I am delighted to welcome Melissa Daley to Jaffareadstoo
Today Melissa is talking to us about her latest novel Christmas at the Cat Cafe
20 October 2016
Hi Melissa, a very warm welcome to Jaffareadstoo. Tell us a little bit about yourself and the cats in your life?
I live in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, with my husband, two kids, two cats (Pip and Nancy) and our most recent addition, Paddy the puppy. Nancy has been something of a local celebrity since she was a kitten, due to her extreme friendliness and her tendency to follow strangers home, jump into their cars, or make herself comfortable in the local pubs. I set up a Facebook page for her (Nancy Harpenden-Cat) as way of keeping track of her whereabouts, and things snowballed from there. She now has around 2,000 Facebook followers and her own memoir (or ‘meowmoir’) was published in 2011, called Sex and the Kitty.
Cats are so enigmatic. How do you get inside the mind of a cat and how easy is it to transfer this to a story?
I actually think cats are far more expressive than we sometimes give them credit for, it’s just that their facial expressions and body language are much subtler than, say, a dog’s. But of course their enigmatic qualities also allow us to project our own emotions onto them, which is why they lend themselves so well to being anthropomorphised in fiction. Having spent my entire life living with and observing cats, I find it surprisingly easy to imagine my way into the mind of a cat. The challenge when writing a story from a cat’s point of view is making sure my cat characters have enough emotional depth to resonate with (human) readers, whilst always remaining convincingly feline too.
Christmas at the Christmas Cafe follows the story of Molly who we met in Molly at the Cat Café. Tell me is Molly based on any of your cats?
Pip and Nancy were both excellent muses when I needed to describe something specific about cat behaviour, for instance the neat semi-circle cats form when they sleep, with their tail tucked around their paws. It was very useful to have two models so close to hand! But in terms of Molly’s emotional journey and the way she responds to the upheavals she faces, I would have to say there is probably more of me in her character, than my cats.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
The freedom to let my imagination run wild – there’s nothing else like it, in terms of unfettered creativity. I love the planning stage of the writing process, coming up with characters, working out the plot, trying to play the whole thing out in my mind and then getting it down on paper in a chapter plan. It’s when that’s done that the hard work really starts. The challenge is producing a book that does justice to the story I have in my head.
Do you have a special place to do your writing and do any of your cats like to interrupt the writing process?
I write at the computer in our front room, which serves as my study. Both Pip and Nancy have been known to wander in and drape themselves across my keyboard, or settle down for a lengthy wash on the print-out of my chapter plan. Sometimes it feels like they’re taunting me when they nap on top of my work – especially if I’m writing very early in the morning or late at night and am exhausted. It would be fair to say I have a certain amount of envy at their leisurely lifestyles, and their ability to take a nap whenever they fancy it.
Can we expect to see more of Molly’s adventures in future stories?
I guess that partly depends on whether readers want to read more! I’d love to let my imagination get to work on devising some fresh adventures for Molly and her kittens. Watch this space!
Both Molly and the Cat Cafe and Christmas at the Cat Cafe are published by Macmillan
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 novels.
Christmas at the Cat Cafe is published by Macmillan on the 20th October
My thanks to Melissa for answering my questions so patiently and also to Jess at Macmillan for my copy of the book and her help in compiling this interview.