Friday, June 8, 2012

Collecting Strays

by Meredith Cole

When I first started writing my mystery series set in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, my character did not have a pet. She didn't have a boyfriend either. She had friends, a rent stabilized apartment, and a very extensive clothing collection. But she shied away from commitment of any kind.

Once I got to know the mystery community and meet more mystery writers, I was introduced to the cozy cat phenomenon. Every cozy mystery had to have a cat it seemed. And if you didn't put an animal in your mystery, the publisher would sometimes put one on the cover anyway. Or a puppy. it was kind of like writing a chick lit book with a main character who wore berkenstocks--and then having a pair of stilettos on the front.  Animal ownership is a serious business.

I have cats (no dog) and I revel in their funny quirks. They are great companions for a writer. They're up at weird hours. They like to sit on your lap (or some do) and they're extremely independent and opinionated. So as a joke, I introduced a cat in my second book. A stray cat warns Lydia of danger and saves her life. She feels obliged to take him home to her apartment.

I thought it was incredibly funny to have a commitment-phobe have to deal with a new roommate. She buys him food and a litter box. I wasn't entirely sure she was going to keep the cat. She certainly doesn't think so. She tries to get him adopted. But the cat started to tug at her heart strings. People made her feel guilty for thinking that she might give it away. And she started to like her cat.

So in the end she decides to keep her cat. And commits to him by giving him a name. Fred. So now there's no going back. The only question is whether I'll have a cat on my next book cover or not.


Chris said...

I can see it now: "Fred and Buried." Or perhaps "Meow! You Shot Me!" (I'm married to a cozy reviewer. My house and brain overfloweth with actual and potential title puns, respectively.)

Meredith Cole said...

Yikes! Don't give my publisher any ideas... So far I've managed to stay away from punning titles (although I definitely see their appeal).

Reece said...

Perhaps an iguana for book three? I see a subplot involving tensions between Fred and his new reptilian housemate.

Meredith Cole said...

Ha! I would have to do some serious iguana research though, Reece... I've never owned a reptile before. The great part of putting a cat in my book was never having to look any further than my living room for inspiration and ideas.