Monday, August 9, 2010

'The Write Tools' #25 - Vanda Symon

Welcome to another edition of ‘The Write Tools’: a blog series featuring authors, artists and their favourite tools.

Today's guest is New Zealand crime writer Vanda Symon. Vanda is the author of three Sam Shephard novels, the most recent being Containment. Vanda is now working on her fourth. Vanda also blogs at Overkill.

My writing environment is important to me. Anyone who saw the state of my desk might question that statement, especially this moment where I had to fudge around the collections of papers, folders, bills, books, camera, stamps, ink bottles, pens, sundry stationery items, cameras and the kids lego and drawings that always sneak their way into my space, just to have enough room to move the mouse. But for me the environment is about comfort, in the security blanket sense of the word.

Part of that comfort has been company, of the feline kind. I don’t know that you could exactly categorise a cat as a tool, but hey, I’ll try.

Writing can be a very solitary occupation; it’s just you and your computer. The relationship can vary on a daily basis, well, no, that’s not true, it can vary on a minute by minute basis. Sometimes you’re the best of friends, chatting, laughing, telling stories, gossiping. At other times it can be like a bit of a standoff where the two parties are in a huff with each other and no one is going to be the first to break the ice. Through all these times my one constant has been the cat.

I have heard authors talk about the soundtracks to greatest moments in their lives, and the soundtracks to their novels. For me, the soundtrack to all of my novels has been the not so gentle snoring…of the cat. She has never been intrusive, has respected my space, but has always there, whether curled up behind me, or on the seat near by, or with her nose between the fins of the oil column heater or stretched out on the nearest available shaft of sunlight. The snoring has varied from a gentle thrum to a V8 rattle, and on occasion I’ve had to throw a ball of paper at her to wake her up when it got too loud.

But all that has changed. Three weeks ago my Smooch succumbed to old age and kidney failure. I feel lost. Writing is not the same. The house seems so very empty. I have discovered something about myself, and that is I need company of some kind. I have always cherished my solitude, having the house to myself and enjoying the silence, but I have now realised that was a bit of a delusion, because I was never truly alone, there was always a purring, or snoring bundle of black fur somewhere in the background.

For the last few weeks I’ve sat down at the computer, fingers poised to do the business, and the words won’t come. It’s like they’re waiting for their snored invitation. I’ve only had a couple of good writing days, and that was when one of the kids was home sick from school and I had their was company, although not snoring.

My cat has been an invaluable writing tool. Even now I get to look out into my garden at the newly planted cabbage tree that marks her resting place. But I feel it is time to find another companion. The kids suggested goldfish, Hubby suggested a dog, but no, it wouldn’t be the same. I need something feline, warm, snugly, independent, slightly stroppy and hopefully snoring.


Rachel Fenton said...


It's always interesting to read what other writers need to get those words on the page.

Company or lack of it - in whatever sense - is something which gets me thinking.

Thanks Vanda and Damon.

Gondal-girl said...

meow! Colette swore by such company, Kiki the Demure a Russian grey even made it into one of her novels with her own voice - miss having a cat- it was either a cat or a baby...

ironically the word verification is cateret

Peter Fyfe said...

I call to mind Matthew Flinders' intrepid feline friend Trim - who inspired the great explorer to write a memoir in tribute to the mogg. There's even a statue of Trim next to MF at the State Library of NSW!

It seems felinicitous company is of benefit to explorers of all planes, real and imagined.

Alas, cat-less, I'm forced to make do with occasional inspiring visits from the beautiful burmese who owns the artist next door. Don't let this happen to you - become slave to another supercilious but divine master ASAP!

Vanda Symon said...

Hi Rachel - Company is a funny thing, and I thought I was perfectly happy without it until Smooch proved otherwise. The journey to self-discovery takes many paths, this one happened to be feline.

Hey Gondal-girl. I was thinking a black cat might have to make a cameo appearance in one of my novels. I'm trying to think of a way to make her somehow pivotal. That would have been a hard decision - Cat? Baby? Ah well, you can always get a cat later... And they have a funny way of inviting themselves into your life anyway.

Gidday Peter. I must read Matthew Flinders Cat. One of my kids favourite stories is about a Three Legged Cat who ends up accidentally being a traveling companion when it is mistaken for a hat! We have realised the gaping hole in our family life must be filled by something furry, feline and bossy so are actively seeking enslavement...