The World’s Oldest Serial Killer – Book Review

Title: Sister Agatha – The World’s Oldest Serial Killer

Author: Domhnall O’Donoghue

Genre: Contemporary fiction, humor

Sister Agatha ranks fifth among the oldest people in the world. On realizing she doesn’t have much time left to live, she embarks on a quest to make it to the top of the list. She has never stepped outside Ireland all her life, and now needs to travel across the world to meet her four targets. As the nun sets out to eliminate her competitors , the reader is treated to a hilarious ride through the eyes of the geriatric assassin. Does Sister Agatha achieve her goal of topping the list of oldest living person in the world, or do her age and vocation come in the way?

World’s Oldest Serial Killer is one of the funniest books I have read, and one of my best reads this year. I loved the darkly comic concept of a senior citizen serial killer. Sister Agatha is a brilliantly conceived protagonist – keeping the reader guessing whether she’ll follow in the footsteps of Saint Agatha, the patron saint of Sicily whom she was named after; or Agatha Christie, her favorite author and namesake.

All the characters have been well developed, and the novel follows a steady pace throughout, as we meet the top four oldest people in the world. The book is a laugh riot from start to finish, and is highly recommended for readers who like dark humor. It’s hard to believe this was the author’s debut novel. Domhnall O’Donoghue is a wonderful writer, who brings the Irish sense of humor to this unique story. There are some really funny one-liners and witty dialogues. Well worth the reading time.

My rating: 5/5

Thanks to Rachel’s Random Resources for having me on board the blog tour, and for sharing a copy of the book.

Cielo – Book Review

Title – Cielo

Author – Jane Markland

Genre – Thriller

A former drug addict gets a job as a gardener for a millionaire. Cielo is the house owned by Max, his brother Tom, and sister-in-law Stacey. Max is an alcoholic with a dark past, who has now turned recluse and doesn’t step out of his mansion. Tom is a wine maker who neither drinks alcohol, nor sells his wines. Stacey potters around the house, cooking far too much than the number of residents. There’s something off about Cielo and its inhabitants, which Nathan the gardener tries to unravel.

Books about haunted houses are captivating for the secrets they hold and their mysterious occupants. I liked the concept of Cielo, that blurs the lines between thriller and horror, mystery and supernatural. There’s an eerie atmosphere to the mansion, with its buried motives and hidden agendas waiting to rise to the surface. Having a gardener as protagonist and amateur detective was an unusual take, and the descriptions of the vegetables and flowers as Nathan tends to his garden were the highlights of the book. The relationship between Nathan and Max was also well explored.

The book falls short in not developing the other characters as much, considering there are only four of them and all four influence the story. Several portions dragged on and were not relevant to the plot at hand. I felt this story would have better suited a novella – it has an interesting storyline, but not enough for a novel. The secondary tangents do not fit into the main plot and digress, causing the reader to lose interest. A more compact narrative would have made for an engaging read.

My rating – 3/5

Thanks to Zooloo’s Book Tours and Spellbound Books, for having me on board the blog tour, and for sharing a copy of the book.

Horror Addicts Guide to Life – An Interview with Kristin Battestella

Horror Addicts Guide to Life is a series comprising two books that delve into all things horror – literature, movies, music, art, crafts, anything and everything related to the genre. The books include puzzles, trivia, quizzes, essays, and a multitude of dark and eerie topics. In this interview feature, I speak with Kristin Battestella who has designed all the craft projects for Horror Addicts Guide to Life 2.

INTERVIEW WITH KRISTIN BATTESTELLA

  1. Hi Kristin, Congratulations on the release of Horror Addicts Guide to Life 2. How did you come aboard this book? Could you tell us about your work in the collection?

Hi Renata! So kind of you to have me for a chat! I’ve been on staff with Horror Addicts.net for almost ten years. I had also been a part of the first Horror Addicts Guide to Life so it was great to be part of this one! Book 2 is more of an interactive workbook, and I have several Kbatz Krafts Halloween and DIY articles as well as a few Frighteing Flix horror movie editorials. Both themes are what I do at Horror Addicts.net on the blog or on the podcast and videos.

2. As a staff writer for Horror Addicts, your domain is horror in crafts. Are there any influences to your work? What drives your creativity?

