Today I’m really pleased to welcome author Frank Kusy on my blog to tell us of the inspiration behind his book for children and adults Ginger The Gangster Cat. Since the book was first released in 2013, it’s gone on to be a Gold Medal Winner: Wishing Shelf Awards 2014
More recently the book has had a newly designed cover and illustrations and has now been relaunched. Frank Kusy is a popular author better known for the travel memoir series he writes about his travels and adventures in India for which he has quite a following. Frank Kusy Author Page
Over to Frank:
One day, at the start of 2010, I got a comment on my book ‘Sparky the Very Nervous Cat.’ I had just put the first few chapters on Authonomy, the Harper Collins website for aspiring authors, and I was keen to hear what people thought of it.
Well, one comment was not keen at all. It ran just thirteen words and said: ‘No plot, no narrative arc, no target audience, no chance of being published.’
I was crushed. My first attempt at fiction writing, with all my hopes and dreams tied up in it, and it had been totally trashed. But then, having drawn the curtains in my room and sat in there and sulked for days, I realised that the commentator had been right. My book didn’t have a narrative arc – it was just a series of funny (to me) anecdotes about a cat. Okay, it wasn’t just any cat, it was Sparky, the cutest cat in the universe, but he needed a plot, he needed to actually do something.
Then, of course, he did.
He went missing.
For the first six months of Sparky’s life, as he grew from a tiny kitten with huge bat ears into a sturdy young cat with ‘daddy issues’ – he followed me everywhere, even slept on me at night – we had kept him indoors. The pet shop had strongly advised it.
But then came the day that we had to let him out, his plaintive parps and squeaks became too much to bear. I picked him up, opened the back door, and took him outside.
It was a cold winter afternoon, the garden unnaturally silent and covered with a layer of frost. Sparky was entranced by all the snowflakes that were slowly floating down, and he tried to catch them, hopping around like a little bunny, leaving his paw-prints everywhere. Then one particularly large flake landed on his pretty pink nose, and he took fright and dashed back inside again.
That was the last that we saw of him – for three whole days.
Had he got trapped somewhere in the house?
Had he gone back into garden and got himself lost?
Had he – worst case scenario – got into the street and been run over?
I was beside myself with worry. I didn’t know what to do.
‘Oh, he’ll come back,’ my wife Madge said for the first two days, but by the third even she was concerned. ‘Maybe you should chant to get him back,’ she suggested on the phone from work. ‘We’ve tried everything else.’
Indeed, we had tried everything else. We’d searched the whole neighbourhood, we’d rung dozens of doorbells, we’d stuck posters on every tree and lamp-post for miles around. And every night, as we went out with a torch and shouted out for our little lost cat, it got colder and we just thought he was frozen to death somewhere and couldn’t get any food, because the ground was now covered with snow.
‘Chant right now, darling,’ Madge encouraged me. ‘What have you got to lose?’
The answer was: plenty. This was it. This was when I had to put my Buddhist faith, my whole raison d’etre on the line. ‘NAM-myoho-renge-kyo!’ I shouted at my Buddhist scroll. ‘I want my cat back in fifteen minutes, or I’m packing this whole thing in!’
To this day, I don’t know why I said fifteen minutes. But the sun was now hanging low in the sky, it was getting dark, if I waited any longer I might not find my little Sparky at all. I checked my watch. It was 4pm.
Then I ran downstairs, hopped in my van and drove round to the block of flats to the rear of our house. I had a hunch. Ignoring the complaints of the old people residing there – I was stomping all over their frozen flower beds – I presently came to the fence overlooking the bottom of my garden.
‘Sparky! Sparky!’ I called in desperation. ‘Where are you, Sparky? It’s Daddy!’
There were a few moments of silence, then a thin squeak, then a small black and white face appeared from under a bush.
‘There you are, baby cat!’ I cried with relief. ‘Did you jump over the end of our garden? Couldn’t you get back? Have you been sitting here all this time? Golly, you must be hungry!’
And with that I whisked Sparky home in my van, put him back in his kitchen, and watched contentedly as my long-lost (and nervously constipated) cat leapt into his litter tray and did the biggest poo of his young life.
I looked at my watch again.
It was 4.15pm.
When I found Sparky, trembling with cold and fear at the bottom of our garden, it gave me a new lease of life. I had my Buddhist faith back, and just as importantly, I had my ‘pussy Muse’ back. Inspired, I began writing with a vengeance. With Sparky sitting by my side, I began wondering what would have happened if my precious little cat hadn’t been found. Oh yes, he would have been catnapped by a fat, ginger Fagin of the feline world, wouldn’t he, and put to work as a pussy Oliver!
My very nervous Sparky book now transformed into a very quirky ‘Ginger the Gangster Cat’ book, with the fat, greedy central character, Ginger, abducting Sparky and taking him to Spain to beg tapas treats on the streets of Barcelona.
The rest, as they say, is history.
GINGER THE GANGSTER CAT is on sale right now at 99c/99p on the following channels: