Wednesday, February 23, 2011

WRITING WITH CATS

My guest says she started writing when she was seven about an abandoned puppy. At nine, Anjali created a “series of mysteries and adventures with preposterous premises and impossible plots.”

It appears the desire to write has remained a constant in her life and she has graduated to writing both adult fiction and YA. Including her latest, Haunting Jasmine.

Please welcome Anjali Banerjee to Over Coffee.

She has also brought her Muses: Luna, Simon, Teddy, Cheyenne and Ruby. Aren't they gorgeous. All writers need cats, lol!








Luna
Help.

I’m stuck in a dark house during a storm-induced power outage – surrounded by cats. As I lie under the covers, trying to stay warm, typing this blog entry on a lightweight netbook computer with an emergency flashlight propped on the keyboard, my eighteen-pound tabby cat, Luna, is climbing onto my chest. She keeps licking my hand and trying to burrow under my armpit. Our smaller ragdoll cat, Cheyenne, just jumped onto the windowsill, scrambled for a foothold, and fell to the floor. Our sleek black kitten, Ruby, sleeps in a basket on the bureau. Oops, not any more. She leaped down onto the bed, then to the floor and sauntered off. Simon, a rather large, orange and white male tabby, has left through a secure tunnel into a safe outdoor enclosure, where he makes believe that he’s defending a vast territory.


Teddy
 I hear Teddy, our fluffy Maine coon kitty, scraping the litterbox to cover his latest fragrant droppings. I have to decide whether to interrupt my writing process and scoop the litterbox, or endure the pungent scent of cat poo while I work.

I choose to scoop. Be right back.

Yes, I live and work in a circus of cats – five, to be exact. They graciously allow my husband and me to live in this small rambler in the woods on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. We’re charged with feeding the fur people, loving them, brushing them, clipping their claws, providing them with fresh running water and clean litterboxes, and generally catering to their every whim. Occasionally, they allow me to work and write so that I might make a living and continue to, um, feed them.

It’s not easy.

This morning, while I raced to complete a project on deadline, Luna threw up a hairball on the bedcovers. Decision time again. Clean hairball or keep on working? I chose to clean up the hairball.


Cheyenne
 Then Cheyenne hissed at Ruby, and Ruby skidded down the hall and crashed into the wall. I had to comfort her. Teddy climbed onto my keyboard and batted around a pen or two.

So I moved my laptop to another room, thinking I might get a little peace, but no… as the computer was booting up, I walked away for a few moments. Mistake. When I returned, Ruby was sitting in front of the keyboard, her innocent gaze focused on a blue screen. In only a few seconds, she had managed to crash my computer. I somehow got it working again after three reboots.

If cats are so difficult, why do I live with them?


Ruby and Anjali

Luna has settled down next to my leg. She’s a warm, purring ball of fluff - loyal, sweet, loving fluff with affectionate green eyes. She never cares what I look like or what mood I’m in. She just wants to be close and to be loved. And Ruby, my little intelligent gem of a black cat, curls up next to me and gazes into my eyes with the wise soul of an ancient goddess. The cats make me laugh with their antics, and they give unconditional love while asking little in return, relatively speaking. Cats know how to meditate, to eat when they’re hungry, sleep when they’re tired, and play when they feel playful – they experience the world in a pure, joyful way.

They are also my muses. They find ways to sneak into my books. In my children’s novel, Seaglass Summer, a young girl learns that her idealistic dream to become a veterinarian can bring sadness – when an old kitty passes away – as well as satisfaction. In my novel for adults, Invisible Lives, my heroine tests the quality of a man by his reaction to her cats.

In my new release, Haunting Jasmine, Jasmine Mistry, an overworked L.A. businesswoman, agrees to run her aunt’s bookstore on a rainy Pacific Northwest island while her aunt is away in India. Little does Jasmine know that the bookstore, in a cluttered Victorian mansion, is haunted by the ghosts of dead authors, who help her to slow down, reinvent her life, fall in love with a mysterious stranger… and adopt two shelter cats, of course.

In my current novel in progress, a cat graduates from cameo role to central character, helping a young widow emerge from her isolation and find love -- on the same Pacific Northwest island.

After all, what would a story be without cats?

But how does one balance the good and the difficult – the at once loving, muse-like qualities and disruptive tendencies of cats? My husband helps, when he’s home. We provide outdoor enclosures - play areas for the cats - and toys, cat beds and condos. When we adopted Ruby as a kitten, we also adopted a male kitten, Teddy, of roughly the same age. The two kittens bonded, sleeping together and playing together. I write while the cats are resting, or I close my office door.

