Clea Simon was born in East Meadow, on Long Island, New York to a doctor and his artist wife. She moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts to attend Harvard, graduating in 1983 with an A.B. in English and American Language and Literature. She ended up staying and currently resides there with her husband, Jon S. Garelick, along with their cat Musetta. She has also earned a certificate from the Columbia University School of Journalism summer magazine writing and editing program. She is the author of four mystery series and three nonfiction books and is the recipient of multiple honors, including the Cat Writers Association’s President Award.
Before writing fiction, Simon worked as a rock critic, freelance writer, and non-fiction author. Her journalism was featured in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Rolling Stone, MS., and Salon. While she always knew that she wanted to be a writer, it took her several years as an editor and journalist before she realized that it was feasible to do for her. If she couldn’t write, she has said that she would want to study zoology, as she loves animals, whether those animals be cats or frogs and toads.
She loves oysters, as well as most other seafood and turn-of-the-20th century novels. She is heavily influenced by music, both in her life and in her writing. She is also inspired by talking to her friends about making art, whether that be music, painting, or writing. While she focuses on her novels, she continues to do freelance writing. She tries to write in the mornings, although editing and other forms of writing can sometimes push her creative writing into the afternoon. She also tries to write to a word count, shooting for 1,000 words a day, five days a week.
While she uses a white board and sticky notes to track a sense of the book’s direction, she generally has more of an organic approach to her writing, with the story developing as she writes. This puts more weight on the revision process and revising to make sure everything makes sense in the final product. One of the biggest perks to being a writer for her is the ability to dress how she wants, no longer having to wear the suits of a magazine editor. Even so, the waiting that’s involved in the writing business is still a struggle for her.
Much of the requirements of journalism transfer over to her fiction, including her passion and skill as a writer. Most of her books feature punny titles and plenty of cats, but there is also more than meets the eye when looking at her books. The heroines that the books feature are often modeled after herself, in that each of her characters is a part of herself. There is a darkness that lines the stories that she tells through her novels, which points back to the noir connections in her writing. Her books often use murder, mystery, and music to drive her stories, all while staying true to a core of animal rights. All of this being done without ever becoming preachy or self-righteous. Those already familiar with animal rights issues will surely agree with the message that Simon is putting across with her novels, while those who are unfamiliar will find new information presented in engaging and new ways.
While the combination of mystery novels and cats may seem unusual and unlikely, it works well under the touch of Clea Simon’s pen. One example of this writing at work is in her 2012 novel, Cats Can’t Shoot: A Pru Marlowe Pet Noir. It centers around the character Pru Marlowe, an animal psychic. When she hears about a cat shooting, she sets off to find the culprit. When she learns that the cat did the shooting by accidentally setting off a dueling pistol, though, she realizes that something else must be going on. The questions start to begin; could the white Persian cat kill her owner? Could it have something to do with the rare gun itself? The white cat isn’t giving any answers, so Pru must turn to the other residents, from the dead man’s surrounding colleagues to their spoiled pets. She has to beat the clock, trying to get to the truth before her ex, a former New York police officer, beats her to it. The book is the second in the series, and continues the adventures of Pru in a unique and creative way.
Another interesting book from Clea Simon is her 2013 book, Mew is for Murder in the Theda Krakow Series. The book starts off with Theda Krakow in a bad place, with her on-again-off-again boyfriend gone, the recent death of her cat, and a recent jump from careers that’s left her finances and spirit low. She is in desperate need for a headline that can get her life back on track. While strolling outside of her home, she finds a stray cat and follows it back to an old woman living in a decrepit house full of cats. Theda can’t tell if this woman is simply a crazy cat lady, a hoarder, or just a neighborly do-gooder, but more importantly she finds the headline to get her out of her funk. When she returns to talk with the woman, though, she finds her dead due to an accident. Her neighbors seem to be quite happy with this, while the police seem to be ignoring it, and her cats are moved to a shelter. Everything seems to be wrapped up nicely, except not for Theda. A few details of the woman’s death just don’t seem to fit, and she decides to use her journalism skills to find out what really happened. This is the first novel in the Theda Krakow series and introduces a strong character to launch the rest of the books. She is able to deliver an engaging mystery all while avoiding being too cute with the concept. Not only this, but the Boston music scene permeates the novel and adds another layer of depth to her writing, which any music lover can identify with.Book Series In Order » Authors » Clea Simon