If I were to consider the greatest gift of my youth, it may not have been the English sheepdog I met when I was adopted at the age of four or that tricycle when I was five. Now that I think back from my current perspective that has spanned about seven more decades I’d say it was perhaps that time my parent took me to the local library.
I think I was about six and my inherent penchant for the world of imagination took flight. I gobbled up those classic comics one after the other, eventually graduating to the heavier volumes of favorite authors that set the archetypes I find myself using today.
As a youth I was always called a dreamer who loved to draw, creating pictures and making up colorful stories. Even as a teenager, I was the camp counselor who sent the young campers off to sleep with vivid, sometimes hair-raising stories that I made up on the spot.
I know I was lucky to have attended Art College rather than a more academic school. It brought me to the profession of commercial art for a while but I didn’t find it challenging enough. I did love to draw the old houses I found on country excursions and even more to restore them for others. The next thing I knew I was retrieving them and relocating them throughout Canada and the United States, a career that has spanned fifty years. That certainly was a challenge. But I free-lanced too as a writer for sport and architectural magazines, not to mention, I kept on with my attempts at poetry, which was started when my grandmother gave me her old typewriter when I was twelve.
One day, about ten years ago, a friend of mine, an artist and a musician, asked me to write something about cats since I had a cat, or the cat had me, I never figured which. It seems his publisher needed words to go with his art. Well the page I wrote for my friend never went anywhere but a seed was planted that insisted on life. I gave it some nourishment and fathered an interest that keeps me writing to this day, twelve books so far. The first set became a set of nine because cats have nine lives. Everybody knows that. I had three criterions for it to become a strange but fun genre. It was to be a detective/noir mystery while also a comedy. And of course, a romance. I called it The Magician’s Nine Lives (and how he lost them). All the characters are animals while the main characters are cats. Who doesn’t love cats? Even though one, The Magician, is our arch-villain, hunted for his villainy by Cookie, our cuddly but heroic Sheriff and his gorgeous Deputy-sweetheart Cupcake. The fact that he is chased through multiple lives adds some deeper dimension to each story.
So his is what I have been attempting to do. I am trying to encourage parents and children to read together, the kind of fun-bonding that cannot be under-estimated. And it had to be as interesting a read to the adult as to the child. Though comical of course, I hope they are more literate (and educating) than a comic book. The language is more adult, producing, I think, a cross-over set of books that may appeal to all. Each book is a different adventure, unbound by time and space, opening into colorful worlds of imagination and fantasy. Each book of the nine contains sixteen full-page, full-color illustrations by renowned Belgian illustrator Steven Van Hasten that promise to stretch one’s imagination into exciting new realms.