Monday, August 13, 2012

Guest Blog: Anjali Banerjee

Writing from a cat’s point of view presented quite a challenge. Just like people, each cat has a unique, quirky personality. Some cats enjoy lounging in sun spots all day, while others race around as if perpetually wired on caffeine. Some kitties watch ghosts that humans can’t see, while other kitties focus on their food dishes. So what kind of cat would Bella Luna be in ENCHANTING LILY?

I wrote several versions of the kitty before I found the right voice. In an early draft, she had a slightly crude approach to a cat-hating human, jumping into the woman’s lap and passing wind at a strategic moment. But my editor wisely suggested that I make the cat more sophisticated, so I deleted the “passing wind” scene.

Just like the grieving young widow, Lily Byrne, who is seeking a new beginning in her vintage clothing store on a Pacific Northwest island, the little homeless cat is looking for a place to belong. But the kitty has heightened feline powers of perception. In the end, Bella Luna emerged as street smart, observant, and sensitive, but with concrete, cat-like characteristics (for example, she throws up a hairball and runs around in the middle of the night, waking up Lily).

In the final version of the book, Lily is determined to make her vintage clothing boutique a success. But in earlier drafts, she was undecided. She even considered selling the shop. Here’s a deleted scene, narrated from the cat’s point of view, in which a woman named Nina Poisson visits Lily’s boutique and offers to buy the business.

ENCHANTING LILY, deleted scene, kitty’s point of view:

I tiptoe out into the shop and crouch underneath a protective rack of jackets. A tall woman with a boyish face is taking off her gloves, tucking them into her coat pockets. She looks around, nose twitching as if she can actually smell anything with that honker.

A low sound rolls in from somewhere – it’s me, growling, can’t help it, must warn Lily. Dogs aren’t the only ones who watch out for people. There are watch cats, too. Humans need a lot of watching, what with their limited abilities--

“Kitty! Stop it!” Lily leans down toward me, wagging a finger in my face. “What’s come over you? Don’t be rude.”

Not sure what rude means, but I quiet down. No way am I going to purr, though. Now Lily is giving the woman the “you’re my favorite customer” treatment.

“Nina! It was good to meet you up at the sale in West Harbor,” she says, faking friendliness.

Nina smiles, but her smile is not real. She’s surrounded by an aura of darkness that Lily can’t see. Nina looks around at the clothes and takes a deep breath. “What a beautiful hardwood floor, and the light in here! Love it.” She takes off her coat and hangs it on a hook by the door. She’s wearing soft pants and a soft blouse, easily ripped. But I refrain.

She glides from one display to another, pretending to like what she touches. She runs her fingers along something called an “evening bag.” Women carry useless belongings inside these bags – rippable tissues, battable cylinders and other small objects that could pass for toys in a pinch. “This is genuine Judith Leiber, not a knock‑off. Where did you find this?”

“We – I – came across it on a trip to Chicago.” Lily’s voice goes distant again. “It was windy and snowy but we barely noticed. We were having so much fun. My husband loved Judith Leiber.”

“He had good taste. She made beautiful animal shaped handbags as well. Frog purses, coiled snake crystal evening bags.”

Frog, a decent meal if you can catch one.

“I love those Australian crystals,” Lily says. “They’re--”

“With some work, this shop could become the Granny’s Goodies of the Pacific Northwest.”

“Granny’s Goodies?”

Did someone say goodies?

“Small boutique in Charleston. Vintage eclectic Southern collection. Attracts every kind of customer from all over the country. The owners will make a recommendation in a heartbeat, and they chat you up.”

“I’m sure I couldn’t chat anyone up if I tried.”

What’s Lily talking about? She’s certainly good at chatting me up, whether I like it or not.

Nina frowns slightly, her first genuine expression. Her face powder gathers in the creases next to her lips. Why some humans wear gunk on their faces, I’ll never know. I once got my face into a can of powder, entirely by accident—

“Now this one is unique. Definitely haute couture.” Nina is looking at the blue Cinderella dress that Lily has almost finished altering. It no longer resembles the original dress at all.

“Excuse me?” Lily says.

“I’d like to keep that one if you’re selling your inventory.”

“I’m--” Lily begins, then her brow furrows. “You said haute couture.”

Nina touches the dress. “Clearly created by a skilled designer. Who is it? I don’t see a label or a price.”

“That’s because there isn’t one. I haven’t put a price on it yet.”

“The designer?”

“Someone named… LB. It’s an LB.”

Nina frowns. “Never heard of him.”

“It’s a she, actually.” Lily’s cheeks flush. “Stands for Something Byrn…ham. Birnham.”

“I thought I knew the names of all the designers out there.”

“Maybe not this one.”

“Ah well.” Nina turns away from the dress, but Lily keeps looking at it.

“How much did you pay for this cottage?” Nina asks. “Must’ve been a steal in the current market.”

“The water view and commercial location raised the price.” Lily tears her gaze away from the dress and smiles at Nina.

“This little cottage is special, the perfect spot for my boutique.”

“The perfect spot,” Lily says faintly.

