This article appeared on the Cat Writers’ Association blog on February 9, 2023.
How and Why to Add Cats to Your Fiction Writing
by Debbie De Louise
Cats have been popular in literature for ages. Children’s books often feature them, as do cozy mysteries, and other novels. Why? Because people love cats. They can add humor and humanity to a story. With their unique purr-sonalities and mystical natures, they make purr-fect characters to write about.
Before we talk about how and why to add cats to your fiction writing, let’s look at the types of cat characters that can appear…
4 Types of Cat Characters that Appear in Fiction Writing
Most cozy mysteries include a cat co-star. These cats help the main character or amateur sleuth find clues to the mystery. Examples of these felines are Midnight Louie in Carole Nelson Douglas’ series and Joe Grey from Shirley Murphy’s books. In my Cobble Cove mysteries, Sneaky the Siamese library cat assists Alicia, the librarian, solve murders in the small town of Cobble Cove.
3. Subplot Cats
There are books where cats play roles in a subplot, while not being featured as main characters or co-stars. For instance, in my book,Memory Makers, Lauren, a kidnapping investigator, rushes home from the clinical trial in which she is participating to find her missing cat, Harry. In doing so, she also locates a missing boy. The main mystery involves the clinical trial where Lauren is seeking to recall the man who kidnapped her and her sister twenty years ago and killed her sister. Her missing cat is a subplot to this mystery.
4. Cameo Cats
Cats can also make cameo appearances in books and stories when an author features the cat as a pet without any connection to a mystery or any significant role in the plot. An example of a book that I read where this happened was the popular,Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. The cat appeared toward the end of the book when it served to soothe the main character, Kya, while she was in jail.
Once you decide what type of cats you want to feature in your writing, you need to decide whether they will speak or only make feline sounds. In cozy mysteries where the cat is the sleuth’s co-star, they usually help the main character locate clues with non-verbal actions. In A Stone’s Throw, the first book of my Cobble Cove mysteries, Sneaky alerts Alicia to hidden letters by scratching the box in which they’re hidden. Later in the series, Sneaky converses with his fellow pet characters but still only uses cat behavior to lead Alicia to clues.
How do you work cats into your plots?
I model my cat characters after my own cats. I use their antics and personalities to make them real to readers. In my first novel, Cloudy Rainbow, Floppy, who was named after my own cat, burrows himself into Dulcie’s mattress and falls asleep. When she finally finds him, she worries he’d smothered because he wasn’t moving. In a panic, she sliced through the mattress with a knife. I did the same thing when Floppy was a kitten.
In my Cobble Cove books, after I introduced KittyKai, the female cat, I gave her my own calico Hermione’s personality traits and also added some human female characteristics. KittyKai, joining Sneaky on a mission to find a killer, jumps into a woman’s bedroom and begins grooming herself on the woman’s vanity.
KittyKai and Sneaky have a love/hate relationship but, one night following a successful adventure, they walk over a moonlit bridge where fish are swimming and have a romantic encounter. In No Gravestone Unturned, when Sneaky and KittyKai are joined by Salem, the cat of a guest at the inn where KittyKai lives, the three end their story by jumping and rolling in autumn leaves. My cats are indoor cats, but if they went outdoors that was something I’m sure they’d enjoy doing.
Fictionalizing yet retaining the real actions and personalities of the cats you write about helps readers identify with their own pets and also allows them to enjoy the other elements of the story.
I’m proud to announce that I’ve received three Certificates of Excellence for my short stories from the Cat Writers’ Association in their annual contest. My stories, all featuring felines, vary in genre and format.
Sneaky’s Summer Mystery is a cozy mystery that’s part of the Cobble Cove story series with the same characters from the books. It’s available as an eBook and is free on Kindle Unlimited.
Cobble Cove is in the midst of an August heatwave. It’s the worst time for the air conditioner at the Cobble Cove library to break down. Alicia has no choice but to close the library and bring Sneaky, the library cat, home with her. After scheduling the air conditioner service with Rudy Gibbs, a technician from Hapnabber’s Repair Shop, she is surprised to learn that John knew Rudy when they were teenagers. When Rudy turns up dead after working on the AC at the library and Alicia learns of it during a barbecue she and John host with Gilly and Ramsay, Sneaky and Kittykai must once again protect their favorite ladies when they conduct their own investigation into the murder.
