Catch Up With Author Candida Baker

The author talks about the animals that inspired her books, including the latest "The Amazing Life of Cats."

By Tiffany Lin

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Candida Baker
Candida Baker Photo by David Young
What was your inspiration behind the book?
My inspiration behind my animal series – "The Infinite Magic of Horses," "The Wonderful World of Dogs" and, the latest, "The Amazing Life of Cats" — was to collect stories from animal lovers around the world that would show readers how extraordinary animals really are, and from my own stories share experiences of how animals have enriched my life.

What was the most rewarding part about writing the book?
One of the things I love about collecting stories for an anthology is working with people who are not writers on their stories. They have the most amazing experiences to share with us, and to help them shape those experiences is something I find endlessly rewarding. It was also wonderful to read so many stories about extraordinary cats.

What was the most difficult part about writing the book?
The most difficult part of writing the book, which was the same for the other animal books as well, was writing or editing the stories about our beloved animals dying — particularly if it was an abrupt or brutal end. The story of my cat, Boots, who was taken off our beach-house roof by a powerful owl, still upsets me even all these years later. Also, reading or writing about animal abuse is very difficult. It’s impossible for me to understand how people can abuse any animal.

You have been a writer, journalist and animal lover for many years. How did your love for writing/animals develop?
I’ve always loved writing — even as a child — and I always wanted to be a writer. I guess without realizing it, I was often writing about animals in my fiction before I consciously turned my mind to thinking about the parallel life I have as a horse person and natural horse practitioner, dog owner and cat lover. It seemed to me that I was collecting so many stories — some tragic, some comic, some educational or spiritual — that it was time to do something with them. Plus, I love photography and I had a massive collection of images. I also needed to pay the vet bills!

When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing on your free time?
I love to ride, so I will hop on my very old horse, Beau, or play with one of my babies (horses, that is). I walk the dogs twice a day, and I love to go to the beach and swim when I get a chance. Plus, there’s my writing and my lovely daughter to look after, so I’m pretty busy.

Tell us about your current pets.
The current menagerie includes our lovely tortoiseshell cat, Tiny, who isn’t very tiny, but she was when she was 6 weeks old and was named by my daughter; three dogs: Coco and Molly, who are brother and sister and Jack Russell and King Charles Spaniel mixes, and a madly enthusiastic Staffordshire, Sparky.

We have eight horses on the property, five of whom are ours. We have Beau, my 27-year-old Anglo Arab — he and I love to trail-ride together; Sally-the-Boy Shetland Pony, famous around the region for his amazing temperament and his ability to put up with wearing pink for all the little girls that love him; Cardigan, my son’s old show-jumper; and the two young ones — a 4-year-old Palomino Quarter Horse called Jewel, and her 3-year-old half brother, a paint Quarter Horse cross, called Storm. Plus we have Arthur and Rocky, our guinea pigs, and Oreo the rabbit.

Can you recall a favorite memory you’ve shared with your cat, Tiny?
The family is in complete agreement that of all the pets we own, Tiny is the least trouble and the most rewarding! She is a very affectionate cat, and she loves to climb in things. She’s always in washing baskets, shopping bags or boxes. I think an on-going favorite memory is when she is cuddled up with my daughter on Anna’s bed. They look very sweet together.

What is one important lesson you’ve learned from an animal?
I’ve learned: Live in the moment, right now, this minute and this second.

Out of all the stories in the book, can you pick one or two favorites?
I rather like Harry the Humongous; I think he was a real cat character, and the way the story is told really makes you laugh. Also my sister’s story about her Siamese kitten, Kitty Car, because it was so lovely to read her words and her way of remembering her cat. Mrs. Cat Rules the Roost is a very moving story of the way a cat will connect with a human, and how sad it is when something happens to a beloved cat.

If you could tell your readers one thing, what would it be?
If you don’t have an animal, get one. If you can’t get an animal, help out a shelter. If you do have an animal, look after it. Is that more than one thing? I think it’s all the same thing!
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