do you have? Do they help with your writing?
I have three at the moment. They are both an inspiration and an hindrance. Sometimes they walk on the keyboard or bite my hand; others, they telepathically send me story ideas. I’ve included several of my previous cats as characters in my Crazy Cat Lady series as a way to keep their spirits alive.
~Why do you think cats make good characters in mysteries?
Because of their rounded personalities, cats make excellent characters for any genre of fiction. Looking beyond the typical witch’s familiar, cats can be anything, do anything. In my sci-fi tetralogy, Cat Seasons, cats save the world!
~How can a writer make their cat characters real?
Know cats. Make sure your cats do things cats do. Try not to veer outside of feline character (unless it is part of the plot, such as speaking.) Cat people can tell the difference between a writer who’s had hands-on experience with cats and one who’s faking it.
~What advice would you give other authors or people interested in writing about cats?
If you know and love cats, go for it!
~Do you begin with a strong role for the cat or do you weave in scenes involving a cat as you write?
My series features a cat shelter volunteer who has several cats, including a registered Pet Partners therapy cat. She also fosters sick cats for the local cat shelter. That gives me lots of opportunity to feature many aspects of cats. They don’t solve the murder, but maybe they do.
~Do you base the cats in your book on a real cat that you have or had?
Yes and no: I feature cats I’ve had and have, cats I’ve fostered, and cats I’ve made up. I recently ran a contest to be a character in my book, Cosmic Cat. A real kitty, ERin the Cat Princess, won the contest and got to play a part in the book.
~Do you have a blog or social media site for your cat characters or books?
No, but I have a Facebook page for my therapy cat, Tinkerbelle.
~Some cozy mysteries with cats feature cats that speak and some do not. Do the cats in your stories speak? Why? Why not?
The cats in my cozy series are normal cats. That said, we all know how exceptional the most normal of cat can be. But no, they don’t speak in human words. The cats in my sci-fi series do talk/communicate with humans.
~Tell us briefly about your favorite real or fictional cat story.
My favorite cat story is real, and I hope to write more about it one day soon. A few years ago, I worked with Jackson Galaxy on a My Cat From Hell case that happened in Portland. The cat, Lux, scratched a baby, and the dad kicked him in the butt. Lux went crazy and attacked the family, driving them to call 911 while trapped in their bedroom. The event went viral and Galaxy came to the rescue.
I was picked to foster Lux, to see if a cat-savvy home would ease his stress. It worked and we were all congratulating ourselves, when out of nowhere, Lux had a violent outburst that sent me to ER.
Jackson ran every medical test available to see if something was causing this sudden change in Lux’s mood. Nothing showed up, but Lux continued his to have episodes. After a while, it became clear Lux needed a safe home (safe both for him and for others) and was sent to Best Friends Sanctuary where behaviorists and vets continued to work with him.
I got to visit him during that time, but then he had another series of outbursts. It was beginning to look like he would never get a real home.
Last December, his Caregiver and her husband adopted them into their home with other cats and dogs. Now Lux is doing well, and I couldn’t be happier!
~There are so many more questions! I ask and answer them every day. Do you have a question you would like to ask me about act writing?