“The Felinedae Mission” is a science fiction tale included in the What Lies Beyond anthologythat’s part of the Red Penguin Collection. This story was also featured in Red Penguin’s Stand Out! Volume 1 of the Best of the Red Penguin Collection. Both anthologies are available in print form and as eBooks.
“What Lies Beyond: Sci-Fi Stories of The Future” Edited by JK Larkin
Are You On The Prowl For A Dark, Enticing, and Wildly Imaginative Science Fiction Reading Experience?
Journey through space and time as you read this second installment of The Red Penguin Collection, an anthology series by Red Penguin Books. In our collection of science fiction stories, you will be confronted with aliens, robots, clones, and… cats? When it comes to the ever-expanding universe and the bounds of technology, anything is possible!
“The Story of Harry and Hermione” is a non-fiction piece about how I came to adopt my two cats. It’s included in the Second Chance Cats: True Stories of the Cats We Rescue and the Cats Who Rescue Us. This anthology is also available in print and in ebook form.
There’s no feeling quite like that of getting a second chance and a fresh start. When we adopt a homeless cat–or that cat decides to adopt us–we’re not just giving one of earth’s most beautiful and inscrutable creatures a chance at a good life, we’re giving ourselves the gift of companionship, solace, and love. And plenty of laughter too!
This heartwarming collection includes more than 30 true, contemporary stories told by a variety of writers, including Melody Carlson, Lauraine Snelling, and Kristin Billerbeck. Each feel-good story involves cat rescue, some in a typical way and others in surprising–even miraculous–ways. Sometimes the question becomes: Really, who rescued whom?
A thoughtful gift for the cat lover in your life, Second-Chance Cats is the purrfect companion for cozy nights, lazy weekends, and any time you need a pick-me-up.
I’m quite honored to have these stories recognized by the Cat Writers’ Association. They are now eligible to win a Muse Medallion, the highest award of the association. This coveted prize will be awarded at their virtual conference in October. For more information about the conference and CWA, a wonderful group of creatives who feature cats in their works. check their website at catwriters.com.
I’ll be appearing on a panel with 4 other authors who write cat cozies and other books featuring felines. If you are a cat lover, are owned by a cat, or are just interested in cats or cat writing, you will enjoy this online event hosted by the Broward County Library. Read more about this event and register for free at http://broward.libnet.info/event/5099468
It’s hard to believe the holiday season is already here, and a new year is on its way. I know most of us are hoping 2021 is better than 2020. I certainly am. While we look forward to better days, we can make the most of the holidays by keeping our hopes and spirits high. One good way to do this is to relax with holiday reads. For the whole month of December, starting December 1, four of my holiday stories and books will cost less than a dollar. You can get all 4 eBooks for less than $5. Check out these stocking stuffers for yourself or someone on your gift list.
My award-winning Christmas story featuring the characters from my Cobble Cove cozy mystery series, Sneaky’s Christmas Mystery, won the 2019 MUSE Medallion from the Cat Writers’ Association. Who killed the pet store owner? Can Sneaky, the Siamese, help Alicia solve this mystery before Christmas Day?
Celebrating Christmas with My Characters introduces the characters from my Cobble Cove series. As the characters gather in the library of the Cobble Inn, each one has a gift for their author, and I have a gift for each of them.
While not a part of the Cobble Cove series, this is a holiday time-travel mystery with a touch of romance taking place in San Francisco during the time of the Great Earthquake.
As you stuff your stockings with this great deal, keep your eye out for my new release, my first non-fiction book, Pet Posts: The Cat Chatspublishing in early December and on blog tour from December 9 to December 23 with a $20 Amazon gift card giveaway. Information will be posted on this blog and on my social media channels.
On Saturday night, August 8, the Cat Writers’ Association hosted their 26th annual Awards Ceremony, but this year it was conducted virtually and live streamed through Zoom and Facebook. Despite some minor technical glitches, the event was well planned and professionally presented. Many people were involved in this effort and also the contest itself. CWA President, Deb Barnes, was the main person who made the event possible.
I am truly honored to have won a Muse Medallion, the most prestigious award the CWA sponsors, for my short story, “Sneaky’s Christmas Mystery.” Although I’ve won Certificates of Excellence in the past, this was my first Muse. If you’ve seen or read any of my interviews where I talk about how I got started publishing my work, I always mention CWA. It was the first writing organization I joined over twenty years ago and is the one I feel proudest to belong to.
