Meet the author
Kiwi author Helen Brown broke and mended hearts with her bestselling true story Cleo, about a kitten that healed her family after the death of her nine-year-old son, Sam.
Bono (ABC Books, $35) is her latest novel.
In a nutshell, what is Bono about?
The kids had moved out and [my husband] Philip was at work most of the time. I was restless after a bout of breast cancer. It seemed a good idea to take off to New York, possibly forever. While I was there, I was talked into fostering a sick, shabby rescue cat with a ridiculous name. Bono was the last thing I wanted, but he changed everything.
Can you highly recommend running off to New York as a good way to blow out the midlife cobwebs?
New York worked for me, but for someone else it could just as easily be Awakino. Sometimes, you need to step outside everyday life to see it clearly enough to appreciate what you have.
Are there any books you can recommend to someone in the midlife doldrums?
The goddesses in Stephen Fry’s Mythos, The Greek Myths Retold, are great role models. They’re in their own power, and terrifying when they feel like it. Greek goddesses don’t watch afternoon television. They have tremendous style and are invisible only when they choose to be.
You have made an art form of weaving human and cat stories together. What do you think is the greatest lesson you have learned from a moggy?
I’m constantly amazed by the uncanny ability cats have to tune into human emotion. While I was writing Bono, I underwent a hysterectomy. On the days my energy levels were rubbish, my cat Jonah would herd me into the bedroom, nestle around my stomach and purr the ceiling down. He takes his healing work seriously.
Enough of the nice stuff… what’s the most evil thing a cat has ever done to you?
I still nd it hard to forgive Jonah for spraying Dad’s old piano.
What’s the most memorable feedback you have received from a reader?
Many of the emails I receive are from people wanting to share their grief. I’m honoured to read these profoundly personal stories, which often bring me to tears. These include suicide, the loss of children or siblings, or the saintly care of people tending the terminally ill. They are often intertwined with the signi cance of animals through harrowing times. It is impossible to single out one that has moved me the most. Listening has become undervalued as an art form. Sometimes, all a person wants is for another human to take time to acknowledge his or her pain, take interest in their story and to hear them.
What are you working on at the moment?
Every time I hear about a child’s death, my heart goes out to that kid’s friends and classmates. I often wonder if any of the adults around them is feeling sane enough to offer reassurance. That’s why I’ve started working on a children’s version of Cleo. I’m not sure the world is ready for it, but a book like that would have been helpful for us around the time Sam died.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
The ability to solve cryptic crosswords.
Tell me something surprising about yourself.
I own a robotic vacuum cleaner that speaks Polish.