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Pet Spotlight: Kristen Lepionka

People who know me in real life keep asking when my private investigator character, Roxane Weary, is going to get a cat. This says way more about me than it does about Roxane–I’m the one with the Crazy Cat Lady bumper sticker–and the truth is, I doubt she could care for another living creature with any kind of regularity (especially since cats don’t drink whiskey). I’m also not sure that she likes cats. So while there’s no chance of Roxane sharing her apartment with a feline roommate any time soon, all of my books have been written with a cat nearby.


I’ve had this gorgeous, crazy lady since 2004–she was a twentieth birthday present to myself. So we’ve been together for my entire adult life, through seven apartments, eleven jobs (!), and the writing of seven completed manuscripts and countless short stories and abandoned drafts. She is named for a specific variety of Snapple, the peach iced tea, which is by far the most delicious of their offerings. I can’t take credit for the name though–an ex-girlfriend came up with it. I had wanted to name her Thisbe. But in hindsight, said ex-girlfriend, who was right about very, very little during our fraught time together, was quite correct on the subject of Snapple’s name. It suits her. Snapple is a rescue kitty who chose me by literally sticking a paw out of a cage at the shelter and tapping me on the arm.


He crossed the rainbow bridge in 2016 at the age of eighteen, but this handsome gent was instrumental in my first novel, The Last Place You Look, because he kept my feet warm while I was writing it in my chilly office. Starfish originally belonged to my partner, Joanna (or perhaps she belonged to him), after he showed up on her doorstep and she put out some tuna, not realizing this was basically a blood oath to care for him forever. He was a wonderful, stubborn cat who was an expert at opening doors and occasionally escaping to the dirty basement of our apartment building. He almost murdered me one time by knocking a full glass of cold water onto my head while I was asleep but I’m pretty sure he meant it with love.


Continuing the apparent trend of cats with S-names, Spenser came into my life three years ago after Starfish resigned his spot as the resident male of the home. It was a dark time, and Joanna and I went to a shelter seeking kittens (I know, I know, older cats need homes, but listen–Fishes was eighteen and Snapple was then thirteen, so wanted a fluffy ball of ridiculousness who would stick around with us for the next decade-plus). We were told there were none in at the moment. But before we left, we happened to hear a shelter volunteer talking about a little black cat who gave good snuggles. We were very interested in snuggles! The little black cat was so black that was nearly invisible–we’d actually missed him completely on our first pass through the facility because he blended into the shadows–and he did give good snuggles. In the space of about three minutes, I realized he was meant to be ours. He was eight months old at the time, still technically a kitten. Now he’s four, and maybe not technically a kitten any longer, but he certainly still acts like one, like this morning when he crash-landed on my writing desk and proceeded to go back and forth from my keyboard to the window sill for about five minutes and deleted a paragraph of my fourth Roxane Weary novel (I guess he didn’t like it).

The Stories You Tell by Kristen Lepionka is available now.