Besides the awarding of the Muse Medallions in various categories of writing, videography, photography, social media, blogs, and more, the sponsors who supported the contest gave away special prizes that consisted of monetary awards and other items. Here are a list of all the talented winners and their entries: https://catwriters.com/wp_meow/contest/
One other feature of the event included raising funds for Tabby’s Place, a cat sanctuary in New Jersey. Donations are still being accepted. Each donation will earn entry into raffles for prizes donated by sponsors. The raffles will be drawn on August 16.
Here’s a video about Tabby’s Place that was featured in the early part of the awards ceremony but got cut off from the Facebook feed:
For those who missed this great event, it can still be viewed here:
I look forward to next year’s awards ceremony that will, fingers and paws crossed, take place at a conference where all members can gather in person.
On Wednesday, June 3, I’ll be appearing on the Podcast, “Once and Future Authors” that will be shared on Facebook and YouTube, as well as iTunes, Spotify, Google Play and Stitcher. When the links are available, I will add them to this post.
Here is a link to a survey that I’m sending to my newsletter and blog subscribers. If you subscribe to both, you can only take it once. Complete the survey by June 6 to be eligible to win a $10 amazon gift card. https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/LFKZLS7
Thanks for your support, and good luck in the contest!
Born in Glen Cove on Long Island, Debbie De Louise is the author of seven novels. She chose to be a reference librarian at a public library because she enjoyed the atmosphere and the fact that she would be surrounded by books. Debbie De Louise shines in her fast-paced novels with a good story, with good characters, with good writing techniques. Read full interview…
Review: Cat Life: Celebrating the History, Culture & Love of the Cat
This book is not only beautiful, filled with gorgeous color photographs of cats, but also extremely informative. I would expect nothing less from the author. Amy Shojai is a certified animal behavior consultant who has published 30 bestselling pet books.
Cat Life is divided into four sections: Evolutionary of cat; cultured cat; physical cat, and gallery of breeds. Anything and everything a cat lover might want to know about this unique animal is included in this book. A Table of Contents and an alphabetical index are also provided to help locate topics.
If you are looking for a complete guide that is wonderfully illustrated, you need look no further than Cat Life: Celebrating the History, Culture & Love of the Cat. A companion dog volume by Ms. Shojai is also available.
“Purr”-chase this book here. JOIN Amy’s Audacious Allies, SUBSCRIBE to her free newsletter, READ her pet-centric blog: https://AmyShojai.com
Amy Shojai is a nationally known authority on pet care and behavior, a certified animal behavior consultant, a spokesperson for the pet products industry, and the author of 30 nonfiction pet books. She also writes THRILLERS WITH BITE! which includes the dog-viewpoint thrillers LOST AND FOUND, HIDE AND SEEK, SHOW AND TELL and FIGHT OR FLIGHT. In her other life, she’s a published and produced playwright of musical theater productions (some including pet characters!).
Amy addresses a wide range of fun-to-serious issues in her work, covering dog and cat training, behavior, natural and allopathic health care, nutrition, first aid, aging pets, “the bond” and cutting-edge medical topics. In her nonfiction books, she empowers pet lovers by providing the information they need to make informed decisions for their cats and dogs. She specializes in translating “medicalese” into easily understood jargon-free language, making it accessible to all pet lovers. Oh, and she loves bling-icity!
Her work has been honored with over three dozen writing awards and she is a two-time recipient of the “Friskies Writer of the Year” award. Her articles currently appear in the Herald Democrat newspaper, on Chewy.com and PetSafe.net among others. She’s published several thousand articles and columns during her career. Amy presents a twice-monthly “Pet Talk” segment at KXII-CBS, hosted the weekly “Pet Peeves” at PetLifeRadio.com and is an expert on Animal Planet DOGS 101 and CATS 101. Sometimes she has time to sleep.
Amy has been featured on ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, and in The Wall Street Journal, USA Weekend, The New York Times, Washington Post, Reader’s Digest, Woman’s Day, Family Circle, Woman’s World, and many other leading newspapers and magazines. She has also been a featured pet care expert on Animal Planet Dogs 101, Cats 101, Petsburgh USA/Disney Channel program, Good Day New York, Fox News: Pet News, NBC Today Show, WGN-Chicago “Pet Central” and “Animal Planet Radio” and many others.
