Background to the writing of Girl with Cat (Blue)
||GIRL with CAT (Blue) by Sam Hawksmoor
Published Autumn 2017
*Kindle version available from Amazon now
Hammer & Tong (Print) November 2017
Review: 'Awesome book. Saska is fierce, a true heroine...'
Imagine Lundein; a city devastated by war. Imagine you are one the last survivors patrolling the ruins with your Cat, trained to protect you from all enemies. Imagine there’s a way out, a secret treacherous tunnel to London. You must find it or die.
Imagine an art gallery. Jules falls in love with a stunning portrait of a girl, her faithful Cat at her side. Kye, the artist tells you it’s his sister, Saska in a city that impossibly exists in the same space as London – invisible to us.
Saska seeks the tunnel and a way out.
Kye can’t remember the way back.
Jules courts madness in believing any of it is real.
The tunnel to the other side is out there – all you have to do is believe.
Weird title. What’s it about?
Every writer dreads that ‘What’s it about?’ question. Sometimes it is easier to write an entire 140,000-word novel than find that one sentence that encapsulates all of it. I should put it to my students as a task on the MA in Creative Writing. They’d hate it even more than me I think. But here goes.
Girl with Cat (Blue) is about Jules (a beautiful 15 year-old), upon visiting a charity event at a London Art Gallery falls in love with a painting of another girl, who looks a lot like her. She is standing proud on the ramparts of a ruined castle with her Blue Lynx sitting beside her. If you’ve ever been in an art gallery and fallen in love with a painting you’ll instantly understand. Somehow it speaks to you, calls out to your sensibilities, some chemical reaction occurs and you identify with the story being told.
||I often feel like that when I look at the work of Dante Rossetti, John Everett Millais, Coley Burne-Jones or William Holman Hunt – the Pre-Raphaelite painters founded in 1848. (See the Tate Gallery in the UK and Ophelia drowned in the Hogsmill River – a particularly haunting image by Millais.)
Jules immediately bonds with the painting, the Blue cat in particular and is surprised to discover her mother has bought the painting for her. Better yet has invited the young refugee artist Kye for supper the next night that she expects Jules to cook. Aside from the stress of preparing a meal for four for the first time in her life – she is surprised by the artist who claims to have arrived in London by way of a mysterious tunnel that he can longer find. He feels intense guilt for abandoning his young sister, Saska, the subject of many paintings he has done of her. Jules best pal, the geek McReady is skeptical. Senses there’s some scam going on, especially when they discover Kye claims to have come from a city called Lundein, in Inglund, which is at war with the Gauls. Kye claims Lundein is in the exact same space as London, but in a different dimension. McReady thinks the artist is talented but definitely not in touch with reality. ‘There is only one world and we are living in it.’ He insists. Jules believes Kye however and is determined to reunite Kye with his sister and the blue cat.
Meanwhile Saska, Kye’s abandoned sister, patrol’s her bombed out city with Cat, despairing of ever finding this tunnel her brother escaped into, along with all the wealthy of Lundein. After two years of hell she now believes her brother is dead, along with all the others under the endless rubble. She has reached the only sane conclusion that ‘London doesn’t exist, has never existed and all those who say it does are liars.’
Jules and McReady meet Kye in Holland Park where he says a giant castle exists in his city and he’s searching for a mysterious map room that will tell him where the tunnel is. McReady is ready to scoff, multiverses are all well and good for scientists to theorise about but are totally impossible. But when Kye grabs Jules and drags her through a door that appears in a solid brick wall, which then promptly disappears, he begins to panic. The impossible just happened and he has probably lost Jules forever.
Er …you will notice I haven’t quite gotten it down to one sentence. And that’s just the opening chapters. Arghhhh.
So what happens next? It’s a book about war, multiverses and determination.
Imagine another you. Growing up in completely different circumstances, parents killed, you have only one friend, a wild Cat you have reared from young and everyone you ever knew was dead or have fled. You have one choice, give up or fight. Saska is the other you for Jules. The more she hears about her, the more real she becomes, the more she wants to find her and rescue her. Jules has discovered a strange connection to Saska, first through the painting, then through the Incubator Stone, a relic from Lundein that shouldn’t exist in London.
McReady, the skeptic, tries to warn her, guard her, but he can’t stop her investigating and together they go searching for the tunnel with surprising results.
Saska meets the Ratkin, a 12 year-old ratkiller, the lowest of the low, regarded as untouchable and now left behind with the rats in the abandoned city. By a quirk of fate they become friends and comrades in battle. Together, with Cat, they must take on the invasion of her city. The odds aren’t great, the chance of survival slim, but Saska is pinning her hopes on raising the Army of the West to come to the city’s defence even if she must die in the attempt.
Girl with Cat (Blue) is about bravery, challenging accepted science and determination. A chance to be the other you.
Jules and Saska know one terrible thing – if you meet your doppelganger, one of you will die – yet everything is driving them towards that terrible meeting…
You can download first chapters here:
Sam Hawksmoor is the author of The Genie Magee trilogy (The Repossession) published in several countries including Turkey (as Toz) and France (As Volontaires) and the author of many other titles. He teaches creative writing at Lincoln University and for the moment lives in a draughty old barn conversion.