Book Talk: Tragedy prompted author to write novel in six weeks
By Elaine Lies
TOKYO (Reuters) - Elise is a single mother whose only child is killed in a sudden freak accident. Distraught, she at first wants to join her son - but then realizes she must stay alive to care for his beloved cat, which gradually draws her back into life.
"The Cat", by award-winning Israeli-born author Edeet Ravel, got its start from the July 2011 news that a gunman had opened fire at a youth camp on a Norwegian holiday island, killing 77 people, setting off a compulsion that had her writing so rapidly she completed a draft of the book in six weeks.
Ravel spoke with Reuters about her writing, loss and why she chose a cat to help her heroine back to life.
Q: What got this book started?
A: I began writing the book on July 23, 2011, a day that I remember very well because it was the day after the horrific attack in Norway. I read about the terrible tragedy and I thought of the parents. Many writers try to understand these horrific events by writing about the event itself - the violence, the perpetrators, the victims - but I turned my attention to the bereaved parents, and friends and relatives, because their lives can never be the same, and I began writing "The Cat".
With this novel, even though it was extremely hard to write - in fact, it was the hardest thing I've ever done in my writing career - I had at the same time a compulsion to tell Elise's story. That was really unlike anything I'd ever experienced before. I simply couldn't stop writing. I'd go to bed scratching sentences in the dark as I fell asleep. I woke up with sentences ready to go and I'd have to rush to the computer to get it all down before doing anything else. I had to leave my exercise class to scribble sentences in the margin of the schedule. Like the time that I left a bar mitzvah in the middle and I went to the ladies' room and I began scribbling on the bar mitzvah program. It was going on constantly for about six weeks, until the first draft was finished.
Q: Why was there such a compulsion?
A: I think it was something that had been on my mind for a very long time because I was close to two people who lost children, and because as a parent, like all parents, I live daily with my inability to protect my child from harm, try as I may. So it's a very emotional topic and probably because it was so difficult to write I pushed it away and tried not to write it. I think there was a build-up. There will always be things we can't control with our children, and yet the loss of a child is unimaginable - except that a parent lives with that possibility every minute of every day, from the minute our child is born. Continued...