Paula: Before we get to your Klepto Cat Mystery series, let’s talk about how you began writing. When did you first become addicted? (Knowing you, I’d say that’s an appropriate word for your love of the writing process.)
Patricia: Yes, I guess you could say I’m addicted to the process of writing. It all started when I married young and began a family. We didn’t have the means to buy gifts for birthdays and holidays, so I made cards. Everyone seemed to like the personal verses I wrote inside and I realized that I enjoyed writing them. As my three daughters got older, I began writing stories for them. And I became an avid letter-writer. Heck, I even enjoyed making lists, if it involved the writing process. When my children were quite young—so was I—and with the feedback and encouragement from others, I decided, “I’m going to become a writer when I grow up.”
Paula: How/where did you learn your craft?
Patricia: While busy with diapers and formula, then elementary school activities with my children, I studied. I decided early on that I wanted to write articles for magazines. I was fascinated by all the different ways you could write on the same topic—the various tones and styles you could take with a piece—and I read the magazines I wanted to write for. I subscribed to writers magazines and read them from cover to cover each month. I also took a couple of creative writing classes. And, of course, I wrote every chance I got—practice, practice, practice.
Paula: What made you persevere through the initial rejections?
Patricia: Actually, I didn’t experience initial rejections. Oh, I’ve received many rejections over the years—but not initially, because I’d done my homework. I knew the importance of writing what you know and knowing the publication you want to write for. For me, it was horses. When I started branching out to write about business, relationship, and family issues; cats, spiritual matters and so forth, I tried not to take the rejections personally. A rejection doesn’t necessarily mean the idea or the article is a bad one. Often, it means, “we just published something similar,” “this isn’t a topic we’re interested in at this time,” “we call on experts to prepare articles on this subject,” etc.
Paula: What was your first published article about and where was it published? Do you remember how much your first check was?
Patricia: My first article appeared in Horse and Horseman Magazine in 1975. At the time, my girls were in junior high school and our family was involved in horses. We did a lot of trail riding and supported the girls in horse shows. This article featured some of the things you can do with all those horseshow ribbons you collect. They paid me $175 for the article and the cover photo. As I said, I’d done my homework. We subscribed to several horse-related magazines, so I knew what sort of pieces they used. I also knew the submission procedures and followed them. The first several articles I wrote sold, as did the first book I wrote, which was, Hints for the Backyard Rider. I was on my way!!!
Paula: During your long career, what was the most challenging genre?
Patricia: Nonfiction came very easy for me. I’m a give-me-the-facts kind of writer and managed the how-to, informational piece, self-help, profile article, etc. easily. I’ve had to stretch some since I decided to write fiction.
Paula: At what point in your article-writing career did you produce a book—what motivated you to explore other possibilities in the publishing world?
Patricia: My first book was published by A.S. Barnes in 1978. I established my own publishing company, Matilija Press, in 1983 to produce my second book—The Ojai Valley: An Illustrated History. Ten years later, I began writing and publishing more books through Matilija Press—sometimes two at a time. Most of my subsequent books are for authors—some published through my own publishing company—the most recent ones, however, are published by Allworth Press. I was among the first professionals to produce books on the business side of writing—how to publish, book promotion, how to write a book proposal and so forth. Soon my career took a sharp turn. My articles for authors were in demand and I was traveling all over the US speaking at conferences and writers club meetings.
Paula: And then your career took another turn. After years of writing only nonfiction, you started writing fiction. When was that and what prompted this major shift?
Patricia: It was my birthday in 2012. I’d hit retirement age—according to some standards. I was becoming a little burned out on the work I was currently doing and I decided to give myself a unique gift—the space and time to try writing fiction. I pushed everything else aside and sat down at the computer hoping for an inspiration. That very day, the Klepto Cat Mystery series was born.
Paula: Although you’re an avid cat lover, what triggered the idea of writing about a cat who becomes a detective and now has a number of solved mysteries under his collar?
Patricia: I knew I wanted to write light mysteries—now called cozy mysteries. I was pretty sure my stories would involve a cat. I have a cat who carries things around in her mouth—her toys, my socks, even paper money. My mother has a cat who is super confident and seems to have a great sense of humor. I decided to combine the traits and purrsonality of these two cats, plus several others I’ve known, and create a cat character who steals things that sometimes turn out to be clues in the current crime. Ragsdale (Rags) is clever and creative, but he doesn’t talk. There are no talking cats in my stories. He’s an ordinary cat with a few extraordinary habits. He can’t keep his paws off other people’s things.
Paula: Do you struggle to come up with storylines?
Patricia: No, and that surprises me. Once I’ve finished a story—there are currently 13 books in the series—I sit down to start the next, not knowing what will happen, and before I know it, I’m deep into another plot involving Rags and his animal and human friends.
Paula: Tell us about your latest book.
Patricia: A Picture-Purrfect Christmas is a feel-good holiday story featuring Rags at his purrsonal best as he strives to save a little girl so she can experience the joy of Christmas for the very first time.
Patricia Fry is the author of 54 books, including the Klepto Cat Mystery series.
Paula Spellman is the author of the soon-to-be-released Write Through It: Finding the Pinpoints of Light in Depression and also a lighthearted series called Big Adventures in Little Books chronicling her life adventures.