Interview: Clea Simon, The Ninth Life

Introducing Blackie, an unusual feline hero, and his companion Care in the first of this dark new mystery series.

Three figures, shadowy against the light. That’s all I remember from my past life, as I am dragged, dripping and half-drowned, from the flood. My saviour, a strange, pink-haired girl, is little help. She can barely care for herself, let alone the boy she loves. And although she has sworn to avenge the murder of her mentor, she must first escape the clutches of drug dealers, murderers and thieves. I would repay her kindness if I could. But we are alone in this blighted city – and I am a cat.

NINTH LIFE

The past is an enigma to Blackie, the voice of Clea Simon’s dark new mystery. Combining elements of feline fantasy and cozy whodunit, The Ninth Life introduces this unusual hero and his companion, Care: two small creatures in a nightmarish urban landscape, fighting for their lives, and for the lives and memories of those they love.


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Q: It was only last August that we were here chatting about Code Grey.  Welcome back and congratulations on The Ninth Life, which is a bit of a change in tone. Can you tell us about your protagonist?

A: “The Ninth Life” really has two protagonists, as the series name – A Blackie and Care Mystery – indicates. My narrator is Blackie, a feral black cat who observes the world around him closely, particularly as it affects Care, a pink-haired homeless girl whom he is strangely bonded to.

Q: How much of you is in Blackie and Care? How would you feel about them if you met them in real life?

A: Well, I’m neither a cat nor homeless, but there’s certainly some of me in both of these. In a way, Blackie is in the author’s role. Not only does he narrate the story, he’s in the position of watching what’s going on although he is unable to explain things to Care or to warn her. Meanwhile, if Blackie is the mind behind what’s going on, Care is in some ways the heart of the book – she’s a girl on her own in a very tough world. I worry about her!

Q: Will Blackie and Care change and evolve throughout the series?

A: This is the first book in the Blackie and Care series, so we’ll have to wait and see. But I do like to have my characters grow and evolve. People do, and so I think fictional people should too – readers would get sick of seeing the characters they are fond of making the same mistakes over and over again, wouldn’t they? I can tell you that both Blackie and Care learn a lot in this first outing. In particular, Blackie comes to understand something about his true nature.

Q: Have you ever thought of killing someone that you know in real life–on the pages of a murder mystery, I mean?

A: Of course! That’s the joy of writing mysteries. But you have to keep two things in mind: the first is that you want the reader to sympathize with the victim to some extent. Otherwise, why would anyone want to solve the mystery? And therefore your victim can’t be someone too awful. The other thing to keep in mind is that death and murder are very serious. Even in fiction, I believe we have to respect how serious a crime murder is.

Q: How realistic is your setting? Do you take liberties, or are you true to life?

My settings are as realistic as I can make them – always! – even if my characters are not always strictly speaking like people you would meet on the street. But while some of my books are based in real places (the Dulcie and Theda books are based in Cambridge, Massachusetts), “The Ninth Life” is set in a fictional city, which I don’t identify. But it is based on real places – specifically parts of Boston, New York, and New Orleans, although the geography is different from any of these. I want it to look and feel real. And sound and smell real, too.

Q: When the movie or TV series is made, who gets cast?

A: I haven’t figured that out for “The Ninth Life” yet. I know I want Angelina Jolie for Pru Marlowe and Clare Danes for Dulcie Schwartz. I think I want Bagheera from “The Jungle Book” for Blackie, but he’s a fictional character too…

Q: What’s the worst and best advice you’ve heard or received as an author?

A: “Write what you know” is both the best and the worst advice, I think. On one hand, you have to be able to visualize what you are writing about. You have to see the back of the buildings and know what the mud smells like when the puddles start to dry, even if your character is only walking down the sidewalk. In that way, you have to know your setting, just like you need to know your characters – what makes them tick and how they will react under pressure. If you don’t know these things, you won’t be able to write convincingly about them, to make the reader see and feel and relate to them as you do. But if you only write what you have experienced then you are limited to your real life. You can know things that you’ve only imagined – but you have to take the time and energy to imagine them fully. To think about contingencies – the if/then possibilities – and realize that not everything may be as neat and nice as you had originally wanted! So while “write what you know” can be good advice, it can also be very limiting. I think much better advice would be: know what you write! And if you don’t know it before you start writing, then be willing to learn!

Q: I hope you’ll come back to tell us a little more about these books when they’re available.

If I may, I’d like to close with a question of my own: What do you think about Blackie and Care? I’d love to hear! You can get in touch with my from my website http://www.cleasimon.com or on my Facebook author page at https://www.facebook.com/clea.simon.author

 


About The Author

Clea Simon is the author of 19 cozies in the Theda Krakow, Dulcie Schwartz, and Pru Marlowe pet noir series. The latter two are ongoing and include her most recent books, Code Grey (Severn House) and When Bunnies Go Bad (Poisoned Pen Press). The Ninth Life, the first book in her Blackie & Care mysteries, a darker series, will be published by Severn House on March 1. A former journalist and nonfiction author, she lives in Somerville, Mass., with her husband, the writer Jon Garelick, and their cat Musetta. She can be reached at http://www.cleasimon.com

Keep up with Clea

Facebook / Blog / Twitter / Goodreads / Severn House  

Purchase Links: 

Amazon / B&N / Book Depository

 


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One thought on “Interview: Clea Simon, The Ninth Life

  1. Thanks so much for hosting me again! I’d love to answer any questions your readers may have.

    Like

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