Cats and Love Letters

This week I’m finalizing illustrations for a project that I’m really excited about. When a friend of mine contacted me about working together to illustrate her new book, I was thrilled. I won’t share too much about the story behind the book here, because that’s hers to tell: but I will say that as I read the manuscript, I was flooded with ideas about ways to draw the characters, and filled with an energy I hadn’t felt in a while. Rosemary and Gabriel: Laptop Love, was co-written by Janice Moore Fuller and Janet Lewis, two friends who shared a love of rescue cats, James Joyce, and proper letter-writing.

Hint: this book is about cats—but not just cats. It’s an a modern epistolary tale: a love story told in emails between two cats who happen to belong to English professors (but according to the cats, it’s the other way around). Rosemary insists on always capitalizing the letter R, because that’s the way it is in her name; Gabriel plays the role of paramour, determined to meet the new love he’s found through letters. It’s witty, and charming, and took me by surprise with its huge heart: in the end, it’s a moving story about love, grief, and friendship—it was just the kind of story I needed right now. As I read, it reminded me of the beloved Griffin and Sabine, and Charlie Mackesy’s beautifully written The Boy, the Horse, the Fox, and the Mole. 

The most fun part of working on these drawings was the challenge of capturing the cats’ personalities. Gabriel’s sweet, perhaps a little naive, and has a wide-eyed wonder about everything—including how he imagines his journey from North Carolina to Toronto, where Rosemary lives. Rosemary is older—she’s witty and practical, and has a self-described “earthy” sense of humor. (I can appreciate that: I’ve been described that way more than once.) That also made me think of my grandma, which made my heart swell. Grandma would have loved Rosemary, and might have seen a little of her wit in that tiny furry body, too. 

drawing of Gabriel, a white and buff rescue cat

Janice is a tremendously talented poet and playwright, and this book is strikes that delicate balance between poetic prose and dialogue that strikes you right in the heart. One email from Gabriel contains a poem of Janice’s called “My Cat Steals a Baby Aubergine.” Gabriel’s delight at discovering he’s the center of a poem and his eagerness to share it with Rosemary was both funny and touching—it reminded me of the one time a poem was written about me, and it felt like the whole world tilted on its axis for a minute. It reminds us how good it feels to be loved and valued, and regarded as special. (Feeling like a muse, even for a minute, isn’t so bad, either.) 

I so badly wanted to draw Gabriel stealing that tiny eggplant—perhaps that sketch could go in the end notes.  

Rosemary and Gabriel will be available in the coming weeks, wherever books are sold. I’ll post an update here (with the cover reveal, yay!), and if you want to be sure to be the first to hear about it, sign up for my author newsletter, here

 

I owe a special thank you to Janice Fuller, for inviting me into her world of rescue cats and love letters, and letting me create illustrations of Rosie and Gabe. Thank you, Janice. 🙂