The Lonely Life of a Novelist

The Secret Life of a Novelist's 'Mews'

Hello, my name is Princess Amber Francesca of Tabbivor, felioness and fur daughter to the man you know as Martin Roy Hill. Father is somewhat indisposed today—I warned him about too much catnip—so he, ah, asked me to write this column for him.

And why shouldn’t he? I know as much about his work as anyone. That’s because unlike my siblings—Princess Seeley Alexandra of Calico and Prince Samwise Harry of Kittiton—I am father’s writing muse. Or maybe I should say "mews."

You know, all the great writers had cats for their muses—Mark Twain, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells. Ernest Hemingway had those six-toed cats Those freaks! I mean, what do when they count? What do they use—base 12 math?

Anyway, father relies on me to break him out of his writing doldrums and inspire him to write his fanciful tails—er, tales. I tell you it is not easy being a writer’s muse. Mostly it’s just long boring hours of staring out his study window or napping behind the computer screen or under the desk next to his feet. Okay, sometimes I knock over his waste basket and pull everything out so I can nap in it. What’s a muse to do?

Most of the time that’s all the inspiration he needs. But sometimes when he’s struggling with a scene, I walked across his keyboard and leave him suggestions. This is one of my personal favorites: “lkjlksfduihnlkakSHOFJPLKMLHlkjfdsljn!” When he saw that, he pulled on his hair and declared that it had replaced an entire chapter of his book Chimera Island. Imagine ... and he never credited me as his co-author.

It will soon be two years since my siblings and I came to Hill House. We were young and carefree then. We hadn’t yet taken up our royal household duties, such as holding court so father, mother, and our furless brother, Brandon, can pay us tribute. These days it’s one royal chore after another: waking father up for breakfast (our breakfast); shedding fur to make sure he gets plenty of exercise pushing around what he calls “that g-damn carpet sweeper;” and following him into what we call “the big water bowl rooms.” We call them that because of the big water bowls that we're not allowed to drink from. In fact, father often sits on the bowls to keep us from drinking from them.

Seeley and I split up that last chore; I’m responsible for the two upstairs water bowl rooms, and she takes care of the tiny one downstairs. No matter where in the house father is, our brother keeps him on his toes by insisting he follow Sam into the kitchen several times a day and pet him while he snacks on kibble. Dear sweet, oversized Sam…

But we love father, especially at dinner time. He's working very hard to learn our language. He tries to repeat what we say to him, and he even sings little songs for us in our language. But his accent is so bad he might as well be speaking Siamese. Still, father works very hard writing his novels in the morning and editing books for other writers in the afternoon in order to, as he says, “earn kitty food.”

After father’s work is done, he likes to play one of his guitars or, as he puts it, “torture the strings.” He calls me his Number One fan and groupie because I stay with him in the study as he plays. What father doesn’t know is, just as cats have a third eyelid, we also have little flaps inside our ears that can shut off noise we don’t want to hear, which is why cats never come when you call them.

Oh, dear. I hear daddy coming up the stairs. I better finish up and send this newsletter out before he realizes I rewrote what he originally had written—some gibberish about the lonely life and solitude of a writer. Lonely? How could he be lonely? He’s got three of us! It’s enough to make me hack up a fur ball into his shoe.

Oops, here he comes. Gotta go!