She is an active member of the International Thriller Writers, Sisters In Crime, and Alliance of Independent Authors. Amy is a certified member of International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, founder and Past President of the Cat Writers’ Association, member of the Dog Writers Association of America, and Past President and Honorary Lifetime Member of Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc. She frequently speaks to groups on a variety of pet-related and writing issues, lectures at veterinary and writer conferences, and conducts training and behavior demonstrations around the country.
She and her husband live with Karma-Kat the feline delinquent and Bravo-Boy, the Bullmastiff. They, along with the enduring inspiration of Siamese wannabe Seren-Kitty and Magical-Dawg the German Shepherd, continue to inspire her work. Find more information about her work at www.shojai.com and follow her Bling, Bitches & Blood Blog at https://amyshojai.com.
I just returned from the Cat Writers’ Association’s 25th anniversary conference and thought some of you might want to hear about it. While it’s impossible to cover all the presentations, events, exhibits, and other happenings, here’s a brief recap of the programs I attended and my sightseeing experience in St. Louis.
The trip didn’t get off to the best start when I realized my iPhone was missing after passing through security. I went back, but it hadn’t been handed in to their lost and found. Luckily, the phone turned up when it was pinged. However, after all the confusion and rushing around, I ended up waiting at the wrong gate and nearly missed the flight. The only reason I didn’t was because the plane was delayed. After that, it was smooth sailing or should I say smooth flying.
I landed in St. Louis around noon and grabbed a taxi to the Drury Plaza Hotel at the Arch where I was booked for the next 3 nights. I was impressed by the lobby and the friendliness of the front-desk staff. Even though the rooms aren’t usually ready until 3 pm, they arranged for me to get in earlier because I wanted to attend the session given by Robbi Hess on “The Myth of Busyness: How to Claim Time for your Business” and needed to freshen up before it.
While waiting for a room to open, I took the opportunity to grab some lunch at Angelo’s Taverna, the Italian restaurant located in but not a part of the hotel. The food was delicious. I even came back later that night for dessert after the swag stuffing party and had spumoni which really hit the spot after taking a stroll around The Arch park in the close to 90-degree temperature.
The swag stuffing party Thursday night was more play than work as we oohed and ahhed over the great donations by the pet sponsors of the conference.
We were also treated to an appearance by Summer the Therapy Cat with her human, Janiss Garza. After the bags were stuffed, there was a raffle and then all the helpers were given a pretty gift bag that included a few snacks and a CWA 25th anniversary cookie.
On Friday morning, I attended a session presented by Dr. Kurt Venator and Dr. Janet Jackson of Purina on “The Science of Cats: Feline Nutritiion and Hydration.” This was very informative and made me feel more at ease about feeding my cats both wet and dry food, and I learned that the average cat needs to drink 20 teaspoons of water per day. I’m looking forward to viewing the flash drive in Purina’s swag cup for more information on feline nutrition and Purina’s role in providing it.
During the break after the session, I visited the exhibits, picked up some giveaways and won a prize.
The following session was conducted by Robyn Conley, a book doctor. Robyn presented “Cross marketing and Self-Editing to Broaden Markets and Multiply Sales. This was another interesting seminar that covered two important topics for writers. I also met with Robyn privately for an editor appointment the following day for her to review the first five pages of my unpublished manuscript. She wanted to spend more time to look it over, so we arranged for her to send me back the pages with her feedback.
Before lunch I attended Lisa Miller’s presentation “Practical Guide to Social Media for Selling Books.” Lisa, Business and Marketing Manager from Amphorae Publishing, discussed goal setting for book selling on social media and strategies to reach those goals. An interesting fact I learned from her talk was that a 3,000 copies is considered a good number for hard copy books to sell. She emphasized the importance of knowing yourself and your audience and to pick one primary platform to use for the majority of your postings and sharings. She also explained that social media is just one of the tools an author needs to use to reach an audience. I also met with Lisa for an editor appointment, and she answered some questions I had about publishing.
Later that day, I did some sightseeing and visited The Gateway Arch where I waited in a huge line despite my ticketed time but finally was able to take a tram up to the top where I was treated to a clear view of the city and was able to purchase a commemorative photo. I also picked up a few souvenirs in the gift shop and viewed the museum attractions.
