I want to start with a huge thank you to Sherry Harris for inviting me to guest blog today with the wonderful Wickeds! I’m pleased to give away an e-Book of ESCAPE CLAWS to one person who leaves a comment.
When I first hatched the idea for a series that featured lots of cats, I had no idea how challenging it would be to weave a large cast of cats—eleven, for starters—into a full-length mystery.
I started by imagining a crotchety, aging woman living on a thinly-inhabited island somewhere off the New England coast, her house overflowing with rescued felines. The problem with said thinly-inhabited island…not enough people to populate a story. Even more daunting—not enough people to adopt cats, a necessary element of the series. Plus, the woman’s niece (the intended protagonist), had to seek her out, help her care for the cats, and (possibly?) make a life for herself there.
So, what if I made the island larger, more populated? But wait . . . wouldn’t that mean adding a ferry to shuttle people to and from the mainland? I wasn’t sure, but the mere mention of anything larger than my grandfather’s old rowboat made me run, screaming, for the Dramamine.
Nope. The island setting wasn’t working for me. I needed a cozy town, one where I could imagine a charming home on a bluff overlooking a picturesque town center. I looked to my own state of New Hampshire, where quaint villages abound. I selected one based on its location only and created my town from scratch. I named it Whisker Jog and chose an old Folk Victorian house as the primary setting.
The crotchety woman morphed into a kind, intelligent, fifty-something school teacher sidelined by arthritic knees—a woman who hadn’t seen her estranged niece, Lara, for sixteen years. Lara is a watercolor artist who’s been living in a studio apartment above a Boston bakery. She makes ends meet by working part time in the bakery.
And then came the cats. I love cats, but the task of naming and describing nearly a dozen of the furry felines suddenly overwhelmed me. Not only did each cat need his or her own personality, but each one had to be laced into the story . . . and still allow Lara time to solve a murder.
Last there was the mystery cat—the beautiful Ragdoll with the startling blue eyes who had an eerie knack of slipping in and out of the story without warning. Here is one of Lara’s early encounters with her:
Sparkling blue eyes, alight with curiosity, regarded Lara from the arm of the tufted sofa. Blue sat very straight, her dark tail curled around her fluffy form. Her coloring was stunning—like a cream-colored cookie whose edges had been dipped in a dark, exotic chocolate.
No sound came from the cat. She seemed content to have Lara watch her, not skittish in the least.
Lara held her breath and remained very still. In the past, Blue had been a mystery cat—there one moment, gone the next. This time, Lara was determined not to let her out of her sight.
It was my fabulous editor at Kensington who suggested that I write a Feline Cast of Characters. I’d already been working with a loose, messy version, so it was a natural leap to writing one that readers could enjoy, too. Best of all, it helped me highlight the key features of each kitty’s personality.
Readers: What kinds of settings do you most enjoy when reading a cozy mystery? Do you favor a particular locale? Seaside? Eatery? Bookstore?
Armed with a degree in Criminal Justice, Linda Reilly once contemplated a career in law enforcement. But life took a twist, and instead she found her niche in real estate closings and title examinations, where the dusty tomes in the Registry of Deeds enticed her into solving mysteries of a different sort. A dyed-in-the-wool New Englander, Linda lives in southern New Hampshire, where she loves solving mysteries of the cozy type. When she’s not pounding away at her keyboard, she can usually be found prowling the shelves of a local bookstore or library hunting for a new adventure.
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Web site: www.lindasreilly.com