The Writer's Pet: Jenni Keer and The Unlikely Life of Maisie Meadows

Jenni Keer on her latest heart-warming book and how her blind cat Seymour provides inspiration.

The Writer's Pet: One of Jennie Keer's cats. Interview about the cats and her latest book.
Seymour. Photo: Jenni Keer.

No. 8 in the series The Writer's Pet by Zazie Todd PhD.

In The Unlikely Life of Maisie Meadows, Maisie takes a new job at an auction house, where pieces from a tea set inspire her to reunite her family members. The book is described by Fiona Harper as “A magical story about love and friendship, full of fun and sparkle.”

Jenni Keer told me about The Unlikely Life of Maisie Meadows, her cats – including her blind cat, Seymour (above) – and her writing routine.

The Writer's Pet: The Unlikely Life of Maisie Meadows

What are your pets’ names?

Currently, we have three cats, the most precious of which is Seymour – our black and white blind cat – and the pet I would like to focus on. He had his eyes removed after entropion damage limited his sight (when the eyelids turn inwards) and was then later attacked by a neighbourhood cat. We also have a black and white shorthair, Boo-Boo, and Molly – a gorgeous petite ginger who is a feral rescue. All our cats get on surprisingly well. Molly hunts for Seymour and lays mice at his feet – having somehow worked out that he can’t hunt for himself. Boo-Boo grooms him and then they play-fight, which I’m pleased to say Seymour quite often wins. 

The Writer's Pet: British writer Jenni Keer's cat BooBoo on top of a fish tank
Boo-Boo on top of the fish tank. Photo: Jenni Keer.

What do you love most about your pets?

Seymour astounds and humbles me every single day. His ability to carry on, despite his massive sensory disability, and lead a normal life is astounding. Animals don’t feel sorry for themselves, care about appearances or what other animals think. They get on with life. Visitors to our house often don’t realise Seymour is bind, because his head is black and you don’t notice the missing eyes. He walks a bit slower, fanning out his massive paws to check for hazards, but relies on whiskers and sound to guide him, and has a map of our house and garden in his head. When I’m grumbling about something trivial I try to remember what an inspiration he is, and how I really shouldn’t complain.

"I don’t think I’ve written a book yet that hasn’t included at least one animal."

What makes Seymour happy?

Seymour is happiest with people or his catty companions, and always seeks us out if he hears us talking. He also enjoys chasing things, climbing trees and play-fighting – like any other cat. 

Do your pets help of hinder your writing?

Both. Because writing is a solitary activity, I love having the cats around in the day when I’m working. I talk to them and they keep me company. When they decide to walk across the keyboard or meow constantly for attention, it’s not so helpful.

Tell me about your book.

My latest book is called The Unlikely Life of Maisie Meadows and centres on young Maisie as she starts a new job at a local auction house full of eccentric staff. After a disastrous Christmas, where she laments her scattered family, pieces from a mysterious tea-set she remembers from her childhood start coming up for sale at the auctions. She undertakes to reunite both the tea-set and her family, but is it such a wise idea to force her relatives back together? A heart-warming tale that examines the old adage that you can choose your friends but not your family. 

My husband restores antique furniture so the inspiration for this book was TWGaze Auctions in Diss (Norfolk) which we have attended for over twenty years. I thought it would make a fabulous backdrop to a story and Elizabeth Talbot (she of Bargain Hunt and Flog It! fame) was extremely generous with her time and support. I also gave Maisie an energetic hamster called Nigel, to illustrate how animals can help combat loneliness. I don’t think I’ve written a book yet that hasn’t included at least one animal.

The Writer's Pet: Jenni Keer's ginger cat Molly on the lawn. Interview about Keer's latest book & how her cats influence her writing.
Molly. Photo: Jenni Keer

What are you currently working on?

My writing has taken an interesting turn this year. After writing two contemporary romcoms, I have returned to my first love – history. A WW1 dual timeline novel is out on submission and I have just started a more gothic-y 1920 story full of mystery and unrequited love.

The contemporary story in my WW1 dual timeline features a young veterinary nurse called Amy – so this was a fantastic opportunity to talk about a variety of pets. Plus, I finally got to put Seymour in a book! His blindness and the way he combats it becomes an important theme as, in the historical thread, one of my characters loses his sight in a mustard gas attack. Amy’s job was also used to show the reader that a main character who is very shuttered and grumpy, has a softer side. She cares passionately about the animals she works with and rescues the odd balls – an earless rabbit, a three-legged Guinea pig and a blind cat.

"Because writing is a solitary activity, I love having the cats around in the day when I’m working."

Tell us about your writing routine.

As a busy mum to four teenage boys, most of my writing is done during the day when they are at school or college. Lockdown proved a challenge, but I resorted to headphones and muddled through. I have a daily word target to keep me focused, and share a “virtual” office with my talented author friend, Clare Marchant – which helps combat the solitary nature of the profession. I’m usually a pantser, but have planned my current book and this has increased my output. It takes me about 8 months to write and edit a book but I’m striving to get faster. I love what I do and can’t imagine any other job where I would get paid for typing up my random musings.

What’s your favourite/local independent bookstore?

My favourite independent book shop is Diss Publishing Bookshop in Diss, Norfolk. They are phenomenal at supporting local authors and hold numerous book-signings and author events at their beautiful location by the mere.

The Unlikely Life of Maisie Meadows is available in the Companion Animal Psychology Amazon store.

Jenni Keer is a history graduate who embarked on a career in contract flooring before settling in the middle of the Suffolk countryside with her antique furniture restorer husband. She has valiantly attempted to master the ancient art of housework but with four teenage boys in the house it remains a mystery. Instead, she spends her time at the keyboard writing women's fiction to combat the testosterone-fuelled atmosphere with her number one fan #Blindcat by her side. Much younger in her head than she is on paper, she adores any excuse for fancy-dress and is part of a disco formation dance team. 

Website  Jenni Keer is on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

See all of the featured authors in The Writer's Pet. If you're a traditionally published author and think your book would be a good fit for this series, see the guidelines for The Writer's Pet.

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