by Linda Wright
It’s all his fault. His fault that my writing career took a 180 degree turn from “serious” Private Investigator (PI) novels, in which my cat-loving animal rights sleuth mends the world, to . . . cat silliness.
One particularly miserable day in 2020, I was sure, as were many of us, that our species would not survive the Pandemic. I’d caught COVID. I was depressed. And I was goofing off, stealing time from revising the third novel in my new PI series by looking at cat photos on iStock. For no other reason than that I wanted to look at cats.
And then I began what-iffing. What if (in the fantasy world I was creating) our cats changed their ways, stopped being bratty, and helped us survive the plague? And this fantasy became my first book of cat silliness: Locked Down: Cats Write Pandemic Poetry.
In it, the neighborhood cats hold a Zoom meeting to talk about helping out their humans: they’ll stop being brats, tipping the garbage cans, yowling at night, and scaling the curtains. Amazingly, they all agree, and cats begin helping kids order stuff online, holding their owners’ hands through scary movies, sharing ice cream, riding the Roomba, talking to lonely goldfish, singing at the piano, rescuing mice from the basement. In poetry. (Well, in verse at least).
I laughed my way through the writing of this book and realized, once I’d finished it, that I felt GOOD. Darned good. Yes, the Pandemic was still out there, but for a couple of days, I’d forgotten about it.
A little later, I had 100 copies of the book printed at The Printing Center USA (they did a nice job even though I really didn’t know what I was doing with that first printing), and in a fit of hubris, I offered it for sale on Purrington Post’s blog. And sold every copy I’d had printed.
People bought it! Cat lovers in Canada bought it! Cat lovers in Germany bought it! A radio station In Minnesota wanted to interview me! Holy moley. I hadn’t realized that cat lovers out there might need to laugh at cats writing Pandemic poetry as much as I did.
So, as they say, one thing led to another. I explored KDP, started my own press and website from which to sell my books, and began to write cat nonsense in earnest. I no longer had any interest in my PI series.
My latest animal rights novel, Seized: A Kieran Yeats Mystery had become a 356-page albatross around my neck, although it did see the light of day in 2022. I found myself overtaken by this continuing need to chuckle. At cats. With cats.
Never in my life had I written cat humor, but I found I needed snarky cats telling me about their days, their nights, their visits to the vet, their hours on the therapy couch, their cyber-shenanigans, their “bad” behavior. Perhaps I believed that we as a species were short-timers and I needed to go out laughing. Who knows?
Anyhow, I abandoned my PI series and embarked on a series of what I called Little Books: six-inch, 35-page books of feline humor and photos (from iStock and Shutterstock), published by my press, Cats Paw Books, and printed by KDP. Seventeen in all so far, with titles like Cats in Therapy, Cyber Cats, Purr More: Hiss Less.
And much to my surprise, they all sold well. Evidently my readers had/have a continuing need to read cat humor as much as I need to write it. I worried that Locked Down might be a case of the-right-book-at-the-right-time and therefore a one-off, but that proved not to be the case. I even wrote two short Christmas books, Wreck the Halls and Wreck the Halls 2, which also sold well.
And I re-discovered something my writing had not been bringing me – a consistently “up” mood.
Nowadays, I smile my way through my Little Books, enjoying myself more with every book I write. Writing eleven previous novels and winning a couple of awards had not made me feel this way. I don’t know if I will ever again write a “serious” full-length novel.
Was I destined to write cat nonsense all along? It’s a sobering thought. Remember what Mark Twain said about getting “stuck” in the writing of Huckleberry Finn? Upon reflection, he realized he had the boys floating down the wrong river. When he changed the setting to the Mississippi – a river he knew well – he got “unstuck.” So maybe I’ve found the right river.
My writing career has certainly been revitalized by writing cat humor. I’ve found a zest I never expected to find by indulging my need to laugh. Maybe it was the Pandemic, maybe it was simply the fact that my writing needed a reboot, but writing outside the litterbox, so to speak, has definitely changed my writing life.
And I have the cat in the blue virus mask to thank for it.
About the Author
Linda J Wright is a Canadian novelist, short story writer, publisher, and lifelong cat lover. Born to a military family in Ontario, Canada, she spent part of her childhood in France, and lived for many years in Toronto, where she worked as an editor at University of Toronto Press. Later, she moved to Bakersfield, California, taught creative writing to GATE students, and founded the NPO rescue group The Cat People www.thecatpeople.org. Her animal rights novel Stolen: A Kieran Yeats Mystery, was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in 2019. Nowadays, Cats Paw Books, www.catspawbooks.com her press, publishes mainly short books of cat humor. She lives in Oregon with her partner and their spoiled-rotten cat, Bianca. You may purchase her books from her website, or from Amazon. Cats Paw Books can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.