Writing with pets – especially young ones – is tough. It’s a unique challenge all on its own. Yes, I’m sure children are hard work too but do they crawl up the curtains like hairy-tailed ninjas and tear out the fly screen just to annoy you?
There was a real sense of accomplishment when I finished FAB: Revolver in late March. Authors (quite rightly) should feel a sense of accomplishment when they finish any piece of work. But this was different because this latest book was written under very difficult circumstances. Without being too dramatic, I would say I wrote it whilst being trapped in the eye of a storm.
A kitten storm.
How did this kitten storm happen? Read on.
In late September, I was sitting at home (it was quiet and peaceful back then) minding my own business in a kitten-free environment. At some point in the evening, my wife Íde (a vet) sent me a photo of two little stray kittens that had been brought into the vet hospital where she works. It was a boy and a girl – twins. They’d been found in a box in somebody’s backyard (so the bringer-in said!)
More like they’d crawled up from the fiery depths of Hell.
Íde was convinced they were right for us. And in that moment, I’m certain that an evil force took possession of me and forced me to agree.
They came home the following night. It was probably a dark and stormy night with lots of thunder and lightning. I’m not sure how this happened. Evil magic probably.
These are the first pics I took that night:
The monsters are so helpless at that age. We were forced into instant slavery. We had to bottle feed them and fill their little bag up with hot water bottles to keep their temperature warm enough. We had to attend to their every need and all this at any hour of the day. We hardly slept but it was too late to do anything about it. We’d already invited them over the threshold. It was their home now. To my horror, I discovered that we even had to force them to pee and poo by imitating cat mum’s tongue with a damp cloth after every feed. This was not pleasant. My delicate writer hands were often covered in some sort of browny-orange shit paste. And my God, how they screamed.
Time passed. They grew stronger and more evil.
We gave them names – Billie Jean and Bodhi. Nice names, to try and soften the edge.
They were still in the developing stages of evilness by the time I released Mr Apocalypse in December. That wasn’t too bad. But I knew the third and final FAB book would be the ultimate challenge. By that point (early 2017), they were getting super-duper sadistic and now the time had come.
They were ready to ruin me.
I’d try to write in the morning and at the same time they’d go nuts. Literally bouncing off the walls nuts. After this initial storm (which could last for a good two or three hours), they would quieten a little in the afternoon but then so did I. I’m an early riser and afternoon’s aren’t a good time for me. In the afternoon, my brain is sozzled, especially in the Australian summer heat (being Scottish I’m not used to this). This means that when the kittens were biding their time, recharging their satanic batteries, I was at my least productive. Quite clearly they’d studied me well. When I worked, they worked. When I rested, they rested. They had picked their active hours to be as disruptive as possible to my schedule. Little buggers.
Speaking of a schedule, I was lucky to even have one. The creatures would sabotage my diary and stationary on a regular basis and all my attempts at organisation were thwarted. I have photographic evidence:
The kitten storm would always return in the evening. Super turbo charged, Wizard of Oz tornado style. More wall-bouncing. Leg-biting, scratching – sometimes I looked at my skin and it was like I’d been pierced by a thousand tiny needles.
All my attempts to be productive were sabotaged.
But I wouldn’t give into them. No way. They wanted to break me but they only managed to bend me – a lot. I wrote through it, not looking up when I heard the loud clatter of things being knocked off the shelves. Not looking up when they were pawing at their water bowl, soaking the kitchen floor in an attempt to flood the house and drown me. No way. I wrote through the distraction. Keep writing, I told myself. So I kept writing and one day, guess what? I finished the book. Despite the best efforts of the two monsters, I’d managed to beat them.
Incidentally, any mistakes or typos you find in FAB: Revolver are entirely the fault of the two fun-sized tigers 🙂
If there’s a lesson to be learned here it’s that no matter how much your pets distract you, if you’re focused enough you can still produce work. Even when you see the monster activating the crazy switch – you know the one that sees her pupils dilate and blow up like two giant, black beach balls. When you see the ears go back and then she leaps onto your chair like certain death in motion, climbs onto your shoulders and just stands there triumphantly reminding you that yes, you are her bitch.
But the biggest lesson of all is this. Authors, kittens are not your friends. They will make it hard.
Having said that…
…what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Thanks to the kittens, I can write through anything. Hey, maybe they were just helping me fine tune my concentration all along. With that in mind, if you can, why not give a rescue animal a home today? Or tomorrow for that matter. Especially demonic little kittens like these two. They WILL make you a better writer. Yeah sure, they’ll destroy your life in the process and take your sanity.
But somehow, you’ll still love them for it.