You know how people think author’s base characters on real people? With me, my characters are all completely fictitious, but the animals are all real. I was so excited when my publisher put the black cat on the cover of Yarn to Go. It’s the first book in a new series I’m writing which features Casey Feldstein, a dessert chef and muffin baker who inherits a yarn retreat business. The cat’s name is Julius and he’s based on a real cat, also named Julius, who lives down the street. Actually, I think he thinks the whole street belong to him and he often frequents our back yard.
Julius has black fluffy fur and an attitude. I know what you’re saying - all cats have attitude. Julius has even more. It’s the way he makes eye contact while holding his ground. He never walks fast, but saunters as if he owns the world. And when his owner walks his corgi, Julius follows along behind, making frequent detours.
The Julius in my book is a little different. He has the same attitude, but he starts out as a stray. Although I don’t go into in the book, I think of him having been abandoned and living off the snacks he’s being fed by the kitchen help at the hotel and conference center that hosts the yarn retreats Casey puts on. It’s called Vista Del Mar and is on the edge of the Monterey Peninsula. The grounds are filled with Monterey Pines and Monterey Cypress and ground cover that grows on its own. In other words, it is kind of wild and untamed. The buildings are dark and moody and there is lots of fog.
The manager of Visa Del Mar is not happy with Julius’s presence on the grounds and uses his golf cart to try to chase him away. The fictitious Julius acts very much like the real cat. He gets out of the way of golf cart, but then stands his ground and stares at the manager, with his arresting yellow eyes.
Casey has never had a pet and has no idea how it works with cats. She doesn’t know you don’t pick them, they pick you. However, she finds out when Julius decides she’s the human for him and follows her home.
I’m writing the second book in the series now and Julius has bigger part in it. My own cats are a little miffed that I didn’t use one of them as a model for the character. Actually, they are in my crochet series, along with several dogs. There is even a mini pig in the next book For Better or Worsted that comes out in November.
Whenever I see the real Julius and he gives me one of his arresting stares as he comes through my backyard, I wonder if he has any idea of all the adventures I’ve made up for him.
Betty Hechtman is the author of Yarn to Go, the first book in the Berkley Prime Crime Yarn Retreat mystery series, as well as the author of the best-selling Berkley Prime Crime Crochet Mystery series. The eighth book, For Better or Worsted, comes out in November. She has also written newspaper and magazine pieces, short stories and screenplays as well as a children’s culinary mystery, Blue Schwartz and Nefertiti’s Necklace. She has a bachelor of fine arts degree and has been active in handicrafts since she was a small child. She lives in Southern California with her family and two cats.