One could generate an argument that Philadelphia proved to be the catalyst for the Cat Sitter thriller series.
Philadelphia is where Blaize Clement spent a semester studying with David Bradley, author of The Chaneysville Incident, who was teaching a seminar at Temple University. Bradley just happens to be the author Blaize says “taught me everything I know about the actual craft of writing…I use something David taught every day, and I’m very grateful.
Philadelphia is also the place she called “a cold vertical city where it got dark by mid-afternoon in winter.” And she says, “I wrote a play [there]… and seeing it on stage was such a traumatic experience that I was happy to move to a warm place and write stories that would stay the way I’d written them.”
Legions of fans are grateful that Blaize’s move to Florida resulted in the creation of the Cat Sitter series featuring Dixie Hemingway. Dixie is making her sixth appearance with the publication of Cat Sitter Among the Pigeons on January 4.
Dixie, a cat sitter and former cop, lives on a small Florida island. Blaize is quick to note that just because her protagonist works with pets, the stories are not “cutesy or childish.” She describes her series as a cozy-thriller hybrid.
It is amazing what trouble can brew in this small locale. Take this synopsis for Cat Sitter Among the Pigeons as an example. “Dixie must save a baby whose mother is a witness in a trial involving fraudulent real estate deals that brought down the nation’s economy. The criminals will stop at nothing to keep the mother quiet, including killing her baby.”
In writing this novel, Blaize found it quite easy to describe the repercussions of what she calls the “unscrupulous real estate manipulation during the housing boom” that took place in her community. Hardest for her in this novel was dealing with the need to get rid of one of the main characters, especially since she says, “I loved that character.” Needless to say she is expecting some reaction from her fans on this.
So how does Blaize get from a blank screen to a finished novel? Dedication is one word. She quiets the house so that there are no disturbing noises including music and sets to work for about six hours every day. Once the book is finished she sends it directly to her “fantastic” editor Marcia Markland. The novels take about a year to complete and all six novels have been released in January: the length of time between novels and the publication date are set by her publisher.
Book seven in the series is completed and as long as her publisher, St. Martin’s, keeps extending her contract, Blaize will happily continue to record the exploits of her cat sitter heroine.
As for other writing, Blaize penned a thriller that her agent saw as the first of a series. But “you live 24-7 with a book you’re writing so you have to love doing it…I gave it a lot of thought and decided I didn’t want to follow that protagonist through anymore books.” Her most recent book features a dog protagonist and while the idea may lend itself to a series, Blaize has found working on one series is time-consuming and, for herself, lacks the energy to do more.
Fortunately she loves Dixie Hemingway as is evidenced by Cat Sitter Among the Pigeons’ predecessors (in order of publication): Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter, Duplicity Dogged the Dachshund, Even Cat Sitters Get the Blues, Cat Sitter on a Hot Tin Roof, and Raining Cat Sitters and Dogs.
Life before the Cat Sitter series and Florida included a career as a psychologist. In her last few years in private practice, Blaize worked from her home. She recalls how her antisocial cat, Ms. Kitty, overcame her distaste of strangers to help calm agitated patients. The cat only appeared when needed, often jumping straight onto the patient’s lap to be gently held or petted.
While it can be argued that one of the influences of the Cat Sitter series lies in Ms. Kitty, Blaize feels “every author I’ve read since I was able to read has influenced me. The ones who created scenes so vividly I could put myself in them were my favorites and still are. The ones who injected moments of humor into the darkest of plots were also my favorites, and still are.”
In her own writing, Blaize makes sure she takes risks and strives to keep each story in the series unique in order to avoid the trap of becoming famous for just one thing. She also believes it is a mistake to have a mission in mind when writing a book. She says, “My goal as a writer is to be able to tell a rousing good story that can stand on its own, and tell it in prose that has its own symphonic music so the reader is getting the music without being conscious of it.”
Readers of Cat Sitter Among the Pigeons and the rest of the Cat Sitter series know she has succeeded.
To catch up with Blaize (and Dixie), visit BlaizeClement.com. You can also find her on Facebook.