One of my favorite cat books last year was the award-winning The Dalai Lama’s Cat by David Michie. The charming novel of heart and soul chronicles the rags-to-riches life a Himalayan cat who is rescued by the Dalai Lama. The sequel, The Art of Purring unspools the further adventures of the Dalai Lama’s cat and her search for happiness from the top of the world.
There’s a lot of pressure when writing a sequel to a popular book and I admit to some trepidation before dipping in, but I was hooked on page one which made me very happy. The writing is witty, warm and truly wise. The characters, some familiar, some new from cafe to yoga devotees, Buddhist monks, tourists, dogs and of course, one special cat, feels like coming home. Cat lovers can armchair travel to a feline Shangri-La where they too can learn what makes them purr.
I had the pleasure of sharing a Q + A last year for The Dalai Lama’s Cat and today for The Art Of Purring with author David Michie.
Merlin gives an enthusiastic four paws up for both books.
Q + A Layla Morgan Wilde with David Michie
LMW: The Dalai Lama’s Cat shared life lessons couched in Buddhist philosophy. The sequel, The Art of Purring expands on the themes of happiness and seeking life purpuse. I feel the book’s principles and themes are universal. What can you add for those readers who do are not Buddhists or do not meditate?
DM: The book is very much an offering to people who are neither Buddhists nor meditators, but who are interested in finding a deeper purpose to life, or at least more enduring causes of happiness. Buddhism is not an evangelizing tradition. The aim of Buddhism has never been to convert other people to Buddhism, but to provide tools that may help them become happier – whether that’s happier atheists, Christians, Jews or whatever.
LMW: Before The Dalai Lama’s Cat was published a year ago your own cat died. What have you learned about cats and cat lovers in the past year while writing The Art of Purring? Have you thought of adopting another cat or two?
DM: My wife and I would love to adopt more cats and we support our local Cat Haven. We still have Mambo who, like Princess Wussik, adopted us. But as we plan to spend extended periods overseas in a few year’s time, we don’t think it would be sensible to take on more pets right now.
In the past year I have learned that cat lovers are incredibly active online – I never cease to be amazed and humbled by the level of support for the Dalai Lama’s Cat Facebook page!
LMW: The Dalai Lama’s cat, or HHC as she’s referred to, is not a huge fan of dogs but dogs play a pivotal role in the Art of Purring. Can you elaborate without spilling the beans? Do you think cat lovers are different from dog lovers?
DM: I’ve looked at some interesting research on this. Many people, myself included, love a great variety of animals, not cats exclusively. But people who like cats alone do have some defining characteristics, according to at least one study. Cat people tend to be more curious, non-conformist and more interested in unconventional ideas. In other words, they are ideal candidates for a book written by the Dalai Lama’s Cat! I hasten to add that I discovered this only after embarking on the series – I can’t claim it was a clever marketing ploy!
Regarding the cat/dog dichotomy, I can only encourage people to practice equanimity in regard to both – we are all a lot closer to both of them than we may care to think!
LMW: The reader is left with a few cliffhangers inviting a third novel. What can you tell us about the trilogy or series?
DM: After the warm support I have continued to receive about The Dalai Lama’s Cat, I realized there is an appetite for more books. So yes, book two resolves a number of the cliffhangers from book one, but not all. And book two leaves further questions unresolved. I am leaving place-marks with each of the books and I do have an overarching plan to provide full resolution in the future.
LMW: You have written both fiction and nonfiction in other genres. Any desire to write another non–cat book?
DM: Very much so. I have actually just finished ‘Why Mindfulness is Better than Chocolate’ which will be published in June 2014 in Australia. It’s a non-fiction exposition of the practice and benefits of mindfulness. I also have in mind a thriller series set in the Tibetan Buddhist world. Whether or not I can bring my cat-loving friends with me on the journey remains to be seen!
LMW: The loving preparing, serving and communal sharing of food is a key thread throughout the book. HHC derives great joy from the pleasures of fine dining. Would you call food a true cause of happiness? And do you enjoy cooking?
DM: Food falls into the category of ‘hedonia’ – what we get from the world to give us pleasure. While I enjoy food, I can’t claim to be a great cook, although I am an enthusiast (vegetarian). The other category, ‘eudemonia’ is what we give to the world to achieve more enduring happiness. The two categories are not mutually exclusive of course, and those who cook to give happiness to others can benefit in both ways!
LMW: Much of the book’s action takes place in the Himalaya Café in McLeod Ganj, India. It’s a fictional location in a real area and sings with charm. So much so, I felt like jumping on a plane to visit. Did you model any of the book’s locations on actual places?
DM: Yes. Like so much else about most fiction, the Himalaya Book Café is a composite picture of a number of my favourite places including Colbert on Sloane Square, London, Bodhi Tree in Perth, Australia, and Urth Café in West Hollywood.
LMW: Books on life after death and heaven are popular these days. Pets are often thought to go to the “Rainbow Bridge”. Do you think cats have souls and what are your thoughts on the Rainbow Bridge, heaven or an afterlife for cats and dogs?
DM: The Buddhist view is that all mind-havers, including pets, have consciousness and that subtle consciousness continues after physical death. After ‘death,’ as in life, we continue to experiences the effects of previously created causes.
LMW: You have many American and Canadian fans. Any plans for a North American book tour or visit?
DM: Not right now, Layla, but if I can be allowed a commercial plug, if people would like to sign for updates on my website, I’ll be sure to let them know when this happens.
If you haven’t read The Dalai Lama’s Cat, I envy you. You get the double pleasure of reading the books back-to-back without waiting. If you have read The Dalai Lama’s Cat, The Art of Purring is worth the wait. The release date is November 26, 2013. This feline romp to Shangri-La will having you purring with delight. Let the purring begin!