That night, I joined other CWA authors at a book signing event open to the public that featured a fundraiser for the Humane society of Missouri.
On Saturday morning, I attended the CWA member business meeting and then took some time off to sightsee where I visited the St. Louis Central Library and donated some copies of my books. As a librarian, I enjoyed touring the lovely building and it’s interesting collections including it’s rare book room overseen by librarian Renee Jones.
Back at the Drury, I was one of the four panel members for the “Communicating, Capitalizing, and Connecting in a Fictional World.” My fellow panelists included Mollie Hunt, known for her Crazy Cat Lady cozy mystery series; Patricia Fry, prolific author of the Klepto Cat series; and Sandra Murphy, short story author. During the presentation, a slide show created by Mollie was shown featuring the cats and books of the four panelists. After we each gave a brief bio, we opened up the session to Q & A and were glad to answer a variety of questions about fiction writing and cozy mysteries in particular.
Since many CWA members are non-fiction writers, some weren’t familiar with genre classifications and needed a definition for a cozy mystery. I provided one that described a story usually set in a small town with quirky characters and a murder that takes place behind the scenes and isn’t gory or grizzly. I also mentioned that foul language isn’t used and that romances are sweet with any sex scenes behind closed doors. Patricia added that the cats in these books are never harmed. At the end of the discussion, we raffled off some of our books. Maggie Marton won a copy of my latest Cobble Cove mystery, Love on the Rocks. I autographed it for her, and we took a photo together.
After the panel, I attended a session on “Instagram for Authors.” I have to admit that, although I have an account, I don’t use this social media platform often. Janiss Garza (JaniceGoddess), Jessica Spawn, (catmom), and Summer the Therapy cat, Janiss’ cat who has his own Instagram account (summerstravels), have now convinced me I should consider using it more. Their presentation included instructions on how to set up an Instagram business account and profile page and the best practices for Instagram (photos vs. videos vs. live video, stories vs. posts, and IGTV). They also had suggestions on how to reach your audience by following the big accounts in your niche and the smaller active ones as well as using 20-30 hashtags on posts.
The final presentation before the awards banquet was conducted by Bob Baker who is devoted to helping creative people make a living from their endeavors. His books include The Guerilla Music Marketing Handbook that appeared in the movie “The School of Rock,” The Empowered Artist, The Guerilla Guide to Book Marketing, and The Passion Principles, 55 ways to promote and Sell Your Book on the Internet, Unleash the Artist Within, and more. Bob’s presentation was called “Hypnotic Marketing: How to Create Descriptions and Sales Offers That Mesmerize Readers and Sell More Books, Products and Services.” It was a very interactive session where members of the audience read three different versions of the same paragraph and showed how the use of using “You” more often than “I,” can make a difference in capturing people’s attention. He also gave 3 steps to effective marketing and focused on the revenue-generating step. He gave the audience a laugh and a good example when he shared an email headline that produced a high open rate when he advertised his new release by writing, “I’m giving birth to my 8th baby–take a look.”
The highlight of the conference was the awards banquet the final evening. This was a chance for cat writers to strut their stuff, donning cat ears and fancy feline wear. The event started with former president and co-founder of CWA, Amy Shojai, accompanied by Marci Kladnik and Paula Gregg singing the tune”Muse” from Strays, a musical written and created by Amy. After the wonderful entertainment, the guests were invited to a delicious buffet dinner with a special 25th anniversary cake.
The winners of the special awards and the muse medallions, the equivalent of what Arden Moore called the Acatemy Awards, were then announced. Pet Safety Cat, Casey who teaches pet first-aid with Arden, assisted her in hosting. A complete list of the winners is posted on the Cat Writers’ Association website and can be found here.
Before my flight home Sunday, I took a pleasant carriage ride through town and visited the Old Courthouse near the hotel.
It was wonderful to meet and mingle with my fellow authors, cat writers and lovers, at the conference. As a long-time member who hasn’t been able to attend many previous conferences, I was glad to be able to make the 25th anniversary and also see some of the sights of St. Louis. It was also fun to have a few photos of my cats included in the conference and award banquet programs that were beautifully illustrated and designed by member Wendy Christensen.
I’m already excited about attending the next conference which will be in Edison, New Jersey next July during the Garden State cat show.