I'm delighted to welcome Monica Shaughnessy to Cozy Up With Kathy. Monica writes the Cattarina Mystery series which features Edgar Allen Poe's cat, Cattarina.
Kathy: I'm excited that The Tell-Tail Heart is written from a feline point of view. Why did you decide to let Cattarina tell the story instead of a human?
MS: I adore books written from the animal perspective, Watership Down and The Art of Racing in the Rain, to name a few. These stories wouldn’t be half as compelling if told by human narrators. When I first hit upon the idea for the Cattarina Mysteries, I briefly toyed with writing from the perspective of Edgar Allan Poe. And then I really thought it through. This filled me with more dread than “The Tell-Tale Heart”! How could I possibly access the mind of a literary genius? No, I thought it much safer to stick to Cattarina.
Kathy: I've always been fascinated by Edgar Allen Poe. I remember visiting his home in Philadelphia when I was young. How did you choose him to be central to the Cattarina Mystery series?
MS: Writers and cats go together. So when I was mulling over different ideas for a cat cozy series, I thought about famous authors, specifically mystery authors. When I found out that Mr. Poe owned a tortoiseshell, everything clicked into place. It also helps that his work is in the public domain, so there’s no copyright conflict when quoting his old works. And really, Edgar Allan Poe is a fascinating character.
Kathy: I always felt bad for Edgar, suffering such tragedy in his life. I'm glad he has a cat to watch out for him in your series. Did Edgar Allen Poe have a cat? Is Cattarina based on that cat, another real cat, or is she purely fictional?
MS: Oh, yes. He truly owned a tortoiseshell cat named Cattarina. That’s what made writing (and researching) the book all the more interesting. In one letter home, he referred to her as “Catters,” a nickname I use in my book. Frustratingly, I’ve found at least three spellings of her name throughout historical documents. So I picked the one I liked the most.
Kathy: I've heard lots of paranormal things about Eastern State Penitentiary. Have you seen any ghost hunting television shows featuring it? Have you been there yourself?
MS: I love ghost-hunting shows, even though I’ve heard many of them are faked. I’ve also been on ghost tours, including the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park (the setting for The Shining), the St. Augustine lighthouse, and the Del Coronado Hotel in San Diego (where the bathroom light flipped on all by itself - twice). I’ve never been to Eastern State, but when I go to Philly, that will be my second stop. The first, of course, will be to Mr. Poe’s house.
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
MS: I like all kinds of mysteries. But I have a special place in my heart for cozies since I grew up reading Agatha Christie novels in high school. In fact, I still read them. Though I’m strictly a Poirot girl. None of that Miss Marple stuff for me! In fact, Cattarina reminds me a little of Poirot—fastidious and arrogant. J
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
MS: Lots. This gets me into trouble because readers don’t know what to make of my books. I’ve written young adult, middle grade, and a picture book. Up next? A collection of horror suspense stories. But they’re all decidedly weird. So I guess that unifies them.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
MS: The Cattarina Mysteries follow Cattarina, Edgar Allan Poe’s cat, as she solves mysteries and inspires great literary works. The first, The Tell-Tail Heart, is loosely based on “The Tell-Tale Heart.” The second, The Black Cats, reveals secrets behind “The Black Cat.” The third book is The Raven of Liberty (June release). You can probably guess the inspiration behind this one! The collection also contains “To the River,” a short story about Cattarina’s kittenhood and Mr. Eakins’ Book of Cats, an illustrated companion to The Black Cats. Whew, I’ve been busy!
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
MS: I think my favorite character is Virginia Poe, Edgar Allan Poe’s wife. She was a child bride and came down with consumption at an early age, so she never got a chance to do much “living.” This helped me tremendously when writing her character. I imagine she felt pretty useless at times, living in the shadow of a famous husband.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
MS: I tried the traditional route for the longest time. Even with the help of two different agents, I never found the right publisher. So in 2012, I finally indie published my young adult novel, Season of Lies (another talking animal book). When I completed The Tell-Tail Heart, I didn’t even think about “old skool” publishing. I uploaded it straight to Amazon (after editing, of course). I still think about the traditional route from time to time. But indie publishing has been great.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
MS: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain. The conversation would be fabulous, and I’m fairly certain there would be a food fight.
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
MS: Right now, I’m reading Periodic Tales: The Curious Lives of the Elements. It’s a collection of non-fiction essays about the periodic table and not as boring as it sounds. I’m also starting Gone Girl. I think I’m the last person on the planet who hasn’t read it yet. Shhhhhh. I still don’t know “who dun it” even though it’s been made into a movie. Every time my husband starts to talk about it, I plug my ears and sing, “Nah, nah, nah…I can’t hear you…”
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
MS: I love to travel. We own an Airstream travel trailer and drag it everywhere—Key West, the Grand Canyon, Washington DC, you name it. I also collect vintage cookbooks. When I come across a rare vegetarian cookbook, I snap it up. (I’m a vegetarian.)
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
MS: Fage Greek yogurt, La Croix sparkling water, Think Thin protein bars, and cheese…lots and lots of cheese.
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
MS: Once I finish the third book in the Cattarina Mysteries, The Raven of Liberty, this concludes my series. After that, I’m moving on to a short story collection and then another mystery project, a serialized novel.
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
MS: I tend to highlight different thematic elements in my stories. For instance, in my short story, “The Trash Collector,” I explore the subject of bigotry and narrow-mindedness. It’s gratifying when a reader clearly “gets” the point of my story and says so in a review. It means I’ve done my job as an author.
The author has graciously donated an e-copy of The Tell-Tail Heart to one of my readers. For a chance to win, simply leave a comment on this post telling us yoru thoughts about Edgar Allen Poe. Leave your comment no later than Thursday night, May 21, 2015 at 11:59 PM EDT to be entered. Be sure to leave your e-mail address as well so that I may contact you, should you win!