Writing Muse, Companion & Book Promoter
Meet Sulu, My Lucky Black Cat And Writing Muse
For many years, I could not have a cat, even though I longed for one. I moved from country to country, lived in bedsits where pets were forbidden, shared a home with a partner who didn't want a cat.
Then I had the chance to rent a garden flat – and my first thought was 'hurray, now I can have a cat!'
Together with a friend I visited a cat shelter (the Hastings Sanctuary of the Cats Protection). The volunteer who had interviewed me in my home showed us around the spacious kennels. She knew what kind of companion I was looking for: I hoped for an intelligent young healthy female black cat, although I kept an open mind.
We saw several nice-looking cats who came close to my ideal, but none stood out. Then the volunteer said, “In the next kennel, there's a cat I'd like you to meet.”
As soon as she opened the door, the little black kitty dashed out into the corridor, but she coaxed him back. “He's a bit skittish,” she explained, and encouraged me to spend some time with him, so I did.
"People often ask me if it was love at first sight for Sulu and me. I'd describe it more as liking at first sight – the real love grew gradually as we came to know each other."
After couple of minutes, he came to sniff at my hands. After five minutes, he allowed me to stroke him, and after ten he didn't want to let me go again. He made it quite clear that I was the human for him. How could I resist?
Still, I went on to view all the remaining cats before returning for a second look at the little black one. He recognised me and was clearly pleased I had come back! That made up my mind.
The cat, the volunteer, my friend and I all agreed on the choice. This nine-month-old kitty matched almost all my criteria, and the gender of a neutered cat didn't really matter. I signed the paperwork there and then, and spent the next few days getting everything ready for my new cat. The following week, the volunteer brought Sulu into my home.
He dashed out of the carrier and vanished for several hours, but once he came out of hiding he settled in fast, exploring his new home and his human.From the start, I made it my priority to gain his trust, allowing him to progress at his own pace.
People often ask me if it was love at first sight for Sulu and me. I'd describe it more as liking at first sight – the real love grew gradually as we came to know each other.
This was the first time in his life that Sulu was being loved. At the shelter, visitors were rare and not keen on a black cat, so he remained ignored for many months. Feeling safe and loved, Sulu radiated happiness. He explored, cuddled, purred, played and tried to please me as much as I pleased him. We both felt lucky and grateful. (We still do!)
A smart and sweet-natured youngster, Sulu was eager to learn. Soon, he learnt to come when I called him, and to do whatever I requested. Then he learnt to perform amazing tricks.
When I say "Sulu, shake hands," he places his right paw into my right hand. When I say "Sulu, scratch," he walks to the scratching post and scratches. He hops on the table, sits, stands, lies dow, turns, high-fives and kisses me as I ask him, and he loves it.
People don’t believe me – they insist that “you can’t train a cat!”- until they visit and see Sulu for real. I’m reluctant to write a cliché (‘their eyes pop out’), but the expression on their faces is priceless.
Sulu is the perfect writer's cat. When I sit at they keyboard to type, he snuggles between my arms, purring happily.
He even loves to 'read' my books, savouring their texture and smell. When I place an open book on the table and say "Sulu read" he lies down next to the book with his paw on the page, while I take photos. Sulu enjoys this so much, he wants to pose for photos at least once a day.
Sulu disdains ebooks. He's a traditionalist who prefers the smell of the printed page. Dark fiction attracts him, and he favours ghost stories, thrillers and horror, as well as non-fiction books on any subject. However, he’s a discerning reader with strong literary opinions. I gave him a volume of feminist poetry once, and he vomited on it.
When I adopted a cat, I had no idea that I was getting a star promoter who would overhaul my marketing efforts, refine my author brand, make my tweets go viral and boost my sales. Sulu enjoys posing for photos with my books.
Everybody, it seems, likes photos of a cute cat - especially one that appears to read books. Where other authors' book-promoting posts remain largely ignored, mine get liked, re-tweeted and re-shared.
The attention Sulu gains for my books is phenomenal. Thousands of fans eagerly follow my Twitter stream to see the latest photos of the literate cat. The follower engagement in the social media has skyrocketed as people tweet to tell me how adorable they find my cat. They retweet the photos, often with the comment "I've just bought this book. If the kitty likes it, it must be good."
I get invitations to be interviewed "about your books and your cat." Reviewers request ARC copies "and a photo of Sulu reading this book."
I've seen conversations in the social media: "I'm reading such-and-such book by Rayne Hall - you know, the author with the black cat."
"He even loves to 'read' my books, savouring their texture and smell. When I place an open book on the table and say "Sulu read" he lies down next to the book with his paw on the page"
Sulu is the best book promoter I could wish for. He generates exposure, goodwill, brand recognition, follower engagement, word of mouth, and everything else that makes marketing professionals salivate. Of course I pay him generously in cat treats and tuna.
Sulu's other hobbies are: sleeping in cardboard boxes, collecting rubber bands, hunting insects, playing with ribbons, receiving nose-rubs and eating fish.
Fans often ask me what breed Sulu is, or what background he came from. He’s a moggy (mixed breed) whose family tree is lost in the mists of time. Although I would dearly like to discover what genes he has (his very silky coat hints at a Burmese ancestor) and what his life was like before he arrived at the shelter, I’ll never know. The few snippets I gleaned from shelter staff were inconsistent, because they had so many cats in their care and couldn’t remember every kitty’s story. Sulu may have been part of an abandoned litter of kittens, or he may have been someone’s unwanted Christmas gift.
Before adopting Sulu, I had initially arranged with a different cat shelter to adopt a pair of kittens. When that fell through, I was frustrated. But in retrospect, I think a higher power arranged everything to bring Sulu and me together.
Do you want to see more of Sulu? Visit his "Cardboard Box Test & Review" page. Chuckles guaranteed.
How Train Your Cat To Promote Your Book