Catch Up With Carole Nelson Douglas

The author talks about the inspiration behind her book Cat in a Vegas Gold Vendetta.

What was your inspiration behind Cat in a Vegas Gold Vendetta?
The Midnight Louie, Feline PI, series always combines social and relationship issues (for people and cats) with mystery and suspense. Humor and heart also play a big part in all my writing, so the larger-than-life Las Vegas setting allows me to trot Louie’s and my sense of social satire into milieus from teen YouTube stars to Red Hat ladies, from celebrity dancing competitions to cat shows.

Cat in a Vegas Gold Vendetta
focuses on an ill and alone “cat lady” and the vultures gathering to grab her estate. It addresses a vexing issue for animal lovers in an era with an aging population: How can we provide for and protect our surviving animal companions after we’re gone?

We all hope to leave our precious pets to loving hands that will guarantee their care, and we’ve all seen that go horribly wrong. The “caretaker” can’t cope, or too often, just grabs the money and runs.  

One woman gave her entire estate to keep her three cats and three dogs living in her house with a person she hadn’t even liked, but who seemed available and willing in her time of need. Only two of the cats were still alive within three weeks of her death. How the confused and bereaved animals were treated by “an heir” with no sympathy for animals was brutal. Recently, a friend who lived alone died suddenly. That very day her two cats were turned outside and her dog taken by animal control. Neighbors took the cats, but distant family members accepted the recommendation to put the dog down because she was older and needed care. Friends found the dog, got her to a no-kill shelter where she was treated, and she now has a home.

Cat in a Vegas Gold Vendetta’s mystery storyline explores this problem and the ending “Tailpiece” offers information about options for this dilemma. No. 1, you should arrange with relatives or a neighbor and your vet’s office to have your animals taken immediately to your vet for boarding until whatever other arrangements can go forward.

You interviewed with us in 2008 (Carole Nelson Douglas Interview, 2008What have you been up to since then?
Lots! Since Cat in a Red Hot Rage came out, so many surprising developments have occurred in the fictional lives of Midnight Louie and his Cat Pack as well as the four human crime-solvers he guides and protects, not to mention the real-life publishing world.

The series titles have an alphabetical sequence on the “color” word, so Sapphire Slipper, Topaz Tango and Ultramarine Scheme have all come out. Cat in an Ultramarine Scheme, a 4 ½-star Top Pick for RT Book Reviews, will be out in paperback Oct. 4.
Louie brought home two Muse Medallion awards, for book-length fiction and short fiction, at the last Cat Writers’ Association awards. This spring I received a Lifetime Achievement Award for Mystery from RT Book Reviews magazine, and was guest of honor at Malice Domestic mystery convention and CONduit 21 science fiction/fantasy convention. Whew. Louie and I are tuckered out.

So it’s on to writing Cat in a White Tie and Tail. Readers have fretted for years about the series reaching book “Z” — would I get there and would that mean the end of Louie’s stories, Bast forbid! I’m definitely getting there. The books come out in hardcover and then mass market format as always, but e-books are the rising format. We’ll all have to adjust to that to some degree. I plan to get Louie’s award-winning stories available in e-book so everybody can find and read them.

What was the most rewarding part about writing the book?
It’s always fun to put Midnight Louie and his extended family of cats to work. In Cat in a Vegas Gold Vendetta, Louie and his partner in Midnight Investigations, Inc., Midnight Louise, must save the lives of a community of cats by spiriting them out of a house from under the nose of a would-be Cruella de Vil.   

What was the most difficult part about writing the book?
In mysteries, the hardest part always is setting up the circle of suspects and laying out clues. The “lost” notebooks of Agatha Christie, the queen of Golden Age crime-writing, show she puzzled over the same character, weapon and motive lists all mystery writers do. There’s no magic formula.

Then, too, the Midnight Louie series is more complex than most mystery series. Written like a three-year TV series, it features four major human points of view besides Midnight Louie’s, continuing backstory mysteries including an international terrorism element, family and social issues, and, of course, humor and adventure. Midnight Louie must be a major player in both the action and deduction departments. One reader calls it “the epic Midnight Louie cat mystery series.” And I write cat mysteries, despite critics who denigrate the pet mystery genre, because I believe, as Ghandi did, that fostering empathy for animals improves humanity.

Do you share your home with any pets?
I’ve been bringing home stray cats since I was a child. My mother had an irrational dislike of cats, so I made a deal to keep and feed them overnight. I always hoped she’d relent. She never did, but said I could have all the cats I wanted when I had a home of my own. Well, not quite. Luckily, my husband, Sam Douglas, loves animals too. We’ve found most of our cats and the occasional dog on the street at the age of one year or less.

Midnight Louie, Jr. was adopted from the Lubbock, Texas, Animal Services. He picked me when I toured the facility during the first Midnight Louie Adopt-a-Cat book tour my publisher, Forge Books, sponsored for several years. Louie is around 16 now and terminally ill, but is again challenging the survival odds by remaining with us far longer than expected. Our tortie, Amberleigh, 10, skinny and scared, was a yearling plucked off a neighbor’s roof at 6:00 a.m. Audrey, around 4, is a long-haired calico, a feral kitten-turned-mama cat we fed outside and learned how to trap. We brought her in after spaying. She’s devoted to Midnight Louie, Jr.,  but she’s not “pettable” —  at least not yet, we hope. Our newest family member is Topaz, a retired shaded-golden Persian show cat we adopted at age five.

All of our pets have faced some kind of trauma, however briefly, but we’ve never had any serious problems maintaining a pretty peaceable animal kingdom in our house.

What is one lesson you’ve learned from an animal?
For peace and harmony, even on the domestic level, you have to let each individual be what it is, where it’s at when. You can’t force anything, but you can provide an atmosphere where it can blossom. That’s true of human relationships too.

Out of all the Midnight Louie books, which one did you most enjoy writing? 
That’s so hard to say because of the variety the series offers me. Cat in an Indigo Mood was a kick because it shows Louie in the pure noir PI mode and Cat in a Leopard Spot exposes canned hunts. I try to address and inform on animal issues without it becoming depressing. I’ve had fun writing all of the books, and if I can also inject some “redeeming social value,” the ex-reporter in me is happy.

How did you get into writing mystery novels?
Accidentally. It’s quite an example of how when life hands you lemons you skip making the lemonade and go directly to lemon chiffon pie. Years before I’d started writing novels, I’d written about a remarkable stray black cat named Midnight ‘Louey’ for my newspaper. Twelve years later, he invited himself into a short contemporary romance miniseries I created to help replace my journalism income. This was the first limited series within a romance line’s overall one-book format and included the “surprise” of a part-time Sam Spade-style narrator identified only at the end of the four books as a black cat who’d been seen throughout.

The romance editor ran with my miniseries idea, all right, but using her established series writers. She withheld the Midnight Louie Quartet from publication for four years while miniseries became the hot new trend in the romance genre. Then she drastically cut the mystery and Louie elements from the books without telling me and “buried” them at the bottom of the publishing list.

I knew she’d taken out the strongest elements. Midnight Louie, being a 20-pound street-savvy cat, does not take these things lying down, so I “flipped” the concept from romance into mystery. Louie has been going strong for twenty-three books now. Both the real and fictional Midnight Louie have always been inspiring examples for me of survival on the mean streets.

Are there any new books in the works?
Midnight Louie’s Cat in a White Tie and Tails is coming next summer. The X, Y and Z titles are tough to come up with, but I’m sure Louie, or the readers, will have great ideas. Also, the fifth book of my Delilah Street, Paranormal Investigator urban fantasy series, Virtual Virgin, comes out November 29. That series features a wolfhound/wolf-cross dog, Quicksilver, and has a shape-shifting four-hundred pound white tiger even Midnight Louie would think twice about tangling with.

If you could tell your readers one thing, what would it be?
I’ve written in many genres and have great fans in all of them but the Louie readers are the warmest, most loyal and perceptive of them all. I think it’s the empathy all animal lovers have in extra doses. They understand somehow that writers work many hours a day and are quite isolated. I can’t answer snail mail anymore in these email days, but I keep and treasure every piece they send, and some I can print in my newsletter. Writers and readers help each other get through the sour and enjoy the sweet.

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Cats · Lifestyle