My dear floofs and floofettes,
I am delighted to be joined by none other than V.S.Minou, the wonderful author of the Thomas Angel novels. I am delighted to have discovered them and I highly recommend that you check the series out if you like reading and are a fan of cats, adventure and fantasy. A full review can be found on my previous blog entry.
Mistress Minou, please tell us a little about yourself?
Hello Nacho, well where will I begin? I live in Scotland with my three cats, Boo, Birdie and Ruben. I've always loved reading books of any kind and I've always written, so it was easy to find my passion in writing. I love Scottish history and myths, Picts, Edinburgh and Victorianna, so it was easy to bring all the elements together when Thomas Angel walked into my life.
Do you have any pets?
Yes, at the moment I share my home with Boo and Birdie who are brother and sister and Ruben, the sweet natured, ginger in my life. Cats and I have walked along the path of life together since I was 8 years old and I'm sure they will be with me until I move into the other realm.
(Pictured: V.S.Minou and Boo)
Were any of the characters from the series inspired by your cats?
After my beloved Willow died, I started doodling and writing one night and drew Thomas Angel Esq, a cat wearing a top hat and tail coat. As soon as Thomas appeared I started writing and didn't stop until the first draft was complete. After Boo and Birdie then Ruben adopted me, their personalities inspired the characters in the book. Tom is very much like Ruben, Boo is my Zachariah; Tom (And Ruben's) best friend, and Birdie is the tiny but fierce characters of Sophia, Meissa and Bridie. The queens are all strong, fierce felines and that comes from my Birdie.
Using only five words, how would you describe the books to anyone unfamilar with the series?
Difficult... I would say the tagline for book two describes it best;
Two ancient warrior clans. One prophecy. And a tenderpawed kitten.
But that's ten words. As a writer you always want to use more words but if I must, five words...
Fantasy Adventure featuring Warrior Cats
Our main character, Thomas Angel hasn't had the easiest of lives. The book, whilst having some uplifting and happy moments also deals with a lot of sadness, loss and rejection. With these being characters you created, do you find yourself emotionally attached to them and their stories?
Of course, my characters are real to me so I live their journey with them. I think they all have been through some kind of hardship in their past, Sophia losing her father Kasperi, Felix and Claudia being banished by Sophia when they were mere kittens, even the unrequited love of Flynn and Sophia. And that doesn't touch on what they, as warriors, have witnessed on the battlefield, everyone has faced adversity. Even the little ones have dealt with so much; Zachariah's parents dead, and him left in an orphanage. Meissa's parents killed in front of her and she even has to bury them herself. And Tom, the unwanted orphan, unloved, with no self-esteem, rejected by potential adoptive parents at the orphanage because he's ginger, has braved a lot of difficult situations already. But as Felix keeps reminding him that it's the power that is within him and loving and being loved that will make him stronger. And I think that's what connects all the characters, their resilience, their mental ability to recover from whatever happens to them, to always land on their paws, that makes all their personal journey's so interesting to read.
What made you choose the late 1800's as the time period for these novels?
When Thomas Angel appeared to me he was dressed as a Victorian dandy, so it was really him that chose the time period, not me.
The book is set in Scotland, with Edinburgh being the most featured location. Are all of the locations mentioned real places or are some of them fictional? Like the Broch for example?
They are all real. The Broch was difficult because I knew where it was in the novel but didn't think there were historically any Broch's in that area of Scotland. But I found a ruined Broch in the perfect area surrounded by the loch and hills and a river. It's called Carroll Broch. All the other locations are real, even Edinburgh Orphan's Hospital, the Orphanage where we meet Tom, is a real building in Edinburgh, although now it's the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, (Modern Two). Sometimes the names of the buildings have been changed but they all exist.
Photo by Sinclair Mackenzie Photography
Without giving away any spoilers, please give us your take on Sophia. She is an interesting character. The reader goes between phases of feeling sorry for, then a few chapters later you find yourself loathing her again! Do you think she is beyond redemption?
Ah, Sophia, one of my favourite characters and you're correct in saying she's interesting. She's difficult to like as she's so unstable in her behaviour, but I think it's simple to explain. She is grieving her father Kasperi, who dies at the beginning of Thomas Angel and the Order of the Cataibh, as well as finding out that 'he lives' whoever the 'he' is (Although that's established early on). I'm very sympathetic to Sophia and I think of her as a queen who is deep in the grieving process for her father as well as trying to come to terms with her past behaviour (without giving anything away) and I also think she has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from the battles she has fought in the past in the Catnip Wars and the human misery she has witnessed from that. So, going back to your question, no I don't think she is past redemption, again it comes back to believing in yourself and love both of herself and others, but whether she earns that redemption at the end of the trilogy....
