Catch Up With the Author of Cat Books "Homer's Odyssey" and "Love Saves the Day"

Gwen Cooper shares what it's like to write about cats and how these pets inspire us.

By BowTie Editors

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Maine Coon Cat with Outstretched Paw
Gwen Cooper Photo by Robert Calderone
Cherry plum flowers
What was your inspiration behind the book?
There were many different inspirations behind the book as a whole, but the inspiration for Prudence (the cat who narrates most of the story) was my cat Scarlett. Scarlett had a reputation for being “aloof” with just about everybody, but she was incredibly sweet and affectionate with me in private. I thought that would be the perfect perspective for this character in the book to have — the kind of cat who was every bit as loyal and loving to her closest humans as we know cats can be, but who wasn't just so infatuated with people that she couldn't observe them with a certain amount of wisdom and objectivity.
 
What was the most difficult part about writing the book?
The hardest part was definitely getting into the mind of a cat, thinking about all the little ways in which what a cat observes and feels and understands would be different from what a human would — and then, not just to think about that, but also to put it into words and convey it in engaging ways to readers. It was a tremendous challenge.
 
What was the most rewarding part of writing the book?
I would actually say the same as the above! It was hard getting into the mind of a cat, but when I felt that I'd written something from Prudence's perspective that was really funny or sweet or that really rang true, it was incredibly rewarding.
 
What type of feedback have you received so far?
I'm so grateful for all the positive feedback the book has received so far! It's only been out for a couple of weeks, and I've already heard from so many readers and seen so many online reader reviews from people who just love it, and who feel that I've really captured something meaningful about these truly close, life-changing relationships we form with the animals who share our hearts and homes. After all the hard work, it's great to hear that!
 
What is your writing process?
I tend to get up very early — around 5:00am — and while everything is still quiet, before the phone starts ringing and the emails start piling up, I try to get in a good five or six hours of dedicated writing time. Then I usually break for lunch, take care of business matters, and spend the afternoon editing what I wrote that morning. I was working full-time when I wrote my first book, so getting up a couple of hours earlier to write was something I started doing out of necessity. Now I write full-time, but I still find that this process works best.

Have you written any other books?
I have! My first book was a novel called Diary of a South Beach Party Girl (there aren't any cats in that book, but it's still a fun read). My last book was a memoir called "Homer's Odyssey" about my blind cat, Homer. Homer is still very much alive and well, and we spent a lot of time together while I was writing Love Saves the Day. At this point, I don't know if I could write a book without him!
 
Tell us about your pets.
We have three cats these days — Homer, my blind boy who's been with me for nearly 16 years, and two kittens (who are just about to turn 1, actually). They're littermates named Clayton and Fanny. Clayton is a “tripod” who was born missing one of his hind legs. All three of them are black — we're suckers for “hard luck” stories in my house, and between the difficulties in adopting out black cats in general and the challenges any “special needs” animal faces in finding a forever home, they found their way to us. All three of them are so sweet and funny and chock-full of personality, and they bring so much life and joy to our home.
 
Do your pets influence your writing?
They influence everything I do, from my writing to my work in the rescue community to the kinds of foods we buy or vacations we take. We're pretty animal-centric around here!
 
In what ways does your cat offer you comfort when you need it most?
My cats can always make me laugh, no matter how bad anything else is, and that's always a tremendous comfort in and of itself. Somebody once said that cats are nature's comedians, which I think is absolutely true. And yet they're also always there to purr in your lap or snuggle up under the covers with you. So they're there for comic relief, but also to make you feel better just by their physical presence.
 
How insightful do you think your cat is about your inner thoughts and feelings?
I'm sure I'm not the only person who's convinced that my cats know when I need a bit of extra comfort. I think animals in general are observant of very small cues in us — whether it's a change in posture or body language or scent or even the dilation of a pupil — that we don't necessarily see in ourselves.
 
Homer is a bit of a special case, because he's blind — so he's not necessarily picking up on any visual cues —and yet, having lived with animals, literally, all my life, I can honestly say that I've never been as bonded with any cat or dog as I am with him. I can see his moods change to reflect my own moods, and I've probably never had a better reason to force myself out of a bad mood than seeing Homer stalk around angry and irritable because I'm angry and irritable, or seeing him mope around because I'm unhappy. I don't know precisely how he knows what I'm thinking, but I also think that one of the most truly rewarding things about having a close relationship with a cat — or with any animal you love — is how much of that relationship goes deeper than what can be explained in words.
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