An Interview with Dena Harris, Author of Who Moved My Mouse

It is my pleasure today to introduce you to Dena Harris.  Dena has been a humor columnist for Cats & Kittens magazine and contributor to Chicken Soup for the Cat-Lover’s Soul.  The author of Lessons in Stalking and For the Love of Cats, Dena lives in Madison, North Carolina with her husband (aka, “The Tall Guy”) and their cats, Lucy and Olivia, in a home filled with expensive, never-touched cat stuff.  Dena’s newest book, Who Moved My Mouse? A Self-Help Book for Cats (Who Don’t Need Any Help) was published on October 19th

I’m delighted to welcome Dena to The Conscious Cat today.

How did you get the idea for Who Moved My Mouse?

I had the idea for a cat to author a self-help book for people and was discussing it with friends when one of them suggested it would be really funny if there were a self-help book for cats. I loved the idea so much I ditched my idea and—with his permission—used his. Never undervalue the brainstorming power of a group of friends!

What made you decide that cats needed a self-help book?

They very idea that a cat would deign to admit they need help, let alone venture out to read a book on the topic, is so opposed to everything we imagine we know about cats that I knew I could get a lot of mileage out of the material.

I went to my local library and checked out every self-help book they had (which I’m sure caused more than a little gossip in my small town). For weeks I read about the power of positive thinking, affirmations, loving yourself, learning to stand up for yourself, accepting responsibility for your life, creating joy, and the whole time I’m picturing this forlorn feline reading all this material and thinking, “What the–?” and deciding to bag it and destroy the couch instead. 

Tell us about your cats.  Did they have a paw in writing the book?

I have two cats. Lucy is my talker, a black-and-white who has an opinion on everything. (She twitters as @Lucy_Cat.) Olivia is a reserved tabby who most friends have never seen because she hides. Both were strays. I have really strong cat allergies and technically shouldn’t have cats, but I adore my girls.

Both are couch potatoes and didn’t do much with the book, except every now and then when I was stuck I’d look at them and say, “Do something funny so I can write about it” and then they’d wander into the kitchen so I’d stop bothering them.

You are a prolific writer – did you always know that you wanted to be a writer? 

No. I always assumed I’d be in upper-management at some business. But at my first job out of college, when I was promoted to supervisor I went into the ladies room and threw up. That was my first clue that maybe me and corporate life weren’t a great fit. I had a few different careers, earned a master’s degree, then started taking online writing classes. An instructor encouraged me to submit a story to a magazine; they accepted it and I was hooked.

What does a typical day of writing look like for you?

Oh Lord, it depends. I do a lot of client work and I have a hard time focusing on creative writing if I have a deadline hanging over me. I try to schedule my time in two-hour blocks, and divide it up among creative writing, client work, admin, and marketing.

What do you love most about being a writer?

Two things: how much flexibility I have with my time (I’m a morning person and am pretty much brain dead by 3 PM) and also that writing is something that I’ll never entirely master so I know I’ll never grow bored.

What do you like least about being a writer?

I sometimes get a bit defensive and feel the need to make sure people understand that freelance writing is hard work and I’m not just sitting around the house, goofing off.

Who or what inspires you?

Having worked at jobs where I was miserable, I’m inspired daily by this wonderful opportunity I have to do what I love. I get to work from home, I meet and interview interesting people, and with Who Moved My Mouse? I’m being paid to write about the world’s most magnificent creature, the cat. I am beyond grateful.

What is one of the most memorable experiences you’ve had at a book signing or event?

At a signing for my first book, this woman came up and told me this horrible story about how her cat was sitting in an open window and the pane fell on his tail and trapped him for hours and she just went on and on and she’s laughing as she’s telling me all this. The cat ended up being fine, but I just couldn’t see the humor in a cat being hurt and I had no idea what my reaction to her should be other than, “Get away from me.”

What are you reading at the moment?