Sometimes, though, I simply have to leave the house. I write in a friend’s office, or I go to a café. It’s always a balancing act - a little of this, a little of that. But isn’t that what life is all about?

As I close this blog entry, my husband and two cats are asleep here on the bed, allowing me to write. The wind is howling, and the power is still out. The battery is about to run down on this netbook computer, so I’d better shut down for now.


Haunting Jasmine

Divorcée Jasmine Mistry is intent on restarting her life when she gets the chance to do just that. A call from the past brings her home to Shelter Island, a green dot in the middle of Puget Sound, to run her beloved aunt's bookstore. The familiarity is heartening – the rocky beaches, pewter skies, country boutiques, and above all, Auntie’s Bookstore, nestled in a quaint Queen Anne Victorian, and believed, not incidentally, to be haunted.


With that knowledge, Jasmine embarks on a mystical journey, urged along by her quirky family, guided by the highly emotional spirits of long-dead authors, and moved to heal her broken heart when she falls unexpectedly in love with an enigmatic young stranger. He knows about blurring the lines between truth and fantasy. In redefining the meaning of everlasting love, he urges Jasmine to reinvent herself in a place she calls home. All she has to do is close her eyes and say yes.  Excerpt


Anjali Banerjee was born in India, raised in Canada and California and received degrees from the University of California, Berkeley. Her books have received accolades in many review journals and newspapers. The Philadelphia Inquirer called her young adult novel, Maya Running (Wendy Lamb Books/Random House) "beautiful and complex" and "pleasingly accessible." The Seattle Times praised Anjali's novel for adults, Imaginary Men (Downtown Press/Pocket Books) as "a romantic comedy equal to Bend it Like Beckham."
 
Anjali loves hiking, reading, watching movies, supporting local animal welfare organizations, feeding birds, and playing piano. She lives in the Pacific Northwest, in a cottage in the woods, with her husband and five rescued cats.

You can find Anjali: Facbeook and Website


Sweet Simon

Photo Credits: Carol Ann Morris -Author bio picture, Anjali and Ruby, and Teddy. Reprinted with permission.

25 comments:

~Sia McKye~ said...

Anjali, Welcome to Over Coffee. As you can see, I had to put all five of your babies in. They're so pretty although I must say, I love Carol's photos of you and Ruby and Teddy. I also loved what she did on your website.

Simon, What a loving sweet face.

All my cats are rescued too and tend to want to be close especially when I'm writing.

I really enjoyed your excerpt. I'm going to order this one on Thursday. I can already see I'm going to enjoy it. :-)

Tonya Kappes said...

Fun, Anjali! I love hearing about your cats. I'm like this with my three dogs:) They are just as demanding. But this writing career is a complete balancing act I'm having trouble with. I never did until all four boys got into middle school and up. When they were in elementary school, I'd sit in car line for one hour and could get so much done. Now they ride the bus, get home earlier, and I get nothing doned:(( I too have to leave in order to really get some good blocks of writing in.

mycatsp said...

Great story. Can really relate. Have had to survive power outage with my two. By the way - You are a good writer.

Anjali said...

Sia, thank you so much for hosting me on your wonderful blog! Tonya, I admire you - three dogs and four boys. Amazing. And "mycatsp," thank you so much. Sia, do you have a book to give away? If not, I can provide a signed one.

Robert Sloan said...

Great story! Of course there are other reasons cats and writers go together so well. They sleep about 15 to 16 hours a day. The tranquil, inspiring presence of a sleeping cat won't disturb the writer's process.

A cat never sleeps on a bad manuscript. This is true. I've heard it from at least three published authors.

Cats may interrupt me now and then, but getting up for two minutes doesn't break my concentration. I'm still thinking about my chapter while I fill their food bowl but my circulation definitely improves.

My cat has incredible tact. He will choose to slither into my lap for affection at exactly the point a chapter isn't going well and I need a short pause to step back from it. I'll pet him and he'll purr. Mysteriously, cat hairs of inspiration flow all over my clothes and hands. As if by magic, the next sentence and paragraph will flow. Sometimes I'll type right over his back and he'll go to sleep in my lap until I hit the next stuck point.

Cats are great for writers. Fantastic blog.

