What was your inspiration behind the book?
It was a very foolish attempt to capture the wonderment we feel around cats and to reveal what lies behind their mystery. Of course, all I have done is to have a lovely time basking in the glow of the wonder and mystery, as if enchanted by some human form of catnip. But I hope the reader can share in that immensely pleasurable sensation. I did turn up lots of things that surprised me, so there should be plenty of facts and stories to take in, but I fear this may simply fool us into thinking we know cats when they remain mostly unknowable. But we can enjoy lots of engaging cat pictures and surprising information as we learn that the feline world is going to forever remain off-limits in some ways.
What was the most rewarding part about writing the book?
The research, I think. Looking at cats with a more questioning eye, reading deeply in various obscure sources, reviewing a lot of wonderful images.
What was the most difficult part about writing the book?
As ever, there comes a point when deciding what is not going to go in becomes a painful requirement. While some people think starting a book is hard, and it certainly can be, the tougher bit can be discarding time-consuming research or even throwing out finely written sections or great images just because they really don’t fit the overall shape and story.
How did you get into photography?
Let’s be clear – these images are by many great photographers, not by me. I can’t claim all this diverse photographic talent as my own — just the research and taste that brings it together! However, I have a long history of creative direction around photography and photographers, as well as doing some myself, so I hope I do have a good eye for what makes a great image. By searching widely, and putting in the best of many great artists’ photography, I have managed to curate a fantastic range of insights into how cats behave and what it is that we love about them.
What do you enjoy doing on your free time?
I live in a big city — London, which I love for its culture and social opportunities — but I also spend time on a hilltop in Italy, where I have a little house and am surrounded by wildlife and go for great walks and bike rides. And I am always planning trips to more remote parts where I can get close to nature. I recently stayed with my wife in a bothy — basically a glorified hut — in ancient woodland in the north of Scotland. It was delightful, if I forgive the midges that bit the hell out of me when I went swimming in the lochs and river. We saw eagles, deer, hares, red squirrels, a family of pine martens, but alas no Scottish wildcats. That would have been quite a sighting — they are not only rare but are also smart enough to avoid us in general.
Do you have any pets? Tell us about them!
I am actually “between pets” at present … if we don’t include my daughter. Extensive travelling has made me reluctant to drag another living creature into my life just now. Cats are, of course, attached to their place, their territory, and are really not so keen on being boxed up and carted to different homes. However, I have the pleasure of four cats, two from each neighbor, and they love my garden and at times my home, as some kind of neutral territory to visit and hang out in. There are also two boisterous dogs in one of the neighboring houses, so you can well imagine how my garden can appear as a refuge for cats! When I am in Italy, we are rapidly re-adopted by the village cats in exchange for a bowl of milk and a share of the table.
Out of all the images from the book, which one do you like the most?
Tough question and I would probably answer the question a different way on a different day. But as I am just back from an idyllic stay on the island of Syros, about 80 miles south of Athens, where cats are everywhere, behaving in that particularly friendly and yet independent way that the semi-feral creatures do, I will plump for the image of a cat looking across a wonderful Greek island view.
What is your favorite thing about cats?
It is the many charming attributes that make the whole, but if I plump for one thing, I might say that cats truly appreciate our love but are restrained and even discreet in how they receive it. This, of course, makes us all the more keen to demonstrate our affection. We always want to give more! They never give up their independence, whereas dogs — which I love too — can be embarrassing in their neediness, perhaps reminding us of our own insecurities.
Are you planning on writing more books?
Oh yes, I have two or three new ideas a week. The challenge is to bring the focus and resources behind the project that is most likely to succeed. There is one idea involving the rainforest that I am really keen to work out a way of doing, but it is more than normally difficult.
If you could tell your readers one thing, what would it be?
I’ll do three things. First, simply that I hope they find something to love in my book and that if they want to share their stories back, I am always interested. Second, I would advise readers that they should always have a decent camera on their phone … because we all have great pictures in us, and if we can be armed with a camera when something interesting happens, we will have a good chance of getting the picture. Smartphone cameras can now make competent photographers of all of us… simply because we have it with us when cool stuff happens and, within its restrictions, the phone camera sorts out the technical stuff. That said, there is still a lifetime’s work in being a great photographer!
Finally, thank you for reading this, and hope you really enjoy “The Life and Love of Cats.”