“I’m willing to make you a very generous offer. I’ll more than meet your price. It’ll be a win-win situation.”

“Win-win,” Lily echoes.

“I have ideas for revitalizing the store. I’ll take most of your inventory, especially that blue dress and a few others. You’ve got a good eye for quality.”

“You think so?” Lily pets me absent-mindedly.

“You’re taking the shop cat with you, I assume.”

Lily looks back at the sparkling blue dress, then at Nina. “You know what? I’m not sure anymore than I want to sell.”

Nina’s mouth falls open. “You can’t be serious. How will you survive?”

“How would you survive?”

“I’ve got the means.” Nina puffs up like a bird I once saw, wish I’d caught it.

“I might have the means, too,” Lily says slowly.

“But how--?”

“I’ve decided to let the island speak to me.” Lily takes the blue dress off the hanger.

“You what?”

“I’m sorry I wasted your time, Miss Poisson—but since I put my shop up for sale, some strange things have happened that have begun to give me a little hope that maybe, just maybe I can stay here after all. For now, I’m not going to sell.”

** Thanks to the publisher, I have one (1) copy of Enchanting Lily to give away. Contest open to residents of the US only. Contest ends August 18. Leave a valid-email address with your comment. The book will be shipped directly from the publisher. **

Currently Reading Into the quaint town of Fairport on Shelter Island comes Lily Byrne, a young widow who is not so much running from the old but rather edging toward something new and indefinable. Here in the peaceful Pacific Northwest, newly engaged in her vintage clothing boutique, she hides from the world. But Lily knows that solitude can’t sustain her forever. Somehow, somewhere, something’s got to give. It does, with the unexpected arrival of an exuberant little cat.

As Lily searches for the cat’s true home, she embarks on a journey just as unpredictable—one of healing and renewal that opens up a whole new world in this small island community she now calls home. Saved by the hidden graces of others, she even allows herself to fall in love again. But how much of this is serendipity? How much is destiny? As Lily starts looking at herself, and her life, in an enlightening new way, she can’t help but also wonder, how long can such good fortune last?


Melissa Palmer said...

As a cat lover, I cannot wait to read this book. it is on my wish list.

RJ PATEL said...

I love reading books written by Anjali Banerjee, I cant wait to get a hold on her new book

Melissa, Mudpie and Angel Truffles (Mochas, Mysteries and Meows) said...

(Received this comment via email):

On my "to read" list for sure!!! Love the cat's voice.

I absolutely cannot wait to read this!


violetacres @ (no spaces)

Unknown said...

i love Anjali Baanerjee's books! she is one of my favorite authors! i cant wait to read this book!

Julie said...

Congratulations, Anjali. I loved this excerpt--clearly you have a cat's mind! Looking forward to reading Enchanting Lily. So sorry to miss your book signing on Saturday.


BW said...

I enjoyed the deleted scene. It's to bad you didn't keep it. I have a 12 1/2 West Highland Terrier who thoughts I would love to know.

Good luck on your book Anjali!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for all the kind words! Melissa, Pam, RJ, Katie, RW... thank you! Julie, great to hear from you. The book signing went well. It's a long trek for you to get to Port Gamble. I hope you're enjoying the summer. I hope everyone's enjoying summer!

BW, I'm glad you enjoyed the deleted scene. Maybe I can fit it into another story. Give your West Highland Terrier pets from me!


Unknown said...

As always, I look forward to every new book by Anjali Banerjee. I can't wait to read this one!

Your book signing was a wonderful success!!

Good luck!!!

Brandi Boddie said...

I'm just discovering this author today, but I am tickled by her feline protagonist! Such a smart, sassy kitty!

Trudi Trueit said...

All cat lovers wonder what their feline friends are thinking - definitely a fun, clever perspective. Thanks for sharing the deleted scene, Anjali, and I am looking forward to reading the book! Congrats!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Brandi! I wrote some fun scenes in the kitty's point of view. Trudi, good to see you here. Who is the person who wrote that my signing was a success? I see only "unknown."

Ingrid King said...

I really enjoyed the deleted scene! Don't enter me in the giveaway, I already read and reviewed this wonderful book. It's on my list of all time favorite cat books.

I love the photo of the beautiful tortie reading her Kindle!

Melissa, Mudpie and Angel Truffles (Mochas, Mysteries and Meows) said...

Ingrid, I'm so honored that you stopped by!!! That's my beautiful tortie Tara, we're both HUGE fans of The Conscious Cat!

Anonymous said...

Ingrid, thanks for stopping by! I'm so glad you enjoyed the deleted scene. :-) I have many more of them. I'm a huge fan of the Conscious Cat, too!!

Rachel said...

I love animals--have 3 cats and 2 dogs. This looks like a great read!

Anonymous said...

Wow! This sounds like a pretty cool book! Great giveaway! I have four cats, so this is extra interesting!


Holly Letson said...

Love the cover for this....such a beautiful cat! And, the deleted scene is nice, too.

bookaholicholly @ gmail . com

Nancy said...

Sounds like a feel-good story. Thanks for the giveaway.

nanze55 at hotmail dot com