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
Congratulations, Clea! Of course I have a pet in every series – cats in all but my newest one, where the protag is allergic so she has an African gray parrot. At home we have two sweet elderly rescues – they do go outside, but don’t go far beyond the deck and the driveway on our very quiet street. What would life be without our furry companions?
Thank you so much, Edith! And African grey! They are SO SMART!! (I got to meet one and wrote her into a book.) Where would we be without our furry (or feathered) ones indeed?
I have had a pet in my life since I was 5. While at home, I had dogs, as my mother flatly refused to have a cat. She barely would allow a dog. Not an animal lover, was my mom.
Once I was on my own, I mostly had dogs, most of them rescues or adopted from families that were moving.
I now have three animals, all rescues: Krispie and Meow, both cats and both will leave when my daughter moves out come Spring and Mojo, a Chiweenie who is so adorable!
I hope I can read this new series of yours! I love mysteries with animals in them.
I love these names!! And that they’re rescues, too. You sound like a great pet mom!
Ha! I’ve had a copy of your Feline Mystique for years! I’m all for indoor cats, except when they get into arguments. But out in the world I talk to all cats, and most of them end up in my lap.
Of course they do, Sheila. They have sense!
We can’t have cats due to The Hubby’s allergies (makes The Girl sad), but the neighbor’s cat seems to have adopted us, so that’s good.
I’m hopeful that a dog is in my future (I’ve been lusting after a rescued greyhound for years and The Hubby seems to be thawing on his “no more pets” stance recently).
Oh, good luck, Liz! I bet once that greyhound is in the house, Hubby will fall in love.
I don’t have any pets now but I had a lot growing up
With pet mysteries, you always have the use of a pet, too, without any of the bother! Thanks for reading, Sandy!
I love this story of your cat/writing journey, Clea. And I look forward to reading the new series. I know it’s getting great reviews! I have a Westie named Lily. Some days I think she’s more like a cat than a dog. She’ll wander by for us to pet and love on and then seems to say okay that’s enough and walks back off.
I’ve heard that about Wastes, Sherry. Of course, I think that’s a GOOD thing! 🙂
I have had cats all of my adult life, and I love them as well. They have all been rescues as well. Currently we have a black cat named Eartha Kitt’n, and a pair of tabbies (brother and sister) named Maurice and Monique. They are indoor cats, too. I read mysteries withe pets, and though I do like mysteries without pets, I always feel like something is missing. Congratulations on your new series!
Thanks, all, for the warm welcome and for sharing your pet stories! Liz, I hope the right dog does find you! Happy reading, all!
I love to read books that include animals since their such an integral part of our lives, for many of us at least. I have a dog named Edith Ann and I look forward to seeing her every day when I get home from work. When I was a kid, dogs wandered off-leash all over my neighborhood, which seems so strange to think about now. One of my favorite books with a dog is The Unbearable Lightness of Being (but don’t read it if you like happy endings).
My books all feature dogs and cats, though the main show is a basset hound named Waffles. The next book has a dog I particularly like. His name is George.
I’ve just diving into “Little Comfort” and look forward to meeting Waffles, Edwin! Can’t wait to meet George, too.
Love books with cats. I’m not a crazy cat lady, but I could be. Actually, it was my dear hubby who had a cat when we got together 45 years ago, and we’ve had cats ever since. Currently, we have a black cat named Agatha, and a calico names Miss Marple. (Do you see a pattern here?) They are both indoor cats. We had Kaboodle for 15 years and would go outside but only on a long leash. We will never again have an outdoor cat since we have learned so much about how bad it can be. We were lucky with Kaboodle. I love books with cats in them, whether they just sorta hang around, are an integral part of the story, or are paranormal in some fashion. I’m not too big on dogs, but occasionally one is enjoyable in a book.
A cat who walks on a leash!! My friend Christen had a cat, Loki, who would walk on a leash. I was always rather jealous. Thisbe would NEVER! Thanks for reading!
Our furbaby is a 14 year old chihuahua named Snicerdoodle. Ok my clown name was Cook E. Lady so you know how he got his name. 🙂
We got him when he was barely 6 weeks old. We had gone some time without a pet. After losing our daughter at 17 we had kept her furbaby for a long as he had a good quality of life. After losing him, it was like losing part of Jenet again and just hurt too bad. Time has a way of making things better and the tug on our hearts for a furbaby lead us to find our little boy in a fur suit.
He’s very special in many ways. Although my Dad liked dogs, I had never seen him bond bond with one before like Snickerdoodle. When we went daily the 40 miles to visit and to help with chores, cooking and errands, it was Snickerdooldle up in Dad’s lap that put the smile on his an my face. When Dad suddenly died, it left my Mom with a huge hole in her heart. See they met on a blind date and got married 7 days later. They were married just shy of 60 years when Dad died. Snickerdoodle went to live with Mom to give her company and a purpose.
