I’m not sure how exactly I ended up with an animal in each book I write. I didn’t really set out to do it that was, that’s for sure. Maybe it was the cat and dog in Venus In Blue Jeans. The hero, Cal Toleffson, is a vet, which meant lots of interactions with animals. The heroine, Docia Kent, owned a cat, and the cat became the way the two came together (it was seriously injured and Cal had to take care of it). The dog, a much put-upon Chihuahua, was a way of showing the true character of one of the antagonists. She didn’t exactly abuse the poor thing, but she clearly didn’t know much about taking care of him.
The next two Konigsburg books, Wedding Bell Blues and Be My Baby both had dogs, a greyhound and a blue tick puppy respectively. When I got to Long Time Gone, I decided it was time to go back to cats again. I’m a cat person myself—Nico, the cat in Venus In Blue Jeans, was based on my outlaw cat Java, who died a couple of months after we moved him from Texas to Colorado—and I was ready to go back to a cat point of view. So I came up with Arthur, a mostly Maine Coon cat who lives at a winery. It is, I swear, a complete coincidence that I’m now providing house space and catfood for a pair of part-Maine Coon kittens (nobody owns cats, believe me).
In reality, Arthur is also based on fact. Most wineries have dogs (there’s even a coffee-table picture book of California winery dogs), but a lot of them have cats too. The cat who was the basis for Arthur was a very large tom living at a winery in the New Mexico mountains. He liked to drape himself across the doorway so he could catch the mountain breezes and bedevil the winery dogs who found him an annoying roadblock. I made Arthur slightly bigger and meaner and then ended up having him shaved like a poodle after he encounters an illegal toxic waste dump. Believe it or not, that was also based on fact (the shaving part, anyway). Shadow, a cat we had when my sons were small, was always getting into fights with the neighboring toms. Once the vet had to shave his hindquarters to clean out a particularly nasty wound. Shadow took it personally—he blamed us for the indignity and took to sulking in corners.
I did one more thing in Long Time Gone. I had the hero, Erik Toleffson, bond with Arthur. Now Erik is as alpha as I get. He’s a cop with a somewhat tortured past, a former bad guy who’s trying to reform. And he decides that he and Arthur have a lot in common. That’s deliberate. There’s this occasional stereotype that women like cats whereas real men prefer dogs. I don’t think that’s true, and I wanted to get it out in the open. It’s just as okay for Erik to bond with Arthur as it is for Cal to bond with his Chihuahua. Our own sort of Maine coon kitty, Pancho, regards my husband as a god.
So anyway, it seems I’m stuck with the combination of pets and Konigsburg. But next time I think I’ll try something different. Enough with the dogs and cats. Maybe it’s time for some goldfish. Or maybe something even more exotic. Stay tuned, all.