This week I had the pleasure of interviewing the author of A Magical Cat Mystery series, Sofie Kelly. Her latest mystery, A TALE OF TWO KITTIES, scratched my funny bone on the very first page and I had to get the scoop on her adorable felines. I know some of our grammar junkies may be caught off-guard by the lack of capital letters in her title, but let me assure you, it’s just one more creative way the author will capture your attention. (Especially if your typing out the title and your fingers refuse to use lower case for that first letter!)
About Sofie Kelly
Sofie Kelly is the pseudonym of young adult writer and mixed-media artist, Darlene Ryan. Sofie/Darlene lives on the east coast with her husband and daughter. In her spare time she practices Wu style tai chi and likes to prowl around thrift stores. And she admits to having a small crush on Matt Lauer.
Kym: Hi Sofie, welcome to the Cozy Corner!
Sofie: Hi Kym. Thanks for inviting me.
Kym: Congratulations on your new Magical Cats Mystery release, A TALE OF TWO KITTIES! I love Hercules and Owen, can you tell readers who may not be familiar with your series a little bit about your heroine Kathleen and her two feline heroes?
Sofie: Kathleen Paulson is the head librarian in Mayville Heights, Minnesota. She’s originally from Boston. Kathleen discovered Owen and Hercules as kittens at Wisteria Hill. At the time the old estate just outside of town was abandoned. Owen is a gray tabby and Hercules is a tuxedo cat. Both cats have “special” abilities—Owen can disappear and Hercules can walk through walls—and they end up helping Kathleen with her sleuthing.
Kym: Librarian Kathleen Paulson is involved with a detective with some old fashioned values. When you’re writing, do you like to develop the conflicts between the two first, or do you let the story develop the conflict as you write?
Sofie: Detective Marcus Gordon can be a bit of a stick-in-the-mud sometimes! He’s loosening up a little now that he’s fallen in love with Kathleen. Their conflicts come from their different approaches and just seem to happen as the story progresses. Marcus looks at the evidence. Kathleen looks at the people involved. Her parents are actors and watching them develop characters has taught her a lot about human nature. She’s also a good listener and people tend to tell her things they might not tell the police.
Kym: I loved the way you started out A TALE OF TWO KITTIES: “You’d think by now it wouldn’t bother me to step on a body in the middle of the kitchen floor, but I was in my sock feet and…” It was a brilliant line of gore and humor mixed together to make readers cringe and laugh at the same time while setting the pace for the story. Without giving away too much, is this a dose of reality meeting fiction?
Sofie: Yes it is. I have three words for you: Cat, boot, mouse.
Kym: Some of the special abilities you’ve given Owen and Hercules really aren’t that big of a stretch of the imagination for cat lovers. We’ve all seen cats disappear in the blink of an eye, and we know them to be highly intuitive animals as well, yet you’ve embraced their natural characteristics and made them magical; giving non-cat lovers a view into what makes real felines unique. Was that part of the plan, or just a wonderful perk?
Sofie: It was a bit of both. I wanted the magic to feel like it could be a possibility. Cats have the ability to dart out of the room when our backs are turned for just a moment and then show up later in the most unlikely places. Maybe, just maybe, they all have some magical ability after all.
Kym: Your descriptions of cat noises and actions are purr-fect. From Mrr and murp, to quizzically craning necks and their tales wrapping around their feet as they sit, but you’ve taken it a step further and made Hercules’ and Owen’s actions individualized. That’s not easy with people, let alone animals. How do you maintain this throughout your series?
Sofie: After 9 books I know Owen and Hercules as well as any of the other characters. Owen, for example, adores sardines, catnip chickens and Kathleen’s friend, Maggie. Hercules loves Barry Manilow, hates wet feet and is having an on-going war with a grackle.
Owen and Hercules have bits and pieces of all the different cats I’ve known. For example, the cat at one of my local used bookstores used to delight in sneaking up behind me in the summer time and licking my bare ankle. I’d almost jump out of my skin and the cat would make a sound like it was laughing.