Six months later Mom said it was time for her grandpuppy to go home as long as he came to visit often. That we did. When Mom after cancer surgery came to live with us and then Alzheimer set in, Snickerdoodle was once again Mom’s link to a smile or recognition. He laid many an hour with Mom even when she had to be in a hospital bed in the living room. He was the last one Mom spoke to before going to her heavenly home to be with Dad again.
After being daughter, caregiver and everything else for so many years, I was lost. It was Snickerdoole that once again gave us something to smile about and kept our minds busy with happy things. Seems that he’s been so mcuh for so many. He is now on insulin twice a day and has very little vision or hearing, but he’s still our precious furbaby! Hew inspires me every day – to keep going, to love freely and be happy with the little things (like treats) in life.
I LOVE books with pets – of all sorts – in them. In fact, put two books side by side with a pet on one cover and I am bound to grab that book first.
2clowns at arkansas dot net
Your story has such love in it!. I always tell myself that even when we lose those dear to us, the love lives on. In your case, I know that’s true. Thank you for sharing.
I love mysteries with pets! I am also a sane cat lady. I have two cats, both spayed and indoor (although I take them outside under supervision). I will have to check out your books.
Thanks, Marla! I hope they amuse (the books, not the cats, that is!)
Hi Clea and welcome to the Wickeds!
I confess that I’m a dog person, not a cat person for some very practical (and obvious) reasons, but deep down I feel that I’m a pet person. Pets give us so much more than we could possibly give them, and I know my life would be much poorer without my Jack Russell mix, Ellie, in my life.
My cousin once gave me a poem which I didn’t save (something for which I am still kicking myself). I can’t reproduce the whole thing, so with apologies to the author whomever she or he is:
If you can be blind to race and religion and creed …
If you are indifferent to body size or shape …
If you can forgive a prior slight without a second thought …
If you can always offer unconditional love …
If you can always greet the day with boundless enthusiasm and sleep with an undisturbed conscience …
If you don’t give a fig for wealth or status or social standing …
If you judge every relationship by what you can give rather than what you can get …
Then you may be half as good a person as your dog.
The poem was much longer and more elegantly phrased, but you get the general idea.
I’m afraid I do find truth in the saying that dogs have owners and cats have staff.
The only cat that was a major part of my life was a Siamese named Sam. Sam overflowed with personality and was full of strong opinions, which you contradicted only if you were feeling foolhardy. He was very affectionate and playful with the family, not so much to other animals.
We felt very strongly that Sam was an indoor cat. Unfortunately, Sam disagreed and would take any opportunity to dart out any door that was ajar for even a few seconds. And even more unfortunately, Sam was a fighter. He would always return from his escapes with gashes and scars, but an attitude that clearly said, “Yeah, but you should see the other guy.” Needless to say, vet bills for Sam were a major budget item.
There was a dog in our neighborhood who was notorious for being a cat-killer. He had reportedly killed over 15 cats over a span of years. I rather doubt the truth of this tale today, but in those days I was young and credulous, and there was no doubt that he was a big dog on the loose with no love for felines.
After one escape, Sam returned home and scratched at the back door to be let in. He was in a particularly appalling condition with some major wounds. My mother of course rushed Sam to the vet and I went to school. At school, I learned that the cat-killing dog had been attacked by a mountain lion. While we would occasionally get coyotes, I had never heard of a mountain lion being so far down into the suburbs. Suddenly the light bulb came on over my head. It hadn’t bee a mountain lion, it had been Sam. When I got home that afternoon, my mother told me that there were two deep canine tooth incisions on each side of Sam’s head and, according to the vet, Sam’s head must have been inside the jaws of a particularly large dog, and his escape from that was considered remarkable indeed.
You tangle with a Siamese at your peril.
Sometime I’ll tell you the story of Sam and the Thanksgiving Turkey. That was an epic battle which will go down in history.
Lee, you need to write. Book or two with Sam as a major character. I would love to hear the story of the thanksgiving turkey.
Do you think the mountain lion came to Sam’s rescue? At any rate, I agree with Ginny – there’s a book here! Get writing … (and thanks for reading)
Congrats on the new series. And I believe you are several cats short of being a crazy cat lady. Not to mention you don’t live alone.
Welcome, Clea! It is so great to see you here. I didn’t mean to have a cat in my series, but then I visited the real Cabbage Island Clambake and saw the cats roaming freely on the car free island and caging bits of clam and lobster from the customers and that was that. I had to have one.
Cats cadging bits of lobster!! Lucky kitties! Thanks, Barbara
Congratulations on your new series, Clea! My son adopted a poodle puppy at the beginning of the autumn and I have been amazed at how charming the little guy can be. I would not call him a muse exactly but he has brought a gust of fresh air into our lives!
Aren’t they just charming creatures, Jessie? Thanks for reading!
My 20-year-old cat passed back in September and, since I am 70 with a limited income and health issues, I think I shall stick to tending the bird feeders and bird bath and NOT have an inside pet depending on me.
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