Today I've got a special treat: Author and Illustrator Patrick S. Brooks is here to talk about his YA novel Deathcat Sally! I hope you'll take the time to read his words; his insight into how mental and physical illness take shape in our lives is both honest and wise. His writing and illustrations have certainly intrigued me, and I'm looking forward to familiarizing myself with more of his work. Enjoy!
My name is Patrick S. Brooks and I am a children’s illustrator. I’d like to give some background information about my YA novel ‘Deathcat Sally’:
I’ve been drawing since I was a child and studied Art to degree level. In September 2010, I suffered from a nerve injury in my neck which affected my right shoulder, arm and hand. Unable to use my left hand effectively, I could not illustrate. I was prescribed different medications, saw physiotherapists and chiropractors, but remained in agony. I spent time volunteering at the local RSPCA looking after cats for some distraction. On 7th January 2011, I had a particularly lucid dream of a female teacher who knocked over a cat, suffered serious injuries in her upper body after a road accident, and then found that the cat’s talking spirit was fused to her shoulder.
Inspired by the vivid and unusual dream, I started writing and the characters of Sally and Zachary gradually took shape. The moment I began typing Zachary’s dialogue, it almost seemed to write itself. Scenes of their first speaking encounters played through my mind and I found myself enjoying the clash of personalities. I explored the reasons why they were bound together and why they kept being pulled into ‘No Man’s Land’ – a realm of lost animal spirits.
The book deals with mental health issues and also insomnia. Some of the book is allegorical – when my nerve injury did not heal and I was left with the prospect of not being able to illustrate again, I had to re-evaluate everything: my beliefs, my life goals and how I was going to adjust. Family loss and the concept of an afterlife is also a theme. While writing this novel, my father died from lung cancer, my grandmother died from septicaemia, and my mother was diagnosed with lymphoma and underwent chemotherapy. Through the most difficult times, I focused on completing this book and much of it was cathartic.
I hope that a broad spectrum of readers will enjoy the book – from young adults upwards. I particularly liked horror films and novels as an older child, but parts of the story could be too dark/intense for readers under 12. As some of the themes are animal welfare and conservation, I would like to think it could raise awareness in young people of these issues. My intent was never to write a lecture or have a forceful agenda, but try to allow readers to see the world from the viewpoint of other creatures, and have them form their own conclusions. It could be a while before I make any kind of personal profit from book royalties, but if I do, I would like to donate to charities I feel strongly about. Initially I have become a sponsor for Cats Protection and would primarily like to continue to support them and raise awareness of their work to others.
Whatever opinion you form about my novel, I hope you will at least understand why I wrote it and what my intentions were. Deathcat Sally is a very personal story, which is in a way a warped snapshot of a tumultuous time in my life.
Patrick S. Brooks