I had been a sewer when I was younger but when I lived in a smaller space, it really cramped my creativity! Now I have a set up in my basement where my ideas have free reign. I suppose my influence comes in what is lacking. Sometimes it’s tough to find custom, unique, or alternative morose and old-fashioned clothing, accessories, and décor – so making or repurposing items often drives my projects. I look at items and see not what they are but what they could be. I think, “Can I do what I have in mind and make this thrift find – or sometimes literally trash – zing?” I like projects and materials that recycle or don’t break the bank and can be made to ‘do you’ as they say.

3. How did you decide on which piece(s) to include for HAGL2?

Our editor Emerian Rich had a list of some of the previous blog posts and projects I had done for Kbatz Krafts and we sort of went from there. Rather than pieces that relied on a lot of photos or videos, mainly we wanted items that were able to be done yourself. These articles aren’t a lot of the complicated sewing or custom gothic décor but some fun wreaths, recycling, or art that I hope are inspiring or that people might take the spooky nugget and do what speaks to them!

4. What role has horror played in your life? How did you come into horror, and into crafts, and when did the two merge?

I’ve always loved horror movies. Back in my day, you had to wait for October to see scary stuff, and you were weird if you liked scary movies.  Horror makes me think. I don’t get scared, but I see that something is frightening and I want to know why we insist on pushing our fight or flight buttons. Back in the nineties, there just wasn’t as much horror, especially vampires. I love the light and dark examinations so I wrote my own vampire series. Now of course, horror is everywhere! Maybe fifteen years ago, I loved Halloween clearance shopping because you could buy things to use year-round. Before the pandemic, however, a lot of the quality Halloween merchandise seemed to fall off, so I began returning back to wondering how to make do some homemade spooky.  I wouldn’t say my crafting is that scary or horrific, just outside the norm. Although that in itself may frighten people!  I did a whole series on my Dark Shadows inspired designs!

5. How has your experience been curating crafts for the Horror Addicts blog versus working on a book?

As I am only one small part of the book, it was probably easier! Editing and approving a handful of pieces and then seeing how they came together to match the book’s calendar and the rest of the work included is great. I am a perfectionist so if I am doing a craft for the blog and then documenting with photos and video, it takes twice as long and there is no one but me to do the thing. You have to sort of wear multiple hats for the project and the process, making sure the video is cooperating and putting it all together. I don’t deal with a lot of modern technology which probably holds me back, and my video experience comes from Video Production in school that was gasp all VHS! However, I enjoy sharing my work in the hopes that maybe others may find something that speaks to their little dark heart. What are you afraid to do? Do it!

6.  What are your favorite books and movies in horror? Any favorite authors and actors?

I used to be a big Anne Rice reader. During le plague I have been re-reading a lot of Poe. It is strangely comforting to me! I love Dark Shadows and a lot of classic horror like the Vincent Price AIP films and the Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing Hammer series. I actually first joined HorrorAddicts.net to review television throwbacks! Recently Only Lovers Left Alive has become a favorite. I am gravitating more to unusual and indie horrors rather than what seems to be the popular of the moment speculative or splatter. Sometimes I know I have to get down off my high horse like “I did horror ~ before ~ it was cool!” There’s a lot of great chilling entertainment out there, you just have to get through a lot of mediocre stuff so I stick with a lot of old school loves.

7. Writing, reviewing, crafting – if you had to choose only one activity, which would it be and why?

I struggle with this now! I used to say I was a writer, but I haven’t written fiction in years. Since I had Lyme Disease, it really knocked me for the exhaustive fiction process. I miss that but I don’t know how to get back to that kind of energy. I write for other classic film for other venues and it is really tough to prioritize when all the deadlines come at once. Sometimes I try and multitask on projects like sewing while some paint is drying, but I don’t like being so divided on subjects. I like to go where the creativity takes me, but I wonder if the pandemic changed that? I used to think I would review everything I watched, but now I only keep watching the same comfort movies over and over. It really irritates my husband when I watch Memento multiple times in a row! I guess these days you have to do whatever creates your own balance and healing.  Sometimes I do something I think is really special and you put it out there and it just DOA sinks like a stone. It really makes you wonder if what you are doing is worthwhile. I didn’t used to be so insecure about my work, but when you receive a touching compliment about someone liking what you’ve written or said or see a project and want to do something to express themselves, it melts my evil heart.

Thank you Renata!

ABOUT KRISTIN BATTESTELLA

Kristin Battestella writes horror fiction and non-fiction at HorrorAddicts.net including Frightening Flix reviews and Kbatz Krafts Halloween DIY projects and How-to videos. She also writes non-fiction for several other outlets including SEARCH Magazine, InSession Film, and I Think, Therefore I Review.