The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brain by Nicholas Carr. It describes how the Internet is changing the way we read and process information and how we’re losing the ability for focus and deep thought. As I writer, I really relate. The only way I get any work done is first thing in the morning before I go near e-mail or online. Once I open up Facebook or Twitter, it’s all over.

Thank you so much for this opportunity, Dena, and much success with Who Moved My Mouse!

You can learn more about Dena and her books on her websites and and on her blog.

Book Review: Who Moved My Mouse? by Dena Harris

A self-help book for cats?  Any self-respecting cat would tell you that she is purrfect just the way she is, thank you very much, and she doesn’t need no stinking self-help book, even if it smells like tuna.   Despite this, Dena Harris went bravely where no author had gone before, and wrote just that – a self help book for cats.  Thankfully, she had the assistance of Mr. Nom-Noms, “America’s Most Know-It All Expert…On Everything,” to help her with this task, and Who Moved My Mouse?  A Self-Help Book for Cats (Who Don’t Need Any Help) was born.

From the publisher: 

Filled with quizzes, exercises and insider tips, this indispensable guide empowers cats to make the twenty minutes they’re awake each day the best twenty minutes of their lives. With chapters that include “A Cat’s Conversations With God,” “How to Win Friends and Influence Dog People,” and “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… But Feel Free to Freak Out Over Anything That Moves Suddenly or Without Warning,” you’ll find the answers to the questions you’ve been asking. Get ready kitty… self-actualization is only a cat-nap away!

This delightful book made me chuckle most of the time, and laugh out loud more than once.  I don’t recommend drinking while reading – there are far too many “spew alert worthy” passages in the book.  From the incredibly detailed Purrsonality Profile (is your cat an SEBR – Snuggler Eager Bold Rebel or an LCBI – Loner Comatose Bold Innocent?) to The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Cats, this wonderful parody will empower your feline charges to answer such deeply important questions as:  Who are we?  Why are we here?  Where are you going with that ham? 

Aside from being super funny, this little book is a visual gem.  Illustrated with Ann Boyajian’s charming cat drawings, and beautifully laid out in two-color print, this is a book to be enjoyed over and over.  Don’t miss this one, and while you’re at it, treat your favorite cat lover to a copy or two – this book makes the purrfect gift.

Dena Harris has been a humor columnist for Cats & Kittens magazine and contributor to Chicken Soup for the Cat-Lover’s Soul.  The author of Lessons in Stalking and For the Love of Cats, Dena lives in Madison, North Carolina husband (aka, “The Tall Guy”) and their cats, Lucy and Olivia, in a home filled with expensive, never-touched cat stuff.

Dena will join us here on The Conscious Cat on Wednesday.  In the meantime, you can find out more about Dena on her websites and and on her blog.

This book was sent to me by the publisher.

Book Review and Giveway: Dewey’s Nine Lives by Vicki Myron

In Dewey’s Nine Lives:  The Legacy of the Small-Town Library Cat Who Inspired Millions, Vicky Myron offers nine stories about some very special cats, inspired by the thosands of letters and e-mails she received from readers around the world after the phenomenally successful publication of Dewey:  The Small-Town Libary Cat Who Touched the World.  In these letters, readers told Myron how Dewey had touched their lives and shared heartfelt stories of their own special cats.  You’ll read about a determined black cat who changed a Vietnam veteran’s life for the better.  You’ll hear about a spirited kitten who brings back one woman’s childhood memories of a lost mother.  You’ll learn how a city cat with a rough start in life accompanies her adopted human through a series of major life changes.

Myron chose inspirational stories about people who were down on their luck, who mostly came from small towns, and who were faced with tough challenges.  Given Myron’s own background, it is not surprising that these stories resonated deeply with her.   At times, the stories focus a little too much on the humans’ backgrounds, but in the end, it’s always the cats in the stories who not only saved the day, but often saved their humans’ lives – maybe not literally, but most definitely figuratively speaking.   The cats in the stories are a testament to the healing power of cats – they opened hearts, inspired change, and transformed lives. 

