Thursday, April 19, 2012

Kiwi in Cat City by vickie johnstone: Interview, Excerpt

One dark night, Amy cannot sleep and she looks out of the window into the garden to see her cat, Kiwi, transfixed by the moon, which is glowing brightly like a cat's claw.

Waking her brother, James, Amy suggests they follow Kiwi to see where she goes... whether it involves a hunt for mice or something else. Little do they know that, with a flick of her tail, Kiwi is going to magically change them into kittens and lead them on the adventure of their lives to a land they never knew existed in their wildest dreams. In the blue-lit world of Cat City, the budding detectives help Inspector Furrball to solve the mystery of the missing catizens and find out what happened to Madame Purrfect.

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Excerpt from Kiwi and the Living Nightmare (book 3 in the Kiwi Series)

Chapter 17: The Cute Squad

“Okay,” smiled Amy. “We have a short journey to make. We have to cross this field and then we need to get to the house, which is inside this tree in the middle of a forest. It took us an hour before, but I think we can get there faster if we catch a bus.”
“A bus?” asked Siam and Inspector Furrball. “What’s a buuusssss?”
“Good idea!” said Moggie. “I haven’t been on one of those in cat years!”
Amy and James jumped up, and began to walk towards the road where the nearest bus stop was. Moggie ran quickly behind them, so she almost fell into pace with the children’s walking. Inspector Furrball sped along behind, while Siam half wobbled and half ran.
On the other side of the road, a white cat was walking, minding his own business. Siam glanced up and wondered why the cat was completely naked. He wasn’t wearing any decoration or protective clothing at all. At that moment, the white cat turned. His mouth hung open and his ears went back, as his eyes turned into big, round circles. He had never seen a cat wearing boots and a jacket before. Well, have you?
They only had to wait five minutes until the bus turned up, but it was five minutes too long.
“Ah, what cute kitty cats, Mabel,” shouted the old lady in the blue, fur-lined jacket. Her hair was also blue and she had socks that looked as if they had fallen down years ago. James thought she must be half deaf as she was shouting really, really loudly.
“Ooooohhhh, I love the ginger one, he’s soooo cute. Look at those little booties, Daisy. Aren’t they just the cutest things!” grinned the other old lady, showing a graveyard of teeth.
“B-but,” stammered Siam, cringing. His tail drooped.
James tried not to giggle as one of Daisy’s hands shot out and ruffled the hair on top of Inspector Furrball’s head. He froze. This was so undignified!
 “Urrk,” splurted Siam, who tried to hide behind Amy, but he was too late. Mabel bent down and tickled his ears. Oooch. That really did tickle! Siam flicked his head, but the old lady kept on rubbing his ears. It really tickled, but it felt weirdly not uncomfortable. In fact, it was sort of, kind of, kitty nice. Without meaning too, Siam started purring.
“Ahhhh, Daisy, he’s purring away. Can you hear him? Ahhh, bless him!”
Inspector Furrball frowned. This was really too much. He was the head of the Cat Squad and an inspector. He had a reputation to uphold. Ooohhh. Ahhh. Mmmm, that’s rather nice! Suddenly, Inspector Furrball was purring too and flicking up his tail.
Siam grinned. Inspector Furrball pretended to look the other way.
Amy and James chuckled, and Moggie purred.
Luckily, the bus turned up, so they could all hop on, away from the two old ladies. However, the cats’ unusual appearance was not lost on the other passengers.
“Ooohhh, look at that... look at those little booties...”
“Wow, he’s just so cute...”
“Who would have thought they made booties for cats?”
“Ah, I should get one of those little baggies for my cat, Tinker. Imagine that, he could carry his own cat food around...”
How the little old ladies laughed. And so it went for the entire journey. Suddenly, Siam and Inspector Furrball were the all-time heroes to every little old lady on the bus. The whole neighbourhood was going to hear about this. Luckily, it was a very short trip.
“Thank you!” yelled the children as they leapt off the bus. The cats all bounced off behind them. James waved at the bus driver, who appeared confused. He’d have an interesting bus story to tell his wife and kids when he got home. Not the usual boring stuff, but cats in fancy dress costumes. Well, it was Halloween after all!