Dark Factory – Q&A with Kathe Koja

Welcome to Dark Factory! You may experience strobe effects, Y reality, DJ beats, love, sex, betrayal, triple shot espresso, broken bones, broken dreams, ecstasy, self-knowledge, and the void.

Dark Factory is a dance club: three floors of DJs, drinks, and customizable reality, everything you see and hear and feel. Ari Regon is the club’s wild card floor manager, Max Caspar is a stubborn DIY artist, both chasing a vision of true reality. And rogue journalist Marfa Carpenter is there to write it all down. Then a rooftop rave sets in motion a fathomless energy that may drive Ari and Max to the edge of the ultimate experience.

Dark Factory is Kathe Koja’s wholly original new novel from Meerkat Press, that combines her award-winning writing and her skill directing immersive events, to create a story that unfolds on the page, online, and in the reader’s creative mind.

Thanks to publishing house Meerkat Press, I got the chance to interview Kathe Koja about her latest book.

INTERVIEW WITH KATHE KOJA

1) Hi Kathe, Congratulations on the release of your newest book. How did the idea for Dark Factory come about? What was your inspiration for the club?

All my novels begin with a character, and for Dark Factory that’s Ari: the club’s wild card floor manager, the bright heart of the party. Ari is the first one we meet in the novel, the one who introduces us to the club and the world of the story. Once I met Ari, Dark Factory was good to go.

2) Unlike your other novels, Dark Factory is interactive – the ebook provides the reader with links to follow and engage, the website is filled with activities to explore. How challenging was it to create a multidimensional novel that goes beyond a story?

It took a minute – a long minute – for me to really understand what I was making, writing the main narrative and a lot of bonus material, about the characters and their world, and the ways that all the material could mesh. It was my experience as an immersive event creator, where the task is blending many elements together to create one event, that helped me to understand how to make it all happen.

3) What challenges, if any, did you or your publishers face while bringing this book to fruition. What reader audience did you have in mind, considering the final product moves beyond reading?

The fun and challenge for Tricia Reeks of Meerkat Press, and for me, was, How do we present to readers this complete experience that’s operating on multiple levels? We wanted to make sure readers could engage at every step, so whether you choose to read the print book, bonus content, the DarkFactory.club site content, you’ll get a satisfying narrative, and if you want to add your song to the playlist, or participate in one of the fan art contests, you can do that too. If you want more, there’s always more.

4) Your writing is known for being experimental. Who are your literary influences? Any favorite authors or books?

Shirley Jackson was a great influence on me, her insistence on narrative economy, and she taught me to always trust the reader to be able to keep pace with the story. Emily Bronte and Emily Dickinson taught me about honoring the story’s own intensity, and never being afraid to tell it your own way.

Two new writers whose work I love and recommend are Maryse Meijer (Heartbreaker) and Lindsay Lerman (What Are You). I read for voice, and these are two very strong, very different, voices that readers should meet if they haven’t already.

5) The mask-making contest was an interesting build-up to the book’s release. Do you have any other hobbies or creative pursuits besides writing?

I’m always open to new disciplines and new ways of telling a story – who knows what might be next (VR)?

6) The storyline talks about the creative bonding between the main characters. And another central character is the club itself. How do you conceive your characters, situations and themes while working on a new novel? What sort of research does it entail, or do you rely more on imagination?

The story grows from, and flowers through, the characters and their feelings, conflicts, interactions – the same way we experience our own lives. So it’s a very organic process, and sometimes surprises me with the directions it takes along the way. As far as research, I took a deep dive into club culture, specifically techno clubs like Berghain in Berlin, and learned about mushrooms, and performance philosophy, and current VR/AR trends, and. . . . Basically it’s everything that the DF world needed to come alive. And all of that was immense fun.

7) With such an immersive and interactive novel, how did the cover come about – to include all these multi layers and present the story you wanted to tell?

Tricia and I went over cover concepts together, and we both fell in love with our cover boy dancer, who became the Dark Factory paper doll. She has a superb eye for design, and an intuitive sense of what makes an image come alive.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR  

Kathe Koja writes novels and short fiction, and creates and produces immersive fiction performances, both solo and with a rotating ensemble of artists. Her work crosses and combines genres, and her books have won awards, been multiply translated, and optioned for film and performance. She is based in Detroit and thinks globally. She can be found at kathekoja.com.

