Interview with Louise Clark, Author of Cat Among The Fishes

21 Apr 2020

What can you tell us about your new release, Cat Among The Fishes?

Cat Among The Fishes is a camping story wrapped around a murder mystery. It takes place on Vancouver Island off the coast of British Columbia, Canada, a beautiful location where I used to camp when my kids were little. All of the recurring characters in 9 Lives series are at the campground, including Detective Patterson who is also on vacation there with her family, and Stormy the Cat of course! The mystery turns around the death of an executive trying to spearhead the installation of a new fish farm in the area, and there are plenty of people who don’t want him to succeed—including Detective Patterson’s brother-in-law who is a marine biologist with a long history of being against off-shore aquaculture. When Patterson’s brother-in-law becomes the main suspect, Christy and the others can’t help but get involved—even if they are supposed to be on vacation.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

My best friend’s mother. One of the things my friend and I loved to do together was talk about our favorite authors. The summer we graduated from high school, we came up with a story we thought would be perfect for the author we were currently reading. When we ran the idea past my friend’s mom, she said, “Why don’t you write it yourselves?” As we were going to post secondary schools in different towns in the fall, this seemed like a great way to keep in touch. Through the month of September we each sent the other a chapter, then coursework got in the way and the project petered out. It stayed in my mind, though, and every now and then I’d pull out the manuscript and write a few lines. It wasn’t until after I graduated that I took a serious look at the story and started to work on it in a consistent way. That manuscript never sold, but I learned how to write and how to market a book because of it.

What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?

I read always and a lot, so rather than picking five books, I’ll do five authors.

Agatha Christie – her mysteries are complex and her plots pull you in from the beginning. Moreover, she doesn’t cheat and withhold critical information that will lead to solving of the mystery.

Ellis Peters (Edith Pargetar), the Brother Cadfael series – I love this series for the way she immerses you in Cadfael’s twelfth century world, but through characterization that pulls out the essential humanity of the characters and the situation, makes the stories relevant to our modern life. Another author who sets his mysteries in the medieval world is Peter Tremayne (Peter Berresford Ellis) who writes the Sister Fidelma series, set in Ireland during the early spread of Christianity there.

Elizabeth Peters (Barbara Mertz), the Amelia Peabody series. This long running series began as a mystery romance matching the feisty late Victorian feminist Amelia Peabody with the crusty, but gorgeous, archaeologist Radcliffe Emerson. The series follows them through their tumultuous relationship as they excavate Egyptian tombs, become parents to the fearless Ramses, adopt the beautiful Nefret, and become involved in historical events. There’s a lot of humor in the books and I love the way the characters grow and change without becoming other than themselves through the series.

Janet Evanovich, the Stephanie Plum series – The characters and action in this series are so firmly anchored in the world Evanovich has built that every crazy thing that happens seems to be normal. The action is fast paced and there are always scenes that make me laugh out loud.

J. D. Robb (Nora Roberts), the In Death series – Robb mixes a step-by-step police procedural with deep dives into the thought processes of her characters. We know what they care about, what they’re looking forward to. We see the world through their eyes and it just pulls me in. As well, there is a recurring cast of characters whose lives grow and change through the series.

Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?

I’d start with J. K. Rowling. I read somewhere that she had the Harry Potter series planned before she even finished the first book. I’d like to ask her how she kept to that plan (or how much of the plan she actually kept to) and how she felt when she ended the series. My original plan for the 9 Lives series was to have nine books, each with story points designed to build to a big conclusion in book 9. I’ve kept some of those story points, but jettisoned others and now here I am with book 5, Cat Among the Fishes, out and available and the rough draft of book 6, Cat in the Limelight, completed. That means there are three books remaining in the series and I’m having so much fun working with the 9 Lives characters I don’t want to let them go. Should I end the series at book 9 as originally planned? Or scrap the series outline and let the Jamieson-Armstrongs continue on? I’d love input from my readers, if they’d like to weigh in on the question.

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

Helping my characters come to life. Planning and research are necessary, and I do enjoy doing them—especially the research—but I can get lost in the details, which makes me impatient. I guess it’s the extrovert in me, but actually working with the characters is like going to a party or socializing with friends. I’m there, in their lives, cheering them on.

What is a typical day like for you?

When I’m having my morning coffee I work on a puzzle—jigsaw or sudoku—to unfog my brain (I am not a morning person), then I review what needs to be done during the day. I check my e-mail and do marketing or other non-writing related things in the morning. Then I break for lunch and exercise. I write new scenes, or work on revisions in the afternoon.

What scene in Cat Among The Fishes was your favorite to write?

I always enjoy writing the big scenes. By that I mean the ones that start off quietly, then someone does something off-the-wall and chaos ensues. In Cat Among the Fishes there are a few of those, but I think my favorite is early on in the book. The Jamieson-Armstrongs are at a demonstration fish farm where a talk about the benefits of fish farming for the local community is being given. There is already a potential for problems, because there is a large presence of anti-fish farming eco warriors at the event. However, things really get going when Stormy the Cat decides to take a dive into a pool filled with salmon smolts that is part of the demonstration site. As his people rush to rescue him, the fish farm executive takes offense, the local mayor gets involved along with other members of the audience, and there’s almost a scuffle. In the end it’s Aunt Ellen who takes charge of the situation, expertly reining in the red faced, bellowing executive. The scene started with me wondering what would happen if you took a cat to place with a swimming pool sized tank filled with fish and the rest unfolded from there.

Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?

Butt in Chair. The only way a writer writes is to be at the computer with fingers to the keyboard. Yes, there has to be time to think and plan, but for me inspiration comes with the doing. I begin with an idea of what I want the reader to learn in a particular scene, then I start typing. The scene grows organically from there.

Louise Clark is the author of the new book Cat Among The Fishes.

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