Dewey himself is woven throughout the book.  There are some Dewey stories that were not included in the first book, and Myron shares what her life has been like after Dewey.  I was particularly delighted by the book’s final chapter as it answered a question I had been wondering about.

Like most sequels, this, too, does not quite live up to the first book, but it is a thoroughly enjoyable, heart-warming book which will make you hug your own cats just a little harder and thank them for all they’ve brought into your life.

For more about Dewey’s Nine Lives, and to see some of the cats featured in the book, watch the book trailer:


Would you would like to see your cat’s story featured in the paperback edition of Dewey’s Nine Lives?  Penguin Books is hosting an I Believe In Dewey’s Magic Story Contest, looking for true tales highlighting how a cat has impacted your life or the life of someone you know.

I’m giving away one copy of Dewey’s Nine Lives to one lucky winner.  Leave a comment on this post to enter the giveaway.   Tweet about it or share on Facebook and leave the link in a separate comment for an extra chance at winning.  This giveaway ends on Friday, October 29.

This book was sent to me by the publisher for review.

Book Review: Careers for Your Cat by Ann Dziemianowicz


Have you ever wished that your feline companions would get off the couch and contribute to your household budget?  Careers for Your Cat explores what might happen if your feline charges were to join the workforce.  Help your kitty take the Meowers-Briggs Personality Quiz, which is designed to provide an accurate self-assessment of your cat’s personality type.   Is she friendly or reserved?  Whimsical or serious?  Self-effacing or self-confident?   Knowing the answers to those questions will help your cat find a career path which will help him utilize his full potential.  Dziemianowics describes thirty-four career choices ranging from opera singer to landscape architect to marine biologist.  The book includes a section of tips for acing that all important job interview, highlighting such important hints as “keep your tail high,” “do not sit in your interviewer’s lap,” and “do not play with objects on the interviewer’s desk.”

Illustrated with utterly charming drawings by Ann Boyajian that made me smile and occasionally laugh out loud, this little book is a delightful, tongue-in-cheek fantasy of what the world would look like if cats were to head out into the nine to five world and leave their humans at home to relax and take those well-deserved cat naps.

Ann Dziemianowicz is a writer and feline career counselor who is dedicated to helping cats land their dream jobs. She lives with her husband in New Jersey.

Ann Boyajian is a former rock musician turned church choir director and book illustrator. She and her husband support two kitties in Massachusetts.

This book was sent to me by the publisher for review.

Book Review: Murder Past Due by Miranda James

Murder Past Due is the first in the new A Cat in the Stacks series by Miranda James.  Set in Athena, Mississippi, it features librarian Charlie Harris and a very unique rescued Maine Coon cat named Diesel who, among other things, walks on a leash.

When bestselling crime fiction author and former classmate of Charlie’s, Godfrey Priest, returns to Athena to promote his latest book and make a bequest to his school library, Charlie is less than thrilled.  He remembers Priest as being an arrogant, manipulative jerk, and he’s not the only one.  Priest’s homecoming causes quite a stir in the small Southern town:  by lunchtime, Priest has put a man in the hospital, and by dinnertime, he is dead.  Since it seems as though every last one of Charlie’s friends and coworkers was connected to the murder victim, Charlie gets involved in the investigation into Priest’s murder.

I was drawn to this book by the irresistible cover, and I wasn’t disappointed.  This was an entertaining, well-crafted mystery with a likeable hero and interesting secondary characters, but what really makes this book is Diesel.  I feel in love with the big cat from the beginning.  What’s not to love!  Diesel is friendly, loves attention, walks on a leash, and warbles and chirps rather than meows.  And best of all, Diesel is all cat. He doesn’t talk, he doesn’t help solve the murder, he’s just a thoroughly lovable feline who is central to the story.  I’m looking forward to the next in this series.

Miranda James is a pseudonym for author Dean James, who also writes under the names of Honor Hartman and Jimmie Ruth Evans.

