Looking for a purrfect Christmas read or present for someone? How about this very festive looking novel?
The Costwolds' town of Stourton-on-the-Hill has its very own cat café. 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 café, 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 . . .
Today I welcome Melissa Daley to my blog to tell us all about her second novel "Christmas at the Cat Cafe" which is published by Pan Macmillan and available on ebook and paperback from Amazon and all good bookshops. Thank you Melissa for your time today to answer my questions!
You refer to a real Cat Cafe in your acknowledgements at the back of the book. Can you tell me a bit about the 'real cat cafe' and why you decided to write about it?
The idea for the cat cafe setting came from the publisher Pan Macmillan originally. Although I have never been to a cat cafe (having two cats of my own at home I have never felt particularly cat-deprived!) I could immediately see the potential of a cat cafe as a location for the story, offering the perfect setting to mix feline stories with human ones. I wanted to speak to someone at a real cat cafe to check for accuracy, and the manager of Maison du Moggy in Edinburgh kindly agreed to answer my questions.
This is a series of books. Can you tell us a little bit about the previous titles and how the stories link together?
Christmas at the Cat Cafe is the sequel to Molly and the Cat Cafe, which was published in 2015. The first book tells the story of how the feline protagonist Molly ended up homeless, before eventually finding a new home with Debbie, the owner of a struggling sandwich shop in a Cotswolds town. When Molly unexpectedly has a litter of kittens, the sandwich shop ends up becoming a cat cafe by default.
The story is narrated by Molly the cat. What particular challenges does this pose for you? What decisions, problems or difficulties do you come across when writing a narrative from the point of view of a cat?
Writing from the point of view of a cat is a mixed blessing. I love trying to imagine myself into the mindset of a cat and how they perceive the world and human behaviour, so creatively it's great fun. However although Molly does have many 'human' emotions, she has to come across to the reader as convincingly feline, so I can't allow her to show too much insight into the human psyche. From a writer's point of view, can be restrictive and frustrating at times.
What do you enjoy the most about writing through Molly's eyes?
I adore the tiny minutiae of cat's behaviour, whether it's embedding their claws in your knees when they sit on your lap, or staring disdainfully at passing dogs, or getting under your feet when they want to be fed. I love writing about all those quirky little traits from the cat's point of view.
Do you own a cat yourself? Does this help / hinder?
Yes I own two cats, Nancy and Pip. It's no exaggeration to say I couldn't have written these books without them. They are my muses, and I would frequently go and stare at them if I needed inspiration for some descriptive passage about feline movement or behaviour.
What other animal do you think would make a good central character or whose perspective you would like to write from?
Personally, I don't think any other domestic animals have quite the same enigmatic qualities as cats, or lead semi-independent lifestyles in the way that cats do,. Cats never quite give away what they're thinking, so they're the perfect vessel for our creative projections.
As well as the storyline about Molly and her family, there is an equally engaging storyline about the cafe owner Debbie, her daughter, her partner and her sister. Which story comes first?!
I did try and make sure the feline and human storylines were evenly balanced in terms of the novel's structure. The relationship between Molly and her human owners is very much central to both novels and it was very important that both stories were interconnected and that Molly and Debbie's fates were intertwined.
The novel is set in the Cotswolds. Is this somewhere you know well?
I spent a weekend visiting different Cotswolds towns to find the perfect location to use as a base for the novel. I chose Stow-on-the-Wold, (which in the books becomes Stourton-on-the-Hill), partly because it is a quintessential picturesque Cotswolds town, set around a beautiful market square. It also has a network of alleyways criss-crossing the town, which I thought would be fantastic plot device for a story about cats. I even found the perfect tea-shop in Stow, called Lucy's, which is what I had in mind when describing Molly's Cat Cafe.
Debbie and Linda are very easy to visualise as characters. What do you like best about them? Who did you find easier to write about and why?
I loved writing about the love-hate relationship between Debbie and her sister Linda. I'm not sure if I found one easier to write than the other. I could have some fun with Linda because she is a less sympathetic character (to start with, at least), whereas Debbie's character is slightly more long-suffering and just trying to keep things together.
This is a Christmas story. This must affect some decisions you make about the plot line. Can you tell us a bit about this and how it was different from previous books you have written?
I knew the story had to end on Christmas day, so when I had written my initial chapter plan, I had to work backwards to make a week-by-week timetable of the plot points. Once I had done that, I knew the novel had to start in October. At times, the timing issues were a bit of a headache to keep on top of, and I had to do a fair amount of googling of mundane things like 'what time does it get dark in the third week of November' in order to make sure descriptive details were accurate.
What were the deadlines for publishing a book in time for Christmas? Were you writing this in the middle of your summer holiday?!
In order for the book to be published in October I had to deliver it at the end of May, so the first half of the year was pretty much spent writing solidly (although that did at least mean it was all over by the time the summer arrived!)
Can you tell us a little bit about your writing day?
My writing day wasn't really a 'day' as such, as I had to juggle the writing around my other work as a psychodynamic counsellor. As a rule, if I was at home, I was writing, whether that was in the evenings, weekends, or early mornings. I don't think I was much fun to be around for a few months, if I'm honest.
What are the challenges of writing a series of books? What have you enjoyed the most?
The biggest challenge writing the second book was working out how much I should refer to the previous book, especially at the start of the novel. I had to fight the urge to write a 'recap' of what had happened previously, and instead launch straight into the new story and let the readers work out for themselves what had happened in the past.
From the ending of the book, there is clearly more to come from the cat cafe! Are you working on another title?
I haven't started working on another one yet, but I do find myself wondering what Molly and Debbie are up to, so watch this space.
What genre do you most enjoy reading? Who are some of your favourite authors?
I don't know if I have a specific genre which I enjoy reading - I tend to go more for authors I like. I'm loving Kate Atkinson at the moment - Life after Life and a God in Ruins. But I found Robert Galbraith's (aka JK Rowling) Cormoron Strike series really helpful when writing the cat cafe books, as they combine storylines that zip along, and characters that seem completely real and engaging. I think that's definitely what I was aiming for in my own writing.
Thanks so much Melissa! Great answers and lovely to hear more about the story behind the cat cafe and your writing life! I hope you have a great Christmas and Nancy and Pip keep themselves out of mischief!
"Christmas at the Cat Cafe" is an engaging read which will appeal to cat lovers and fans of fiction about families, sisters, parenthood, relationships and happy endings! Read on for my review!
This is a perfect easy-one-sitting read for any cat lovers! Told from the viewpoint of Molly, the mother cat who lives with her kittens and Debbie- owner of the cat cafe- in the Cotswolds, we watch the ups and downs of events in the cafe.
This story centres on the arrival of Linda, Debbie's sister, who is reluctant to really explain why she has arrived out of the blue and seems to be hiding several secrets from them all. She then sets about getting involved in the running of the cafe and threatening the cosy routine that Debbie, Molly and her kittens have become so used to.
The story has several threads running through it- a good balance between the drama and adventures of the cats and the drama of the relationships between Debbie, her sister, her daughter and her partner. Although the story is from Molly's point of view, there is enough about Debbie and her storyline to appeal to anyone who enjoys an easy read.
It is well written, engaging, pleasant read full of colourful characters. All told with enough mentions of the cafe's cat's whiskers cookies and feline fancies to satisfy any appetite for a gentle, heartwarming story. Perfect Christmas gift for cat lovers and cake lovers!
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