Interview: Characters In Talking Cat Series Are Based On Author’s Real-Life Pets

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Wendy Ledger loooooooves her cats. She likes the way you have to win them over so they can let you into their hearts. She has three at the moment and calls herself “a crazy cat lady” because she makes up songs to sing to them like “The Catio Song” and “Breakfast Town.” When her cat named Indiana Jones jumps on her shoulders, she sings him a song called, “We’re Going for a Rickshaw Ride”.

“Those lyrics don’t make a lot of sense as my shoulders are nothing like a rickshaw, but that’s what we started calling these rides, and it stuck,” Wendy Ledger said.

She loves cats so much that she even wrote a book series about them, called Talking Cat Series. It’s about cats who live in the afterlife, and I reviewed it . One surprising thing I learned is that some of her characters in her book are based off her real cats.

I was so excited to be interviewing this fellow cat-lover! Read more of what she said below:

Question: Can you tell me a little about yourself and your cats?

Answer: My husband and I live with three cats. These cats all inspired characters in my talking-cat fantasy books. Scooter, our twenty-year-old, once-feral cat is who I think of when I write about Rusty, the cat who was left behind on earth. Our three-year-old cats, Indiana Jones and Samantha Bee, brother and sister, are the cats who inspired the characters of Squeak and Sebastian.

Q: What did you do before you started writing books?

A: Before I started writing books, I transcribed all different kinds of projects from TV shows to police interrogations to personal histories. I taught writing. I led writing groups. I edited. I still do a lot of these things. I’ve just added writing to the mix.

Q: No spoilers – but why does your editor think the upcoming Book 3 of the series is the best?      

A: That’s a hard one to answer. She didn’t say much. She just told me she really liked the story, and it was her favorite. My editor has worked with me on all of my books. One time, when I handed in a manuscript, she told me I had to start all over again. That was not my best day. This time, she told me I should celebrate with a bowl of ice cream. It was a much better day.

Q: Your Talking Cat books are so creative! How did you get the ideas for it?

A: It was time to start writing a new book, and our beloved calico cat suddenly grew quite ill. Our vet came to our house to see her, and said that we had a weekend to try to turn it around. I spent the whole weekend with her—her name was Jewel—and when it became clear that she wasn’t going to make it, I told her I was going to write the next book about her. I knew that I could easily be destroyed by her death. It was my way to keep going. Once I started, I found it really helped me to laugh and honor her and also pay homage to other cats we have loved and lost.

Q: What book really inspired you to write your books?

A: I love Charlotte’s Web. That book still lives on my bookshelf. I think that story has a lot of heart to it. You know who I really love in it? Templeton.

Q: What character do you think you are most like in your Talking Cat Series?

A: I think I have a little bit of everyone in me, but I definitely relate to Jem, anxious, with so much to learn, and unsure whether she ever fits in. But as the books go on, Jem changes and grows more confident in herself. I think that’s also true of me.

Q: What is the easiest and hardest parts of writing/publishing a book?

A: I have not been interested in going the traditional publishing route. I’ve always wanted to write independently. So that was an easy decision for me. The hardest part of writing a book was learning the best ways for me to write. For me, that means writing the first draft alone, no feedback. If I receive feedback too early and from a bunch of people, I bend too much to their will. I have to get my vision straight by myself. Then when I can’t “see” my book anymore, I hand the book over to three trusted readers. They have read everything I’ve written, and I feel understood and loved by them even when they tell me things don’t work. (And then I don’t always follow their suggestions, although I often do.) So I would say the hardest part about writing has been learning to trust and honor myself and also knowing when to listen to what others have to say.

Q: What advice do you give budding authors like me?

A: Read as much as you can. All writers are different, but when I decided to really get serious about writing, I had to develop a writing practice. I started with a modest goal: fifteen minutes, three times a week, and I worked up to one hour a day. That’s what I still do now. You can get a lot done in an hour a day. And I had to make my writing practice enjoyable for myself. So I write in bed. When it’s cold, I crank up the heated mattress pad to high. I listen to music while I write. So think about what would make writing fun to do and just keep going, Elena. I look forward to reading your books.

Q: I’m guessing you prefer cats over dogs – why?

A: I would love to have a total menagerie at our house—cats, of course, dogs, and horses. That might be enough! But, if I had to make a choice, I would choose cats. I like the way you have to win over cats. Once you do, they invite you into their hearts, but they do choose their loved ones. Dogs are generally more affectionate. I think I relate more to cats.

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