“Love is love, whether the love goes on two legs or four,” Gwen Cooper author of the best-selling memoir Homer’s Odyssey told me in a long chat last week. We spoke of love, loss, writing, relationships, cats and of course her latest book, a novel Love Saves The Day.
Gwen Cooper is the quintessential New Yorker: fast-talking, funny, no-nonsense even though she grew up in Miami. She laughs easily in a warm, Earth Mother way. It’s no wonder she’s the queen of cat writers with a legion of cat lover fans but there’s much more to her as a writer.
With Valentine’s Day around the corner I thought I’d combine an interview/book review and Love Saves The Day giveaway in one big kitty love fest: A Valentine to Cat Lovers Everywhere.
First, a mini-review of Love Saves The Day. Cooper effortlessly switches gears from writing nonfiction to fiction in a novel set in New York and narrated by a cat named Prudence, her human aka “roommate” Sarah and her estranged daughter Laura. After the sudden death of Sarah, Laura dutifully but reluctantly takes Prudence to live with her and her husband. The cat is the glue providing insights into relationships and love of all kinds in a story that flashes back and forwards from the gritty music/dance scene of ’70s East Village and Lower East Side to contemporary Manhattan. It’s a story of love, loss, hope and healing. Ultimately it’s about the power of love to heal despite time, distance or place.
Cooper acknowledges a long list of books that assisted her research but the author’s note intrigued me the most. In it, she outlines a news story of a building demolished in 1998 without allowing the two dozen residents to retrieve their belongings or pets. A cat named Honey died during the demolition. Cooper fictionalized the account but kept her name.
Cooper says, “I knew initially the book would be set partially in the Lower East Side thinking it would be about Sarah, a recovering party girl and Laura her straight-laced daughter. Then I randomly came across a story in a blog about a building being demolished and an old man whose cat, Honey, was trapped in the building and crying, ‘She’s all I’ve got, she’s all I’ve got.’ It struck me as a small incident to include in to book but as I progressed, the book was moving into another direction, of how we read about tragic events in the news and how lives are changed forever.”
This story stuck with Cooper and it turned out to be the narrative thread linking how one incident can impact the lives of individuals years later. It also crystallized how powerful the animal-human bond can be. The character of Prudence, a savvy feline New Yorker is sweet but never precious, insightful but never maudlin. Only a cat lover as attuned to felines as Cooper could have written a character as fully fleshed as Prudence.
Cooper says, “I hope Love Saves The Day shows the real depth and complexity with our relationships with animals and how those relationships affect others. I think people are ready to hear more of those stories.”
The question of and zeitgeist of: Why cats and why now?
“With the Internet the general cultural awareness of “it’s not just me” and other people feel the same. Cat people can find each other easily now to share, insights, videos, photos and stories. I’ve always said (laughing) the Internet exists for cats and porn. They are the pillars that prop it up. I think cats are funny. They don’t have the sad eyes dogs do. Someone once said that cats are nature’s comedians which I think is true. My cats make me laugh every single day which is a blessing, but they’re not just funny and our relationship to them are not just about them doing silly things and our laughing at them.
Writers are always writing or thinking about writing. Cooper is comfortable writing both fiction and non fiction but doesn’t want to be pigeon-holed as exclusively a cat writer.
“Fiction is my preference as reader and when I think of being a writer and things I wanted to write, it was always fiction. Part of what I liked about writing Homer’s Odyssey were the fictional elements like love, bravery, heroism and courage. I have a couple ideas for my next project but I’ve found especially with fiction I go into it with one intention and end up going in another direction. The benefit about fiction is getting to be other people… I do feel at some point I will write something not cat-centric that I hope will appeal to readers who love cats.
About Gwen Cooper’s unorthodox book tour launching spring into summer.
The days of authors going on multi-city tours are increasing rare and Cooper came up with new but old idea of sponsorship. It reminded me of Medici-like patronage during the Renaissance. Cooper adds, “It harkens back to old ideas and different ways the community can help artists. One is the individual level or a collective like a company.”
Instead of the usual book tour visiting bookstores, Cooper is partnering with Arm & Hammer Ultra-Last Cat Litter and visiting 15-20 no-kill animal shelters across the country. Each shelter will receive donations of 500 lbs. of Arm & Hammer litter and other supplies. Stay tune to further developments Cooper’sWebsite and blog GwenCooper.com on Twitter, and her Facebook page.
Our four feline book reviewers give Love Saves The Day a unanimous four paws rating. Odin is smitten and Merlin is as wise as ever.
Gris Gris fell in love with Prudence, a brown tabby with heart and soul.
Domino thought long and hard about the hidden message.
Love Saves The Day Giveaway
All cat lovers will love LOVE SAVES THE DAY. It makes a purrfect gift for Valentine’s Day and we’re giving away two autographed copies! To enter to win: leave a comment any time until midnight Feb. 16, 2013 EST and you must share because sharing is caring. Tweet, pin, post on Facebook or simply email this to a friend. The winner will be announced on Feb.17. 2013.
The winner of last’s week’s giveaway for a copy of the sublime cat memoir Another Insane Devotion by Peter Trachtenberg is Sparky Spitfire. Congratulations. Look for an email from Layla and Cat Wisdom 101.