An Interview with Helen Brown, Author of Cleo: The Cat Who Mended A Family

Helen Brown is the author of Cleo: The Cat Who Mended a Family.  She was born and brought up in New Zealand, where she first worked as a journalist, TV presenter and scriptwriter.  Now living in Melbourne, Australia with her family, Helen continues to write columns for the New Zealand media, and she’s been voted Columnist of the Year several times.  Cleo rose to the top of the bestseller lists in its first week in the UK, New Zealand, and Australia and has been translated into more than nine languages.

I’m delighted to welcome Helen Brown to The Conscious Cat today. 

Cleo’s story, and by extension, your family’s story, begins more than twenty years ago.  When did you first know you would write a book about Cleo?

Cleo always behaved as she expected a book to be written about her but I was slow to pick up on the signs. Whenever I wrote about her in my columns she was a big hit with readers. Then about five years ago a friend suggested Cleo would make a great book. I thought he was joking, but when I took the idea to a weekend workshop people seemed really interested in our story.

I’ve always believed that animals are amazing teachers and healers, and Cleo has certainly been all of that and more.  Have you had other animals in your life since Cleo, and how have they affected your life?

A crazy Siamese (though some people swear he’s Tonkinese) called Jonah bounced into our lives two years ago. I was half way through writing Cleo when I found out I needed a mastectomy. About two weeks after I returned home from hospital my sister said she’d just seen an amazing kitten in the pet shop down the road. The rest is history. He’s vain and funny, and a healer in his own right.

I was captivated by your story and by Cleo almost from the very first page, but I was particularly moved by the sensitivity and openness with which you share your journey through grief after you lost your young son so tragically.  What was it like to have to revisit that time in your life? 

Some days I had to take a deep breath before sitting down at the computer. But remembered pain is different from the real thing (ask any woman who’s been through childbirth!). I hoped it was worth scratching a few scars if it was going to help other people.

What was the writing process like for you? 

The days I manage to approach the computer screen with a sense of lightness and joy definitely work better.

What does a typical day of writing look like for you?

I stay in bed as long as possible so the rest of the family get themselves off to work and school without asking me to cook or wash anything (they’re pretty good these days). Once the house is quiet I sneak across the road for a sacred cup of café latte. Sometimes the coffee makers ask how my writing’s going, but I think they suspect I’m a middle aged housewife who merely fantasizes about writing books and travelling the world promoting them. Occasionally someone’s kind enough to remind me if I’ve put my coat on inside out.

Once the caffeine starts flowing, I head back to the house and sit at the computer, often with Jonah on my knee. There are heaps of diversions – solitaire, emails, laundry, mysterious cat smells. But I try to write a minimum of 500 words a day. I’m usually burnt out by two or three o’clock. Besides, it’s usually time to think about what to cook for dinner by then.

What do you love most about being a writer?

Readers! What amazing people. Readers have helped me through tough times and celebrated with me through the highs. When I became a grandmother recently, they sent gifts, cards and hand knitted garments. Immeasurable kindness from people I’ve never met.

What do you like least about being a writer?


Who or what inspires you?

It sounds a cliché, but family (including pets) and friends are my greatest inspiration. I find stories in everyday events like standing in a supermarket line, or cleaning out kitchen cupboards. My antennae are always out for human behavior at its best and worst. I love it when  prejudices (specially my own) are shattered. On a bus soon after the Twin Towers tragedy, I was charmed when a young man stood up so I could take his seat. He then went to the back of the bus to stand beside his partner – who was wearing a burka. I’m inspired by writers who are better than I am: David Sedaris, Alan Bennett, Alice Munro to name a few.

What is one of the most memorable experiences you’ve had at a book signing or event?

About 30 years ago when I was hardly known (even in New Zealand) I was invited to a book store in a provincial town on a wintry Friday night. The book seller didn’t know what to do with me so she parked me at a table with a pile of books at the back of the shop. I waited…and waited. Nobody showed, of course. Eventually, a man in a raincoat made a stealthy approach from the front of the store. I tried not to make eye contact and scare him off. He eventually appeared at my side and asked me to sign a copy. I was so grateful. When I asked who I should sign it to, he said “Nobody. I just collect signed copies of books so that when the author dies they’re worth something.”

