Sunday, 30 January 2011

Author Interview - Inbali Iserles

Frequently on Twitter you can 'hear' chat going on about books between readers and bloggers. This can make you interested particularly if your views of books don't always coincide with theirs. "The Tygrine Cat" was being talked about in a positive light and so when we were offered the chance to review it we jumped at the chance. On this occasion Maryom agreed with all the 'chatter' after reading it and gave it 5 stars finding it an "absolutely brilliant" read.

You can read Maryom's review here

Our delight was even greater when Inbali also offered the chance for us to review The Tygrine Cat On the Run and Maryom's review of the sequel will be out very soon. Inbali has also found time in her timetable to grant us an author interview and we will be running a competition for a personalised book as well!

May I start by thanking you for taking time out to give us an author interview.

You keep degus, which are Chilean rodents sometimes called 'brush-tailed rats'. Can you tell us why degus rather than the more normal hamsters or guinea pigs?

The degus are charming pets. They are sociable, diurnal (much more fun than nocturnal rodents that sleep all day) and show admirable forbearance in the face of my singing. That said, it wasn’t as though I went out looking for them. They were left in a cardboard box at the RSPCA, where I was researching feral cats for The Tygrine Cat. No one wanted them because they didn’t know what they were! So I adopted the little blighters.

Do they need any special treatment or care?

Degus are naturally insulin-resistant and are highly prone to diabetes. As a result, they need to be kept on a strict diet, absent sugary treats such as raisons or cornflakes. In the early days of degu ownership, I could only obtain their food (something resembling bird seed) via my local vet, who would order it in from Germany (why Germany?). As degus have become a little more common on the pet scene, so products specifically aimed at them have been easier to find. Though they still lounge in a ferret hammock; eat from rat dishes; curl up on rabbit bedding…

Mati is a cat. Does this not reflect a conflict of loyalties with your degus?

It might, if I kept a cat in London. My dear old mog, Wilma, passed away just over a year ago at the grand old age of 22. She lived with my parents in Cambridge. Given that much of my adolescence was shared with this nurturing and generous-spirited feline, I consider that Wilma practically raised me.

With degus causing a conflict already, and the books reflecting a lack of appreciation for 'oolfs' (dogs) how do you feel about dogs?

I am surprisingly fond of dogs. The truth is I love all animals, and if I had more time, and travelled less, I would get a dog – they make wonderful companions. I don’t let these sympathies creep into the Tygrine Cat stories. The rules there are strict, the perspective feline: oolfs are smelly, aggressive and dangerous. I’m sure Wilma would have agreed.

All the cats in the books are feral, with the exception of one that previously owned a hind (person). Do you have special views on animal 'ownership'?

Jess the stray is the cat who owned, meaning that she was a housecat who co-habited with a human, granting him friendship in exchange for food and lodgings. Despite the disapproval of the Cressida Cats, who are ferals with a long tradition of independence, Jess is loyal to her “hind”. I wanted to show a relationship between human and cat. Cats are often thought to be selfish and insouciant but that is not always true. They are social animals – they forge real bonds, both between themselves and with humans. They don’t forget.

Your name obviously originates from outside the UK. Would you mind telling us a little about that?

I am originally from Jerusalem, and moved with my family to Cambridge when my father took a position at the university. My childhood summers were spent in Israel, which is where I became preoccupied with the plight of local street cats. The name “Inbali” comes from “inbalim”, or the ringing sound of bells. My surname is older, dating back to the Chief Rabbi of Krakow, a scholar called Moses Isserles, and his predecessors. Moses Isserles was my great grandfather with a large number of interceding “greats”. My strand of the family dropped one “s” from the surname following Polish independence, in order to make it sound more Polish.

The fact based world of lawyers, your day job, seems a long way from children's fiction. Is writing the realisation of a long held ambition or something that 'crept' up on you?

I loved creative writing as a child, filling exercise books with stories and poems, and continued to write in a secretive way into adulthood. It never occurred to me that I could write to be read – write for a “job”. The story came first. Quite by accident, leafing through an encyclopaedia of cat breeds, I started to ponder the idea of an ancient rivalry between two feline tribes…

Mati's ancestors come from ancient Nubia, now southern Egypt. Is Egypt a place you have visited or is in some way special for you?

I have visited Egypt and hope to return soon. I am intoxicated by that magical land of temples and treasures, set against the backdrop of desert and a winding sea of life. People often find the Ancient Egyptians remote, their practices arcane, yet I see there so much of human intellect, communication and learning. And I say that not only because they worshipped cats!

Perhaps this civilisation is sometimes viewed with circumspection due to its apparently morbid fascination with death. Yet for the Egyptians, at least those of wealth and status, the possibilities that followed the world of the flesh were profoundly compelling. Death was just the beginning.

Thank you once again Inbali and I look forward to reading Maryom's review of "The Tygrine Cat On the Run".

And Remember - watch out for the competition!

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