A Wicked Welcome to Clea Simon! & a book giveaway!

I’m delighted to welcome Clea Simon back to the blog! For folks in the Boston/Somerville area, Clea and I will be on a panel along with Kate Flora and Joanna Schaffhausen on January 27 at 7pm at Porter Square Books. We hope you’ll join us! Welcome Clea!

Writing cats

“The naming of cats is a difficult matter.” So wrote T.S. Eliot, to which I’d like to add, “the writing of cats can be tricky, too.” No, that line isn’t likely to make it into the next film version of Cats, assuming there is one. But it does hold true for us cozy writers, especially in the case of my witch cats of Cambridge books, which feature three quite distinct feline personalities.

First, there’s Clara. A calico and the youngest of her litter, she’s also the point-of-view character for much of my new An Incantation of Cats and its predecessor, A Spell of Murder.  Picked on, albeit affectionately, by her older sisters, she’s the most straightforward and possibly most loyal of the bunch, always looking out for Becca, their wayward human. Clara (aka, “the clown,” to her sisters) worries the most about Becca’s belief in magic – and about her siblings’ rather nonchalant approach to their own powers. Because, yes, Becca may think she’s a witch, but it is really her pets who have the magic.

Thisbe, Feline Consultant 

Because Clara has such a big role, she can be tricky to write. She needs to be very active and relatable, in human terms. But writing her, I was always aware how important it is to keep her a cat. True to her feline nature, she needs to gather most of her information through scents and sounds. In addition, she has to have short bursts of energy, followed by naps. And while it may be useful to have a character who drops out of the action regularly to bathe, it can also be a challenge to insert a small domestic animal in crucial scenes, even a magical one.

More difficult, however, was the writing of Laurel and Harriet, Clara’s siblings. These cats, one marmalade and the other with throwback Siamese coloring, are, frankly, somewhat more self-involved than Clara – more stereotypically cats. That should make them simpler, right? Laurel, after all, is vain and craves attention, while Harriet cares most about comfort and food. But both these felines are ongoing major players in Becca’s life (as well as Clara’s), and so I needed to make them sympathetic, all the while staying true to their basic personalities. Plus, as this is the second book in the series, they both needed to grow – just enough to keep them interesting. It wouldn’t do to resolve all the sibling rivalry between these littermates, not when I hope the series has a while to run.

Thisbe, deep in thought 

This is a puzzle any writer faces, of course. We must make our characters real, flaws and all, and yet build sympathy and understanding for them as they grow and change. But in a cozy, a less-than-pleasant character must toe a fine line between unlikable and unrealistically redeemed. The key, for me, has been to focus on those traits I share – Laurel’s issues with appearance, for example, or Harriet’s love of indulgence. The hope is that if I can relate even to these bratty cats, my readers will too. Then, of course, I needed to translate those traits into cat, which involved many hours of feline observation. Hard work indeed!

Readers, what traits do you notice in your pets? How do they show you their personality? As a writer of cats, I’m eager to hear. Let me know in the comments. I’m giving away a signed copy of An Incantation of Cats to one commenter–US only please!

Here are some ways to buy the book: Indie Bound, Amazon, Barnes and Noble

Bio:

The author of more than two dozen cozy/amateur sleuth mysteries featuring cats, three nonfiction books, and one punk rock urban noir, World Enough (a Massachusetts Book Award “must read”), Clea Simon lives in Somerville, Massachusetts, with her husband and one cat. She can be reached at www.cleasimon.com.

“Simon expertly casts suspicion on one member of her tiny human cast after another … for readers who want all cats, all the time.” – Kirkus Reviews

About the Book:

When two new clients seek Becca’s professional services, the fledgling witch detective is overjoyed. Finally, she can use her skills to help her magical community. But as the young witch finds the new cases intertwining, things grow more complicated. Becca’s three cats – the ones with the real power – can smell something is wrong with these clients. But not even Clara, the calico, knows what to do when a man ends up dead and a powerful and poisonous root appears – and disappears – in the case. To make matters worse, Clara and her littermates are feuding – and she can’t tell them about an unsettling interaction she’s had with one of the client’s sisters. Is it possible that some humans may have the same powers as the magical felines? What does that mean for Clara’s beloved Becca – and for the potent poison that has already taken one person’s life? In this second Witch Cats of Cambridge mystery, Clara and her sisters must learn to work together if they are to save the person they all love.

30 Thoughts

  1. Congratulations on the new release! It sounds delightful.

    Each cat does have it’s own personality and unique traits. Starlight was a plotter, you could almost see her mind work as she figured out ways to take out the dog – including one hilariously failed attempt that had her on the top of the wing chair huddled behind the lace curtains in the living room and pouncing – claws extended, mouth gaping in a hiss – at the dog. Unfortunately ,the gaping mouth was her downfall. One fang hooked an eyelet in the lace and Starlight hung suspended and embarrassed dangling by a tooth just out of reach of the seat of the chair. In true cat fashion, she disappeared for the remainder of the day. That was her last attempt to kill the dog, though.