“Am I glad to be on solid ground again!” sighed Siam, licking his lips. “Even if this place is a bit grey.” He looked at the pavement, which was chipped, dirty, plain and lacking any colour at all. It was stained with something squishy and smelly. Eeuwww. He suddenly missed the colourful, clean, blue mosaic streets of Cat City. His home, sweet home.
“That was a very unusual experience,” said Inspector Furrball. He checked his pocket watch. Time was waiting for no catizen today. “They go very fast, much faster than our cat-cars back home.”
“They’re called buses,” said James. “They run on wheels that go round and round, and we use petrol.”
“Petrol? What’s that? We use paw power,” laughed Furrball, sticking one out. “We peddle!”
“Petrol is made from oil and it’s not good for the environment,” said Amy. “People drill for it in places where they shouldn’t drill because it damages the landscape. Sometimes the ships carrying the oil leak, and this harms the birds and animals...”
Inspector Furrball looked at Amy. “I see this is a subject you feel very strongly about,” he said.
“Yes,” she replied, smiling. “Inspector, when I grow up I want to join Greenpeace and help to save the planet!”
“That’s a fine ambition,” said Inspector Furrball. “I imagine you will be very good at it.”
“Thank you!” said Amy. She had really missed the inspector.
“What about you, James?” asked Moggie. “What do you want to be?”
Siam grinned – “A computer genius?”
James thought hard. “I want to be a catizen!”
Everyone started laughing!
“No, seriously,” said James. “I want to be a catizen and live in Cat City, and be a detective like you!”
“Well,” said Inspector Furrball, looking up at the boy. “We’ll just have to see what the future brings! I’m sure you would make a fine detective, whether in the human world or the cat world.”
“Or both!” laughed Siam.
“Wow!” said James. “I hadn’t thought of that – both worlds!”
Moggie smiled. She wondered too. Amy was still giggling and Siam raised an eyebrow, which made her chuckle more. Siam was getting used to the children not being cat-shaped, but it was weird if he thought about it too much. All this looking up was also making his neck ache! Best not to think too much and just get on with things!
“Let’s go!” said Amy. “It’s not far to walk now.”
They were on the opposite side of the road to the forest. Lush trees rose up from the ground, their leaves a mixture of greens, yellows, oranges and browns. The day was still warmish, not too chilly.
“I think it will take us about twenty minutes to walk. Last time we went around in circles a bit, but I think I can remember the direct way,” said Amy. She took the lead and crossed the road, followed by James and the three cats, all walking in a line. They had just stepped on to the pavement when they heard a high-pitched voice.
“Look, Mum! Look at those cats! Look!”
They all turned their heads to see a little, brown-haired boy pointing towards them from the opposite side of the road. His mother was walking quickly, holding on to his hand and trying to hurry him along. He dragged back and pointed. “Mum, Mum, Mum!”
Oh no, thought Amy and James.
“Look! That cat is wearing a red vest – can’t we get one for Smokey? He looks so cute! Mum, he’s wearing black boots! Mum, Mum, I want them!”
“Huh, I am not cute. I am Inspector Furrball, head of the Cat Squad!” announced Inspector Furrball, standing up on his back legs. He’d had enough of being cute for one day. He put his paws on his hips.
Amy didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Moggie sighed. Siam purred. James put his hand over his eyes.
“Mum! Mum! The cat just said something! Mum! He’s standing up! Mum! Mum!” the little boy shouted, pulling his mother’s hand.
“Have some respect for your elders, little boy!” said Inspector Furrball.
“Inspector! Get down on four paws and try to look like a human’s pet cat please!” meowed Moggie.
“Hmph!” said Furrball, obeying. Siam grinned.
“Now you know very well that cats can’t talk,” replied the little boy’s mother. “Come on, walk faster or we’ll be late for dinner!”
“B-b-but...” stammered the little boy. He continued to stare wide-eyed and open-mouthed as his mother dragged him along.
Siam waved goodbye. He thought the little boy was owed something for the shock. But this just made the boy’s mouth drop open even wider.
“Inspector, can we go now please?” mewed Moggie.
“Yes, of course!” said Inspector Furrball, regaining his composure. “Lead away, young Amy.”