Will you be coming to the United States to promote Cleo?

I’m very much looking forward to visiting the States in the near future.

What are you reading at the moment?

Julie and Julia by Julie Powell, John Adams by David McCoullough, re-reading Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee. 

Are you working on another book?

I’ve been inundated with emails from people saying they didn’t want Cleo to end. My next book will probably be a sequel around the power struggle between mothers and daughters, spirituality and – of course – a cat.

Thank you so much for your time, Helen, and much continued success with Cleo!

Thank you, Ingrid, for this opportunity to share some time with you.

You can learn more about Helen and her book on her website.

Book Review: Cleo – The Cat Who Mended a Family by Helen Brown

The cats’ day has finally come when it comes to pet memoirs.  A genre that used to be almost exclusively ruled by dogs has finally seen a number of wonderful cat memoirs.  It began with Dewey, the library cat.  Then came Homer’s Odyssey.  And there are many more, you can find several of them reviewed here.  And of course, there’s my own Buckley’s Story.  And now, there’s Cleo.  Helen Brown’s international bestseller, first published in New Zealand, Australia and the UK, was released in the US on August 31 by Citadel Press. 

From the publisher:

“We’re just going to look.”  Helen Brown had no intention of adopting a pet when she brought her sons, Sam and Rob, to visit a friend’s new kittens.  But the runt of the litter was irreristible, with her overlarge ears and dainty chin.  When Cleo was delivered three weeks later, Brown’s family had just been hit by a tragedy:  the loss of her young son, Sam.  Helen was sure she couldn’t keep Cleo at a time like this – until she saw something that she thought had vanished from the earth forever:  her son Rob’s smile.  The reckless, rambunctious kitten stayed.

What follows is a sweeping memoir of heartbreak, changes, new beginnings, and ultimately, happiness.   Cleo is the connecting thread through it all, holding Brown’s family together through devastating grief, illness, moves across continents, and other challenges life throws at them.  It will come as no surprise to cat lovers that one small cat is capable of what Cleo managed to do for the Brown family – she not only healed their hearts, but helped them find a way to integrate Sam’s loss into their lives in ways that honored his memory, but also allowed them to move on with their lives.  Brown’s writing is vividly descriptive and sometimes almost lyrical and poetic.  She transports us to the beauty of New Zealand as easily as she makes us fall in love with the small kitten with the big ears.  She makes us feel the unbearable pain of loss, and lets us breathe easier right along with her as her family begins to mend.

In addition to being a wonderful cat book, a beautiful memoir, and a spell-binding read that was hard to put down, it’s also a book about loss and grief, and how to cope with the almost unimaginable – the death of a child.  By sharing her own experience with great openness and sensitivity, Brown gives hope to others who are trying to cope  with life after loss.

This book goes on my list of best cat books ever – for me, it’s right up there with such classics as A Snowflake in My Hands and The Cat Who Came for Christmas.  Don’t miss this one.

Helen Brown was born and brought up in New Zealand, where she first worked as a journalist, TV presenter, and scriptwriter.  Now living in Melbourne, Australia, with her family, Helen continues to write columns for the New Zealand media.  You can find more information about Helen on her website.

Look for an interview with Helen Brown on The Conscious Cat on Wednesday.

I received an ARC copy of this book from the publisher.

Book Review: The Blessings of the Animals by Katrina Kittle

The title of this book reeled me in immediately, as did the cover – even though I’m not a horse person, the bond depicted between woman and horse touched my heart.  When I read the endorsement by Sara Gruen, the author of Water for Elephants, on the back of the book, I was intrigued:  “A must read not only for animal lovers, but for anyone who has found the courage to come back from heartbreak and find love again, without reservation, without fear.”  Another endorsement, by Lesley Kagan, author of Tomorrow River, “Wonderfully poignant… A deeply satisfying exploration of love in its many incarnations, some of them a bit furrier than others,” sealed the deal.  And I wasn’t disappointed.  Far from it – these two endorsements barely scratch the surface of how wonderful this book is.

