When she’s not dreaming up irresistible dessert
bars for her Minneapolis treatery,
Bar None, Charity “Chase” Oliver is running after
her cat, Quincy—a tubby
tabby with a gift for sniffing out edibles. But
what happens when this cat
burglar leads Chase to the scene of a real crime?
I got a numb bum reading Janet Cantrell’s Fat Cat At Large in my beach chair
because the book was an enjoyable fast read. Published and recently released by
Berkley Prime Crime, the book is the first in the Fat Cat series. Janet
Cantrell is a pseudonym for Kaye George, known for her Agatha nominations.
Although the book is written in third person through main character, Chase, I
didn’t expect to hear another voice report Quincy’s movements!
I wanted to ask Janet about the book and about her contract
with Berkley. Please welcome Janet (Kaye) back to WWK.
Would you give our readers a short
synopsis of your plot?
Quincy is so clever that, when his diet is restricted, he’s
able to get out of wherever he is and seek food. Unfortunately, the first food
he finds after the imposition of his diet is in a kitchen where a newly stabbed
dead man lies on the floor. As Chase discovers both Quincy and the dead man,
Gabe, whom she has recently threatened in front of a crowd at her shop, the Bar
None, a stranger walks in, summons the police, and declares that Chase killed
Throughout the book, Quincy escapes and causes trouble, but
also finds clues.
(This is stated in a much cuter way on the cover copy!)
Do you have cats? I was unfamiliar
with the term nictitating eyelid. What is it?
I am catless at the moment, but this is unusual for me. I’ve
had cats since I was a little girl. The nictitating membrane is what I’ve
always called the third eyelid. One of my cats, Megan, was a real scrapper and
would come home with that creepy-looking thing exposed. It looks like a gray
film on their eyes. I’ve heard vets call it by its actual name, so Dr. Ramos
It’s very scary. The first time I saw it, I thought my cat
was half dead. She was injured, to be sure, but not as badly as the third
eyelid made it look.
I’ll mention that many of Quincy’s antics are taken from my
own cats, especially a black rescued feral named Agamemnon. He was so smart! I
like to think of him as living on in Quincy.
I assume Dinkytown, the story’s
setting, is a real place. Could you describe it to our readers?
It’s a neighborhood
near the University of Minnesota. It’s a self-contained area of just a few
blocks, mostly little shops with a few residences. It was given the name
Dinkytown in derision because it’s a small area with small shops, but Dinkytown
is also a cute nickname for a cute little place, and it stuck.
Chase has many problems throughout
the book. First, hunky veterinarian Mike Ramos claims Quincy is fat! Why does
Chase take it so personally, and how did she get Quincy?
Who disses my cat disses me! Chase takes criticism of her
cat’s weight as criticism of her care. She had a tough time when she was living
in Chicago, and wanted an animal to comfort her. She fell in love with Quincy
at the pound. His litter had been rescued from the beach on Lake Michigan,
where they’d been dumped. He was a scrawny little thing, so her goal was always
to fatten him up and make him healthy!
Although Chase doesn’t suffer from
obesity, has your research shown that the great American obesity problem has
been passed from owner to pet?
I, personally, think
this is a separate issue. Most housepet cats don’t get enough exercise. This is
especially true of inside-only cats. Think about it. A wild cat works hard to
get fed. Stalking, chasing, killing, and even eating his prey takes a lot of
energy. A modern housecat walks to the bowl and chows down. Most owners,
including me, feed their cats as much food as they want to eat. I always left
the food out all the time. Some of my cats were over their ideal weight, some
weren’t. But even my overweight cats weren’t highly obese, and neither is
Quincy. He just needs to slim down some to be ideal.
Anna keeps slipping Quincy dessert
bars to Chase’s exasperation. Is Anna passive-aggressive undermining Chase’s
authority? Is it a control issue within the business?
It’s a mothering issue! Mothers and grandmothers feed
people, especially those who open dessert bar shops.
