Melissa Daley talks about how she found the “purrfect” inspiration.
It’s not uncommon to hear writers extol the virtues of cats: how their soothing, furry presence in the room can aid the creative process, or how they make excellent listeners when you want to read a passage aloud.
My relationship with my cat, Nancy, is rather more complicated, however. She doesn’t so much aid my work as interrupt it, by getting herself into scrapes around our town and pestering strangers until they call the number on her collar – my mobile number – and I have to drop everything to go and rescue her.
Events like this have been a regular occurrence since we took Nancy in as a kitten. For the first couple of years, my husband and I were used to receiving calls several times a week (often late at night) from concerned residents who had discovered Nancy helping herself to food in their kitchen, or on the back seat of their car having jumped in while their backs were turned. At the time, I was at home raising our two young children, and I sometimes felt a little peeved that, in addition to being a full-time mum, my day-to-day role had become that of taxi driver for a cat who had a far more exciting social life than I did.
On one of my regular rescue missions, however, it dawned on me that Nancy was acquiring something of reputation around our town of Harpenden, and that word had begun to spread about ‘the friendly black cat’ with a penchant for making herself at home in people’s houses. That was when I had the idea of starting a Facebook page for Nancy, so that local people could follow her antics, and also as a way for me to appeal for sightings if we hadn’t seen Nancy for a few days (again, a common occurrence). The Facebook page took off and Nancy quickly began to gain Facebook friends not just in Harpenden, but all around the world. Before I knew it, Nancy had started to develop her own ‘voice,’ as she posted status updates and photos to let her friends know what she had been up to. A feature about Nancy in the local newspaper boosted her profile further, and soon Nancy began to consider herself to be Harpenden’s premier feline celebrity.
From there, it was only a matter of time before Nancy started her own blog and decided the world was ready for her memoir (or ‘meowmoir’). It was titled Sex and the Kitty and was published in 2011.
With her maturing age, Nancy has become slightly more sedate and home-loving, although she is still commonly found in front of the fire in one of the local pubs of an evening. I, on the other hand, have found that my experience of ‘helping’ Nancy to write her memoir has inadvertently led to a writing career of my own, as an author of novels also written from the point of view of a cat.
So now, when I find my writing work interrupted by a phone call from someone asking ‘have you lost a black cat?’ I have to remind myself that, if it weren’t for Nancy, I wouldn’t be writing at all. If I could just persuade her actually to write the books for me, that would be just purrfect.
The Costwolds’ town of Stourton-on-the-Hill has its very own cat cafe. Resident cat Molly, and her kittens, live here in feline paradise, while owner Debbie serves the locals home-made goodies. But even in the most idyllic surroundings, things don’t always go to plan . . .
When Debbie’s heartbroken sister Linda arrives at the cafe, Debbie insists she move in. But Linda is not alone, and the cats are devastated with the arrival of Linda’s dog, Beau. Sadly, Beau’s arrival is not the only bombshell – now Molly’s home is also under threat when a rival cat moves in on her turf.
With Christmas approaching, Molly is unsettled, barely roused by the promise of tinsel to play with. Fearing for her feline family she hopelessly stares out of the café window searching for an answer. Only a Christmas miracle could bring everyone together . . .
Melissa Daley lives in Hertfordshire with her two cats, two children and one husband. One of her cats, Nancy, has a writing pedigree of her own and can be found on Facebook as Nancy Harpenden-Cat. Melissa was inspired by the Cotswolds town of Stow-on-the-Wold, which provides the backdrop for Melissa’s second novel, Christmas at the Cat Café.