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  2. Over the years we have had a lot of cats. As they cross over the rainbow bridge, I try to learn from what made each of them so special in our lives. One encouraged me to get up and at ’em. one was stoic when in pain, one taught me to accept what I cannot change, one was tolerant but knew her boundaries, one was very trusting and loyal, and one never forgot how to be playful. It I could be as good at all of those things as my cats were, I would be a much better person. I thank them daily for what they have taught me.

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  3. Clea, this sounds so fun! I should think it would be very hard to write feline main characters. How does Clara communicate with Becca? I won’t bore you with my cats’ personalities, but they definitely had them. We are temporarily cat free, but are almost ready to head over to the shelter and see who else wants to live with us!

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  4. Congratulations on the new release! It sounds wonderful! My cat, Sarge, is full of personality. He’s sweet and he’s feisty. And he loves to show off when he sees someone for the first time. He makes a great show of arching and stretching – his idea of flexing his muscles, I guess!

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  5. I have a retired racing greyhound, Koda. And while Koda is definitely not a “cat guy,” it is said greyhounds are very cat-like dogs. And it’s true! He grooms himself much more than any other dog I’ve had. And he naps. A lot. But when he wants attention, he definitely wants attention. And at 80lbs, he’s big enough to demand it!

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  6. We have two littermates named Maurice and Monique, and they are extremely quirky. They both love to be brushed and have their bellies rubbed. If we don’t brush them when we get up in the morning, they meow petulantly until we do brush them. Maurice delights in leaping into my husband’s chair at the breakfast table the second my husband gets up. and Monique enjoys lying across the top of my pillow (and my head) at night while I’m reading before sleep. Congratulations on your new release, and thank you for the giveaway!

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  7. Our furbaby is Snickerdoodle, a 15 year old chihuahua. He is the apple of our eye and most definitely has his own distinct personality. As we so fondly say – he owns everything is so gracious as to share it with us.

    Snickerdoodle came into our lives when we were ready to open our hearts again. Our only child had died at the age of 17. We were able to keep her little dog as part of here for a few years by trips to specialist. When we had to let him go, it was like losing part of Jenet. We didn’t know if we could love with the thought of loss again. It took a few years, but a little tiny ball of love said “pick me”. We opened our hearts and love flowed in.

    His special personality has shown through from day one capturing the hearts of all that he meets. My Dad loved dogs, but it was this particular one that stole his heart. They would nap with Snickerdoodle laying on his chest while Mom and I would clean out. When Dad died, Snickerdoodle knew Mom needed someone so he went to live with her for 6 months. Mom said he was a blessing giving her comfort, making her laugh when she thought she never would and made the hours not so long. When the time of ready, she sent our baby back home.

    Skip forward a couple years to when Mom came to live with us after cancer surgery and the onset of Alzheimer. Snickerdoodle knew what she needed as was always there with a head nudge for encouragement and lick to say “I love you”. Mom never forgot who Snickerdoodle was and the night before she died she told him she loved him.

    Once again our nest was empty. After five years of full time caregiver, our home seemed empty and there seemed to be a lot more hours in the day. Snickerdoodle took care of that and us – just as he’s always done – with love and patience. We have a Goldwing trike that we had a custom made little sidecar for Snickerdoodle complete with windshield. He loves to ride and never mets anyone that he can’t make smile. With his helmet and goggles, he’s a hit wherever he goes giving love and smiles it seems to those that need it the most. With my health issues we have had to forego the trike rides, but on rare occasions when I can do it, he’s ready to ride.

    He’s gotten older and slowing down, as we all are. Maybe that’s a good thing so we can keep up with him. He’s now a diabetic on insulin twice a day. But hey, what’s the difference in adding one more to our medicine schedule. He sleeps a little more and enjoys a nice warm fireplace in the winter. Sounds a little like hubby and me. Through it all, his personality is still bubble and loving. I thank God for opening our hearts and bringing Snickerdoodle into our lives at the perfect moment making us a family of three. There are no dogs in this house only a furbaby!

    Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy of “An Incantation of Cats”! ❤ I would love the opportunity to read this fabulous sounding book.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

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  8. Thisbe is beautiful! I had a long hair tortie like her, named Grace. Grace was very dog-like: she loved playing fetch, drinking out of the toilet, and she would pant like a dog when she ran around a lot. Thanks for the great post! Between cats and Cambridge, I just added this to my TBR list. I can’t wait to read a book set near my one-time home!

