JRW welcomes another cat-loving mystery writer today--Karen Olson. Karen is the author of a series set in New Haven, CT featuring reporter Annie Seymour. And Karen's brand new book in her tattoo shop mystery series, PRETTY IN INK, hits bookshelves this week. Welcome Karen!
KO: Let me first say: I love cats. I am a definite cat person. Growing up,
we had so many cats that I’m not sure I can name all of them. Some
didn’t last too long, but others we had for a long time. As an adult,
I had a cat named Thisbe for 20 years. When I met my husband, I told
him I’d had Thisbe longer than any man. He took that as a challenge.
Sadly, Thisbe went to the big catnip patch in the sky five years ago.
But we now have two cats, Eloise and Hemingway. They are both a little
too fat, even though we don’t feed them as much anymore. Eloise does
like to nibble crumbs off the floor, so maybe she’s getting too many
carbs. She was named after Eloise at the Plaza; she’s more than a
little crazy. Hemingway was named after Ernest, because while he’s
very macho, he’s also a little bit gay.
Again, I want to say that I love cats. But I have been very reluctant
to put them in a book.
In my first mystery series, my protagonist, police reporter Annie
Seymour, couldn’t possibly have a cat. Annie is a bit too
self-centered and too independent to have to worry about a cat. She’s
working all the time and wouldn’t have time for it. In my tattoo shop
series, Brett Kavanaugh lives with her brother, Tim, a Las Vegas
police detective. They’re both in their 30s, single, and not thinking
about a pet. In fact, they could possibly both be dog people, but
since dogs are way too high maintenance, it just won’t work to give
them one. Somehow going out and solving crimes isn’t conducive to
walking the dog a few times a day.
That said, I know how much readers enjoy a good cat in a story. And I
don’t mean the cats that solve the crimes or speak to their owners or
each other. My good friend Clea Simon writes wonderful books with cats
in them, and the cats never speak but play a big role in the plots.
Always looking for a way to connect with readers, I began to wonder if
I shouldn’t put a cat in one of my books. Should Sylvia Coleman, the
elderly tattooist in my Ink series, own a cat? Maybe Bitsy Hendricks,
the tattoo shop manager who is a little person, or Joel Sloane, the
tattooist who looks like a biker but has a much gentler soul (see
reference to Hemingway, above).
No, none of those things would work. I tried. Really I did. But what I
ended up with was the perfect cat for PRETTY IN INK, set in Vegas with
drag queens at its plot’s center: A stray, feral cat skittering
through the parking lot at Chez Tango, the drag queen club, with a red
ribbon in its mouth. His appearance is brief, but notable. It plays a
role in the plot without being overt about it.
What about you? Do you think cats have a place in mystery novels?
JRW: Always room for a cat, Karen! Good luck with the new book! Read more about Karen, her cats, and her series at her website. And she's standing by for comments and questions.