Meet the au­thor

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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.

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