Book of the Month: The Painted Cat by Austen Crowder

May’s Book of the Month, The Painted Cat, is by member Austen Crowder (author of Bait and Switch).

painted cat cover“Janet lives in two worlds.

In one world, she is Miss Perch, teacher at a small school deep in the corn grids, helping kids who are turning into cartoon find their way out of town.

In the other, she is Bunny Cat, and paints herself up to be the very same type of cartoon cat her small town has grown to hate.

The wall separating those two worlds is starting to break down. Between rekindling a relationship with an old college flame and discovering how much she loves being Bunny Cat her two worlds are starting to merge. Keeping up the appearances of two separate lives is bad enough, but when kids start getting sent away for turning toon she knows she can’t stand on the sideline any longer.

Two things are for sure: the two worlds won’t stay distinct for much longer, and Janet won’t come out unscathed.”

Parental rating PG.  Available from FurPlanet.

Member Spotlight: Austen Crowder

1. Tell us about your most recent project (written or published). What inspired it?

​My most recent finished work is The Painted Cat, and it’s a novel about a teacher in a backwater town who falls in love with a cartoon cat and the city in which she lives. (Trust me, it makes sense in context!) I was inspired to write it after moving to Chicago from small-town Indiana. The impact that move had​ on my happiness and my social life was huge and I wanted to explore the differences between those environments.

​It should come out later this year.​

2. What’s your writing process like? Are you a “pantser,” an outliner, or something in between?

Writing an outline is the kiss of death for any one of my drafts. I come up with a fun concept and plan out some sort of “final scene” to work toward. Then I might put down some one-sentence ideas for the next scene, or things I want characters to say at some point, but those usually get wiped off the notes page. As long as I’m building dramatic tension and working toward my endpoint, writing is seat-of-the-pants all the way.

Besides, why would I write a story if I already know how it ends? There’s no motivation for me there.​

3. What’s your favorite kind of story to write?

Character pieces that take the extraordinary and make it ordinary fascinate me.​
​My stories usually revolve around a group of people with similar but conflicting views of the world learning that their enemies are also human. Lots of small disagreements drive the tension in my stories.

​In other words: “The world is crazy, but how are John and Jane Doe coping with it? Let’s be a fly on their wall.”​

4. Which character from your work do you most identify with, and why?

Oh my, that’s a tough one! My philosophy in writing is that good, honest prose comes from being true to yourself and your experiences. As such, most of my characters have a piece of my personality at their core. Of those pieces I most identify with the ones that point out that we can’t waste our lives worrying about what other people think. Cassia in Bait and Switch was a good example of this.​

5. Which authors or books have most influenced your work?

I grew up a voracious reader of Mercedes Lackey books, which helped me identify the way a novel is constructed. (Most of her stories have the same bones which made identifying patterns a lot easier.) Bradbury taught me the power of prose that had been elevated to poetic heights. Philip K. Dick taught me the power of surrealism and the unreliable narrator.​

6. What’s the last book you read that you really loved?

I finally got down to reading ​Cory Doctrow’s Pirate Cinema ​recently and it’s a fantastic book. Fun characters, a slightly unbelievable premise, and a healthy dose of critique of copyright law come together to create a great narrative.

7. Besides writing, how do you like to spend your free time?

My Day Job, mostly. Girl’s gotta eat!

Beyond that, I play video games, board games, RPGs, and hang out with friends in the area. I’m also planning my wedding with my fiancé, and if I didn’t mention that somewhere in the interview I’m pretty sure she’d throttle me.​

8. Advice for other writers?

Keep writing! You might not be at the level you want to be in the here and now, but the only thing that fixes it is practice.​ ​I wrote enough bad transformation stories, cruddy Sonic fanfics, and shared universe furry stories​ to fill a closet full of shame and regret. Still, those stories made me better.

Also, don’t be afraid to stretch your legs. I did a stint as a political columnist for two years and learned a lot about my writing. Write stuff you’re not comfortable writing. Fail. Look at why you failed. Learn to not fail next time.

9. Where can readers find your work?

You can find my work on Amazon, but beyond that I’m trying to figure out what to do with my stories. For now I have a small collection of pieces at

10. What’s your favorite thing about the furry fandom?

Furry is a no-judgment zone where people can find their identity. Once you’ve found your place, you can even stay for the great friends you’ve made!

I wrote about my experience with furry in this article for {adjective] [species] that explains the identity-finding bit further.