The Blessings of the Animals is the story of Ohio veterinarian Cami Anderson.  From the publisher:  Cami has hit a rough patch. Stymied by her recent divorce, she wonders if there are secret ingredients to a happy, long-lasting marriage or if the entire institution is outdated and obsolete. Couples all around her are approaching important milestones. Her parents are preparing to celebrate their fiftieth anniversary. Her brother and his partner find their marriage dreams legally blocked. Her former sister-in-law—still her best friend—is newly engaged. The youthfully exuberant romance of her teenage daughter is developing complications. And three separate men—including her ex-husband—are becoming entangled in Cami’s messy post-marital love life.   But as she struggles to come to terms with her own doubts amid this chaotic circus of relationships, Cami finds strange comfort in an unexpected confidant: an angry, unpredictable horse in her care. With the help of her equine soul mate, she begins to make sense of marriage’s great mysteries—and its disconnects.

The horse is not the only animal who helps Cami heal.  There’s a dog, two cats, one of them a cranky but ultimately loving three-legged one whose life was saved by Cami, a joyful goat, and a pregnant donkey.  Cami’s form of prayer is being in the presence of animals.  As someone who’s always turned to animals for healing and finding peace myself, I was deeply touched by the segments of the book when Cami goes to what she calls her “church”- her barn.  Being in the company of her animals never fails to work its magic for Cami, no matter how painful the twists and turns of her life have become.  Kittle’s sensitive descriptions of the animals and their unique personalities are delightful and are an integral part of the story. 

This is a beautifully written and plotted relationship drama with wonderful, multi-dimensional characters, both human and furry.  I had a hard time putting this book down, but forced myself to read slowly and savor every page.  I didn’t want it to end – and by the time it did, I felt like I knew all the characters as well as if they had been lifelong friends.

Katrina is the author of Traveling Light, Two Truths and a Lie, and The Kindness of Strangers.  When not writing, Katrina enjoys gardening, cooking, traveling, acting, and time spent in the presence of animals (especially horses). She is the proud aunt of Amy and Nathan, and lives in the Dayton area with her cat and a kickass garden.  You can learn more about Katrina and her books on her website.

Book Review: Dear Sparkle: Cat-to-Cat Advice from the World’s Foremost Feline Columnist

Sparkle cover

Sparkle the Cat has been called the “Dear Abby of the feline world,” and she has not met a feline problem that she could not solve.  In her first book, Dear Sparkle:  Advice from One Cat to Another, edited by Janiss Garza, the internet’s premiere cat-to-cat advice columnist gave readers an insider’s look into how cats view the world, and how the well-meaning, but often clueless humans living with them can make the world a better place for their feline charges.  In her new book, Dear Sparkle:  Cat-to-Cat Advice from the World’s Foremost Feline Columnist, also edited by Garza, Sparkle continues her quest to help cats figure out humans’ often strange behavior and offers solutions to problems covering everything from playing to eating to introducing a new cat.  She also addresses litter box issues in great detail – a topic that can be challenging for many humans living with cats.  While her book is aimed primarily at a feline audience, her fervent hope is that the humans who dare read the book keep an open mind.   Even though they may not like everything Sparkle has to say, they just might learn something.

There are plenty of “how to” books out there on how to care for cats, but this book is unique not only because it was written by a cat, but because it provides solid information from a cat’s point of view on the various problems Sparkle is asked to address by fellow cats.  Presented in a humorous fashion and always from the cat’s point of view, it gives the reader accurate insight into how cats think and provides a fresh new look at some of the same old problems.  Here are some samples of Sparkle’s wisdom:

You can’t expect your human to behave like a cat.

A cat’s most charming trait should be unpredictability.

The less you act like you care, the more your humans will care.

