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Clea Simon may be a dyed-in-the-wool liberal Democrat who grew up coloring on the backs of Eugene McCarthy posters, but she also values monogamy. Despite her all too easy-to-stereotype reputation, she only lives with one cat at a time. She likes the focus, the undivided attention, that slitted stare that says, "You're mine."
Why the reputation? Among numerous other books and stories, Clea has authored four cat caper cozies. Cries and Whiskers, which Booklist pegs as "Highly recommended," is number three. Number four, Probable Claws, is due out in April.
As for influences, Hilary Mantel and Anthony Trollop's writing had none on her own writing style, but she's still a huge fan of theirs. Oh, and the multi-talented Clea once played bass semi-professionally. Perhaps you heard her play in bands such as Wake Up Screaming or the Liggers? No?
But wait! Animal lover, musician, patron of a black-and-white tuxedo kitty named Musetta … Is Cries and Whiskers really a memoir camouflaged as a novel? Hmmm … Read this excerpt and see what you think. Then answer the questions for your chance to win an autographed copy of Clea's latest
(The heroine Theda's beloved house cat, Musetta, has gone missing in a wild winter storm. She feels terrible, thinks that Musetta got out because of her negligence. But after searching, setting humane traps, and posting "missing pet" posters, her friends tell her she needs to go home and eat.)
I wasn’t hungry. I felt like someone had slammed me full on into a wall. But I let him talk to me as if I still cared about meals and by the time we got off the phone, I’d humored him by making a turkey sandwich that tasted like paste.
“I love you, darling. Do you have something to keep your mind busy tonight?” I thought of that stupid tape, the column that was due, and grunted.
“Well, whatever it is, try not to worry too much.” Like that was going to happen. But he must have heard my silence. “Try to get some sleep, okay?”
“I’ll try, Bill. I love you, too. Thanks.”
I made a stab at transcribing the tape then, though the work goes slowly when you turn off the machine at every noise. But there were no calls, and no familiar mews kept me from finishing every fatuous word of it. God, the Swann’s Way guys were full of themselves. Writing would have been impossible, and by then my eyes were barely focusing. The bed was too empty for comfort, but I must have dozed off on the sofa. When the phone finally rang, I found myself tangled in the afghan that usually lies along the back. I nearly ripped it in my haste to grab the big, old phone’s receiver.
“Hello? Hello? I’m here!” Please, god, let it be someone with news of Musetta.
“We have your cat.” I went dizzy with relief.
“Oh, thank god! Where did you find her? Where are you? I’ll come out and pick her up.” I reached for my glasses and started looking around for a pair of dry shoes.
“No, you don’t understand.” The male voice on the line was muffled but clear. Still, his words confused me. “We have your cat. Back off with all the questions, and she’ll be all right.”
The line went dead in my hand and I was left staring, the only sound the buzz of the phone and the soft patter of wet snow against the window.
1) Name another food besides a turkey sandwich that tastes like paste in a time of crisis.
2) How many afghans does Clea own, and are any of them dogs?
3) What does Clea do to keep herself busy when she's trying not to worry?
Special Treat: We'll be posting Chapter One this weekend!