Edinburgh-born B C Harris describes herself as being an unremarkable woman doing remarkable things in her fifties, like learning to drive, to ride horses and writing books.
She was semi-retired when she moved to France to renovate an old farmhouse, and transform an acre of overgrown land into a beautiful garden and orchard. Not able to speak more than a few words of French at that time, life quickly became a huge learning curve! But she and her husband made it work. They even got married there. That was in 2019, and life was good.
Then, in March 2020, France entered the strictest lockdown in Europe, possibly the world, due to a previously unheard of virus. Harris felt increasingly isolated, and homesick for friends and family in the UK. Her husband suggested she try and write down a story she’d told him years before. He felt that writing could be the perfect distraction – something to take his worried wife’s mind off the pandemic. He was right.
Sitting overlooking her garden, Harris was able to disappear into her imagination, to rediscover characters she’d invented way back in her thirties when money was always tight and trips to Africa were way out of her price league. Harris did the next best thing; she invented a young woman called Jos Ferguson and sent Jos off to Africa for the adventure she would never be able to afford. Harris imagined what Jos would do there, what she would see and who she might meet. It evolved into a huge collection of daydreams, populated by a tightknit group of vibrant characters who all stayed with her in the years to come. They became as old friends and, when Harris needed them most, needed the escape they offered from fears of the unknown, they rose to the occasion and flourished.
Within a few short months Conspiracy of Cats had really taken shape. Harris worked for 6-8 hours a day, every day, vanishing into the magical world of the Kilimanjaro Region of Tanzania, where the murder mystery is set. Although she hasn’t ever been there, she drew on experiences from time spent working at a wild animal rehab centre in South Africa a few years previously. She had made it to Africa after all. Just before she turned 50, she and her husband spent a working holiday on a wild animal rehab centre. Many of the exploits of two of her characters in particular are borrowed from Harris’ own real-life experiences. Her knowledge of Tanzania was limited however, so she had to research extensively, focussing on the Maasai people, their semi-nomadic culture, and the Kilimanjaro Region in general.
Conspiracy of Cats was released in August 2021 by Olympia Publishers of London. By then Harris had returned to Scotland, initially to Kintyre and more recently to Sanquhar in the Scottish Borders, where she and her husband are renovating yet another house. She is also working on other stories, including a sequel to Conspiracy of Cats. “I want to keep writing for my younger self,” explains Harris. “Because she never had the time. I write for my husband, because he believes in me, and for my daughter, so I can leave something of myself behind.”
Don’t be fooled by the title; Conspiracy of Cats does indeed feature a number of furry felines; household moggies as well as their wild, ferocious bigger cousins, but this isn’t a story about cats. Rather Harris has used her cats to drive the narrative forward in unique and interesting ways. Ultimately this is a story about love, murder and revenge. This is a journey into the breathtaking scenery of Africa, the wildlife, the way of life and the ritual voices of tribal magic. At first readers are lulled into accompanying Jos on an exciting journey to visit the house her Uncle Peter built before he died. But Peter isn’t as dead as he should be. Peter was murdered, and no sooner has Jos arrived than he makes his presence felt.
Peter Sinclair was a singular man, so a little death was never going to stop him getting his revenge. He simply needs his niece’s help with a number of living world matters, so the Jos Peter Combo is quickly formed. This unusual relationship develops in weird and wonderful ways, and with often comic results. But please beware; Conspiracy of Cats features a vile villain indeed. Bad things happen. But Harris hopes her readers will agree that, when the ravenous jaws of a very satisfying ending finally choke the life from this tale, that it was all worth it.
Harris is very grateful to Author’s Lounge for giving her this opportunity to shout about herself as well as her books. Conspiracy of Cats is available now from the usual outlets. Readers can also indulge in this gem of an adventure in ebook format, as well as through Kindle Unlimited.
Her second novel, Making Sacrifices, is due for publication very soon. A somewhat darker tale, set between Edinburgh, in Scotland, and a little village called Simonsbath, high up on Exmoor in the south west of England. To the world she is Vida. To Isaac Saddler she epitomises only fear, willed into existence through art and writing. Transformed from victim to warrior, she became Queen of the Vidian Empire.
But Vida doesn’t just exist between the pages of a book. High on Exmoor archaeologists think they’ve found ancient remains, but the body proves to be evidence of a modern murder. A facial reconstruction goes viral. Now Isaac must find out why the woman of his nightmares ended up in a bog pool close to his childhood home. A lifetime of secrets that threaten to undermine his entire existence.
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By Beverley C Harris, May 22nd 2023