By John Clement
My cat Spike could climb clear to the top of a seven-foot Christmas tree without dislodging a single ornament—admittedly not the most useful skill in the world (especially given that his descent produced far less desirable results) but I thought it was a pretty awesome trick nonetheless. I imagine your cat has a similarly awesome gift. In fact, I think I can safely say that everybody in the world thinks their feline mate is extraordinary in one way or another. Kathleen Paulson, however, may have bragging rights on all of us. Her gray tabby, Owen, has the ability to make himself invisible, and her tuxedo cat, Hercules, can walk through walls.
Kathleen and her super-powered cats are the creation of Sofie Kelly, author of the Magical Cat Mysteries set in the fictional town of Mayville Heights, Minnesota. The latest, number six in the series, is A MIDWINTER’S TAIL from Berkley/Signet. It’s early December, and Kathleen is hosting a fundraiser for the town library when the ex-wife of a local businessman dies of an allergic reaction. Kathleen is immediately suspicious, and soon she and her super-powered felines are on the trail of a killer.
Sofie, tell us a little about Mayville Heights. It feels very much like an actual town.
I’m happy to hear that Mayville Heights feels real to you. I grew up in a small town so I suspect that influences my writing. And several observant readers have noticed that Mayville Heights sounds a lot like the real town of Red Wing, Minnesota. That’s not by accident. When the Magical Cats series began, I found a video tour of Red Wing online when I was looking for something else. Something about the town captured my imagination.
How did you come up with the magical powers of Hercules and Owen?
The cats’ magical abilities actually came from a suggestion made by my editor. I’m glad I listened to her.
When you were a kid, did you wish you had any magical powers?
Like a lot of kids, I wanted to be invisible.
I think most readers would assume that Kathleen, the heroine in your books, is really you. Would they be right? How are you different from Kathleen?
No, Kathleen is not me. We both like coffee and cats and we both like to cook, but that’s about it. She’s a much kinder and more patient person than I am. She’s more outgoing than I am, and she’s taller with better hair!
What is a typical writing day for you?
I start early—about eight o’clock—and I work through until lunch with a short break mid-morning. After lunch I spend some time on my exercise bike; having my feet moving seems to help me figure out any storyline problems. If the weather is good I often go for a long walk instead. After that I either write a little more or take care of all the other business that is part of being a writer.
Do you have an idea where you’re going with the story of a book when you begin it?
Absolutely. I’m the queen of outlines. I always work from a chapter-by-chapter outline that usually runs between ten and twelve single-spaced pages. I’ve always been an outliner. In high school and university I always outlined my essays. (I’m a bit of a control freak.)
What are you reading now?
I always have more than one book on the go. I’m reading Abducted, the first book in the Lizzy Gardner series, by T. R. Ragan. It’s very good. I’m also reading Synchronic, which is a collection of short stories about time travel. It is literally very hard to put the book down. I keep saying just one more page and that turned into five or six more. And I’m working my way through Guitars for Absolute Beginners because I’m learning to play and so far I’m an absolutely bad beginner.
What are you working on now? And what’s next for Kathleen, Hercules, and Owen?
Right now I’m working on the third book in the Second Chance Cat mysteries that I write as Sofie Ryan.
The next adventure for Kathleen and the boys will involve an art exhibit at the library. Detective Marcus Gordon is going to get his own Wisteria Hill cat and someone—not Kathleen—is going to receive a marriage proposal.
When we first spoke, you told me you had no idea how to respond to questions about the writer’s “muse” and how to invoke it. I couldn’t agree more, but then later you mentioned your muse very closely resembled the orthodontist who worked on your daughter’s teeth for five years. I hope you’ll forgive me, but that’s just too fantastic to ignore. Please elaborate.
I’ve always struggled when someone asks me how I invoke my Muse when it’s time to write. I’m not sure I have one. I know some writers feel very strongly that they have to be inspired before they can write, but that’s not me.
My daughter wore braces for five years because all her teeth came in crooked and out of place. Anytime I needed a little inspiration during those five years, I’d remind myself that the orthodontist was expecting to be paid. (I’m sure it was just a coincidence that he spent a week in Las Vegas every one of those five years.) I decided if I had a muse, it would probably look like the orthodontist, maybe with a set of wings like the tooth fairy.
Finally, your official bio mentions you have a “small” crush on The Today Show’s Matt Lauer. I can say with unfounded authority that Matt reads THE BIG THRILL every month. Is there anything you’d like to tell him?
My friends have been teasing me for years because I have a thing for Matt Lauer and not, say, George Clooney or Brad Pitt. I used to make dolls and I have my own little Matt Lauer doll. (It’s not as weird as it sounds, I swear.)
I actually gave my crush to Kathleen’s friend, Maggie. I think Matt is a very good newsman and a good sport—he dressed up as J-Lo one Halloween. And we’re definitely kindred souls. We can both be a little obsessive. We’re both germaphobes. And I think he’s the only person who has as many bottles of Purell hand-sanitizer as I do.
Matt, if you’re reading this, you should read my books. You’re in them.
Sofie Kelly writes the New York Times best-selling Magical Cats mysteries, set in Mayville Heights, Minnesota, and featuring librarian Kathleen Paulson, and her cats, Owen and Hercules. As Sofie Ryan, she is also the author of the Second Chance Cat mystery series. Sarah Grayson—with a little help from her cat, Elvis—runs Second Chance, a repurpose shop in North Harbor, Maine, but she keeps getting tied up in murder thanks to her grandmother’s friends. Sofie lives on the east coast with her husband and daughter, where she practices Wu-style Tai Chi Chuan, makes mixed media art, and likes to prowl around thrift shops.
To learn more about Sofie, please visit her website.