Chase sings show tunes to herself
while pondering. Do you sing show tunes to yourself at odd times?
What do you consider
an odd time? Right now I’m humming something. I can’t even tell you what it is,
just a little ditty that sprang up. But I always have background music playing
in my head. I wanted Chase to be more specific with her music, so I chose show
tunes. This is also a connection between her and Anna because Anna loves
operettas and used to take Chase to summer shows when she was a child.
Almond Cherry Bars, Pineapple Walnut
Cream Bars, Hula Bars, Cherry/Strawberry/Margarita Cheesecake Dream Bars,
Raspberry Chiffon Bars, Oatmeal Raspberry Jam Bars/ Peanut Butter Fudge Bars,
Toffee Bars, Lemon (with and without coconut) Bars! I assume you did a lot of
recipe research. But how will you come up with new dessert bar recipes with
Good question! I did a lot of research, bought a lot of cookbooks
(and downloaded recipes from the internet), and did a lot of baking! As my
deadlines approach, I bring a different version to church choir rehearsal every
Wednesday night. They’re very good about telling me which ones they like best.
I’m about to start giving them the dessert bars for the third book, since the
second book is being turned in in a few days.
Chase and Anna are partners in Bar
None, but they both have secrets, which complicate their business problems. Do
those conflicts change their relationship?
They do, at least temporarily. Chase, as the much younger
partner, will continue to feel like a junior partner, but wants to feel like an
equal partner—which is the source of some of the conflict. The trust issues in
the first book are, I hope, resolved with that story.
I loved secondary character Hilda Bjorn. Aside from also
slipping Quincy treats, why does Hilda exasperate Chase?
Probably because part of Hilda is modeled after my own
mother. She has part of my grandmother’s name, though. My mother’s mother was
born Hilda Matilda Swenson. I’ve always loved that name. I loved my mother,
too, very much, but we were mother and daughter, after all. Mom always wanted
to write novels, and I hope I’m doing her proud. She told me one of her plots
once but never got anything written.
Did you propose the premise of this
series to Berkley or did they?
No, this series is written on the basis of ideas from
Berkley. I was given a few characters, the victim, and a bit of the beginning
scenario. I filled in a bunch of characters, the killer, and the motive, plus
most of the other suspects.
How did they chose you to author
this series? Did you submit an outline before you wrote?
At what point in the process did they want to read the
I had just secured Kim Lionetti (BookEnds) as my agent when
this idea was put out by Berkley. It was given to Kim at first and she gave it
to me, so I was lucky in that I got first crack at it.
I had to come up with a proposal, which consists of the
first three chapters and a detailed synopsis of the whole plot. Kim helped me
with that, making some suggestions that I took (such as changing the killer).
She turned in my proposal and BPS accepted it! I couldn’t believe it, really! I
had submitted many, many proposals to BookEnds and all had been turned down. I
was even the chosen candidate for a BookEnds agent (who is no longer there) for
a project. I assumed, since the agent loved my treatment, that I would get the
job. That was a big lesson about eggs and baskets and counting.
I will add that, although I had submitted many proposals,
trying to get an agent at BookEnds, the submission that got me signed up was Choke. I sent them a copy. Even though
it’s not a cozy, they liked my voice and gave me a chance on FAT CAT.
Even though Quincy lost a fight, he
doesn’t consider himself out of shape. Will Quincy lose the
weight and get
He loses a bit, but usually gains it back. I think we’d have
to change the name of the series if he got too thin.
What’s Chase’s and Quincy’s next
The second book, nearing completion, is called FAT CAT
SPREADS OUT. Anna and Chase rent a booth at the county fair and Quincy has to
come with them on some of the days. One of the big events at the fair is the
butter sculpture contest. When one of the butter sculptors is found lying dead
next to his sculpture, Dr. Ramos is also found there, retrieving Quincy who is
chowing down on the butter. This time Chase wants to help clear his name and
find the killer.