Sunday, July 10, 2011


Like many authors I’ve been asked a number of times where ideas for characters come from. Are they based on real people? People we know? Are they totally made up? Or a conglomeration of people we’ve met?

Admittedly many of my characters have elements of people I’ve met. I am fortunate to have many good friends and friends who are good people. Kelly McKenna’s best friend in my McKenna series has qualities of my very dear friend, Susan. In the Glass Cage a few characters have elements that some other friends have—you can spot them because they are the ones who are warm, friendly, caring, supportive and basically the kind of people you’d like to have in your life. Including bits of their personalities is my way of showing what an indelible and important part of my life they are—and yes, they know I draw on their more outstanding qualities.

And then there are others who left their mark on my life who are no longer with me. All of my books feature my cats in one form or other, either by name or their actual presence. Like many who have companion animals they are with us all too short a time. Even my kitty Molly who was with me for almost 22 years, the time was too short. So they receive parts in my books.

My recent release of The Photograph, book 1 of my Treasures Antique Series, features my kitty, MaiTai in the role of Taister. 
 MaiTai was a black cat with bright yellow eyes that lived in my neighborhood. Actually like many of my neighbors I bought my house when it was just a dirt lot. For entertainment while it was being built and I was saving to buy it I took pictures of its progress.  When I moved in MaiTai was one of the first neighbors I met.  He liked to sleep in my yard, hang out on my porch and try various methods to move into the house. He had a caretaker and I had my two cats, Vinny and Molly. The day Vinny died MaiTai was on the porch when the vet came and insisted he be let in. Our vet told me I should adopt him and even when I explained that MaiTai had a home the vet said “but he wants to live with you.” A few weeks later I went to his caretaker and told her he wanted to move in with me – MaiTai showed up every time I came out of the house and tried to get in.  Her comment “sure, one less thing for me to worry about.”

I found out he was 14 and had never been allowed in the house. The expression on his face and how he acted the first time he walked on carpet was priceless. He was loving, affectionate and a total mommy’s boy. When I took him to the vet for his shots our vet told me that given his age and how he’d lived outside his whole life I may only have him six months but they would be the best six years of his life.

He lived to be 21 and those 7 years were filled with his antics. He loved to nap with me, “helped” when I was working at the computer, “shared” my meals with me and had commentary about everything that happened during the day. He loved having a home and having it with me.

About a year before he died a white Persian showed up in the neighborhood. I thought he belonged to a neighbor but like MaiTai, he was always on my porch. MaiTai would hang out with him like they were best buds. The day after I brought MaiTai’s ashes home the while cat, Mel (like a fluffy white marshmallow) moved off the porch and into my yard. He refused to leave so I went door to door looking for his people. It turned out he was a stray that someone had dumped in the neighborhood about a year before. Mel moved into the house once I knew he needed a home—I suspect a gift from MaiTai.

When I created Taister I didn’t have to look far for his personality. He is the embodiment of MaiTai with perhaps a bit extra sass. He would have been pleased to know he is the “star” of my story – even though my hero and heroine are humans.
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Anonymous said...

A great tribute!
We don't get our pets for the tears we shed at the end, but for the years of smiles and laughter they bring us beforehand. Considering what they give us, a few tears are well worth it, as is the little piece of us they take with them.

Judith Leger said...

Exactly, JS!

Jennifer Shirk said...

Oh, neat story, Judith! What a great way to remember them.

Judith Leger said...

Yep, Regan's tribute can touch all of us.

Carol Kilgore said...

I loved reading about your cats. Thanks for stopping by my blog yesterday.