Kym: If you had to cast Hercules and Owen as men in a movie, who do you see playing their roles? Could one of them be Matt Lauer? 🙂
Sofie: Matt Lauer could only play himself. If the books ever became a movie or a series do you think he would do a cameo?
For the cats, I’m thinking maybe Colin Firth as Hercules and Robert Downey Jr. for Owen. Owen has a certain cockiness that Robert Downey Jr. could pull off, while Hercules is more sensitive and reticent—something Colin Firth is good at.
Kym: Many authors model their fictional towns after real towns. Is that the case with Mayville Heights, MN?
Sofie: Mayville Heights is inspired by Red Wing, Minnesota. I saw a short video on-line about the town and was captivated by it. The two towns share the same location but the layout of Mayville Heights is very different. The library is actually very similar to the library we frequented when I was a child. And of course Red Wing doesn’t have all those dead bodies turning up!
Kym: Many cozy mysteries make the murder victim an unlikeable character; it’s easier to add humor if no one feels any loss. Yet you chose to express the loss of loved ones, no matter how good or bad the character of the victim may be, through the eyes of the victim’s granddaughter Mia, an intern at the library. Her love and grief for Leo adds another dimension that is impactful and real. Is this something you strive to do in all of your cozy mysteries?
Sofie: Because the murders happen so early each book, much of what the readers learn about the victim comes from the people in his or her life. Some victims are harder to care about than others, but I like to believe that no matter how badly we may behave, there is at least one person who loves us. I try to remember that when I’m creating a character. Some characters really aren’t very nice people and there aren’t a lot of people who cared about them. Others, like Leo Janes, are very much loved. It’s not that different from real life.
Kym: Your secondary characters add a little extra spice to your stories. Where did you come up with Mary, a grandmother who is also the state kickboxing champion for her age category? (I love that!)
Sofie: Mary was inspired by one of my mother’s friends. Edith was well into her eighties and up for anything. I’m not sure how she and my very proper British mother came to be friends! I was driving them to church once in a summer heat wave and Edith told me it was much cooler to just “go commando.” I was afraid to ask her how she came by that information!
Kym: You also write young adult books and are a mixed media artist. Can you tell us a bit about your other passions?
Sofie: I like to read and write young adult novels because that period of life has so much dramatic potential. There are so many first times and so many changes.
I’ve been making mixed media art pieces for a long time. I love paper. I love finding uses for odd things I find. I did a collage piece of a sun using found buttons, for example.
Kym: What do you do to give your mind a break from writing?
Sofie: We go hiking a lot. Being outside is a good way to turn off the writing part of my brain. And I confess that I like to knit and watch Dateline. In fact, I knit a tiny Lester Holt—host of Dateline—while watching the show.
Kym: Can you tell our readers where they can find you on social media?
Sofie: The best place to find me is at my website: www.sofiekelly.com
Kym: Thank you for joining us on the Cozy Corner!
Sofie: Thank you and thanks everyone for reading!
In this charming mystery from the bestselling author of Paws and Effect, two magical cats have powers of detection that prove indispensable to librarian Kathleen Paulson…
With a well-placed paw on a keyboard or a pointed stare, Kathleen’s two cats, Hercules and Owen, have helped her to solve cases in the past—so she has learned to trust their instincts. But she will need to rely on them more than ever when a twenty-year-old scandal leads to murder…
The arrival of the Janes brothers has the little town of Mayville Heights buzzing. Everyone of a certain age remembers when Victor had an affair with Leo’s wife, who then died in a car accident.
Now it seems the brothers are trying to reconcile, until Kathleen finds Leo dead. The police set their sights on Leo’s son and Kathleen’s good friend Simon, who doesn’t have much of an alibi. To prove her friend innocent, Kathleen will have to dig deep into the town’s history—and into her sardine cracker supply, because Owen and Hercules don’t work for free…
Until next time, get cozy and read on!