If you want all the time in the world for writing, become physically disabled in a way that makes you housebound or get sent to prison. Disability beats prison hands down, because I've got my cat with me here to keep me on form.

Sheila Roberts said...

Yes, cats are great for writers. Cats are great. Period. :) And by the way, so is Anj's new book!

Other Lisa said...

Hahah! Boy do I relate to this post. I have a few kitties, including one who absolutely loves to sleep on my left arm while I'm trying to type. I explain to her that this is not conducive to productivity, and yet, she is oddly unmoved...

Helen Ginger said...

We used to have two cats until our son developed an allergy to them. They then became my sister's cats. I'm the most sentimental in the family. I like cats and dogs. We've had both.

Stephen Tremp said...

I would love to have a couple cats, but wifey is allergic to them. I tell her we can have a hairless cat but they are too freaky looking. Enjoy your bundles of mischevious fur!

James Rafferty said...

I love writing and cats. Our cat Shadow likes to sit on the morning paper and demand attention. Cats and writing -- a wonderful combination.

VA said...

"Adventures with preposterous premises and impossible plots.” Okay, we had the same writing career start. Clearly, you've moved beyond me. Mine always involved being knocked unconscious and being somewhere else upon reviving.

No kitty house here. Allergies. I love watching cats, but the fur is problematic. Thus there unique personalities make them extremely well-suited to starring roles.

Off to read the excerpt.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

And I thought I had it tough with two cats constantly bugging me! My Spunky looks like your Ruby.

Anjali said...

I love reading all these interesting comments. I'll have to put cat allergies into my current manuscript!

Jenyfer Matthews said...

I love cats too - they have such wonderful personalities and expressions!

aries18 said...

No cats in a home is unthinkable to me and to my DH as well. Our two rescue kitties allow us the same privileges as yours do Anjali. They majestically ignore me when I'm writing unless it's going well. Then one or both will decide they're in need of my services. But I willingly do what they need. It's little enough to do in exchange for their love, their humor and their insanity.

I never thought of putting oneof them into a book though and that is interesting to me.

Great interview. I'm adding your books to my TBR list.

Jill Lynn said...

There's a cat in the MS I've been working on off and on for a year or so (okay, more off than on) then I adopted a real kitty last September. Figured the MS influenced me. In other words, it's too blame. Kidding! She's adorable. As are yours. Thanks for introducing your family to us, Anjali.

Talli Roland said...

I'd love to write with cats around! Sigh! Somehow, animals always seem to work their way into my MS.

Thank you for a great post, Anjali!

Anjali said...

Thank you for the wonderful comments and cat stories. (I should add that our cats are all rescues and they are spayed and neutered, of course. Life would be more complicated if they weren't!) I'm interested in knowing more about your manuscripts in which cats appear.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Anjali, this has been an interesting blog post. It's amazing how much we love our critters and how much they are a part of our life.

The first MS I wrote for a contest included two of my cats and their unique personalities. I think our fur babies show showcase our characters too. There are those who are very closed off to people but it doesn't mean they are without love and sometimes a pet shows that aspect and the potential for caring much better than using a person.

Danielle said...

I loved reading your post! I can totally relate as I have two massive maine coon cats, and the minute I sit down at my desk to write, they sit on either side of my computer and then proceed to walk back and forth in front of the screen until I finally give up and let one of them bundle up on my chest and fall asleep. Then I'm typing with one hand . . . which means I usually have to leave the house to get any writing done, or wait until they are in the middle of one of their five hour long naps:) They are so worth it though!

Brad Fallon said...

What type of cat gets adopted the least and what cat gets adopted the least?

Bethany said...

I loved reading this. I have only one Mistress of my household at this time, and believe me, it isn't me! My tuxedo cat, Isabella, is my comfort and joy. She comforted me when I was ill, always near and always gentle; ready for a cuddle. And brings me joy most days, except when I'm trying to work on the laptop - yeah, then it's a different story.... :-)

Anjali Banerjee said...

I thought I had subscribed to these comments, but now I see that a few more have posted! Sorry for the very late response. I believe black cats are most often overlooked, Brad. Our black cat, Ruby, is beautiful, intelligent and loving. Danielle, we have a small Maine coon/tabby mix. He is SO fluffy! Bethany, Isabella sounds wonderful.

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Does anyone have any information on a pair of ray ban cats sunglasses that have cats written on the side?

Herman Miller Aeron said...

What type of cat gets adopted the least and what cat gets adopted the least?