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  9. My angel cat can turn annoyed very easily… especially if ignored. It’s so funny because pets can’t really make expressions, but he can look very annoyed and he puts his ears back. It’s such a huge part of his personality.

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  10. Hello Clea! We have a Basschshund, a Basset/Dachhsund mix pup, Lucy. Her personality can be so adorable. When its playtime, she will hop around, grab her squeaky bone and pretty much put it in your hand to play the toss game. She is such a routine dog. Knows the time to eat, treat time etc. She is so much company for this empty-nester home. Anyway, your a new author and your books sound charming! Thanks for the chance!

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  11. Love Clea’s books! I adopted a phantom Siamese from a shelter. I was working 500+ miles away from home. I am retired now, back home, & have 2 big dogs that Lydia thinks she is part of. I talk to my sister on speaker phone everyday. Lydia gets right up by the speaker to take it all in. I call her my little Purrito. (said with rolled r’s…) There’s no doubt she knows more what’s going on than we do. She was immediately intune with me, not sure how. She has been through so much with me, and was my healer girl when I had knee replacement. She knows how to recharge me when I am emotionally or physically tired.

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  12. The cats had to grow for the second book – that’s funny! Congratulations on the new book. We were always dog people but now have one old, sick, cat and one young, crazy one. Quite an adjustment getting used to cats and their way of doing things. And of making you do things!

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  13. One of my cats is very verbal. He lets you know what he wants by yelling at the door to go out, Screaming on the window sill to come in, talking to his food bowl. Another one just moves closer and closer to get attention. Ech one is unique.

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  14. Clea–sorry to be so late to the party and welcome to the Wickeds. You are such a good writer. This post is a gem.

    We are sadly petless at this time in our lives, but older pets live on in my books. Le Roi in the Maine Clambake Mysteries and two cats Wembly and Roo (named after the actual cat of my growing up years) in the next Jane Darrowfield.

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  15. I have two cats, Hamilton and Jefferson and they are so different from each other. I adopted them together, but they aren’t siblings. Hamilton is a small cat with lots of personality and always has to know what’s going on. Jefferson is large orange tabby that is really, really shy. He hides when people come in the house, but with me he is a very living cat. He has a really loud purr and loves to be petted and loved. He is a real smuggler at night. They really make life fun!

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  16. My dog thinks she is bigger than she is. She barks at anyone new in the house like she can scare them off. My 2 year old granddaughter Bellemere comes over and Josie my dog is so excited running around and u yipping. Josie weighs 10 lb

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  17. I hadn’t heard of this series before- I love the concept! Going to have to start these.
    My cat Hemi has quite the personality. She can be loving or grouchy. She will sit and stare at me forever then walk away if I approach her. I swear she can say the word “No” and uses it appropriately. She very much has a schedule and expects it to be followed.
    I notice the difference between her and her “cousins.” For her first couple years my sister and her cats also lived with us. Jimmy is the quiet, shy one. Dallas is one feisty guy who acts all independent but loves cuddles. Hemi is kind of a cross between both. She does things I know she learned from the boys, and she even taught them a couple tricks of her own.

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  18. I currently live with 2 very different cats. My Persian is very loving and will sit on your lap. My calico wants to be left alone and will sit near you but not on you!! She also snores very loudly!

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  19. Reading this I was thinking, oh golly writing about 3different animal characters? Wow, that sounds nutty🐾🐾. I asked husband if he could describe our 🐕furchildren. It because very funny. Each one does have specific personality issues.🐶🐾🐾
    It would be very funny to try to explain. But I can’t chose just 1🐶🐾🐶 personality because they are all so ..hmmm weird in their own way🐶🤗 . Your story sounds wonderful that your can balance the personalities of them 😏. We have a Australian Blue Heeler Cattle dog who thinks she is a small lap dog 😦
    Congratulations on your book

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  20. We have 3 cats, our 20 year old is very verbal, and she knows what she wants. My boy cat, Bo, is sweet and loving. Our new cat can be a bit of a witch, I’m hoping everything settles down.

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  21. Congratulations on the new book… I’ve had cats all my life and each one has been totally different in personality, except for the cat napping part..lol nani_geplcs(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  22. Although I don’t have pets, I volunteer at a zoo. One thing I notice in my visits with the “regulars” is that certain ones–like our Jersey cow–really recognize your voice and perhaps even presence. Every time I walk anywhere near his yard, I just say “Hello, Samson,” and he looks up from whatever he’s doing and comes over for nuzzles and to lick lick lick (except we he’s munching on fresh hay!). He clearly loves the attention and has his own personality!

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  23. Good Day! I absolutely love the cover of your book and who doesn’t love cats! I’ve had 3 in my lifetime and wouldn’t have trade it for the world. I have the cutiest Grand-kitty’s now and get to keep them occasionally when my girls go out of town. Thanks for a chance to read this cozy book!!

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