By day, Emily Joe is an art director. But at night, she becomes a children’s book writer. When she was five, she decided her favourite animal was a leopard. And it still is, to this day. Just don’t tell her two cats, who were the inspiration for My Cat Can See Ghosts. Emily talks to NZ Booklovers.
What inspired you to write this book?
I think something a lot of cat owners will be familiar with are the unfocused stares, random skitters and late night hallway chases that our pets seem to do for no apparent reason.
My own little cat will go flying around the house at least twice a day, chasing something that's totally invisible to me. The only conclusion I could come to was that she was hunting ghosts, which is what inspired this book.
What research was involved?
The book is totally based on personal observation of my two cats. I really wanted the book to feel very familiar to young and old cat owners - both for the story, but also for the illustrations.
What was your routine or process when writing and illustrating this book?
As this book developed, I worked on the story and the illustrations at the same time. I would write a bit, draw a bit, write a bit more. Because the text is all my handwriting, it is essentially part of the illustration, so it all evolved together. I had the luxury of being able to work on this book full time, and I was quite disciplined with myself about working on it for at least six hours a day, even when I wasn't feeling inspired.
Can you tell us a little about how you created the illustrations?
It was really important to me that while the illustrations were stylized, they still felt very real, and that people could see their own cat's behaviour in the cat character. I kept the colour pallete and level of detail very minimal so that the physicality of the cat could shine through. The illustrations were all created digitally, but I also sought to keep a hand-drawn, organic feel to the finished book.
If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.
It would have to be the X-Files theme song. The perfect soundtrack for any ghost-hunting cat.
What did you enjoy the most about writing My Cat Can See Ghosts?
My full time job is a very creative job, but this is one of the only creative projects that I have done where I really feel like I have retained ownership of the finished product. That is a really special feeling for me.
What do you hope younger readers will take away from the book?
I hope that all readers, both young and old, will finally have a way to describe their cat's silly behaviour.
What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?
I read Station Eleven during the Auckland Lockdown earlier this year and thoroughly enjoyed it.
What’s next on the agenda for you?
I found the experience of writing My Cat Can See Ghosts really addictive. I am certainly not stopping here.