A super special guest post from Philip Ardagh, author of THE PIRATE CAPTAN’S CAT & THE RAILWAY CAT, illustrated by Rob Biddulph. This is a gorgeous new series, perfect for newly independent readers – lots of fun, with lots of heart… and cat-shaped fluffiness and adventures.
You’ll notice that the title of my blog is Why I’m writing The Nine Lives of Furry Purry Beancat rather than why I wrote them. And that’s because I’m still writing. The Pirate Captain’s Cat and The Railway Cat may be out now, and the illustrator, Rob Biddulph, may be about to start working on the pictures for The Library Cat but I’m still working on The Witch’s Cat and, by my reckoning, that still only adds up to four lives.
Before I explain how I came to be writing this series, I think it’ll be useful to tell you what it’s about.
All cats are said to have nine lives because they’re always getting themselves in tight corners, scrapes and sticky situations but – as when they fall from a fair height – they usually land on their feet and live to face another day. In other words, cats seem to be death-dodging lucky beasts most of the time.
But I thought it’d be fun for a cat to have a very different type of nine lives: nine actual, different, lives in different places, with different people, even in different time periods. And, so, the germ of the idea was born.
I never had a pet as a child, apart from the one weekend when I had to look after the class tadpole. But, as an adult, things were about to change. Beany, aka the Bean, Beany-Bean or Beancat – was about to enter my life.
I wanted a short-haired black and white kitten but I couldn’t find one anywhere. This was long before some bright spark invented the Internet, so I asked around. I looked in adverts in the local newspaper. I looked at FOR SALE postcards in the newsagent’s window. I rang and visited pet shops and I searched high and low. At last, one of the pet shops got back to me and said that they had a litter of kittens of the right age and that one of them was black and white. I was delighted, and off I went.
I got to the pet shop and, true to the pet-shop owner’s word, there was a short-haired black and white kitten in a large cage with his siblings. I pressed my nose to the front of the cage to try and look at him. Beany had different ideas. Beany was a long-haired tabby and white kitten. A tiny, adorable, ball of fluff. She pushed to the front of the cage – past the black and white cat I’d come to buy – and stopped right in front of my face.
“Choose ME!” she meowed.
I moved my head one side to have a clear look at the other kitten. Beancat clambered across the bars and blocked my view.
“CHOOSE ME!” she meowed, louder this time, looking deep into my eyes.
So I did. And we were together for almost 18 years before she passed away, and she used to sit with me in my study as I wrote, all purry and furry. I didn’t let any of my family sit in the room with me in my study. No, Beany-Bean was the only living, breathing, creature who shared my writing hours with me, every day.
I was gutted when she died. Of course I was. When you love a creature that much, they’re going to leave a huge hole in your heart when they go. But she lived on – still lives on – in my memories. I’ll say, “Do you remember when Beany used to do this?” or “Do you remember that wonderful smell of Beany’s sun-warmed fur?”
So, when I came up with the idea of a cat with nine totally different lives, I didn’t come up with it for just any old cat. Not even for an imaginary cat. I thought about what it would be like for my Beany: my Beancat. How would she react? How would she behave?
Now, like most cats, Beany used to like getting her own way and, if she didn’t, she could be a bit of a grump bag. She also knew that she was very beautiful and, like most people or animals who know they’re beautiful – she was a little vain. But, that aside (and, the truth be told, they were all a part of what made Beany Beany) she was adventurous and inquisitive! So what would her lives be like?
Well, I decided that wherever she was – whatever time period she was in and whatever her role was – she’d be called Furry Purry Beancat by those who knew her. I also decided that, whichever life she woke up in, to those already there, she’d have always been there and never left but, to Beancat herself, she’d have no memory of the life or who was who. She had no idea who was a friend and who might be any enemy!
I also decided that she’d meet all sorts of animals along the way, from dogs to spiders. In The Pirate Captain’s Cat, for example, Beancat finds her pirate captain’s ship being invaded by the crew of another pirate ship and, with the help of a family of ship’s rats, she does what she can to try to save the day. In The Railway Cat, though, she finds herself in the reign of Queen Victoria, where she has to help to put a stop to some bad goings-on on a railway line involving spies, with the help of a crow and a cockatoo, this time!
So there you have it. The reason why I’m writing The Nine Lives of Furry Purry Beancat is for FUN!