I have a fascination with cats. I love their cute tiny pads on the bottom of each “toe.” I think of them as mini ballet slippers for the paw. I love their little heads. And their fur! I especially love the variegated blending of black and gold and white on the back of a calico cat.
It’s always interesting to get to know a cat. Especially strays. I’m never sure if they’ve experienced some trauma or if they’re weary from life on the street. But it’s beautiful when they settle in to my house and begin to let me know them. And they get to know me. It’s amazing how you can have such a deep relationship when no words are said.
So, of course, a cat made it’s way into my debut novel, Shattered. Princess, Cassie’s cat, arrived on the page in a taken-for-granted sort of way. And she became a calico, like my sweet KitKat who had recently died. All the descriptions of Princess are taken from KitKat. Once Shattered was published, I happily realized that KitKat’s spirit lives on forever in Cassie’s cat.
Princess eventually was re-named as Calliope. One of my critique buddies, author Lynn Hazen, suggested that Cassie would have a cat with a more intriguing name than Princess, given that she’s precocious. Lynn recommended naming Cassie’s cat after one of the nine muses.
Agreeing with Lynn about Cassie and being intrigued by Lynn’s idea of naming her cat after one of the muses, I did some research. The muses are Greek goddesses who ruled over the arts and sciences, offering inspiration in those subjects.
Specifically, Calliope is the Greek goddess/muse of epic poetry. This name seemed like a right fit, since Cassie has a poetic point of view of the world. When said out loud, “Calliope” sounds musical, tipping my vote in favor of it as the perfect name for a cat of a violinist.
In figuring out the plot, I realized that Cassie’s attachment to Calliope was central to all things working out. If something (bad) happened to Calliope in addition to Cassie’s dad breaking her violin in the same scene, Cassie would rescue Calliope and run out of the house with her. And if Calliope got away outside and then became lost, it would increase the tension and put Cassie into more conflict. (In story terms, this is a good thing.)
Not only that, Calliope would give Cassie a reason to eventually come home. Without Calliope, she has no motivation to come back home, since she wants to avoid her house because her scary dad lives there. But if Calliope goes back to the house, she’s at risk for being mistreated again. Calliope is the draw for Cassie to make herself to face her dad.
And so I did it. I took a deep breath and forced myself to write Cassie’s dad hurting Calliope. It made me sick to my stomach and after it was on the page, I pushed back from the keys and that was the end of writing on that day. I knew in my head that this wasn’t real—that no cats were harmed in the production of this novel--but in my heart, because cats are central to my life, it felt wrong.
It took time to understand that this is story working. That if a girl returns to a difficult situation to protect her beloved cat, that this a right motivation and also, is a noble thing. A hero thing. And so I went with it and eventually got to the joyous day in which it was time to write the chapter in which Cassie brings Calliope home and they are both safe.
"The family drama will grab readers, but just as enthralling is the story of a young person devoted to her music, note by note." --Booklist
"Baron successfully uses musical metaphors in the structure of the novel--short chapters with staccato action and slower cadences reflective of the family's struggle to work their way through this situation...a moving story..." --School Library Journal
"...a compelling read." --Kirkus
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