Raised on “tales of errant, unhinged kin, whiskey-making, and the War Between the States,“ award-winning author Claire Hamner Matturro dreamed of being a novelist. Unfortunately, other needs–for example, gainful and steady employment–took precedence. She worked as a newspaper reporter, a lawyer, and a university professor before the siren song of storytelling finally lured her back to writing fiction.
Since then, Claire has written seven books. Her first, Skinny-Dipping was a BookSense pick, a Romantic Times Best First Mystery, and was nominated for a Barry Award. The accolades continued with Wildcat Wine, nominated for a Georgia Writer of the Year Award, Bone Valley, and Sweetheart Deal, which won the Romantic Times Toby Bromberg Award for Most Humorous Mystery. In 2017, Claire became an official Mad Catter, penning the lighthearted black cat detective mystery Trouble in Tallahassee for KaliOka Press. The book is part of the multi-author Trouble Cat Mystery series founded by USA Today bestseller Carolyn Haines.
With Privilege (Moonshine Cove May 21, 2019), Claire took a turn to the dark side, a turn that continues with The Smuggler’s Daughter (RedAdept, 2020), is a Gulf Coast mystery chosen as Southern Literary Review’s September Read of the Month. Their review says, “This no-holds-barred, tell-Florida-like-it-is tale is as rich as buttery lobster. Brilliantly drawn characters, totally believable dialogue, suspense until the very end…” You can hear an excerpt on the Friday Feature of on my author page.
Today, Claire takes us back in time, to the launch of her Trouble Cat Mystery, Trouble in Tallahassee.
The Trouble with Hurricanes
by Claire Matturro
Enjoying as I did, Jaden Terrell’s successful book launch for her wonderful book Trouble Most Faire, I couldn’t help but look back on the pub date of my own book in the Familiar Legacy series, Trouble in Tallahassee (KaliOka Press September 12, 2017). When Trouble in Tallahassee, the third book in the series, launched, I was living in southwest Florida and shaking out from Hurricane Irma, which swept through my yard September 11—or the day before Trouble in Tallahassee’s release. Stranded without power, I couldn’t participate in the pub date launch party, but the other Mad Catters (also known as the other Trouble authors) did, and they made the launch a success even in my absence.
If I’d only known, I could have put a hurricane in Trouble in Tallahassee, though a serial arsonist, a kidnapping, a mysterious stash of flash drives, and two star-crossed would-be-lovers were probably enough for Trouble the black cat detective to deal with in one book.
Tallahassee was my home when I wrote Trouble in Tallahassee, but by the time Hurricane Irma swept through Florida, I had moved back to SW Florida—right into the pathway of Irma. Bill and I had the high ground (and the hurricane shutters and quite nearly a life-time supply of cat food, handi-wipes, and granola bars), so we gathered a friend, Sally, who lived near the water, and my 91-year-old mother into the house with us. Sally brought her 100-pound dog, along with her two cats. My mother brought a sack of batteries weighing more than she did and enough clean underwear to last until the next hurricane season.
The animals brought themselves. Victor, our sweet, rescued cat, was pushing 19 years old at the time and had grown mellow with age. Carson is a Rhodesian Ridgeback and a trained therapy dog and was born mellow. Mallory, our other rescue cat, spent too many months in a cage before we took her home and has a kind of cat PTSD thing going. Which is to say, she hides herself very well with the least provocation. We didn’t see much of her during the prelude to the storm, and nothing of her at all during the hurricane. Sally’s two cats—who were doubly freaked out by having been moved from their home into a strangers’ abode and by the storm—stayed in our guest room, where they spent a good deal of the time yowling.
My 91-year-old mother’s attitude about the whole thing was that this was a huge mess that I had somehow personally managed to evoke for the sole reason of terrifying her. The 100-pound dog did nothing to dissuade her of this attitude. No matter how many times we told her Carson was gentle, no matter how many times he lay calmly at her feet and looked at her with his big, limpid eyes, all Mom saw was a BIG DOG. Naturally then, if the hurricane didn’t fling her into outer space, the BIG DOG was going to bite her foot off.
Victor, the yellow cat, seemed to view the whole thing as, “Cool, a party. Let’s make friends.” I wish the whole world could take a tip from this guy. He worked the room like a politician, rubbing and purring and aiming for laps. He cajoled more than his share of cat treats (people snacks too).
When the storm hit, Bill, Sally, and I lay on quilts on the floor in the living room and listened to an ancient transistor radio (sometimes old technology is the best) as the rains pelted, the winds hurled stuff, and things went thunk in the night. Victor and Carson curled up with us. And went to sleep. My mother and Mallory went to separate parts of the same bedroom and did their best to hide. Sally’s cats howled.
Then it was over. None of us were hurt. The house stood, though with some damage. Victor began to ask in his persistent cat-like-way for breakfast. Mallory stuck her head out from the bedroom with a tentative meow. A neighbor with some gadget that ran on batteries made hot coffee for my mom. Sally’s cats quieted, though giving us all the evil eye. Clearly they had adopted my mother’s view that this whole mess was something we had done to them deliberately and with malice aforethought. Carson worked the crowd with his calm, doggedly-sweet reassurances.
We were lucky. Though the power outages and the heat dragged on (and on, longer for some than others), we were only uncomfortable and inconvenienced and not truly injured.
Meanwhile, Carolyn led the Mad Catters in the Trouble in Tallahassee launch party without any help from me at all.
That real-life story, my friends, is an example of the true strength of this series—the Mad Catters are all in this together. The camaraderie, the mutual support, the help, the brain-storming, not to mention the volunteer copy editing that is so generously and cheerfully shared among the various writers, make each book in the series special! So when you buy and read a book in the Trouble the black cat detective/Familiar Legacy series, you are tapping into some strong positive energy generated by the collective Mad Catters.
Claire Matturro remains active in writers’ groups and regularly contributes to Southern Literary Review and Compulsive Reader. Want to know more? Visit her at www.clairematturro.com