Guest post by Clea Simon
When I thought about what to blog about for The Conscious Cat this time, I thought I’d talk about writing. You know, a very specific kind of “this is what I do, and this is how I do it” blog. And I meant to – I really meant to – only as I started to draft some kind of introduction –I got yelled at by my cat.
I’m not sure what I did exactly. It wasn’t food related, of that I’m sure. People who don’t live with cats – maybe people who don’t live with any animals at all – tend to think that all they care about, all they need from us, is food. Well, food and treats, and while that’s a large part of our role in their world, it isn’t the entirety. Because when Musetta – tuxedo cat who rules my roost – started in on me, her dish was full. No, I think it was that I’d gone out while she was napping.
You see, for all my talk about process, I’m having trouble starting my next book – the seventh in the Dulcie Schwartz series – and when I am at this stage of things, I tend to wander. Sometimes only from room to room, picking things up and putting them down where I won’t be able to find them later. But sometimes it is more – and when things get really bad, I have to get out of the house. I go on necessary errands, and unnecessary ones. And sometimes, I just take off – walk through the park down the street and try to commune with the squirrels.
I guess its no wonder Musetta wasn’t amused. This is inane behavior. Illogical. It wasn’t that she was worried about me. Musetta’s not a particularly sentimental soul and though I believe she’s fond of me, in her way, she knows that whenever I leave the house it’s even money that I’ll be taken by predators. And she wishes I wouldn’t upset her equilibrium this way. I’m supposed to be at my desk, you see. And then, well, I wasn’t. No wonder she was angry with me.
Welcome to my world. As I’m sure many of you know, the life of a writer is not the wildly glamorous life you’ve been led to expect. It’s a life of relative isolation, sedentary and often frustrating. The kind of life in which the daily visit from the UPS guy is a thrill. And I’ll even venture that to be a mystery writer is worse than any other kind. Serious novelists, for instance. Because unlike those High Art Literary Types, who undoubtedly really are swanning around in their satin lounging outfits, eating bonbons and waiting for inspiration to strike, we are grinding out popular fiction on deadline.
OK, so maybe I’m wrong about those High Art types. I know a few, and they go through many of the same struggles. But I don’t think they get yelled at by their cats.
Of course, one reason that I may get lectured by my cat is because I listen to her. You could argue that I’ve decided to give her a voice, to lend credence to her mews and chirps because it serves my purpose. Because I’ve created several characters, including Dulcie, who “hear” their animals. But at some level that wasn’t a conscious decision. My cat yells at me, and I have to listen. That what she says, and the tone that she uses to say it, informs my writing is simply a side effect of the sad and subjugated life I lead.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Dulcie, for example, doesn’t often get a direct lecture from Mr. Grey, her spectral feline. Even her current cat, Esmé, is often silent. Too silent, in fact, when Dulcie could use some advice.
The key will be for Dulcie to listen very closely. And for Mr Grey to chose his words carefully. Because I’m not sure what he knows, exactly. Or Esmé, for that matter, because we know she loves to be seen as wiser than she actually is. And that of course brings up other questions. Would Esmé have actual knowledge about an accidental death… or was it a murder? Would she have overheard something that hinted at what happened? And might it be something that Dulcie wouldn’t have heard – or, no, better – something that Dulcie did hear, but misunderstood. Because she’s a mere human and thick as only a biped can be. And if its something that Dulcie doesn’t understand, then it is possible that she might be putting herself in danger. And then both Esmé and Mr Grey would have reason to worry.
But it’s hard to figure out how exactly this can work, unless I start trying to write it out – to describe the arch of a feline back or the way a tail curls at its tip, showing the immense disdain only a cat can carry off. And then thinking of the body, and how Dulcie would react… and I’m off.
As I said, my cat yells at me when I’m trying to work. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Clea Simon is the author of the Theda Krakow mysteries, the Pru Marlowe pet noirs (the most recent of which is Cats Can’t Shoot, from Poisoned Pen Press), and the Dulcie Schwartz feline mysteries, the most recent of which, True Grey, is out this month from Severn House. For more information, please visit CleaSimon.com.
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Ingrid King is an award-winning author, former veterinary hospital manager, and veterinary journalist who is passionate about cats.