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Interview: Karen McMillan talks about Blong the Cat's Costume Caper

Karen McMillan is the author of sixteen diverse books, from bestselling novels, The Paris of the East, The Paris of the West and Brushstrokes of Memory, to non-fiction books that inspire and help others: Everyday Strength and Unbreakable Spirit, and now the Elastic Island Adventures series for children, that are optioned to be made into a film or TV series. Karen talks to NZ Booklovers about her first ever picture book, Blong the Cat’s Costume Caper.

Tell us a little about Blong the Cat’s Costume Caper.

Blong the Cat is one of the main characters in the Elastic Island Adventures series for children, and in this stand-alone book for younger readers, he is invited to a wedding. So he goes shopping to buy a special outfit to wear. Emma, his human, thinks everything he tries on looks wonderful, but Ethan, Emma’s twin brother, doesn’t want to be there, and he is thoughtlessly unkind about Blong’s choices.

Blong the Cat is a very sweet and affectionate character (just like the real life cat who inspires him). Blong is a fabulous dancer, so he does a dance in front of the mirror each time he tries on a costume. It's loads of fun, with costumes, dancing, and even a counting element! Ultimately it's a tale of being kind to one another.

What inspired you to write this book?

My publisher! I’ve never written a picture book before, but she was insistent that she wanted a spin-off series for younger readers. I was scratching my head and was actually planning to let her know that I wasn’t going to do it, when I woke up the morning of our scheduled meeting with the idea fully formed. From that point it was all go!

What research was involved?

Just a little around the different dances that feature in the book, but it's a fun way to introduce many dances to young children - tap dancing, ballet, the boogie-woogie, the tango and many more!

What did you enjoy the most about writing this book?

That it was my first picture book, so I got to do something completely different as a writer. And then there was seeing what Dmitry Chizhov, the illustrator, came up with. He’s done a superb job - and it was a very difficult brief to have a cat dancing and wearing costumes – but his illustrations are so fun and engaging!

What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?

We launched the book at the Dorothy Butler Children's Bookshop in Ponsonby - it was great fun to see the reaction from the children! We then went out for dinner with friends after the event.

What’s next on the agenda for you?

I’m just finishing off book four in the main Elastic Island Adventures series for children aged 8 to 12. It’s called Alphabet Resort and will be publishing April 2020. It’s great fun to revisit my characters as they go on their next adventure – this time it involves a wedding, a kidnapping, and a bachelor wombat looking for love…


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