Does travel play in the writing of your books?

Yes! Travel is a fascinating topic because it can be physically travelling or mentally travelling, or to some other dimension that you invent! Everyone is on a path to something, or perhaps they’ve subconsciously wandered off the path they should be on or wanted to be on. Thinking about it, travel is a theme in a lot of my writing; not sure if it was intentional! It comes up a lot in my poetry – journeys, whether physical or in the mind. I have a free book of poems called Travelling Light, ironically, in which various characters wander the world searching for something that’s missing. Some know where they are going, others are lost or remember better times. Some are on the right road, some may have wandered off track. All of them will get somewhere in the end.

One of my books, which I began writing in 2009, but haven’t got far with, is a fantasy. The main character is a girl who is given something that takes her to a different world. So the journey is important, what she finds and learns about others and herself. She finds that she is stronger in the other world and she has advantages there that she doesn’t have at home. In the end, she’ll have to choose where she wants to be.

In the Kiwi Series, the heroine, Kiwi, is a magical cat who journeys between her two homes – the human world and a place called Cat City, inhabited by catizens. In book 1, she turns her two human friends into kittens and takes them on an adventure in Cat City. In book 2, they travel to the Land of Giant Mice and in book 3 they again spend most of the time in the human world, but they travel into the supernatural world on Halloween to a place inhabited by ghosts.  

Tell us about your next release.

My next book (this month) will be the one that I wrote for NaNoWrimo, called Three Heads and a Tail. There are four characters. Josie has red hair and green eyes, she’s a bit quirky, creative and clumsy, and loves animals. The book opens with her moving into a house shared by two guys: Benjamin, who has long blonde hair, likes acting, is a bit of a hippy and works in a flower shop; and David, who looks and acts like a model, plays in a band, works in a music shop and is a bit of a poser. The fourth character is Ben’s golden Labrador dog, Glen, who has a bit of a doggie crush on the belle of the park, Mimi. The story is a sort of comedy romance with walkies!

Coming out in June will be the fourth book in the Kiwi Series. It is longer than the previous three books, and will take Kiwi and the gang to a couple of places they’ve never been before, one of which is an underworld below Cat City. The plot will involve a missing ring, a hunt for the thief, a strange tale of magic and a battle with a mythical creature who imprisons one of the characters.

I also have a book of 300 haiku coming out soon, called the 575 from London – the title is my publisher InknBeans Press’ idea so I can’t take the credit!

Who is your favorite author?

Roald Dahl. He bridged the gap, and wrote amazing stories for both adults and children. One of my favourite books ever is Fantastic Mr Fox. I loved this as a child and it’s still great. I really like his dark short story collections of the weird and fantastic. There is one called Pig that stayed in my head for a while. And another of a woman who keeps her overbearing and now dead husband’s brain – it was his idea in order to live beyond the grave! He can see her with his one eye, but he is totally powerless! You can imagine what she does!

Are the names of the characters in your novels important?  How and why?

