Maryann Macdonald is the author of "The Christmas Cat," which arrives just in time for the holidays. The story tells the tale of a cat believed to have been present at the birth of Jesus the Christ, and Macdonald spoke with The Christian Post to explain why she wanted to tell this particular story and what she hopes readers will take away from it.
Christian Post: How did you come upon this story? What inspired you to write this tale?
Maryann Macdonald: Leonardo da Vinci's "La Madonna del Gatto," which depicts Mary, Jesus, and a small cat. When I wrote the story, I was hoping that the editor would be able to find an illustrator who had a freehand like da Vinci, and the editor managed to find this woman (Amy June Bates) who had that. My daughter said, 'In certain places, the animals almost have a Disney-esque quality to them.'
Originally, I had just written the story about the cat purring baby Jesus to sleep and ended it there, but my editor wanted me to show the cat and the relationship with Jesus later on. Of course, we don't know a lot about Jesus' earliest days, except for the dramatic escape from King Herod. My sister told me a humorous story around the same time about how her cat had managed to sneak away with her on a trip. It was kind of natural for me to carry it through in that way, and I'm thrilled that Amy June Bates was able to capture da Vinci's image in her own way for the last page.
One thing I learned was that cats were not featured in religious art before the Renaissance because they were thought to be demonic. It wasn't until after the plague that they were thought to be helpful and were included in religious art.
The book was chosen for the Barnes & Noble Christmas table nationwide; I went into the bookstore and noticed how vivid the art is on the majority of the books and this is a quieter style. I think, maybe just for that reason, it will stand out. The other thing I noticed is that there were only two to three books that had something to do with Jesus. It's a narrow window there.
CP: What do you want readers to take away from the story?
MM: My favorite line in the book is near the end, when it says that "love saved them." I noticed that's part of a theme in my work, and I think it's the most important sentence in the book. I think that the love I had for the da Vinci work is what caused me to draw the story; I think the enthusiasm we have for our work is what loves it into existence. This past weekend I went to an author event and was talking about another book, "Odette's Secrets," which came out last month … I was just taken by this child's life and story. Others told me that I radiated enthusiasm, which is a Greek word that means "God within us." I think it's a real benefit that will help anyone who wants to tell a story.
CP: Does the cat hold significant meaning for you? Is it symbolic in some way?
MM: Only in as much as children love pets and pets love children. They have a special relationship; they're non-judging. If our own children needed comforting, it was always the pets they went to because that's where they received constant love. Pets make us laugh, too, and distract us from our troubles, so yes, the cat is a symbol of unconditional love and acceptance.
"The Christmas Cat" is available from retailers and online now. To learn more about Maryann MacDonald and her projects, visit www.maryannmacdonald.com.