DARK FACTORY by Kathe Koja

RELEASE DATE: May 10, 2022

GENRE: Speculative Fiction / SciFi / LGBT / Literary

BOOK WEBSITE:  https://darkfactory.club/

BUY LINKS:  Meerkat Press | Amazon Barnes & Noble

Website  |  Twitter  | Facebook

GIVEAWAY: $50 Meerkat Giftcard

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Maelstroms – Book Review

Title – Maelstroms

Author(s) – multiple

Editor – Eric Fomley

Genre – Dark fantasy

I love anthologies for the bite-sized stories they provide to read on the go, and also for introducing the reader to a range of writers and writing styles within a compact collection. Maelstroms from Shacklebound Books piqued my interest for its genre and theme of dark fantasy set around the sea. Edited by Eric Fomley, the compilation features an assortment of short stories by twenty-three writers, each one wonderful in its own way.

From mermaids to pirates, haunted castles and dangerous storms, sea creatures and suspicious amphibians, witches and queens, Maelstroms presents a plethora of tales about watery graves. I particularly liked how the authors dissected the narrow theme and explored the depths of their dark imaginations. Each story is so different from the next one, even though they’re all about the same topic. Kudos to editor Eric Fomley for his spectacular selection for this collection.

Some authors like Dorian Sinnott, Taylor Rae, and Dawn Vogel I was already familiar with from other works of theirs. The anthology introduced me to new, stellar writers like Ai Jiang, Dennis Mombauer, Addison Smith, and Jenna Hanchey. A few stories that stood out for me were Dangers of the Deep, A Bad Day at Sea, Until There Were None, The Island of Masks, No King Will Come for You, The Ocean’s Choice, Grow, and The Kingfishers Come at Dawn, although I loved all of them – Maelstroms is a very well written and put together collection.

Some quotes:

~There was nothing to row to. Only the sea, filled with the crimes of his past.

~The sky, the very sea, was red. Not the red of blooming sunlight, but the crimson red of blood.

~They said her hair had become stained with blood and that is why it was red. Dead Red Delahaye.

~What tossed us into the sea’s dark waters was not the strong winds that carried us forth, nor the storms that brewed and rocked the ship, but the men who found that we were too many mouths to feed.

~The word slides into the hall like frozen glass.

~…the shadows were so profound that just his weighted leg revealed which side was down.

~…the agony of drowning and the peace of death.

~In the end, her most important lesson was the one the students taught.

~Scattered among the sand are a multitude of stones…, worn affectionately from embraces of the ocean.

~I feed on iron and bone and tears.

~Frost clung to her eyelashes and nipped at her cheeks, tasting her. The winter was hungry.

My rating – 5/5

The Write Balance – Percolation, Revision and Publishing

Title – The Write Balance

Author – Bonni Goldberg

Genre – Nonfiction

BOOK REVIEW

Bonni Goldberg’s The Write Balance introduces the reader (and writer) to alternative perspectives and motivation for lasting creative fulfillment. While most nonfiction books on writing address the craft of storytelling, provide editing guidelines and technicalities of publishing, The Write Balance offers a refreshing take on these subjects and more. Goldberg helps us connect with our writing selves, identify our purpose for writing, and define what makes us writers. The book is filled with words of encouragement, practical tools, helpful examples and exercises to inculcate a healthy writing lifestyle.

Through years of teaching writing in workshops and in classrooms, Goldberg has found that the writers who are most passionate and grounded in their Writing Self embrace three aspects of the writing process: nurturing ideas, revising to best communicate those ideas, and completing the writing cycle by going public. Here, she invites us to explore these creative stages which are essential to a satisfying writing journey.

The topics she covers help to find fulfillment as a writer, explore creative writing, add to the writer’s toolkit, overcome writer’s block, and inspire writing groups. As a reader, the book is engaging and informative, educational without being preachy, understandable with real life examples, hypothetical situations, and exercises to put the learnings into practice. As a writer, I like how she covers several crucial topics, from percolating ideas to drafting and re-writing, until the final stages of seeking literary agents, publishers and reaching readers.

The Write Balance is a well-written book from an experienced author, with important lessons and skills to keep dipping into. It’s worth more than a one-time read, and an essential guide to those interested in writing.

My rating – 5/5

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bonni Goldberg is an award-winning poet and writer. Both traditionally and indie published, her books include non-fiction for adults and fiction and non-fiction for young readers. Her essays and blog posts can be found in numerous print and online publications.

