Butterfly expert Linda Marchman, owner of Social Butterflies, has taken up the cause of her real favorite animal—cats–in a novel, Gone Astray: A Kitten’s Misadventures as She Lives the Wild Life.
Marchman has been in the butterfly–raising business for 13 years. “People release them at special events, weddings, memorials, birthday parties. The weather has to be right, so it’s a May to September business.
“So between September and March I started writing and this is my first book. I had been thinking about it. I’m a cat person, so I wrote about cats.” Marchman said she’s had 40 cats since she was a child. She declined to say how many she has now, but admitted that they “do keep finding their way to my house. It’s not more than I can properly attend to.
“It took two years to write [the book], not constantly, not during butterfly season, and more at night,” she said. “Getting it published was hard. I didn’t want a publisher. I wanted it to be my creation. I went with Create Space from Amazon. It has formats that you can fit your book in. They will do covers for you and they offer editors. It took a year to get it in a paperback version.” The paperback is 5-by-7 inches and runs to 266 pages. It features Marchman’s cat, shown against a snowy forest, as the cover photo model. It’s available on Amazon and she has copies at her home. She said she’s sold 60 copies so far. “I’ve had good reaction so far.” To get one by mail, send a check for $15.70 ($14.95 plus sales tax) to 6089 Midway Road, Charlottesville VA 22903.
Marchman said part of her sales revenue will go to three cat rescue organizations, especially Voices for Animals.
In the tale, Kitty goes into the woods when her owner goes into the military, said Marchman. “She wants to make her own decisions. She had been in a shelter and didn’t want to go back. Then the adventures start. She’s never harmed. She lives through winters and finally wants a home.
“A small animal always remembers when it’s been hurt,” said Marchman. “The threat of death in youth changes an animal. I’m hoping the book will open the eyes of people who think cats can survive on their own after being house cats. These are true circumstances. The book is appropriate for everybody. It’s a good story with a good ending.
“It’s told from the kitten’s point-of-view; the cat’s a first-person narrator. She can talk to other cats and ‘communicate’ with other species. She has cat attitude and doesn’t want to associate with some other animals.
Marchman said she is a fan of Rita Mae Brown’s Sneaky Pie books, which likewise feature a cat with advanced language abilities.
“I had one dog in my life,” said Marchman. “That dog is in there briefly. What happens in the story really happened with that dog. She got along well with cats.”
She said she is working on a second novel now, probably a prequel to the current book. “It has more human characters. I find those are hard for me.”
“I don’t care if people call me a crazy cat lady,” she said. She was wearing a jacket with a cat’s face embroidered on it. Her license plate reads KITTYCT.
Turning to her other favorite creature, Marchman said that she alone cannot raise enough butterflies to meet demand. “The main requirement of it is raising the pesticide-free plants that the caterpillers eat. Timing is everything. I have to have butterflies ready to release.”
She raises seven different types of Virginia-native butterflies. It takes a month to raise a butterfly. Monarchs are sold at $96 per dozen. Released butterflies are usually soon eaten by birds, she said.
“It’s very labor intensive to keep them fed and clean,” said Marchman, who is member of countless butterfly associations and lectures on them and makes school presentations. For more information on her butterflies, visit www.socialbtrflies.com.