After I wrote 'The Story of Fester Cat' I sent it to various people, before I even thought about sending it out to my agent or any publishers. I just wanted to know what people thought about it as a piece of writing.
It's only two weeks now till publication, so I thought I'd share with you some of the things that people - readers and writers - wrote to me when they read about Fester.
'Well, I don't know what to say. Apart from the fact that both the beginning and the end had me properly crying. Yet somehow you've avoided being maudlin or overly sentimental, and I don't know how you did that.
'Other than that, it's a brilliant story. I've read lots of cat books, but this is different. It isn't just Fester's story, it's yours and Jeremy's, too, and it's incredibly intimate…
'It's a privilege to have been let into your lives, the three of you. I wish I could be analytical about it, but I can't. I just love it.'
‘Personal… intimate, and funny (Aunt Bessy's hairy bollocks!) and sad - I cried at both Fester's garden and the image of him racing back to it, and again at the end - without ever being mawkish or sentimental (you skewer that right away with Fester's disdain for heavenly cat fiction)…
‘The experience of knowing an animal, and how that changes you, and the way you seek to understand its behaviour - and the voice you imagine for it - and the way you deal with its decline - these are themes/stories that lots of people understand, and can relate to.
‘I guess what I wasn't expecting to also have an insight to was the life you share with Jeremy, and I found that quite moving too (and perhaps a part of your life that you haven't really written about openly before?). I'm not sure I've read much fiction or memoir in general about two gay blokes in long-term relationship, and how that works, and what that means - the way we work out how to behave and live in the absence of children, and the rituals and stories we build for ourselves… There should be more of it out there.
‘As I say, I properly loved it.’
‘Thank you so much for sharing the story of your family. It made me laugh, made me cry and made me think.
‘I'm only sorry that I never got the chance to meet Fester as I think we would have been good friends.
‘As your story says, you, Jeremy and Fester were all meant to find each other and you did. What a gift.’
'A sweet, moving and heartfelt memoir from a companion, philosopher and cool cat.'
'Oh, Paul, I loved it so much. It's warm, and funny, and sad, and human. It's full of such tiny details, set in such a small area, and yet those details and that smallness are what make it so profound because it's a book about big, enormous, messy love.
'I cried at the beginning, and at the end, and in the middle I laughed and soaked it all up. And I said before, I am NOT a cat book person, but this was so full of emotion, and even though you say it poured out of you, it's so cleverly written and well structured.
'Anyway, it sounds like it is the book you needed to write, and you've poured all of your emotion into it, your love for Fester and Jeremy and your home. I knew you already, of course, but now I feel like I've spent several days living in your house with the three of you (and Bessy occasionally) and this is exactly the way a reader should feel after finishing a book. Exactly. It's a beautiful story and I'm so glad you wrote it, for you, so you could capture it all. Just in itself, by being written, it's a triumph.
'But it also needs to be read by lots of people because they will also love it.'
- Julie Cohen