A wicked welcome to Clea Simon! She’s here to celebrate the launch of a new series. And to talk about cats, both very Wicked topics.
A LIFE IN CATS
I have a thing for cats. This, I know, will come as no surprise to readers of any of my four cat-themed mystery series. It hardly seems newsworthy, even as I launch a fifth with A Spell of Murder, the first in my new witch cats of Cambridge series, this month. But it seems time to finally own my particular feline fanaticism, and just maybe explain how I got this way.
Am I a crazy cat lady? I like to think of myself as a sane cat lady, not simply because I don’t want you to cross the street to avoid me but because I believe in a rational kind of cohabitation with these most irrational of animals. For starters, I only have one cat. My husband and I currently live with Thisbe, a rescue kitty, who is neutered and up on her shots. She stays indoors and hopefully will enjoy the same long life of her predecessor Musetta, also a neutered, indoor-only rescue.
I specify these conditions – neutering, vetted, indoor-only – because these weren’t always the norm. The first cat in my life came via my older brother. I was about 10 when Daniel went off to college and adopted a black and white tom, whom he named James from Nashville. Life being what it is, James ended up living with me and my parents at the family home. This was the ‘70s. James was unaltered and allowed to wander. He routinely got into fights with various other animals, and I don’t think it was just my imagination that gave many of the neighborhood kittens his dapper tuxedo and extra toes. At least, that is, until he went out one night in a storm and was never seen again.
James was succeeded by Thomas, a sweet-natured tabby, who ended up being a Tara – and being spayed, because my parents didn’t want more kittens. But then Tara was hit by a car, and that was it for me. No more “indoor/outdoor” cats. By the time I adopted Cyrus, the longhaired grey runt of a friend’s cat’s litter, neutering was the norm. Keeping cats in maybe not so much, but I wasn’t risking that heartache again.
Somewhere during Cyrus’s reign, I became journalist. Then I started writing books, but they were nonfiction – I wrote to convey information, framed by some questions or point of view that was of interest to me but that also seemed like it might be important to others. That worked for two books, at least. And then… I was stuck. Finally, a friend – a woman who does not care for cats – said to me, “Why don’t you write about cats? Everyone loves cats.”
The resulting book, The Feline Mystique: On the Mysterious Connection Between Women and Cats, allowed me to go cat mad. I researched myths and legends, interviewed vets and feline genome researchers. I even found a scholarly report on cat predation in an English village, in which researchers convinced townsfolk to keep whatever prey their free-roaming cats brought home in their freezers. And they did it! The unsurprising conclusion was that cats like to hunt, even when they’re well fed. (More reason to keep Fluffy inside.)
I also got to spend time with a borderline cat hoarder – aka, a real crazy cat lady. She was on the watch list of the local animal control officer, who checked in with her, making sure that her living conditions had not degraded to the point of being dangerous to her or the cats. Granted, when I visited, I wondered how much further she’d have to go. But she did serve to reassure me that I, at least, was sane – and she provided the victim to my first mystery, Mew is for Murder.
These days, it’s the odd book of mine that doesn’t feature a cat. Talking or non, natural or super, cats just seem to by my thing. And while Thisbe is still a kitten, I have great hopes that she’ll settle into her role of muse as all her wonderful predecessors have. I may be a relatively sane cat lady, but she knows full well that I am hers.
Do you have a pet? Does that pet inspire you? Do you read mysteries with pets in them – pets you have or pets you’d like to get to know?
The author of more than two dozen cozy/amateur sleuth mysteries featuring cats, three nonfiction books, and one punk rock urban noir, World Enough (Severn House), Clea Simon likes to keep busy. The Boston Globe best-selling author’s latest is A Spell of Murder, the first in a new “Witch Cats of Cambridge” cozy mystery series out this month from Polis Books. Clea lives in Somerville, Massachusetts, with her husband and one (1) cat. She can be reached at www.cleasimon.com and on Twitter @Clea_Simon