Justin Bieber and cat book author Gwen Cooper have at least one thing in common: They're both on tour, and keeping a grueling schedule. Bieber may be playing to more people, but Cooper will help more cats on her tour.
Cooper's road trip includes stops at least a dozen animal shelters to promote "Love Saves the Day" (Bantam, New York, NY, $14.99; 2013). As Cooper notes, "Loves Saves the Day" is more than the title of her book; it's what shelter staff and volunteers do daily.
Cooper's 2010 New York Times bestseller, "Homer's Odyssey" (Bantam Books, New York, NY, $15), was a breakthrough book for the author in ways she could never have predicted. Cooper previously wrote "Diary of a South Beach Party Girl," not exactly the kind of fair typical of a cat-book author.
Then, in 2008, a blind cat Cooper named Homer inspired her to begin writing his story. "It was easy writing," Cooper recalls. "Homer wrote the book for me. It was simply his story."
The tale began when a blind kitty no one else wanted unexpectedly landed in Cooper's home, and changed her life. Moreover, the popularity of "Homer's Odyssey" proved an inspiration for countless people to adopt animals with special needs -- cats in particular. Cooper points to one of many of the lessons Homer teaches: "Don't focus on what you can't do; instead, do what you can. That's how Homer lives every day. Homer is resilient and courageous."
In fact, Homer, now an old cat, is still just that. "A liver problem gave us quite a scare, and the doctors (veterinarians) gave us a grim prognosis," says Cooper. "That was terrifying. But he's recovered, and (he) is now 16 years old and in good shape."
Cooper has added two additional kittens to her home, littermates Fanny, and another special needs cat, Clayton, who has only three legs. Neither newcomer appears in her latest book, a novel. "Love Saves the Day" is narrated by a cat named Prudence, and is set in the East Village of New York City. The title has several meanings, including a reference to an East Village vintage store.
"It's the place where Madonna, in the movie 'Desperately Seeking Susan,' traded her jacket for a pair of boots to set the movie in motion," Cooper says.
People who don't live with pets may not completely understand why those who do become so attached to them, and why most pet owners consider their animals members of the family, says Cooper.
"If you read the book, you'll see how the cat in the story provides help for the characters to connect with a better part of themselves and to one another. A cat can play a formative role in our lives, and help to shape our characters," she notes.
Unlike Homer's memoir, the novel is a product of Cooper's imagination. But she had no problem writing the book. Constantly helping her at the keyboard were her trusty feline assistants.
"I can't speak for other writers, but I think a cat is a perfect writing companion," Cooper says. "Either lying beside my keyboard in a little ball or purring, which helps to relax me under the pressure of deadlines. I couldn't do what I do if it wasn't for my cats."
Cooper concedes that her cats are also her professional muses, though they don't receive royalties.
To follow Cooper on tour, or learn when she may be coming to your local animal shelter, visit here.
©Steve Dale, Tribune Media Services