Guest: Talking Cats and Creating Villains with Kathryn White

Today author Kathryn White stops by BA and shares how she came to create two of the villains in her newest novel, Cats, Scarves and Liars. Add it to Goodreads. Connect with Kathryn via her website, Goodreads, and Facebook.

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It is a truth, universally acknowledged that not all characters in fiction are created equally. Oh. Wait. Perhaps that is in actually my truth and something that may or may not be universally true for all authors and worthy of a parody of a famous line by Jane Austen. In any case, my latest novel, Cats Scarves and Liars is one where the two main villains in the piece were equally as much fun to create and write about as my main character, the tattooed and occasionally ditzy redhead Peppa Grove. The set up is this: Twenty-three year old Peppa was widowed several months ago when her husband, Tony, was killed in a hit-and-run. Tony’s killer has never been caught. And widowhood isn’t something that is sitting easy with our young heroine. When the novel opens, we find her sitting in a messy flat, wallowing in self-pity. Empty wine bottles and dirty dishes suggest that Peppa is not taking care of herself as well as she could be. There is the question of a disappearing, reappearing iPhone (suggesting that she may be suffering lapses of memory,) but the most disturbing symptom of Peppa’s current state of mind occurs when the black and white cat she and Tony adopted several months ago, reveals that can speak perfect English and insists on being renamed Charles. He also refuses to speak to anyone else, despite Peppa’s insistence that he can do so, which causes some worry for her former mother-in-law and Julian, Tony’s best mate.

Cats, Scarves and LiarsPeppa is also an intensely vulnerable character. It is fairly obvious that Julian, Tony’s best mate, is eager to make a move, which frightens her a little, but more frightening is the attention that Peppa is receiving from Ivory Black, a local businessman, fifty-something widower and occasional customer at the post office where Peppa is currently employed. Initially, Ivory comes across as a bully who embarrasses Peppa purely for kicks, but as the perspective of story shifts, we learn that there is a lot more to this vindictive stranger than what meets the eye.

Charles and Ivory are both very different characters than what I have created before. My previous novels are very much domestic dramas—Being Abigail tells the story of a highly-strung young woman who is trying to sort through a relationship crisis, Best Forgotten is about a young woman with amnesia and Behind the Scenes is about an aspiring actress—Cats, Scarves and Liars has a more cartoonlike quality with two deliciously fiendish characters. When I created Charles, I wanted a character who embodied both human and feline instincts and behaviours, and who then used them purely for his own amusement. Ivory is, perhaps, a far more complicated character. It would have been easy to tell his story from the perspective of another character, but it was a lot of fun getting inside the head of a man who is a rapist and a serial killer and trying to understand his actions. I drew on two villains from popular culture as influences, Malcolm Foxworth from the V.C. Andrews novel Flowers in the Attic and the deliciously, cartoonishly evil super-villain, Mr Burns from The Simpsons, whose failing grip on reality makes him a real treat to watch.

Ivory Black’s weakness is family, particularly both of his daughters. He believes himself to be a wonderful father to his two daughters, despite very clear evidence to the contrary. This blindness further leads him to believe that anything he does to hurt others is payback for one perceived (or grossly exaggerated,) wrong. Like Charles he can often come across as quite seductive. But perhaps the biggest tell in the book that he is simply a complicated man rather than a purely evil one, comes at the end of part one, when given the choice of watching Peppa die or saving her, he decides to save her and reveal (a slightly distorted,) truth about their relationship. On some level he is still, ultimately, a man who wants to be loved and accepted. To me, this makes a far more interesting character to write about than a flat villain, who commits evil to satisfy a lust for power as is sometimes seen in fiction. The link between Charles and Ivory is, I hope, an amusing one.

Whether Cats, Scarves and Liars will be enjoyed by readers, or not, remains to be seen, but it is novel that I had a lot of fun putting together. Ivory Black and Charles are both complex characters. I hope readers will enjoy learning all about them.

About Kathryn White

Writer. Bookworm. Poet. More of an enigma than an entrepreneur, Kathryn White lives in comfortable surrounds on the South Coast of Adelaide, where she spends her time writing fiction and poetry and reviewing novels for her website Kathryn’s Inbox. By day, she works at a busy inner city Post Office. She graduated from Flinders University with Honours in English Literature and later studied Marketing. Kathryn began writing when she was in her teens, never believing that anyone else would be interested in reading her work. She has never been happier to be wrong about anything in her life.

Kathryn enjoys writing about misunderstandings—the kind of things that could happen in real life—and giving them an unusual comic or dark twist. Sometimes both.

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