In the Kiwi Series, the main character, Kiwi, is based on a cat I used to have. She was black and cheeky, and funny. She’d swipe your dinner off your plate when you weren’t looking, but look like butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth, and she was really friendly with everyone. And she’d follow me everywhere. Dev, the bad guy in the books, is named after my friend’s cat. He’s actually a black cat, but in the books he’s white with one black paw. Moggie, Kiwi’s mum, is named after my current cat – I’ve had her for 12 years, and she’s totally cute and fluffy. She’s always been a little aloof and she’s picky about people – hence, her nickname is Moody Moggie in the books. Dev, my friend’s cat, used to chase her, so there is no love lost between them in the books! I guess Furrball’s name is obvious. Madame Purrfect is so named because she is. And Cat City’s only film director is named after Clint Eastwood! Misty in book 3 is named after a cat we had when I was a child. In book 4, which isn’t published yet, I named one of the characters, a hamster called Jabba, after my friend’s child’s pet! I asked her what he looked like and his favourite things, and put him in! It was fun. I just made a website for the Kiwi books ( and in the Catnip section there is a competition where people can enter their pet to become a character in a future book.

What are the most important attributes for remaining sane as a writer?

Realising that you’re not going to get rich and famous I think, unless you’re very, very lucky! Writing is something you do because you enjoy it or because you just have to. It’s amazing to see your book out there in the public – I self-published mine, but then found a small-press publisher, InknBeans Press. I think the fact that you can now self-publish ebooks so easily is keeping a lot of writers sane – it’s so much easier now. I remember the frustration of being rejected by a publisher and then never trying again. Ten years later, I self-published that book (Kiwi in Cat City). Anyone can do it. I guess you have to sacrifice some time or things, but it depends what’s important to you and how you want to juggle everything in your life. I’ve found some great book groups on Facebook – Book Junkies and The Indie Book Exchange, amongst others, and there you can chat to other writers. That keeps me sane I think! And other people are inspiring and offer advice. There are so many great writers around. If you think you’re going a bit crazy cos you’re checking your book sales every day, you’ll that everyone else is doing the same thing... sometimes 10 times a day!

Say your publisher has offered to fly you anywhere in the world to do research on an upcoming book, where would you most likely want to go?

Can I go to Alaska please?! I went there once, about 10 years ago, and it’s my favourite place. I loved it. I stayed in hostels and visited Anchorage, Homer, Talkeetna, Denali and flew over Mt McKinley. It was the most amazing trip of my life. So I’d choose there. It would be great to write a book set there.

What do you find most rewarding about writing?

Seeing my characters come to life when other people read about them. They’re no longer getting dusty, hidden away in a notebook in a drawer somewhere, or stuck in my head, banging against the walls. Let’s face it, no one wants to be stuck in there!

If you could exchange lives with any of your characters for a day, which character would you choose and why?

Kiwi! I want to walk down the blue-and-white mosaic streets of Cat City, bathe in the orange sun, investigate a mystery with Inspector Furrball, watch Furrlight at the Catema, take a trip in a paw-peddled catcar and then go on an adventure to a new world in a puff of purple magic smoke.

Hi, I’m Vickie. I live in London, UK, and I’ve got a thing about fluffy cats. My day job has been working as a sub-editor on magazines. My favourite things include reading, writing, films, Frasier, The Walking Dead, The Closer, Supernatural, the sea, taking photos, art, rock music, animals, nature, dancing like an eejit, travelling, birdsong, custard tarts, sleeping (if it was an Olympic sport, I’d be a contender) and tea.

On to books, I love them and always had a nose in one when I was a kid. Back then my faves were Enid Blyton (I thought I’d find that big Faraway Tree one day, go on lots of adventures and live in a round house – ah, it didn’t happen), Hans Christian Anderson (The Little Mermaid, especially), the Brothers Grimm (amazing), Fantastic Mr Fox (I wanted to marry him – I just didn’t understand there would be a problem, what with him being an animal and all) and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (yep, I wondered why my wardrobe didn’t work like that – did I have the wrong coats?).

This year, I also wrote my first horror story, which turned into a comedy somehow, forThe Gage Project, which is a book to raise money for children’s charities. My story is called Day of the Living Pizza and it’s about people turning into pizza zombies!

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