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Photos, quotes & illustrations

Updated: Mar 11, 2022

Once I'd finished editing Part 1 of Soulcat, I decided to add some photos of Molly through the story. Not only would they enhance the unique and personal feel of the book, it would help to stretch out its limited page count! I had some lovely pictures of Molly, so I set about picking ten - one to punctuate each chapter. Having never been in the habit of taking lots of photos, especially before the advent of camera phones, I realised I didn't have as many good quality images as I thought. So I asked around to see if anyone else had any photos buried away, as I was sure friends and family who'd met Molly had captured her on film (literally or figuratively).

To my delight, my mum sent me some lovely photos from when Molly stayed with her. Also Craig - my boyfriend when Molly came into my life - who happens to be a fantastic photographer, sent me lots of wonderful photos he had in his image archives. I'd had no idea half of them existed, so I was thrilled to have an extended collection to choose from for the book, as well as to gaze at and reminisce.

Once I had the photos in place, I decided to also embellish each chapter with a cat-related quote. Needless to say, there are hundreds on the internet, as well as on t-shirts, tea towels, cups and magnets. I wanted the quotes to be relevant to the context of my writing, so I trawled the web to find the most appropriate snippets. I created a list before assigning each one to a relevant chapter. Once the task was complete, and I was happy with the result of all my efforts, it occurred to me that I would probably need permission from the author of each quote. I then lost hours looking up copyright rules and hunting down contacts to ask for the relevant permissions. Needless to say, I had to scrap a couple of the quotes I wanted to use, but I received permission for several others, and got a lovely surprise when an email arrived from Eckhart Tolle's office, granting me permission to use a quote of his.

At that point, as far as I was concerned, Soulcat was complete. But then I decided to write Part 2. My initial thoughts for Molly's own memoir was that the story was enough on its own, and no extra embellishments would be necessary. I told the members of my book club about the new section, and they all said I should add photos and quotes to it, to match with Part 1. At first I was reluctant, mostly because the photos in part 1 are all of Molly, from my perspective, and I wasn't prepared to pepper Part 2 with photos of me that she might have taken! I needed to come up with something different for her half of the book. After some thinking, I decided illustrations were the answer. I imagined a really simple line drawing of a cat at the beginning of each chapter. Maybe each one could be doing something different, like washing, or playing with a ball of wool, or hanging off the chapter number.

I searched the internet for a suitable illustrator, but the perfectionist in me couldn't find the right fit. So I contacted a local artist whose work I've bought in the past, knowing she's a pet person and hoping she'd take on the commission - I mean, why wouldn't she? I was certain she'd jump at the opportunity, but she turned me down, as it wasn't the kind of commission she took on. However, she recommended another local artist, whose work I also had hanging on the wall - a portrait of our dog Skip, that I'd won in a competition in 2020 (see below).

'But isn't she a dog person?' I asked, wanting my illustrator to really love my feline project.

'She's both!' came the reply. 'She owns cats, and draws them too.' I dropped her a message and she got back to me straight away, with all the enthusiasm I'd been looking for. And so it was, that Soulcat Part 2 was brought to life by the lovely Ellypop Illustration*.

Elly was a joy to work with. Having initially asked her for some basic, generic line drawings, the designs she came back with looked more like Molly than I was expecting. Each illustration was sketched out based on my suggestion, and she took notes and altered it until it was just right. There were times when I thought Elly must have been cursing me for all the changes I was requesting, but she took my numerous notes with grace, determined to get the images exactly as I wanted them. Even when I decided to completely change the very first image, she didn't seem to flinch, and produced a perfect illustration, of Molly peeking over my shoulder as I held her.

As for quotes, having spent a long time researching the ones for Part 1, I didn't relish the prospect of going through the process again, looking for more. I also wanted to make Molly's half different, rather than repeating the exact same ideas. Besides which, she wouldn't have read books or seen inspirational quotes. I thought about who she might have idolised, or had as a role model, and there the answer appeared - her mum. Molly refers to Mummacat and her sage advice throughout her telling of her story, so it was apt to use quotes from her under the illustrations, to reflect the ones from humans used in Part 1. Also, it was really good fun writing inspirational quotes from a cat.

*You can find Ellypop Illustration on Instagram, Facebook and Etsy.

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