I'm pleased to welcome Eileen Watkins to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Eileen writes the Cat Groomer Mystery series. THE BENGAL IDENTITY, the second book in the series, was released last week.
Kathy: Cats and cozies go together like milk and cookies. I currently share my life with 5 cats. Do you have any cats of your own?
EW: At present, I have one brown-and-white tabby named Mia, about nine years old and very sweet, whom I “adopted” from a home where she wasn’t working out. The most cats I’ve ever had at one time were two, and now I live in a community where, strangely, I’m allowed one cat and/or one dog—not two pets of the same species!
Kathy: Cassie McGlone is a professional cat groomer. I sure could have used her services when I had Seneca, my medium haired calico, who was always getting matted, especially in her old age. Do you use a pet groomer or do you groom your cats yourself...or let them do it?
EW: So far I’ve only had shorthairs. Most have groomed themselves well, but as you say, when they get older or have health problems they sometimes need a little help. I had a couple who developed hairball issues, and I brushed them regularly. But I never needed to learn the same in-depth grooming techniques as my heroine. I had to research that information.
Kathy: THE BENGAL IDENTITY deals with the Bengal cat breed. These cats are gorgeous (well, all cats are, but these guys are something special). What made you decide to showcase this breed?
EW: I started out with the idea of a valuable cat being stolen and ending up at Cassie’s shop. To keep things lively, I wanted it to be an energetic breed that might not take well to being stuck in a “cat condo,” which led me to Bengals. I decided the motive for the crime could have something to do with breeding hybrid cats, and Bengals are just barely on the “domestic” side of that business. I had a lot of fun writing Ayesha as a character. And of course, her breed suggested a cool title!
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
EW: Originally I wrote paranormal thrillers, with a bit more sex’n’violence, for a POD publisher. I found that as a respite from the dark side I was drawn to reading more light mysteries, and my last two paranormals (now out of print) could be considered cozy mysteries. What all my books have had in common is that they’ve featured ordinary people—not law-enforcement types, private detectives or superheroes—who had to face extraordinary situations using just their wits and some unusual training or talent. And while I’ve always had a little dark humor in my books, I enjoy being able to joke around a bit more in the Cat Groomer series.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
EW: I published one romantic mystery set on a horse farm, RIDE A DANCING HORSE (may still have limited availability on Amazon), and right now I’m trying to place a women’s fiction/YA tale about a woman and her niece who start a horse-rescue farm. So you could say I also write in a different species.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
EW: Cassie McGlone, armed with a major in human psychology and further training in animal behavior and cat grooming, has opened a grooming and boarding business, “Cassie’s Comfy Cats,” in the small town of Chadwick, NJ. Also on the run from an abusive relationship, Cassie expects her new location and career to offer peace and predictability…until she pays a house call to her wealthiest client and finds him murdered in his study. After she helps to flush out his killer, Cassie gains a reputation as an amateur sleuth, makes friends with the local police detective and finds herself investigating more cat-related crimes in the future.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
EW: This doesn’t relate much to cozy mysteries, but my favorite literary character is Dracula! As written by Bram Stoker, I think he was one of the most interesting villains of all time, with a backstory and layers that never were fully explored in any sequels or movies.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
EW: I actually was asked to do a series for this publisher and given a choice of themes. I felt I could enjoy writing about a cat groomer because I love animals and respect people who work with them for a living. I also respect people who can successfully run their own businesses!
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
EW: I wanted to do a “cat mystery” different from any that I’ve read in the past. I feel that animals are interesting in themselves, without having to talk or behave like people or have telepathic powers. And while in some mysteries the cat mainly sits looking pretty in the background, Cassie’s business shows that animals can be a lot of work! She and her assistant are kept busy tending to their customers. So I want to combine the realistic side of cat care with their natural charm and air of mystery. They’re cute and cuddly…and ruthless hunters, too.
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
EW: I’m about 1/3 through A LIE FOR A LIE by Emilie Richards, an older book I picked up at a sale. I’m enjoying it very much. It combines two themes I’ve always found fascinating—a religious cult and a psychopathic celebrity!
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
EW: I’m a vintage buff, and a lot of the furniture in my condo is from the 1940s, including barkcloth drapes I bought back in the ’80s when the prices were reasonable. On my last newspaper job I wrote about interior design and home improvement, and I enjoy doing those things myself. And though I don’t have a horse of my own anymore, I still ride once a week at a local stable, trying to keep up my lower-level dressage skills.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
EW: Gluten-free wild rice mix, a honeydew melon, almond milk and of course my cat’s prescription canned food. (We both have digestive issues.)
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books, either in your current series or a new series?
EW: My third Cat Groomer book, FERAL ATTRACTION, is due out in October of this year. In that one, Cassie ventures out of her comfort zone to help defend a feral cat colony that’s been annoying residents at an upscale condo community. I’ve just signed a contract for three more books in the series, and in the next one Cassie will have to track down a cat-napped pet for—who else?—a spoiled, temperamental celebrity. (Yes, there also will be a murder.)
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
EW: Unlike some writers I’ve talked to, I actually enjoy the process. It’s hard work, but “making stuff up” suits me far better than any 9-to-5 job I’ve ever held. All my life I’ve seen the world in terms of characters and stories, and analyzed what worked and what didn’t in the books I’ve read and movies and TV shows I’ve watched. Of course, it’s nice when some people make a fuss just because I’m “an author,” but what’s more satisfying is to talk to someone who’s really read and responded to something I’ve written—even if their opinion isn’t 100% positive! Writing should be communication.
THE BENGAL IDENTITY BY Eileen Watkins
The Second Cat Groomer Mystery
Cassie McGlone has some doubts about her new boarder. Rudy, the man who dropped her off seemed very agitated and his story a bit odd, but the cat looked healthy and he seemed fond of her. After all, it was just for a few days. Ayesha's arrival proved to be more of a mystery when her somewhat sticky fur led to a bath...and the brown color of her coat started running down the drain revealing rosettes. This athletic and vocal animal wasn't your average cat-Ayesha was a Bengal, probably a show cat worth thousands! Why was she disguised? Did Rudy steal her? Things take a dangerous turn after Rudy is killed in a hit and run. Is someone trying to steal Ayesha? Will Cassie find her real owner before something worse happens? Does it have something to do with the killer cat roaming the outskirts of town? And what's going on in her boyfriend's veterinary clinic? Cassie has more puzzles to sort out than an unkempt long-haired cat has mats!Although I'm a stickler for reading series in order, I didn't have a chance to read A PERSIAN ALWAYS MEOWS FIRST, the first book in the series, before this one. That being said, this book was perfect to read on its own. There were brief references to things that happened in the first book, but I had plenty of information and never felt as if I was missing something. I enjoyed this book so much, that I'll be going back and reading the first in the series soon!
THE BENGAL IDENTITY is a delight. Interesting, realistic characters inhabit the charming New Jersey town of Chadwick. Characters that don't go out of their way to investigate and get into trouble, but rather have mysteries thrust upon them and work with the police to try to sort things out. I'm a huge cat lover and appreciate not only the antics of the cats in the book, but the good information the author imparts about them as well. Of course, I love Ayesha! The mysteries were plentiful and, especially appropriate for a cat-centric book, plenty of herrings were given, red ones, that is. Although, at one point near the end I was yelling, "No, don't do it!!!!" having figured out enough of what was going on to know that a particular character was up to no good!
The second Cat Groomer mystery is an intelligent fun read sure to delight cat and mystery lovers alike.