Interview with Jim Kraus, author of ‘The Cat That God Sent’
Jim Kraus is a longtime writer and editor who has authored or co-authored more than 20 books, both fiction and nonfiction. His best-selling humor book, Bloopers, Blunders, Jokes, Quips, and Quotes, was published by Tyndale House Publishers, sold more than 40,000 copies and inspired several spin-off books. Jim, and his wife, novelist Terri Kraus, and one son, live in the Chicago area.
Also residing with them is a sweet and gentle miniature schnauzer named Rufus. Coincidently, Rufus is also the name of the dog in Jim’s recent book, The Dog That Talked to God. “What a coincidence,” Jim said. “What are the odds of that happening?” They also share space with an ill-tempered Siberian cat named Petey. Coincidently, Petey is the name of the cat in Jim’s most current book, The Cat That God Sent, by Abingdon Press.
Jim recently was awarded a Master of Writing Arts degree from DePaul University. “Now, I am able to write more better,” Jim said. (Yes, that is supposed to be humorous.)
Passionate about writing, Jim loves to create true-to-life characters. “I tend to be the one at the party that is on the edge of things–observing how folks act and react. Plus, I’m not that crazy about people in general–so it works out fine.” (Again, it’s supposed to be funny.)
Visit his website at www.jimkraus.com.
Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Jim! Can you tell us where you are from?
I was born and grew up in Western Pennsylvania—first in Butler, then Jeannette. I’ve lived in the Chicago area for 35 years.
Q: How did you come up with your title?
We also have a cat, Petey, a Siberian, who has deemed us as suitable hosts. Once he saw that dog book, there was no way to keep him appeased.
I wrote a book called The Dog that Talked to God published by Abingdon Press. Much to my surprise, it did pretty well and hit the Christian Booksellers Association’s bestseller list. It is also a finalist for the Evangelical Christian Publishers Book of the Year Award/Fiction. Rufus, the dog in the story, a miniature schnauzer, was modeled after our dog, also a miniature schnauzer, also called Rufus. (I mean—what are the odds of that happening?)
So The Cat that God Sent was born out of that. It seemed logical to follow a dog book with a cat book.
Q: They say you can judge a book by its cover. Can you tell us a little about your cover and who designed it?
I’m not sure of the designer—but the folks at Abingdon did a wonderful job with it. The cat that they found for the cover was a perfect fit, and seemed to possess all the characteristics that the cat in the book possessed. They both have an innate sense of grace, of awareness, and inscrutability.
Q: Can you tell us something about your book that would make me run out and buy it?
The story features a cat that thinks it is smarter than everyone else in the story . . . oh, wait . . . all cats think that. At least ours does.
Perhaps one compelling feature is the believability of the characters—and the winsomeness of the cat that interrupts their lives.
One of the big questions in the book is: Does God, or would he, use cats to reach people?
I think he could.
Q: Are there any messages in this book that you want the reader to know about?
I would want a reader to be open to a bigger universe of possibilities—not in the science fiction sort of way—but to be aware of the amazing intricacies of our world—the world that God created.
Q: What was your most favorite chapter to write and why?
Chapter? My book has chapters?
Actually, as I write, I never use chapter breaks. They come after the book is written—and most often my wife, Terri, also an accomplished author, inserts them.
I’ll make this question easy on myself and say Chapter One. Not only do I get to introduce two of the main characters, I get to set the pace and tone. It took a few tries to get Petey’s voice right.
Q: Why did you feel you had to write this book?
Uhhh . . . because I had signed a contract?
No, seriously, I truly love telling stories. My father was a great storyteller. I would listen, spellbound, to his tales of growing up in Homestead, PA, and his time in the “old country” (Romania).
His stories always had truth and wisdom and humor in them—and that is a large part of my motivation as well: make the story “true,” and make it memorable and illuminating. And have a few laughs along the way.
Q: Now, some fun questions – What deep dark secret would you like to share with us?
I have never really learned how to type. I’ve written a bunch of books and still can only manage to type with five fingers . . . sometimes six.
If I had a time machine, the one thing I would absolutely change is to go back to 11th grade and sign up for Mr. Singer’s Typing class. (New IBM Selectric typewriters!).
But then again . . . maybe I can type only as fast as I think.
Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Can I give you two places?
One would be New Zealand. My wife and I were fortunate to travel there a few years back, and fell in love with the place. It is truly magical. I’m waiting until the tectonic plates shift and it comes closer to America. No one should have to spend 20 hours on a plane to get to anywhere.
This would be a small town, with sidewalks and a small downtown area with three good restaurants on a small lake and I would be living in a small two-story Victorian cottage (with decent plumbing) on the lake and I would be able to walk to a coffee shop in the morning, get the newspaper, and read until mid-morning. I’m still looking for that place.
Q: Are you a morning person or a night person?
The alarm is set for 5:05 and has not actually rung in years. I am up by 5:04 to shut it off before the buzzer.
I like the quiet. I like the dark. And the noble dog Rufus has to go for an early walk.
Q: Are there any members in your family who also like to write?
I mentioned my father. After he retired from his career of running a small retail bakery, he sat down and wrote out, in pencil, a 200-page autobiography. I have the original copy—a treasured item.
And of course my wife Terri, as mentioned before. (Check out her website: www.terrikraus.com. Can I cross promote here?)
Q: As a child, were you a dreamer?
I don’t think so. Maybe I was. I was the last of five. Maybe that last position has bearing on who I became. I recall, early in my life, being facile with words and being able to describe things in a different way than others did. I am also on the shy side, so I spend a lot of time observing—standing at the edge of things. Observing human nature carefully helps in crafting real-life characters on paper.
Q: Last but not least, the magic genie has granted you one wish. What would that be?
Can I ask for three more wishes?
No, too clichéd, I know.
Seriously . . .
I would love to find that place described above—the little town on the lake (with a house I could afford) so Terri and I could spend the rest of our lives “discussing” which early bird special to take advantage of, and whether tonight’s sunset was more beautiful than last night’s sunset.
And I would have two schnauzers.
And a Ferrari.
Q: Thank you so much for this interview! Do you have any final words?
Here’s a few:
Ring the bells that still can ring,
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.