Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Guest Post: Gwen Cooper, author of HOMER'S ODYSSEY

Today I am pleased to welcome Gwen Cooper, author of HOMER'S ODYSSEY, to A Sea of Books.

One of my favorite stories about my husband, who’s an editor at a film industry trade magazine, concerns the time he assigned a writer to review the third or fourth reissuing of the Titanic DVD. Since, by that time, everybody on the planet—or at least in the Western Hemisphere—had a working knowledge of what the film was about, Laurence (my husband) wanted the focus of the review to be on the DVD features and extras, with very little space devoted to a rehash of the film’s plot summary. He and the writer went back and forth about five times. The first time, the plot summary comprised 250 words of the review, the second time it was 225 words, and so on. Finally my husband, who was growing increasingly frustrated, told the writer, “Look—you can summarize any film in four lines. In fact, you can summarize any film in four words. Titanic: Ship hits iceberg. Semicolon. Sinks.”

It’s a fun game to play (“Wizard of Oz: Farmgirl leaves Kansas; adventures”), and as a writer I often feel that I should be equally able to summarize my own work in four words or less, so that when somebody asks me—in an interview, or over dinner at a friend’s birthday party—what my book is about, I should be able to say with confidence, “Homer’s Odyssey: Woman adopts cat. Semicolon. Learns.”

Fortunately, I’m armed with what is arguably the world’s longest subtitle (The full title of my book is Homer’s Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned About Love and Life With a Blind Wonder Cat), which is probably a better way of nutshelling the book than any I’d come up with on my own. Homer’s Odyssey is the story of how, when I was twenty-five years old, I adopted a blind kitten—whose eyes had to be surgically removed at three weeks of age in order to save his life—named him Homer for the blind Greek poet, and how over the next twelve years we became each other’s best friends, true believers, and companions in adventure. It’s a book with laughter, romance, suspense, drama, great feats of daring, and more than a few klutzy moments (more mine than the cat’s). It’s a book that begins with a break-up and ends with a wedding. It’s a book for people who love cats and the humans who love them.

The next question I’m usually asked is why I decided to write the book—and there the “four words and a semicolon” formula fails me entirely. Although I had always wanted to be a writer, and had published a novel about two years before Homer’s Odyssey came out, I had never considered writing his tale.
It amazes me now that, for years, I never thought about Homer as being the hero of his own story. I knew that he was extraordinary, I knew that everybody who ever met him was full of questions—wanting to know why and how. But he was also just my cat, the goofy little guy who jumped around in circles when I came home at night, who loved to chase around stuffed toys, insisted on getting his fair share of tuna if I was making a tuna sandwich, and curled up in a tight ball on my left knee whenever I sat at the computer to email friends or finish up work projects.

The idea of writing about Homer didn’t occur to me until Laurence met him for the first time and wanted to know (as most people do) how it was that Homer ended up blind. When I told him how Homer had been abandoned shortly after birth, how he’d been near death until he was brought in to my veterinarian, how the price of saving his life had been the loss of his vision, and how he’d still nearly met an inglorious end in an animal shelter because nobody wanted to adopt him until finally my vet called me—when he heard all that, Laurence’s response was, "He’s like Daredevil, like a comic book superhero. He has an origin story and everything."

Laurence was quite pleased with this analogy, and loved to expound upon it. When he observed that Homer was braver, faster, and more agile than my two sighted cats, or when he saw Homer leap five feet straight into the air to catch a buzzing fly in mid-flight, he would talk about Homer’s "superpowers." When I told him how Homer had once single-handedly chased off a burglar who broke into my apartment in the middle of the night, Laurence said, “You’re a storyteller—why don’t you tell some of these stories?”
So I guess the short answer to why I ended up writing this book would be something like, “Novelist with superhero cat marries writer with comic book fetish; writing about cats, love, and adventure ensues.”

I know it’s more than four words, but it’s the best I’ve got.

Thank you to Cheryl at
Pump of Your Book Promotion
for organizing this tour.


Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

A great insight into a moving story...thanks for the review

bermudaonion said...

Wow! As an animal lover, I can't wait to read this book!

Cass said...

Okay, I might just be convinced to read this book now...I love cats, but I've been avoiding this one because of the inevitable-seeming ending.

Homer sounds like a wonderful, loyal cat. :)

Zibilee said...

Great guest post! Homer sounds like an amazing cat, and though I know the story is bound to be sad, I am really excited about reading it.

Missy said...

I read it and loved it! Great interview, too! :)