Catch Up With Author Deborah Grabien

Learn more about the inspiration behind her book "Dark's Tale."

By Stacy N. Hackett | Posted: July 8, 2010, 3 a.m. EDT

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Deborah Grabien
Author Deborah Grabien makes friends with feral cats everywhere she goes, even on vacation in Italy.

What was your inspiration behind the book?
My husband and I feed ferals wherever we find them. We've been taking care of two colonies for the past dozen years. One of those colonies is just inside Golden Gate Park, about four minutes from our house. One night, a pure black cat just showed up; she was hungry, friendly, cautious. We knew, right off, that her name was Dark, and by the second time we fed her, she was responding to that name. This was shortly before the incursion of several coyotes into the Park. The Park colonies lost at least five of the cats to predation by the coyotes. We've become very used to the way the biosystem in the park works, and the coyotes, as beautiful as they are, were disastrous to the balance. It was like dropping a Tyrannosaurus into a petting zoo. So the story began taking shape in my head, and percolating, and eventually there it was.

What was the most difficult part of writing the book?
Honestly? Trying to tone down how furious I was at how the situation with the coyotes was handled by the local animal control department and city officials. While I let the human character "Angie" vent a bit in the book, I couldn't pass that off onto my narrator, because a cat simply wouldn't see it that way — even a cat who understands English!

What was the most rewarding part of writing the book?
The sense of completion I felt in being able to put so much reality into it. A lot of the incidents in the book — the coyotes, the shooting, the homeless abused dog "Iris" and more — were taken from genuine incidents. Being able to include those was rewarding.

What type of feedback have you received so far?
Varied, as you might expect! The official reviews have been interesting: the reviewer at Publishers Weekly was vicious in his (or her) dislike of the book, while the reviewer at Kirkus said that "...the descriptions of the park, its wildlife and Dark's mystical encounters are breathtakingly beautiful, fierce and evocative." What makes me happy is that the kids — the actual target readership — seem to like it very much. That's the bottom line.

What is your writing process?
None. No, honestly, I'm one of those annoying organic writers. I have characters, they want to go down a road on a particular journey, I sit down and open a new document, and just let it rip. I'm a storyteller; I just write. I don't outline, or anything of that kind. I just tell the story.

Do you have any other books?
"Dark's Tale" is my thirteenth published novel. But it's the first non-adult novel. I have a follow-up planned, "Night Movers," narrated by a young raccoon. That one picks up literally half an hour after "Dark's Tale" ends.

Do you own a cat or other pets? Tell us about them!
Not pets — they're cats. You don't own a cat, you cohabitate or share space with them. Do you know the old saying: "Dogs have owners, cats have staff"? Very true. At the moment, we have a dozen rescues and, over the years, we've found homes for a few dozen others. We're very involved with the Trap-Neuter-Release programs out. Right now, as I type, one of our older cats, Stanley, an alpha wannabe who simply does not admit to the existence of the word "no," is kneading my lap and purring — ouch. Time to trim his claws.

Do your pets influence your writing?
Indirectly. I've lived with cats since infancy. That's 56 years. I find it very difficult to create a story setting without cats. It always feels as if something's missing.

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