Ohmygoshohmygoshohmygoshohmygosh. Is Dearly Departed becoming A Thing?
Heck yeah it is!
And this week, we have Kaye George, talking about the Fat Cat series, which she wrote under the pen name Janet Cantrell. I read this series when it came out (before I was an Official Cat Person) so I was super stoked when she said she’d love to do a Dearly Departed interview.
1) Tell us about the Fat Cat Mysteries. What was the premise? Who was the protagonist?
The series centers around Quincy, the Fat Cat. He’s overweight, as his sobriquet implies. When the vet puts him on a diet, he’s always hungry, poor guy. He’s a very smart cat, though, and a regular escape artist. When he gets out and goes prowling, he tend to happen upon not only clues, but dead bodies. His human, Chase Oliver, is the protagonist. She owns a dessert bar shop in an area of Minneapolis called Dinkytown.
2) What, or who, was your favorite part of the series?
The cat! I modeled him after my own late, great, Agamemnon, who was the smartest cat–the smartest animal–I’ve ever known. If that guy had had an opposible thumb, we would have all been in trouble. I would dangle a toy from a string on a stick for him to play with. He would look at the toy, follow the string up to the stick and hand with his eyes, then walk away in boredom, letting me know he was onto me. He used to love to play Elf Bowling (this was a few years ago). I would press the space bar with his paw to bowl and, when the game was over and Santa popped up saying, “Ho ho ho!” he would pounce at the screen. Every time, he would wait patiently, knowing he would be rewarded with that Santa at the end.
It was also great fun coming up the dessert bar recipes. I sang in a choir in Tennessee at the time, and tried my recipes out on the choir members. They seemed to like it, too.
3) Would you ever resurrect the series?
It was a work-for-hire, which means that the initial idea came from the publisher (BPC) and they own the ideas, the characters, even my author name for that series–Janet Cantrell. I came up with the name, but they approved it and own it. I was given a “bible” consisting of a few characters (including Quincy, Chase, and a few others), and enough plot for about the first three chapters. I was given the victim, but was left to come up with suspects, the killer, and the rest of the plot myself. I’ve inquired about getting the rights. The series was extremely popular and sold very well. All these years later (the third was published in 2016), I get emails and messages asking when there will be another book. I’ve never gotten any reply and assume that means NO, I will never get the rights. And, to be fair, that’s the contract I signed.
4) Does anything from the Fat Cat books show up in any of your other writing?
My next cozy series is coming out March 10, 2020. I worked up a proposal with my agent at the time, and it was accepted by Lyrical Press. It did NOT include a cat, but I was getting all those inquiries about another Quincy installment, so I added a Maine coon and asked that the cat be on every cover. I was told by a clerk at a Barnes and Noble, that they had customers who came in on the first Tuesday (the day BPC used to release their cozies) and buy every book with a cat on the cover. Why not use that, right? My son’s family used to have an adorable Maine coon. They’re great cats.
5) Did you learn anything from writing Chase, Quincy, and company?
I mostly learned how much my readers loved the series, the cat, and the whole concept of cozy mysteries. They sold well, got terrific reviews, and were fun to write. After starting in on the project, using someone else’s idea, I was able to totally make it mine, take ownership, and feel good about what I was writing. Maybe I learned that I’m adaptable, too.
6) What are you working on these days?
As I said, I will have a new series coming out March 10, 2020. The series is the Vintage Sweets mysteries, set in Fredericksburg TX, a place I love to visit. It’s a German tourist town in the Hill Country, surrounded by lots of wineries. My protagonist, for a theme twist that’s a little bit different, recreates candies and sweets from her grandmother’s time: Mary Janes, Mallomars, Whoopie Pies, Circus Peanuts (those orange, foamy things), as well as my own Bailey’s Irish Cream fudge. Some of the candies were suggested by my agent and were not things anyone in Texas would have heard of, so I gave Tally Holt (the eventual owner of Nigel, the Maine coon) a grandmother from New Jersey, where my agent was from. For instance, in Texas a Whoopie Pie would have been a Moon Pie. The first book, by Lyrical Press, is called Revenge Is Sweet. The second, Deadly Sweet Tooth, will follow in July.
I love that cats are a big deal in your mysteries. Thank you so much for sharing a little behind-the-scenes about the Fat Cat with us!
Tally Holt has poured her heart, soul, and bank account into Tally’s Olde Tyme Sweets, specializing in her grandmother’s delicious recipes. Tally’s homemade Mallomars, Twinkies, fudges, and taffy are a hit with visiting tourists—and with Yolanda Bella, the flamboyant owner of Bella’s Baskets next door. But both shops encounter a sour surprise when local handyman Gene Faust is found dead in Tally’s kitchen, stabbed with Yolanda’s scissors.
The mayor’s adopted son, Gene was a handsome Casanova with a bad habit of borrowing money from the women he wooed. It’s a sticky situation for Yolanda, who was one of his marks. There are plenty of other likely culprits among Fredericksburg’s female population, and even among Gene’s family. But unless Tally can figure out who finally had their fill of Gene’s sweet-talking ways, Yolanda—and both their fledgling businesses—may be destined for a bitter end . . .
Kaye George is a national-bestselling, multiple-award-winning author of pre-history, traditional, and cozy mysteries (upcoming is the new Vintage Sweets series from Lyrical Press). Her short stories have appeared online, in anthologies, magazines, her own collection, and her recent anthology of eclipse stories, DAY OF THE DARK, by Wildside Press. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Smoking Guns chapter, Guppies chapter, Authors Guild of TN, Knoxville Writers Group, Austin Mystery Writers, and lives in Knoxville, TN.
Who else fell in love with Agamemnon? Is anyone else a HUGE circus peanuts fan, or just me? Have you preordered Revenge is Sweet? Let me know!