Bonni teaches creative writing at colleges and leads writing workshops internationally for all ages. She knows everyone is creative, and she supports people to discover and share their authentic, meaningful and imaginative experiences through words. Whether through her writings or through teaching, her methods and perspectives continue to empower thousands of adults, families, and children.

She also speaks, writes, and leads workshops on Jewish topics such as Jewish identity, rituals and antisemitism at Jewish women’s events, JCCs, and conferences. 

Bonni Goldberg lives in Portland, Oregon with her partner in life, and some creative projects, artist Geo Kendall.

She can be found at:

www.bonnigoldberg.com
www.facebook.com/bonnigoldbergbooks
www.twitter.com/bonnigoldberg
www.instagram.com/goldbergbonni

Thanks to Rachel’s Random Resources for having me on board the blog tour, and sharing a copy of this wonderful book.

Giveaway to win one of these prizes –

30-minute coaching call (video or phone if US)

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Feedback on 3 double spaced pages of their work (via email)

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/7598c2160/

Purchase Linkhttps://books2read.com/u/3n2XQ9

Riding Pillion with George Clooney – Book Review

Title: Riding Pillion with George Clooney

Author: Geraldine Ryan

Genre: Contemporary fiction, short stories

Beginning with the titular story, the collection takes the reader through twelve stories connected by their female protagonists in varying, everyday settings. A middle-aged woman embarks on her first solo trip abroad, a tour guide navigates grumpy travellers, a mother helps her son overcome his drug addiction, a widow tries to come to terms with her husband’s death, an elderly couple undertakes a holiday with failing health and memory, a bride is confronted with her bridesmaid’s cancer diagnosis, a teenager spends the summer taking care of her ailing grandmother. All of the stories have been published before in different women’s magazines, and it’s a delight to see them together in this compilation. Geraldine Ryan strikes a chord with her characters and situations, and the themes she explores in every story. They’re different from each other but still interwoven with the commonality of things and people we come across on a regular basis.

A Butterfly Stirring, Danny Run Home, Cat on the Mat were some of my favorites, but I thoroughly enjoyed all of them. A pleasant assortment of stories that can be read at one go, or dipped into between more serious books, or if you’re short of time for lengthier reading. The writing is candid and witty, the stories heartwarming and inspirational. I loved the conversational and uplifting tone of Geraldine’s fiction. This was my first time reading her work and I’ll look forward to more of her books.

My rating: 4/5

Thanks to Rachel’s Random Resources for having me on board the blog tour, and for sharing a copy of the book.

Broken by Anna Legat – Book Review

Title – Broken

Author – Anna Legat

Genre – Contemporary fiction

Alternating between two separate stories, timelines and perspectives, Broken takes us across a mother’s turmoil of having her son imprisoned, and a priest’s dilemma on hearing the confession of a murderer.

Camilla tries to bond with her grandson, who has no ties with his jailed father. The child has been told by his mother and her new husband, that his father is a hardened criminal who deserved everything that came his way. Camilla believes her son is innocent, her grandson believes his father is not. Who is right and wrong? And who decides whose version of events is true?

Father Joseph frequently encounters a serial killer, who devoutly comes for confession and seeks forgiveness for his crimes. Only to repeat them, and return to confess again. Can a priest tell on a murderer, something that has been revealed in faith? Would abiding by God’s laws make him an accomplice in murder?

Broken addresses the breaking down of ties – familial and societal; the consequences of our actions, and the repercussions of our inactions. We shatter in many ways – by doing wrong, by unintentionally being pulled into someone’s else’s wrongdoing, by doing nothing and thereby encouraging crime to persist. When right and wrong is unclear, which path do we choose? Even by not choosing, we make a choice by default. I loved the tangents Anna Legat brings to the seemingly unconnected stories, and the way she puts things into perspective in the novel as a whole.

The storyline is taut and fast-paced, engaging like a thriller, and well written literary fiction. The characters are memorable, the dual narratives easy to follow, and shifting points of view make the reader a part of the action. Broken kept me engrossed all through the book, and it’s an unconventional psychological thriller I would recommend.

My rating – 4/5

Sair Back, Sair Banes – Book Review

Title – Sair Back, Sair Banes

Author – Anthony Engebretson

Genre – Folklore, dark fiction, fantasy

With a catchy title and cover, Sair Back, Sair Banes certainly piques the reader’s interest. I love books about folklore from around the world, and this novella set in Scotland was placed on my to-read list as soon as publisher Ghost Orchid Press mentioned it.

