Spend a small amount of time online and you're bound to come across a cute video of a cat playing a violin or ice skating. So perhaps it should come as no surprise that cats can be published authors, too.
Since Bailey Boat Cat first started his blog in 2012, his adventures have captured readers' imaginations around the globe. And now, with help from his human companion Louise Kennedy, he has released his first book about life at sea. We sat down with Louise to chat about the journey from blog to book.
Your first post on the Bailey Boat Cat blog was in October 2012 – around the time Bailey was one year old. Where did the idea to create a blog around your cat's adventures come from?
I wanted to document our journey together with life on the boat through a blog. We enjoy reading lots of sailing and cruising blogs but there are a lot of very similar ones out there and I wanted to write something different, something that would stand out from the crowd.
Bailey loves living on the boat, he has such a strong character and often notices things that we ‘humans' haven't! I thought it would be interesting and unique to write the blog through his eyes and it's gone from strength to strength with everyone falling in love with him, his character and his words of wisdom and sarcasm.
You write from the perspective of Bailey the cat. Was this a conscious decision?
Yes, it was a conscious decision to write from Bailey’s perspective, I really wanted the blog to be different.
When I started the blog there was nothing else like it. I'm still learning lots about sailing and I thought it would be a fun way to keep the blog light-hearted and not to take ourselves too seriously.
Bailey's character on the blog is always positive and optimistic, and the creative possibilities are endless.
I started the blog as a way to write a little every day, and writing something which was fun and light-hearted really helped me stick to it. Now I'm very lucky to have lots of very loyal readers and I really enjoy interacting with other humans and pets on the internet from all across the world!
How did Bailey first come into your lives – and when was his first introduction to the sea?
When we first got Bailey I was commuting between Nice in France and Rome in Italy due to work commitments. I'd been searching for a feline companion when I saw Bailey's photo in an advertisement for rehoming and I couldn't resist him. He was 10 months old then (he'll be three in July 2014) and as soon as went to pick him up we had a great connection.
Bailey is fearless and actually behaves more like a dog than a cat (we nicknamed him Puppy!) but we did introduce him gradually to the boat.
To begin with we let him just sniff around and get used to being onboard in the marina. Then once he was happy in his surroundings we sat in the marina with the engine running to let him get used to all the new noises.
Finally we took him on a very short sail before anchoring off around the corner from our marina. He's a true boat cat and loves the freedom and excitement of being on the boat.
Did you ever have an idea of how popular the blog would become – and if so, was a book always something you hoped to do?
I had absolutely no idea how far the blog would come! I was an aspiring writer and decided I needed something to push me to write every day and be creative. I was actually intending to use Bailey’s character for a YA novel, which is now my current work in progress.
When Jessica Cole, Senior Editor at Adlard Coles Nautical (an imprint of Bloomsbury), got in touch saying she loved the blog and wondered if I'd be interested in writing a book along the same lines I was literally jumping up and down with excitement.
It was a dream come true and I still feel very fortunate to have been given such an amazing opportunity. I've learnt so much from the process and I'm even more inspired than ever to continue writing.
Tell us about your writing routine – do you plan content in advance, or just run with Bailey's antics on the day?
I would like to say I plan the blog in advance, I always intend to, but generally I run with the day’s events.
If there's something impawtant – sorry, important – coming up then I'll make sure I schedule it in, but it's surprising how much material I find I can work with, especially now that we're living aboard the boat full-time!
I'm still surprised by the posts that do exceptionally well in terms of views and interactions. Sometimes (dare I say it) I feel almost guilty about the posts that I've not planned in any great depth or necessarily spent a great deal of time on. These spontaneous posts are more often than not the most popular though! There's no obvious reason for it, but perhaps they flow better, or maybe it's just that by writing easily about how we do the washing on the boat or some other routine chore that I wouldn't think twice about is actually interesting for someone that has never had that experience before.
I love that I can combine my love of pets and the ocean to write something that, although not intellectual, others can really enjoy. Bailey gets lots of declarations of love and frequently gets told that he's brightened someone's day which is a really lovely feeling. His very photogenic furry face definitely wins a lot of hearts.
What does your partner (‘Bailey's Dad') think of the blog and book success?
My partner James is very supportive of the blog and now, of course, the book. I think he's just as proud, if not prouder of it than I am, in as much as he will bore anyone with the blog to book success story, whether they ask to hear it or not!
I do all of the photography and writing but he will occasionally say ‘oh you should talk about that’, or notice something Bailey has done which is blog gold. The blog itself isn't technical but if we're doing a project that I'm writing about I'll consult him to make sure I get the details right.
The sailors that follow the blog have kindly pointed out the odd slip up I've made here and there but the great thing is Bailey can usually fluff his way out of anything since he’s a cat and obviously always right anyway!
Tell us about the blog to book process.
I was extremely honoured that it was actually the publisher that contacted me. When I started the blog I tried really hard to network with the other pet blogs and sailing blogs.
I think with social media it's important to remember to be social! It took a lot of time to form and build relationships with people but ultimately I wouldn't expect people to continually keep coming back to Bailey's blog without at least taking an interest in their blog if they have one. (That said now that Bailey Boat Cat has become so popular it's impossible to follow everyone who follows him on the blog. I try very hard to respond to people who ask direct questions and to reply to people who take the time to comment.)
The blog's popularity grew and then it was Jessica Cole who got in touch with me at the end of April 2013 after seeing the blog. She sent me a Facebook message on Bailey's page asking if I'd be interested in writing a book. (Since then I now have a dedicated ‘contact me’ section on the blog.)
She explained to me that we would still need to pitch the book to the sales team so I went away and did some research and an outline for the book. I think it took around six to eight weeks to get the go ahead and sort out the contract and then I had the summer to actually write the book.
I was over the moon when I found out the book was going to be published. It's been so surreal and it's only now that we have a copy of the book in our ship's library, and people are starting to comment on it, that it's finally sinking in. It really is a book now!
I've not changed the way I post on the blog particularly apart from a few posts dedicated to promoting the book. The great thing about having such loyal readers and friends from the blog is that Bailey's entire network is just as happy and excited about the book as he is. Everyone has been so supportive.
What do you hope people will take away from your book?
As I've mentioned before, the blog and subsequently the book was always intended to be a light-hearted feline perspective of sailing and life aboard a boat. I hope the book appeals to cat lovers and sailors alike but I believe there is something for everyone in it – regardless of whether you sail or whether you have a cat of your own.
I hope everyone enjoys Bailey's photos and because the content is as visual as it is manuscript, and I hope that it appeals to all ages – from the very young to the very old.
If it inspires people to sail or if it helps new feline owners to understand their feline counterparts and their quirky feline behaviours a little easier, that would be an absolute bonus.
Louise Kennedy is the author of Bailey Boat Cat, published by Bloomsbury. You can buy it online through Booktopia here.
Are you interested in blogging but don't know where to start? The Australian Writers' Centre runs Blogging for Beginners seminars in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Online.