Friday, 30 December 2011

6 Days Without a Book! Countdown to Publication #10: What every writer needs – an anarchic ginger cat for company.

15 Days Without a Head will be in bookshops in 6 days time. By way of celebration, I will be publishing a new post here every day, leading up to publication on January 5th. The idea is to provide a few bonus items, such as you'd expect to find on the extras disc of a DVD – except these will be available before the main feature of course. 

One of the biggest adjustments I had to make when becoming a full-time writer, was dealing with the solitude. Going from a busy design studio to being alone all day in an attic, took a little bit of getting used to. Once the words start to flow, my surroundings tend to fade, but it’s the start of the day when I feel it most, when I climb the ladder and find myself saying good morning to an empty room. There is also the fact that these days, every tea round seems to be my turn.

For some reason I’ve always associated cats with writers, though I’m sure there are just as many, if not more, who own dogs. Maybe it was the scene at the end of Betty Blue, when Zorg sits down to write and the cat appears to keep him company, that made me think our feline friends would make such good writing companions. I read somewhere that Jan Mark’s house was full of cats, whom she conversed with daily, further adding to her legend as a wonderful eccentric, as well as a superb and prolific writer. My all time literary hero, Robert Westall, had many cats and wrote about them frequently, with the kind of depth and understanding that only comes from years of sharing your life with the creatures.

Then there is Albert – the anarchic ginger cat I mention at the back of 15 Days Without a Head.

He is Kato to my Inspector Clouseau – you can never be sure when, and from where, he will leap out next.

Can that rat really do kung-fu?

A Maine Coon, Ragdoll cross-breed, Albert looks like a small lion, with an eighties soft-rock haircut. He’s the most intelligent cat I’ve ever known. Access to the attic where I work each day is achieved by means of a loft ladder. While all our previous cats have sat at the bottom mewing up at me, Albert learnt to climb the ladder. More impressively, he has also worked out how to get into the attic when the ladder is up. There’s a bookcase nearby which would get him part of the way, but after that … I can’t quite explain how he does it. A bit of feline sorcery I suspect.

Off to patrol the roof.

When I first started hanging around the house all day, it took him a while to adjust to my new routine, but these days he is often at the top of the ladder waiting when I ascend to start the day. At least now I’m talking to a cat rather than an empty room. While I check my email and schedule for the day, Albert does his rounds on the roof. The downside of this, is that I have to leave the skylight open until he returns, which on a December morning can be a little draughty. He comes in cold, damp and dirty, and retires to his spot – inside a box of old video tapes. I talk to him more often than is probably healthy, and I haven’t got a clue what he’s saying in reply, but as writing companions go, he’s OK – rubbish at making tea though.

So, it's my turn again is it then?

Entries for the draw to win a signed copy of 15 Days Without a Head must be received by midnight tonight (30 Dec 2011). Click here for details.

Tomorrow: I'll announce the winner!

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