Genevieve takes a trip from America to connect with an old family friend of her now-deceased parents. Her father loved the outdoors and adventure, and often spoke about his love for the Scottish people, customs, lore and legends. He also regaled Genevieve’s childhood about stories of the kelpie – shape-shifting horses that inhabit water bodies.

Genevieve’s host lives right next to a loch, and she encounters a drowning horse on her first day. But no one else was around to see the horse struggling and disappearing beneath the cold, dark waters. Nobody owns a horse around here, as far as anyone can tell. Was Genevieve imagining it, was someone playing a prank on her, or is there more to the legend of the kelpies? An over-friendly bartender, an icy pub owner, people going missing, a killer on the loose, trauma of parental abuse and suicide – Sair Back, Sair Banes packs a punch within its few pages.

The phrase ‘Sair Back, Sair Banes’ comes from an old folk curse, about a problematic horse in Scottish history. Blending folklore and legends with modern themes of loneliness, isolation, mental health, along with family history and relationships, Anthony Engebretson takes the reader on a trip through the Scottish landscape and culture. His story has one story and many stories; where the protagonist could be anybody, as could the antagonist. A place where spirits could be good and people could be bad; where there’s more to our ancestors than the stories they pass on. I loved this interweaving of themes and emotions – a well-written story that gives the reader something to ponder upon, much after having finished the book.

Sair Back, Sair Banes is Anthony Engebretson’s debut book, although he has written short stories for several anthologies. This was my first time reading this author, and I’ll certainly look forward to more from him. Ghost Orchid Press is known for featuring unpredictable, but brilliant writing. From the body horror Blood and Bone, to the eco-terror Chlorophobia, and the haunting collection Palimpsest, I look forward to their new releases. Sair Back, Sair Banes is another stellar book from their repertoire.

My rating – 5/5

Soulcat – An Interview with Amy-Vaughan Spencer

Amy wrote a love letter… a note to the love of her life. Only Molly never read it. Even if she’d been alive when it was written, failing eyesight would’ve prevented her from making out the words.
Besides which, she was a cat. And cats can’t read.
No ordinary feline, Molly lived a life full of challenge and adventure, determined not to let gradual blindness hold her back.
This is that letter and – against all the odds – Molly’s long-lost memoirs.

Soulcat is a delightful furrytail of a unique friendship, filled with amusing anecdotes and touching moments. The first half is Molly’s story told from the author’s perspective, including a glimpse into the life of a touring theatrical stage manager. Each chapter is punctuated with a photo of Molly and an apt cat quote. Part 2 is life through Molly’s fading eyes, told in her own words (translated into English). Beautiful illustrations by Ellypop accompany the text.

Thanks to Random Things Tours, I got the chance to interview author Amy-Vaughan Spencer about her feline memoir.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW

  1. Hi Amy, Congratulations on the release of your latest book. What made you decide to write a ‘feline memoir’, interspersing Molly’s story with your own? Why not a biography about Molly, or a memoir of yourself?

Thank you! The decision to write a feline memoir was made for me really, when my letter to Molly developed into something more than a brief note. I’ve always enjoyed writing, but hadn’t considered myself brave enough, or good enough, to write a book. Soulcat just kind of grew organically out of that letter.

It’s all thanks to Molly and her uniqueness really! Writing about someone or something you know so well feels easier than writing about yourself, although I did include some autobiographical content, to provide background to Molly’s story. Having lacked confidence when I was younger, I wouldn’t expect anyone to be very interested in reading about my life. The memoir developed out of the letter and I just decided to keep writing in that style as it felt authentic, and a little different.

2. In the book you mention writing a letter to Molly after her death. How did the letter transform into a book? When did you realize you wanted to write more to her and about her?

The letter grew longer as I remembered more anecdotes. I was drafting it in a notebook, and as it got longer and longer it developed into a something more akin to a record of my memories. I don’t have a brilliant memory, so I was genuinely worried I might forget how much she meant to me and how much I loved her, so I wanted to try to capture as much as I could – not really for anyone else’s benefit, but for my own, and for my future self to take a trip down memory lane. I started writing it very soon after her death, which had come about so suddenly I felt the need to do something to say goodbye to her. Putting pen to paper was a way for me to process my feelings and work through my grief.