In addition to providing outstanding advice that even humans who have already been well-trained by their resident felines will find valuable, the book is beautifully designed and includes many stunning full-color photos of the beautiful Sparkle to illustrate her points.  This book is not just a great addition to any cat parent’s cat care library, it also makes the purrfect gift for cat lovers.

Sparkle the Cat’s advice column began in 2003 as an addition to her online diary,, but soon became the most popular section of her website and has earned her thousands of fans on Twitter and MySpace. In 2006, Sparkle’s advice first became available in book form, and went on to win the Wild Card category at the Hollywood Book Festival and honorable mention in the same category at the 2007 New York Book Festival. Sparkle lives with her human, Janiss Garza, and two roommates: Binga and Boodie.   You can find Sparkle on her website at

Janiss Garza is not a weirdo cat fanatic. She has other interests; among other things, she is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in such publications as the Los Angeles Times and Entertainment Weekly.

Book Review: Travels with George: Paris by David Stone and Deborah Julian

Most cat parents can relate to this dilemma:  you’re about to go on the vacation of your dreams, and you’re excited – but, you also hate leaving your cats behind.  No matter how well you know they’ll be taken care of in your absence by pet sitters, neighbors or friends, you know you’ll miss them every single day.  But what if you cats could come on vacation with you?  And what if you didn’t even know that they tagged along?

In Travels with George:  Paris:  A Cat’s Eye Adventure, George, a much-loved indoor cat living in a New York City high-rise, and a bit restless in his restricted, secure environment, craves adventure.  When his humans prepare to go on a trip to Paris, he seizes the opportunity and hides himself  in their luggage.  When he next sees the light of day, he finds himself in a Paris hotel room.  Much to his surprise (not to mention his humans’ surprise!), his younger cat friend Billy has stowed away, too.

After the initial surprise wears off for the cats’ humans, and basic needs such as litter box, food and water have been satisfied, the two humans decide that, rather than leaving the two cats in their hotel room all day while they’re off sightseeing, they’ll include them in touring Paris.  The reader follows along as George and Billy discover the beautiful city on the Seine while either being comfortably carried (well, comfortable for the cats, at any rate!) in two secure bags, or walking on harness and leash.  They encounter such sights as the Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Elysee, and the Jardin du Luxembourg (a particular favorite with both cats).  They even get to take a boat ride down the river Seine.

Through the eyes of George, the reader follows along as the two cats and their humans explore the city and gets to experience Paris from a cat’s point of view.  George gets to know aspects of the outside world that he’s only been able to see from his window in the past.  Charmingly told by Stone, and beautifully illustrated with Deborah Julian’s whimsical full-color prints, this book is a delightful fantasy, travelogue and cat story all rolled into one thoroughly enjoyable package.

David Stone is the author of two other works of fiction, The Garden of What Was and Was Not, a counterculture classic, its sequel, Traveling Without A Passport, and of the nonfiction title: A Million Different Things: Meditations of The Worlds Happiest Man.

Deborah Julian is a photographer, innovative artist and art gallery director whose favorite subjects are cats, New York City, and travel.  

An Interview with Lorna Barrett, Author of the Booktown Mystery Series

Mum&Fred corrected

It is my pleasure today to introduce you Lorna Barrett.  Readers of The Conscious Cat have come to know Lorna as the author of the Booktown Mystery Series featuring Tricia Miles, owner of the Haven’t Got a Clue bookstore, and her feline sidekick, Miss Marple.

Lorna Barrett is the nom de plume of author Lorraine Bartlett.  Lorraine’s other alter ego, L.L. Bartlett, writes psychological suspense and the Jeff Resnick mystery series.  She’s done it all, from drilling holes for NASA to typing scripts in Hollywood, and lives a life of crime in western New York.  Her first sales were to the confession magazine market.

The latest in the Booktown Mystery Series, Chapter and Hearse, was released on August 3.   Read my review here.

I’m delighted to have the opportunity to ask Lorna/Lorraine some questions today.

How did you get the idea for the Booktown series?

