Guest post by Clea Simon
We authors ask a lot of our readers. When we invite you into our worlds, we ask you to suspend disbelief. To accept that cats can talk, and that ordinary people can solve the craziest crimes. We ask you to give up time out with your family and friends – as well as TV and Facebook – to spend time with an old-fashioned and slow-paced pleasure – a book. We ask that you listen to us, that you let us tell you a story. Most important, we ask that you trust us.
So many of you do. That’s why you’re here, reading this blog. You love cats and you love stories. You’re willing to come along – and many of you, I am honored to say – have trusted me to take you on an adventure, with my cat-loving protagonists (Theda Krakow, Pru Marlowe, and Dulcie Schwartz). And, of course, with their cats. Today, I am asking that you trust me once again. That you let me take you someplace that might be a little uncomfortable, but that I also hope will be even more rewarding than before.
I am talking about the world of my new book, The Ninth Life (Severn House), which kicks off the new Blackie and Care cat mystery series. Like my previous 19 mysteries, it features a human (Care, short for Carrie) and a cat (a black feral she calls Blackie). But unlike those other books, this is no small-town cozy. Instead, the world Blackie and Care live in is decidedly urban, an unnamed, dystopian wreck of a place, where the law can’t be trusted and swift street justice is meted out by gang leaders and other criminals. It’s the world that Care, a homeless orphan, is learning to navigate when she rescues Blackie, who is being swept away by the rushing current in a storm drain. A world that he knows better than she does, although being a cat he can only do so much to guide and protect the girl he chooses as his person.
Why would I set a girl and a kitty in such a rough world? And why would I ask readers to come along? The answer is, again, trust. Care is smart, and Blackie is streetwise, and even before I figured out the plot of this, their first adventure, I felt confident that they would know how to survive. As I now work on the second, I’m finding that they both have hidden strengths, character attributes that even I didn’t expect, and that these will help them survive. Because I want them to be challenged. I want them to have to learn and grow, and to rely on each other as they face some very adult hazards. And because I trust my readers will appreciate their success – their wins – even more because of all the troubles they had to survive first.
I also hope that readers trust me enough to know one basic fact: I will never kill or permanently harm either my cat characters or my main humans. And I will never feature violence purely for entertainment’s sake. I don’t like to read books like that, and I won’t write them. This book does have some violence – life on the street isn’t easy for either a girl or a cat – but it is integral to the plot. I like to think that making the risks greater increases the rewards.
Most of all, I want you to know I trust you. If this book is too rough, well, don’t worry. I intend to keep writing the cozier kinds of mysteries that we all love. But I like to think that you’re up for a challenge. That you can take a little bit of threat, be a tiny bit scared, and enjoy the ride.
I like to think that you will share what my mother-in-law told me, when she read The Ninth Life a few weeks ago. (This wonderful woman, 99 years old, is an avid reader who gets first crack at all my books.) “It was scary,” she confirmed. “But I wasn’t too worried about the girl. I knew Blackie would take care of her.”
Clea Simon is the author of 19mysteries and three non-fiction books, including The Feline Mystique – On the Mysterious Connection Between Cats and Their Women. For more information about Clea, please visit her website.