Susan Mallery is a busy woman. A New York Times best-selling author, she writes about 15 pages a day, is publishing four novels this year and has nearly 150 more to her name. She also heeds the beck and call of Alex and Lucy, the bonded pair of 3-year-old Ragdolls who live with Susan and her husband at their home in Washington (and perch in side-by-side cat hotels in her office).
“They’re large, fluffy, floppy cats, and there’s just nothing like the comfort of cuddling a Ragdoll,” Susan said. “Alex is much more laid-back than Lucy, who tends to see death around every corner. Every once in a while, she accidentally purrs, and then looks startled that she made such a happy sound.”
Susan is a dedicated member of the Seattle Humane Society and, in 2013, for its annual Tuxes and Tails fundraiser, she donated two opportunities for bidders to have their pets written into her novels. One of the winning pets — a “gorgeous Ragdoll named Dyna”— made her literary debut in Until We Touch.
“This was more than just ‘an animal with your pet’s name will be mentioned in my book,’” Susan said. “Each pet became a character, with all of the real-life animal’s quirks and special qualities. As I wrote about Dyna, I fell in love with the Ragdoll breed, and I brought Alex and Lucy home [in 2014], just before Christmas.”
Like their mistress, the pair has a flair for the dramatic. “When I come home from a book tour, Alex and Lucy will trot over to greet me and then almost immediately become very aloof for a few hours so I’ll know that they didn’t appreciate me leaving for so long. It’s almost like they forget themselves at first because they’re so happy to have me home, and then they remember that they’re supposed to be mad.”
I was tempted to consult Susan on romance and cat matters. What advice would she offer, say, a cat person who falls for someone who can’t stand them? Is there hope? “There’s always hope! You can probably tell from my books that I’m an optimist,” Susan said. “Just let the kitty work his or her magic. Only the hardest of hearts can stay immune to a loving cat.” True that. “If your cat is neurotic and standoffish, you might need to cut the guy some slack,” she conceded. Also true; you can’t hurry love.
Susan also offered advice for when cats won’t take a hint and leave the bedroom. What gives with those little voyeurs? “Cats take perverse pleasure in making us uncomfortable,” Susan said, “sometimes with just a stare, sometimes with a swipe. The trick is to time the, ah, moment during cat napping. And don’t close the door. Nothing wakes a cat up faster than the sound of a closing door.”
Speaking of closing doors, the heroine of Susan’s latest novel, A Million Little Things, experiences a moment of clarity when she traps herself in her attic with her “hungry-looking” cat. Is it time for her to find a human companion? Should she, er, feed said cat on a more regular basis? Those, in turn, are questions for your local bookstore.
Thumbnail: Photography courtesy Annie Brady (Susan and Lucy)
Lauren Oster is a writer who lives in New York City with two Siamese-ish cats, Steve and Matty. Visit her at laurenoster.com.