3. Molly lived with you for 9 years, and she was already 5 years old when she came to you. How challenging was it to compile this memoir – remembering things long gone by, small anecdotes, peculiar events and specific quirks?

It was all very fresh when I started writing, so the memories came easily. But I was pleasantly surprised at how much I could remember, and the more I did, the more my brain was prompted to recall. My relationship with Molly was pretty intense, as we spent so much time together and she was very dependent on me, so my time with her was very precious, and I think that helps it stick in my mind.

It took me around five years to write the first draft of the book. I would work on it for a few days, writing a couple of thousand words, but then I’d put the notebook down and come back to it a few months later to write some more. In the meantime, I kept a list of things that popped into my head – memories that came out of nowhere, that I knew I’d want to include in my record.

Throughout my life I’ve moved around and worked different jobs, for different companies, so if I want to recall a particular time in my life I think about where I was living, who I was socializing with and what work I was doing at the time. I take myself back to that location, and cross-reference with the people who were around me, to help jog my memory about events that occurred. I worked my way chronologically through all the places Molly and I lived, all the housemates I had and all the people she met, to piece together all the anecdotes that surfaced. I also asked people, like my Mum, who she stayed with for a few months, and my ex, who adopted her with me in the first place.

I’m a perfectionist, so I was determined to get all my facts accurate, although even after finishing it, I’ve learned things that I’d mis-remembered or forgotten about.

4. Books written in second person are hard to come by. You haven’t written as Molly in the first person, and neither about her in the third person. Was it a conscious decision to adopt this format in the narrative?

Since Part 1 was the letter, it made sense for me to stick to the second person narrative. Once I’d decided to share it, I liked the quirkiness and the authenticity it added to the story. Someone did suggest I re-write it in third person, but the idea just didn’t sit right with me, because the whole point was that it was my letter written to Molly. When I had the idea for Part 2, I knew I wanted it to be different. It would be boring if I just re-hashed the first half from a slightly different view-point, so I wanted to ring the changes. One of the most obvious was to write it in first person narrative rather than second.

5. While epistolary novels are common, epistolary memoirs not so much. What was your writing experience in penning down Soulcat?

I just wrote from the heart. This is my first book, so I although I have since drafted a couple of fiction novels (in first and third person), I hadn’t written anything on this scale before, so I didn’t really have anything to compare it with. My focus was going down memory lane with Molly, and sharing those memories with her, so I didn’t find it too challenging. The idea for Part 2 only came about last year, when I decided the letter wouldn’t be long enough on its own, and I’m so glad I chose to write Molly’s story from her own perspective. There was a light-bulb moment when I realized she had five whole years before I met her that I didn’t have a clue about, so I got to invent her back-story and come up with plausible reasons for her quirks, which was really fun.

6. Soulcat belongs to a distinctive genre of nonfiction books about cats. What readership did you envision while working on this book?

Honestly, I didn’t. I know that’s a cardinal sin for a writer – not to have their audience in mind while they’re writing, and perhaps it was a mistake, but I just wrote something I thought I would enjoy reading. I shared a draft with my book club when I was thinking about publishing or sharing it in some way, and they loved it so much it gave me huge encouragement to put it out into the world. I was probably considering my readership more when I was writing Part 2, which spurred to me into trying to make it entertaining and funny. I had a lot more artistic license with Part 2 though, as I got to merge fiction into the facts.

7. Any favorite memoirists or books about animals you would recommend to readers?

Caitlin Moran’s How To Be A Woman was quite revolutionary to me when I was younger. Having always been a very self-conscious, shy, introverted child, she made me realize that underneath I was actually quite normal, and it was a really refreshing read!

More recently I’ve been very moved by Ruth Coker’s All The Young Men, about her experiences helping men with Aids in the 80s. I encourage everyone to read it. It’s funny, honest, beautiful and heartbreaking all at the same time.

In terms of books about animals, I’ve only recently read Charlotte’s Web and I wish I’d read it when I was young! It’s a wonderful book and should be essential reading for children! There are several cat-themed novels that are lovely, gentle reads, like Jennie by Paul Gallico, and The Travelling Cat Chronicles, by Hiro Arikawa. Personally, I prefer something a little more gritty. My run-away favourite book last year has a wonderful feline narrator: The Last House on Needless Street, by Catriona Ward. I don’t want to give anything else away, but it’s a really great read.

Thank you, Amy, for taking the time for this interview.