Today, it is my great pleasure to introduce you to Debbie Manber Kupfer, who grew up in London and lived in Israel, before somehow ending up in St. Louis, where she works as a puzzle constructor and writer. She lives with her husband, two children, and a very opinionated feline. She is the author of P.A.W.S and Argentum and has short stories in several anthologies including Fauxpocalypse, Shades of Fear, Darkly Never After, Sins of the Past, and Heroes & Villains. She believes that with enough tea and dark chocolate you can achieve anything!
Debbie, tell us how the idea for P.A.W.S. came to you.
Debbie: The kernel of the story of P.A.W.S. came to me in a flash in October 2014. I clearly saw a young girl being handed a silver cat charm by her omama (grandmother) on her tenth birthday. I knew her omama was about to die and that the charm was of huge importance.
My own omama, Sophie Manber, died when I was ten years old. It was Yom Kippur (the holiest day in the Jewish calendar) and I was on my own with my omama when she had her heart attack, as my opapa and my dad were in the synagogue. I was always very close to my omama growing up and would often stay at her flat in Westbourne Park Road, London. Before going to sleep each night she would tell me stories. Many of them were cat stories about Kitty and Suzie, the two cats they had lived with when my father was growing up.
My omama, opapa, and the cats found their way into the world of P.A.W.S. In many ways Miri’s early life with her omama mimics my own. Miri had a small set of baking pans so that she could cook beside her omama, as I did beside mine. Celia (and Sophie) came from Vienna and were fond of making Viennese cakes and pastries. These are perhaps some of my fondest memories growing up and like Miri I have tried to duplicate the recipes my omama used, but they never came out quite right.
Of course, neither my omama nor I could change into a cat, but that’s where the magic begins!
And now for an excerpt from P.A.W.S.
One floor down in their building lived Miri’s best friend Jenny. They did everything together – walked to and from school each day, played jump rope and hopscotch in the street after school with the other kids and shared all their secrets in the way only best friends can.
Sometimes Jenny would come and stay at Miri’s place at night. Omama would make the girls treats – Viennese cakes and cookies filled with lots of butter and eggs and (Miri’s favorite) chocolate. On special occasions Celia would make a Sacha torte – so rich that you really should only eat a few forkfuls at a time, but of course the girls always ate a lot more than that, eating until they gave themselves bellyaches.
Omama had been teaching Miri to bake too. In the cold winter months, when their old building was drafty and damp, they would fill it with the warmth and wonderful aromas of strudels and tortes.
And always there were cats – large and small, long-haired, short-haired, tabby, ginger, Siamese – Celia seemed to be a magnet for cats. They congregated outside their building and Celia would bring them some scraps of fish or a saucer of milk. Often she would sit on the steps and talk to them. Sometimes it appeared to Miri as if Omama could actually communicate with them, could understand their innermost secrets.
But only two cats were actually permitted inside their attic apartment. Their two house-cats Kitty and Suzy had lived with them for as long as Miri could remember. Kitty was a large cantankerous tabby, who would often express herself with her claws. Suzy, a black and white long-haired cat, was much calmer and would be content some evenings to sit the whole night on Miri’s lap while she read the books she borrowed from the local public library. Miri loved to read and occasionally would borrow a dozen books at a time. She had been known to stay up the whole night reading, and then the next day at school fall asleep in class and dream about the fantasy worlds from her books, until that is, she was rudely awoken by an angry teacher.
Miri’s favorite book was Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It was one of the few books they actually owned – along with a prayer book and big cookbook. She read her battered copy of Alice over and over and sometimes she would write her own Alice stories, where along with her teddy bear, Brownie, she would enter Wonderland and meet the Cheshire Cat, have tea with the Mad Hatter, or even play croquet with the Queen of Hearts.
On rainy days when they couldn’t go and play in the street, Jenny and Miri would read their library books together out loud to one another and sometimes act the stories out, though they often argued about who should take the part of the heroine and who should be the villain.
Sometimes they invented their own elaborate fantasy worlds. One of their favorite games was “fairies” which they played on the steps of their building – each step represented a different part of fairyland where we would gain different powers and magical possessions – maybe they’d be a dragon to vanquish or a giant to befriend. They would play until Jenny’s parents called her in for dinner and then Miri would walk up the steps to Omama.
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Blog link: https://debbiemanberkupfer.wordpress.com/
And check out her books on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Debbie-Manber-Kupfer/e/B00DHPNJ5I/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1418233428&sr=8-1
PAWS Amazon buy link: http://goo.gl/cV3K5k
Argentum Amazon buy link: http://goo.gl/GIiB2h