A family of feral cats which took up nocturnal residence in a quarry near her home gave new author Jocelyn Wilby the inspiration for her first children’s book.
Jocelyn, a former Halifax Building Society administrator, has just had her story ‘The Quarry Cats’ published by Melrose Books.
The wild cats which used to inhabit Pond Quarry at Hove Edge provided the idea behind the book which is aimed at nine-13 year olds.
“When we first moved here about 20 years ago I realised there were a lot of cats in the quarry,” said Jocelyn, of Bolehill Park.
“One evening as I walked past I noticed they were all sat in a circle as if they were holding a meeting in a mysterious, magic place and it gave me the germ of an idea for the story.
“I am a cat lover and I am fascinated by cats and their personalities.”
Jocelyn, who retired in 2007, has long been interested in writing and has attended writers’ groups over the years.
“I’d always wondered if I could write a book but it wasn’t until I retired that I had time to spend on it. I’ve really enjoyed doing it.”
A keen traveller, Jocelyn has woven her extensive trips to the Caribbean and Indian Ocean into her tale about Great Uncle Obadiah, his gift for magic and the three kittens who are on the receiving end of his spells. There are also recognisable parts of Calderdale.
“One scene is set in a park - I think anyone from round here will recognise it as being based on Shibden Park,” said Jocelyn.
Though she loved writing the book, there was a point where the plot was proving particularly difficult.
“I did get stuck about half way through the story and I just couldn’t work out the next bit of the plot. I found it helped to take myself off to the Merrie England cafe in Brighouse and sit there with cup of coffee mulling it over.
“I gather JK Rowling did a similar thing when she was writing Harry Potter!
“They say working with a muted background noise is the best for creativity. I spent hours there until I suddenly found a way to make it work.”
It was the encouragement of a close friend that prompted Jocelyn to finish the story and see if she could get it into print.
“He was intrigued by the story and told me to keep writing. It took me a long time to find a publisher but I kept plugging away until Melrose Books picked it up. It was a fantastic feeling opening the letter telling me they were going to publish it.”
The cover to Jocelyn’s book and the sketch drawings which illustrate it have been undertaken by Halifax commercial artist Brian Oldroyd.
“I think he’s done a great job, his illustrations really capture the flavour of the book.”
Jocelyn’s book is on sale through Waterstones and Amazon and she has also donated a copy to the school library at St Chad’s School, Hove Edge.
“I hope children will enjoy reading about Perdita, Portia and the other Quarry Cats. I am already working on ideas for more books.
“There are lots of other animals living in the quarry - bats, foxes, owls - so who knows?”