Another character who is hard to figure out is Flynn. He clearly loves Sophia but he also cares deeply about the safety of Thomas, his friends and family. If Flynn had to choose one side or the other, which side do you think he would choose?
Flynn is a warrior, and therefore he lives by a certain code of conduct. So, he wouldn't choose. Flynn loves both Sophia and Felix (and Tom) too much to choose a side, so he would do the honourable thing and walk away from both of them. He would go abroad to become a warrior, to kill the pain he feels with the pain of battle. If there is a word I think of when I think of Flynn it's honour, it's in everything he does.
A character I warmed to very quickly was Felix. What can you tell us about Felix and his backstory?
Ah, Felix De'Ath, lucky death...I'll tell you just a little bit of his history. His father, Thaddeus and Kasperi were friends, despite coming from different clans, so as kittens Felix spent a lot of time at the Cait of Ce's stronghold in Cataibh, the Broch that's in the novel. Without spoiling any story he is forced to leave and travels to Edinburgh where he takes up residence and eventually takes over the reigns of the Order of the Cataibh. Being a warrior cat he too fought in the Catnip Wars in the Far East and after victory he travelled within the region, where he met with a cat who would have a huge influence on his life. He returned to Edinburgh and is living quietly in Heriot Row when Kasperi dies and all hell breaks loose. There is much more to his, and all the other characters backstories, but I hope to write a prequel to the Thomas Angel Trilogy, so at the moment its all just swirling around in my head, waiting to be written.
(Photo by Sinclair Mackenzie Photography)
With any piece of art, be it music, writing or a painting, the initial idea often turns out differently from what was first planned. Did the plot remain the same throughout the writing process or did you go back at any point and change the story line or any or the characters?
The basic plot remained, it's a classic hero's journey story. Although when I first began writing I didn't have a synopsis, it developed as it went on. I documented everyone's personal stories, what they looked like, what they wore, their relationships, what they liked to eat, everything about them so I knew them intimately, before I worked out a rough chapter by chapter outline. The story always changes when writing, but the characters really drive the story forward themselves. The main thing that changed was the origin story, but once the Pictish history and narrative was there it all fell into place. In the second novel, Thomas Angel and the Clach Na Cait, I knew a section of the story didn't fit well so it had to go. It's unnerving deleting 7,000 words when you don't know what's going in its place, but that's also the thrill of being a writer, the unknown element.
Did you have a specific type of audience in mind when you wrote the book?
No, I just knew I had to write Tom's story. It was my publishers, SilverWood Books that defined the market as middle grade, 8-12 years old, but my readers are all ages, I think a good adventure story appeals to everyone.
What advice would you give to any new writers?
Write. It's as easy and hard as that. And keep writing, everyday write something even if you know it's not great, just keep writing. And read, a lot, and not always something you would choose to read, exploring words and worlds outside your comfort zone can spark an idea that takes you somewhere else. Imagination is a wonderful thing.
The second book left us at a shocking crossroads. We sincerely hope there is but can we expect another Thomas Angel book?
Of course. The third book is already written in a first draft and hopefully ready for publication in Winter of 2023. The working title is Thomas Angel and the Power of Three.
Describe Thomas Angel (the character) in 3 words?
It's difficult to describe anyone in three words, how would you describe yourself in three? But Tom... Tenderpawed (soft-hearted that is) kind, and powerful (even if he doesn't realise it)
The story would make an excellent animated series. Would you ever consider pursuing this?
I've always seen it like a film playing in my imagination, so yes, I would love to see that. If a film company or the BBC would like to chat to me about it you can find me through my publishers, on Instagram and my website, vsminou.com...
It has been a pleasure chatting with you and getting to know some "behind the scenes" information on the Thomas Angel collection. Before we go, is there anything you would like to say to your readers?
I think I'll leave the last words to Felix;
'There is always light beyond the darkness. As long as you have love in your heart you will bring light into the world. And always remember the power is within you, you just have to believe in it.'
Thank you so much for taking part in this Q&A and congratulations on the fantastic world you have created with these novels. We wish you all the very best for the future and eagerly await the next book!
Thank you, Nacho, for chatting with me. You never know, an Irish floofy ginger cat may appear in one of my novels one day, I'm always looking for inspiration!
Thank you very much to V.S.Minou for the wonderful Q&A. We very much enjoyed the series and we eagerly await the third book and whatever else may follow!
So to all my readers, if you haven't got the books yet, check them out because they are truly marvellous. The two books are available on Amazon.co.uk both as physical and digital formats aswell as www.silverwoodbooks.co.uk
Right! I'm off for a delicious Webbox Lick E' Lix and a snooze! Be sure to follow me on Instagram and Twitter if you don't already!