I remember the day I got the idea of Pride and Prejudice illustrated by photos of cats. It came to me, no doubt, when talking piffle to my own cat, Mittens. The idea of cats playing human roles, especially in a great novel, struck me as delightfully absurd, precisely because it is so improbable. Cats are, always and incorrigibly, themselves. (We cat-lovers understand the joke is on us, but we’re a breed who can laugh at ourselves.)
The idea may have been helped along by the fact that one of my favorite diminutives for the now-late Mittens was “kitlit” as in “little cat.” It probably occurred to me at some point that “kitlit” sounded a bit like “chick lit.” Thus, a new genre, or a new name for an existing genre, was born in my mind.
I called my friend Debbie, in Portland, that morning, breathless with excitement. (See the impressive history of our collaboration.)
“I have this unbelievable idea!” I said. “And it absolutely cannot fail!”
I told Debbie about my idea.
There was a long pause on the other end of the telephone line.
“It’s not even on my radar,” Debbie said.
Not on her radar! What was she talking about? I was determined to get it on her radar – and a lot of other people’s too – but this was not easy, especially when it came to the others. In spite of my enthusiasm and confidence, it took six years of hard work, an undisclosed number of agents (someone has said this figure should go in the Guinness Book of Records) and 7,000+ cat photographs, the majority taken by Debbie, to get Pride and Prejudice and Kitties to publication. It hardly came about “inevitably,” as Ron Rosenbaum remarked on Slate.com, February 13, 2012
Quite the opposite! It was, during those long years, all too evitable.