A ‘cat lady’ is usually defined as a middle aged woman who generally lives alone with an absurd number of cats.
But renowned author of nine bestselling novels, Belinda Alexandra doesn’t believe today’s cultural stereotype of a cat lady. She believes a cat lady is a strong and independent woman, who is also warm and affectionate – a far cry from the usual representation of a crazy woman running rampant in the streets with cats trying to escape out of her messy and unwashed hair.
FOCUS recently caught up with Belinda ahead of her author talk at Castle Hill Library on Wednesday, May 5 at 6.30pm.
This is what Belinda had to say about her upcoming author talk, cat ladies and her first non-fiction book, The Divine Feline: A Chic Cat Lady’s Guide to Woman’s Best Friend:
Q. Can you tell me about you upcoming event at Castle Hill Library and why people should come?
A: My books are very much about strong women – and particularly the relationships between mothers and daughters, whether they be close bonds or antagonistic ones. In the lead up to Mothers’ Day, it was a great opportunity for me to get together with readers and let them know about the strong female relationships that have influenced my writing and what I’ve learned from them. Not everyone can have a close bond with their biological mother, but we can form nurturing bonds with each other and most importantly with ourselves. I’m also going to talk about my first non-fiction book, The Divine Feline: a chic cat lady’s guide to woman’s best friend, because cats have a lot to teach women about positive motherhood and good self-care.
It’s going to be a fun, warm and engaging evening that should leave everyone feeling good about Mother’s Day! A great opportunity for readers to come along with their favourite lady – and men are more than welcome!
Q: Cat ladies are usually defined as middle aged spinsters with cats as their only companions. The term ‘cat lady’ is seen as a negative. How would you define a ‘cat lady’?
A: I think a true cat lady is someone who fully enjoys and appreciates the bonds she has with her feline companions. She appreciates the cat as an intelligent and sensitive animal. She takes care of herself and the cats in her care. Studies have shown that women who love cats tend to be very warm and social people – whether they are married or single – and are intelligent, cultured and appreciate beauty. This is a far cry from the hermit-hoarder image of the crazy cat lady.
Q: How did writing The Divine Feline: A Chic Cat Lady’s Guide to Woman’s Best Friend come about?
A: I was actually approached by the wonderful Kelly Doust at Murdoch Books. Kelly is great at spotting the perfect person for a certain topic. She knew about my love of animals – and particularly cats – from my historical fiction. When she asked me if I would be interested in writing a book about women and cats, my answer was a resounding YES!
Q: How long did it take you to write The Divine Feline: A Chic Cat Lady’s Guide to Woman’s Best Friend?
A: It took me a year to write as I was working on it in tandem with my novel, The Mystery Woman. While it was an intensive process it was such a joy that I really didn’t feel like I was working at all!
Q: What was the writing and research process like for The Divine Feline: A Chic Cat Lady’s Guide to Woman’s Best Friend?
A: Because I have such a love of cats and a love of research, I had been reading about the subject of cats for years. I love to read about their role in history, their physiology and their behaviour. I’m the kind of person that when I like something, I want to learn everything I can about it. I also have plenty of hands on experience with cats – both the ones that have been my personal companions and also the ones I have rescued and met through my role as patron for The World League for the Protection of Animals, in Sydney.
Q: Do you still have Valentino, Versace and Gucci? If so, do you have plans for more?
A: Yes, they are keeping me company as I’m writing my new novel. I love cats and would always welcome more, but I have a personal philosophy that you should only have as many cats as you can take very good care of. At this point in time with the size of my house and time, three is the most I can manage. However, I’m very lucky in that I get to enjoy so many different cats through the World League for the Protection of Animals, and to help them on their journey to find forever homes.
Q: In The Divine Feline, you talk about a life of service. Why is it important ‘to be of service’? And what does it mean to you to give back?
A: A lot of time people associate ‘service’ with ‘sacrifice’. But the way I see it, when you are filled with gratitude for life and all that you have received, you naturally want to help others and give back. It’s never forced or to impress others. The reason why a lot of people don’t serve is because they don’t have that level of appreciation for all that they have. I say cultivate gratitude and naturally your life will become one of joyous service, and it will create a positive loop rather than a draining one. Giving love makes so much magic happen in your own life. People who only live for themselves usually find their lives become smaller and smaller without understanding why.
Q: In your book, you give little stories about people and their cats. In particular, their cats doing naughty things to their boyfriends. Do you think cats have a sixth sense in determining who is ‘good’ and who is ‘bad’?
A: Cats may not know from the very beginning but they soon learn. Because in the wild cats are preyed on by larger animals, they are very careful to observe their environment and the people in it. That’s why people mistakenly believe that cats are unfriendly compared to dogs. Cats take their time to trust someone, and if that trust is abused, it will be lost for good. That is a good life lesson for many of us!
Q. Do you have any tips when it comes to choosing a cat?
A: I absolutely advocate adopting a cat or kitten from a shelter, cat charity or the pound. You will be saving a life. All cats are beautiful in their own unique ways and all will have their own personality. If you love and care for a cat, and treat it with patience, it will reveal its full beauty to you. The other thing I suggest is to consider adopting an adult cat, particularly for a family situation or for a senior. Kittens are very cute, but they are only kittens for six months, and they require a lot of care as well as watchfulness as they can get into all sorts of trouble. When a cat reaches adulthood at six months, it’s much easier to assess its real personality. A calm cat that doesn’t mind a bit of noise is probably best for a busy family household. Also kittens are fragile. If a small child squeezes one too hard there can be terrible consequences, whereas an adult cat will simply be able to jump to a higher surface if the playing gets too rough.
Q: I also noticed in your book, that not only were you make new connections with cats, but also making friends in the process. Do you think you’ve made friends for life through saving cats? (Kind of an irony if you think of the typical definition of a cat lady)
A: People who love animals are kinder, warmer people – I have no qualms about saying that. People who are cold and cruel to animals clearly have something wrong with them. So whether people are kind towards animals or not, is an excellent way to judge someone’s character no matter how they first appear or what they project about themselves. A shared love of anything – but especially animals – is a great way to meet people. Rescue work is very rewarding but it has its moments of heartbreak too. That’s when it’s great to have a wonderful support group around you, and one with a sense of purpose and mission.
Q. What has owning a cat meant to you?
A: Everything in this world has something valuable to teach you about yourself and about life, but you have to be open to it. Fortunately, having parents who loved animals and having been around animals since I was a child has made me open to learning from observing them and interacting with them. These kinds of bonds open you to a different kind of wisdom. Yes, I would say that cats have made me a better person because once you open yourself to loving something, more love follows. Also I’ve learned a lot about self-confidence and self-worthiness from observing my cats.
Q. Has COVID-19 affected your writing ability? I know that you like to go overseas to conduct your research books?
A: I was so busy writing that I barely noticed 2020. I felt very sorry for people who were affected – those who lost jobs and loved ones. But I always think the best I can do is to stay focused on what I can control, and let go of what I can’t. I tried to post a lot of positive items and encouragement on my social media to lift spirits – rather than add to the gloom and doom. But for myself, I took up a lot of classes online as well as my writing. I learned belly-dancing and yoga too which was really wonderful. In terms of my writing, both books I wrote were set in Australia so I wasn’t affected by the travel restrictions. My next book is set in post-war Sydney, so I’ve just learned to adapt and make lemonade from lemons! (which has turned out to be pretty tasty!)
For further details, or to purchase tickets, visit: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/an-evening-with-belinda-alexandra-tickets-150845339471