We already know that cats rule the internet, but AWC graduate Carla Francis is making sure they rule our bookshelves, too!
After the successful release of her debut memoir, The Cat With Three Passports, Carla has now published The Zen of Cat, and a follow-up is in the works, as well as several translations.
“I just got exciting news that The Zen of Cat will be translated into Portuguese and Thai languages. The Cat with Three Passports was translated into Italian earlier this year and it has been amazing to receive messages from Italian readers who said they have connected to the book in some way,” Carla told us.
For the love of cats
Focusing on felines was an obvious choice for Carla, as animals have always been her constant companions. While living in Japan, she formed a close bond with a rescue cat who moved back with her to Australia. She also learned ikigai, the Japanese idea of finding your life’s purpose, and for Carla that was pets, travel, and writing.
After completing Creative Writing Stage 1 at the Australian Writers' Centre, Carla had the confidence to write her memoir The Cat With Three Passports, inspired by her time in Japan and the cats she had met.
While promoting that book, Carla came up with the idea for The Zen of Cat.
“I was invited to write a guest post for the Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium in London called ‘5 Life Lessons from a Japanese Cat’ – and I thought, there’s many more than five! Perhaps, this could be a book,” Carla says. “When I started writing, it was an entirely different format, more of a memoir, but eventually I added interviews with Japanese experts to speak about cats and Japanese culture.”
The book features 22 words from A to Z that inspire and incorporate teachings through cats and Japanese culture – mindful mewsings. As part of her research for the book, Carla befriended local Japanese people in Cairns, where she was based.
“A string of serendipitous meetings led me to meet Japanese people who appear in the book. For example, I met Aimi Kojima at the local Buddhist Centre, who appears in the second chapter. She introduced me to Jun Tagami just as I was writing about mottainai (regret over waste) and needed to interview someone about the environment. I met Jun Tagami and his partner Masayo Kurimoto, the owners of Inner Nature, a Japanese sustainable lifestyle store during Plastic Free July.
“As the book took shape, I started to gain confidence to reach out further afield, and was lucky to be able to interview the chief priest, Jisei Sumida, at Unrin Temple in Hagi, Yamaguchi Prefecture, a popular cat-themed temple.”
The evolution of an idea
Carla pitched the book to one publisher, who loved the idea, but felt the genre was unclear.
“When I started writing it was an entirely different format, more of a memoir,” Carla explains. “But eventually I added interviews with Japanese experts to speak about cats and Japanese culture.”
Carla adjusted the format of the manuscript and focussed on the inspiration A to Z aspect instead. This made the book more marketable and, after contacting Pan Macmillan via their website, Carla was offered a contract for her book.
Carla is now working on three new manuscripts, while continuing to work part time as well as write freelance.
“Writing helps me to express myself. I love having a new project to pursue because I get really focussed and love learning new things. Research is probably my most favourite part of the whole process, as I never know where it will take me.”
So far, it has taken her on a successful publication journey! And she encourages anyone else who wants to be a published author to try one of the courses at the Australian Writers' Centre.
“Go for it. It’s not just about what you will learn on the course, but about the people you’ll meet. I’m still in contact with three people I met on the travel writing course, who have also gone on to publish. It’s been so amazing to follow each other’s journeys and offer advice and support along the way.”
But most importantly, what pets does Carla have right now?
“I have two cats, a silver spotted Egyptian Mau called Ryō and a grey rescue kitty from Cairns named Backer.”
Courses completed at AWC: