Birds on a cat blog?
Cat Love Month continues with a twist. We’re all about cats and cat books but I recently read a memoir centered on birds that I loved, so much so I’m sharing an exclusive Q & A with the author and offering a giveaway. The Bird Market of Paris by pet expert Nikki Moustaki is about to be released and has already garnered glowing reviews. I met Nikki two years ago when she was hosting a party for Matilda the famed Algonquin Hotel cat and while a noted bird expert, knew she loves cats too. What I didn’t know was the sunny blonde from Miami had a dark side.
I’ve read dozens of pet memoirs and feel the genre is over-saturated with poorly written examples. When a good one comes my way I silently cheer and want it do well. When I received an advanced reader copy of A Bird Market of Paris a couple months ago I found the stunning, gorgeously written book about love, loss and recovery unputdownable. Then I did something I rarely do. The publisher sent the revised hardcover version and I read it again. At turns heartrending and heart-stopping, the pages coo with lyrical prose as the reader is swept towards the end goal: visiting the bird market in Paris to exorcise ghosts of a painful past. I also discovered a new appreciation for birds.
Nikki Moustaki Q. & A.
LMW: You say you inherited the bird gene or affinity for birds but would you say you also inherited an addiction gene?
NM: I’ve read that the addiction gene is inherited, but I don’t know for sure where my tendency toward addictive behavior originated. I do have a little bit of OCD, and so did Poppy, my grandfather who is featured in The Bird Market of Paris, and I’ve always thought that the OCD was a part of my addictive temperament.
My nature is to “go big,” to collect things, and to dive head first into everything I’m doing. I have to monitor these tendencies, because when my focus is on something potentially destructive, like collecting animals because I love them so much, I can get lost in that behavior.
I’ve been sober for many years now, so as much as I might want to do indulge in a behavior, I have the tools stop myself. These tendencies have also been a gift, however, because when my focus is on something constructive, like writing, work, and relationships, those things thrive.
LMW: You grew up with cats and birds. What did cats teach you about life?
NM: My cats were dear friends. We had family five cats over the years. All except for one were kittens that I brought home and begged to keep. Since I’m an only child, they were kind of like siblings. They taught me that being independent is a good thing—as is knowing when to accept a scratch behind the ears, metaphorically speaking.
LMW: Poppy, your beloved grandfather believed it was a good omen when a pet died in the home–that they acted as scapegoats for tragedy intended for humans. Do you or did you believe that?
NM: I absolutely believe this. I’ve experienced too many incidences with it to see it as anything but by design. I don’t think it’s a “scapegoat” situation, though. I believe that animals have a conscious cosmic connection to the universe in a way that we don’t, and that they choose to “save” the humans that they love with the ultimate sacrifice. I know that this is very woo-woo and New-Agey, but I grew up with my grandparents’ old world superstitions, and I do still believe a lot of them. I think it’s important to believe in some kind of magic or in forces that we can’t see or control. It keeps you humble.
LMW: If your grandfather was alive today how would he celebrate the release of The Bird Market of Paris?
NM:I believe that Poppy would throw a party for me, complete with his homemade lentil soup, watermelon, and a cake. He loved to bring me pastries that were shaped like penguins, so I bet there would be a few of those. He’d be proud of this book—and me. I wish he were here with me now.
LMW: You describe your parents as hippies who took in strays of all kinds. How did their love of animals nurture influence you?
NM: My parents have always been very compassionate toward people and animals who were down on their luck. I learned from them to love the “under dog,” to care for those who can’t care for themselves. I believe this is why I love rescue animals so much.
LMW: How difficult was it writing this book compared to your others?
NM:This book was difficult to write in that it’s incredibly personal. My other books were written as how-to tomes based on my expertise on a variety of topics, mostly animal care and training. With The Bird Market of Paris, I had to delve into painful memories and sift out their meanings. But I also was privileged to write about the joy I experienced as the granddaughter of a wonderful man, and as the steward to many dozens of remarkable birds.
LMW: What’s your next writing project?
NM: I’m working on a sort of sequel to The Bird Market of Paris. This one takes place in the 1980s in Miami and is also uniquely personal. I’m having a great time writing it.
LMW: Do you currently have any pets?
NM:I currently have two dogs and a variety of fish. I haven’t had birds in several years because I’ve come to a point where I don’t want to put a bird into a small cage. It makes me sad. Eventually, I think I’ll adopt a disabled bird that can’t be released into the wild, maybe a pigeon or a starling.
LMW: What do you do to maintain your recovery?
NM:I go to recovery meetings, help other addicts, read the literature of the program I follow, and do my best to adhere to my program’s simple principals. These are all the basic tenants of my recovery, and they work for me.
LMW; What message would you like readers to take away from your memoir?
NM: I would like people to understand that birds are amazing creatures, miracles really, at the same time fragile and fierce. I would like people to come away from the book with a greater respect for and love of birds. And if people are reading this as a recovery memoir, I’d like them to can gain some hope from it—if I can get sober, anyone can.
Visit the Nikki Moustaki website for all the latest news and book signings NikkiMoustaki.com
We’re giving away an autographed copy of The Bird Market of Paris.
To enter the giveaway simply leave a comment before 11:59 pm ET, Feb.22, 2015. For additional chances to win share this and leave a separate comment telling us where you share. Good luck!
The Bird Market In Paris will be released on Feb.10. Take a peek here for more info or to purchase.