HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Someone once told me cats only say two things:
1. What time do I eat?
2. Everything here is mine.
I know that's what my cat Lola used to say. She was also big on "Where have you been? Do you not love me anymore?" "I hate dry food." "Move over." "Who is that other stupid cat you brought home?" And "I'm not following you, I was coming this way before you thought of it."
It's funny, now, to realize I often knew exactly what Lola was thinking. She was sympathetic and understanding, and knew when I was happy and when I was upset. She died at age 20, in my arms, and I haven't had a cat since.
Of course I fell in love with (the fabulous and iconic) Carolyn Hart instantly...years ago at Malice. Now her new book, WHAT THE CAT SAW, explores exactly the kind of thing that was happening between Lola and me. But--as so often happens--she reveals: it didn't start out that way.
by Carolyn Hart
A funny thing happened when I started to write a book where the heroine knows what a cat is thinking. I had - famous last words - a great idea for a cute, fun, lighthearted series set in a cat hotel. Our three felines live the live of Riley when we travel. They stay at Aristocats Feline Suites and Spa, individual rooms (no cages for these tabbies), water fountains, heated cushions, window views, fake tree perches. Now we may be at a down-at-heels motel with rowdy kids in the next room, tepid air conditioning, and a mysterious clanking in the air vents, but hey--we aren’t cats.
My book would feature a young woman who had always hidden from everyone, including her family, the fact that when she looked at a cat, she knew what the cat was thinking. However, the imps of fate being what they are, her sister owned a feline hotel and had surgery and needed help while recuperating so the heroine was forced to deal with cats of all sorts, shapes, sizes, and thoughts. I foresaw possibly an imperious Persian boarding and the heroine learning that the owner was last seen on a misty morning after someone knocked at the door.
Fellow writers will understand what happened next. When I sat down to start - always a by guess and by God process with me - cute cats and a lively heroine refused to respond to my plaintive calls.
Instead, a young reporter who has lost her job on a small SoCal daily and is grieving the death of the fiancé in Afghanistan finds herself looking into cats’ eyes and seeing their thoughts. Nela Farley refuses to believe this is actually happening. She is a rational, smart, serious woman struggling with sorrow. She sees the transference of thoughts to the eyes of cats as a way of avoiding hard memories. Unsuccessful in her job search, Nela welcomes her sister Chloe’s request that she come to Oklahoma and take Chloe’s place at work for a couple of weeks. And therein lies a tale of suspense, danger, and possibly the ease of heartbreak.
Nothing funny. Nothing cute. No talking cats.
I think I turned away from my initial idea because I have such enormous respect for cats. They are - to me - God’s most elegant creatures, intelligent, perceptive, independent and incredibly attuned to their surroundings and the people in their lives.
It may rather be on the order of a proud young mother who thinks her kid is always the brightest one in the room, but I have no doubt that my brown tabby Sister always knows how I feel and whether there is safety or danger in our immediate surroundings. We don’t really need the tornado sirens. Sister will tell us. And yes, cats care for their very own people. If I get up to leave the room, Sister escorts me down the hall and back again to the sofa where she decrees that we sit while we watch baseball.
And so does the cat in WHAT THE CAT SAW.
HANK: Tell us about your cat! Do you know what your cat is thinking? Does he or she know about you?
A copy of WHAT THE CAT SAW to a lucky commenter!