A cat with nine lives
27th Sep 20

A cat with nine lives

We all know that cats have nine lives, but Furry Purry Beancat is very lucky - he gets to live in different times as well! Author PHILIP ARDAGH tells us more about Furry Purry Beancat.

Each time Furry Purry Beancat wakes up after a delicious sleep, he finds himself in a different place and a different time.

In the first two books in the series, we visit a Victorian train station - where Beancat has a mystery to solve - and we take to the high seas on a pirate ship, where Beancat is the pirate captain's cat and there are adventures ahoy!


Q: Can you tell us a little about your new Furry Purry Beancat series?

A: All cats have nine lives, but each one of Furry Purry Beancat's lives is different. One day, she may wake up aboard a pirate ship, the next on the platform of Victorian railway station, or on top of a huge bookcase in a library, or even in the lantern room at the top of a lighthouse!

Q: Did a furry, purry cat help inspire the series?

A: I went to a pet shop to buy a short-haired black and white kitten, but Beancat - aka Beany - had a different idea. She pushed to the front of the cage and meowed, "Choose ME!" so I did. Who could resist this little fluffball, long-haired tabby and white? We were together for almost 18 years before she passed away, and she used to sit with me as I wrote, all purry and furry.

Q: What other kinds of pets have you had?

A: I never had a pet as a child, unless you count the one weekend when I had to look after the class tadpole. And he hadn't even grown legs by then!

I have been inspired by animals though, whether ones I've met in real life or, say, seen on television or in a video. I have a series called STICK & FETCH, illustrated by Elissa Elwick, and FETCH is a dog. A lot of his doggy behaviour is based on D.I.H.K.* [*Dogs I Have Known.]

Q: What do you enjoy most about writing fiction for younger readers?

A: Being able to write about anything and everything. Young readers are much more open to ideas and are happy to follow a story where it takes them, whereas, when we get older, lots of adult readers frown, cross their arms, clench their teeth and mutter, "I only want to read books about famous battles and Formula One racing," or, "If it doesn't have houseplants in it, I'm not interested."

Q: What happens in the first two Furry Purry Beancat books - The Pirate Captain's Cat and The Railway Cat?

A: Well, for a start, I hope the titles are clues. I like the idea that, just by looking at the covers - with those wonderful illustrations of Furry Purry Beancat by Rob Biddulph, who has drawn LOTS of pictures inside too - you can guess what they're about.

In THE PIRATE CAPTAIN'S CAT, Beancat finds her pirate captain's ship being invaded by the crew of another pirate ship and, with the help of a family of ship's rats - some brighter than others! - she has to do what she can to help save the day.

In THE RAILWAY CAPTAIN'S CAT, Beancat finds herself living during the reign of Queen Victoria, where she has to help to put a stop to some skulduggery and shenanigans on a railway line involving spies, with the help of a crow and a cockatoo!

Q: Why did you decide that Beancat would also be able to travel in time?

A: That's simple! So that her nine lives can happen anytime, anyplace, anywhere, which gives me the opportunity to choose the very BEST adventures for her.

FPB can always be FPB: she's a little vain in that she KNOWS just how beautiful she is, she's loyal, she puzzles things out; and she's also very feline (which is a posh word for 'cat-like'), but the stories themselves can unfold very differently. For example, THE WITCH'S CAT is set in the 17th century, when ordinary people were accused of being witches, so has more of a historical feel.

Q: What else do you have planned for Beancat?

A: I'd like to see her in a museum, at a fire station, up a lighthouse, at a carnival. So MUCH to choose from!

Q: If you could fall asleep and wake up, like Beancat, in a different life - what life and what time would you choose?

A: I would like to wake up as THE WRITER'S CAT: me, as Beancat curled up on my - Philip Ardagh's - lap, so that we could be together again. Beancat may have died an old lady, but she lives on in my memories and in my heart and, now, through this new series. It makes it very special to me.

Q: How does your writing day go? What are you writing now?

A: It's not THAT different in the time of COVID-19 to before the pandemic. What I have missed out on is actually attending book festivals, and I had to cancel book trips to Abbu Dhabi and Switzerland.

I usually write five days a week, from around 9.00 to 5.30, with a walk with my son, Fred, at lunchtime. I sometimes do more writing in the evenings. This may sound boring, day in, day out, but you have to remember that there are lots of exciting things going on inside my head as I type!

Q: And what are your favourite escapes from writing?

A: I like reading but never seem to have as much time as I'd like. I love visiting old houses and churches and castles, too. (I've written books for The National Trust.) In fact, they might give me ideas for another of Furry Purry Beancat's nine lives!

Thank you for your questions, I've really enjoyed talking to you.

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