My editor came up with the idea, but I ran with it.

Miss Marple doesn’t help solve the crimes in the series, but she’s an integral character of the books.  Is she based on a real life cat?

Yes, she’s based on one of my cats:  Cori.  She’s was a long-haired gray cat with a white blaze.  She never weighed more than eight pounds and was a gentle, loving soul who lived to be 20.  She was toothless and deaf by that time, but none of the other cats ever bothered her or tried to take her food away.  I have pictures of her on my web site, along with a drawing of her my husband did.

Tell us about your cats.

Currently we have two pairs: boys and girls.  My husband is owned by Chester (who’s all black) and I am owned by Fred, a handsome Tuxedo.  The girls (Betsy and Bonnie) are sisters—who are pretty cranky (and always have been).  My husband and I share them.  We can’t sit down without some cat coming and getting on our laps.  It’s wonderful on a cold winter night—not so wonderful on a hot summers day.

You are a prolific writer – did you always know that you wanted to be a writer? 

No.  Although I always had stories circling around in my head, it wasn’t until I learned about Star Trek fanzines that I decided to put my own stories on paper.  It hadn’t occurred to me that regular people wrote stories.  (A real “duh” moment.)  I was hooked from the very start, although they were terrible stories.  I learned an awful lot from several excellent mentors.  Some of them have gone on to be “traditionally” published authors themselves.

Why did you decide to write under several different names?

Long story.  Short version:  Cozy mysteries are very different from psychological suspense.  It was thought that having a pseudonym would be better than to “confuse” my readers.

My names are:  Lorna Barrett, author of the Booktown Mysteries.  Chapter & Hearse, released on August 3, as well as the whole series on audio as mp3 files.

Lorraine Bartlett:  Author of the Victoria Square Mysteries (A Crafty Killing will debut in February 2011.)  I also have two short romances available under this name on Kindle/Smashwords, plus a short mystery.  They are:  What I Did For Love, Only Skin Deep, and We’re So Sorry, Uncle Albert.

L.L. Bartlett, author of the Jeff Resnick Mysteries.  Currently I have two Jeff novels available on Kindle and Smashwords (Nook, Sony E readers, etc.):  Murder On The Mind and Cheated by Death.  (I also have two short stories related to this series available electronically:  Cold Case and Bah Humbug.)  Murder On The Mind is also available as an audio book.

What does a typical day of writing look like for you?

Bleak.  No, seriously, I like to do most of my writing in the afternoon.  I do “office work” in the morning, which can include writing a blog post, answering email, or packaging up bookmarks and bookplates for my readers.

What do you love most about being a writer?

Not having a day job. Of course, I miss the security of the day job, but this is a fabulous job and much less stressful.  Although, I’m a harder taskmaster than most of my former supervisors.

What do you like least about being a writer?

The lack of job security.  Without readers buying my books, Im out of a job.  And it’s difficult having three names.  I was thrilled to sell my Victoria Square mysteries, but now I’m worried that most of Lorna’s readers won’t get the connection that they’re written by the same person and will never hear about the new series or be willing to give it a chance.  (I’m definitely a “see the glass half-empty type of person” – but I’m working on changing that.)

Who or what inspires you?

I have no idea.  I like to keep busy.

What is one of the most memorable experiences you’ve had at a book signing or event?

The most memorable?  The times when very few or nobody came.  They feel like failures.  One library event stands in my mind.  It wasn’t a talk – just a gathering of authors at the library’s Arts Festival.  I asked a woman if she read mysteries, and she glared at me and said, “I only read worthwhile books.”  Whoa—that took the starch out of my sails pretty darn quick.  You try not to let rude comments like that rattle you, but they do.

What are you reading at the moment?

Organize Your Corpses by Mary Jane Maffini.  Next up on the TBR Pile:  Night of the Living Deed by E.J. Copperman.

Thank you so much for this opportunity, Lorna, and much success with Chapter and Hearse!

You can learn more about Lorna and her book on her websites and and on her blog,