Purr Like an Egyptian by Rachael Dickzen
Mia James really needs a job over Spring Break, and Cleopatra’s palace seems like a great solution. It’s full of pampered kitties and seems like the perfect mix of work and play to the college student.
Sure the owner is a little strange… but women with tons of cats often act a little like their pets…right?
Rachael Dickzen Purr Like an Egyptian GOGV2
Rachael Dickzen Purr Like an Egyptian GOGV2
Interview With Rachael Dickzen
- What was your inspiration for this story or favorite part about writing it?
I actually was specifically inspired by this prompt to write my first short story! I thought it was so brilliant and just wanted to be a part of it. As a major cat lover, I quickly decided to write about Bastet, the Egyptian cat goddess and thought that naturally, she should open a cat cafe. I placed it in Memphis, Tennessee, as an homage to Memphis, Egypt. And of course, since cats are fiercely independent Slytherins who do exactly what they want, they would definitely come to Memphis to be near Bastet and refuse to leave when she asked them.
The cat cafe layout itself is based on an actual cafe- Patriot Pawsabilities in Fairfax, Virginia. I wrote a large part of the story there, for inspiration!
2. How much research did you do and what type? Include the most interesting or most unusual.
I did most of my research on Bastet and the Gods that surrounded her. When i found out that she was known as a wrathful, protector of the innocent goddess, I knew I had to include that aspect in my story, which is how the climactic scene came about.
I also researched Egyptian names to come up with specific references with an extra layer of meaning for anyone who bothered to look into it. In the story, Bastet’s human form goes by Nenet Elmasry. Nenet means “divine, spiritual,” and “Elmasry” literally means “The Egyptian.” Her husband, Sef, is the human form of Ptah, the god of craftsmen. His physical description matches Ptah’s – hairless and wearing a skull cap. “Sef” literally means “yesterday.” In addition, parts of the story were inspired by Daphne DuMaurier’s “The Birds.”
I also did some crowdsourcing type research among my friends to get descriptions of their cats. I knew I would have a LOT of cats in my story and I wanted to make sure I distinguished them as individuals, so putting in cameos seemed the best way to do it. My own two cats and long-term house cat made cameos as well. The “lanky ginger boy” hiding in a closet is my sweet scaredy-cat Schrodinger, the cat looking at Nenet questioningly with a cocked head is my Ziggy Stardust (who has a permanent head tilt, nothing’s wrong with him, it’s just his face), and the black cat with a white blaze on his nether regions like a bikini is my guest cat Martok.
3. What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
I actually read S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders in first/second grade, which inspired me to form a “gang” with my friends on the playground and write a journal entry about it in class. A teaching assistant was very concerned about my use of the word “gang” (she kept asking if I meant “game” and I kept saying no); my parents might have received a phone call about that later, hah.
4. What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
I’m actually kind of obsessed with the original Phantom of the Opera. It’s a story many people know but I don’t know many who’ve read the actual novel. It includes numerous interesting elements, scenes, and characters that aren’t present in later adaptations, and it’s really fascinating. Plus, it was published so long ago that it’s in the public domain; you can go read it here! https://www.gutenberg.org/files/175/175-h/175-h.htm
5. How many ‘in-progress’ works do you have?
The Vanguard: The Cats That Conquered Egypt is about the Battle of Pelusium, which took place in 525 BCE between the Ancient Egyptians and Persians. Legend has it that the Persians put cats (and other animals, although this part gets left out of a lot of retellings) on the battlefield before them in order to discourage the Egyptians from attacking; the Egyptians at that time held cats sacred and actually put to death anyone who killed a cat, even if it was by accident. It’s told from the point of view of two cats- one Persian, one Egyptian. I planned on this being a short story but it’s over 14,000 words now so it’s probably going to be a novella!
Most Horrible is my Hamlet prequel novel that starts off with King Hamlet waking up in Charon’s boat on his way to Purgatory with no idea how he got there. It also includes POV chapters from Gertrude, Yorick, and Claudius, and I’m working on adding in the Danish reformation throughout it all to give it more of a backstory and a setting.
So I’m alternating between those two currently and have at least 5 other planned pieces, including one that puts the story of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII in 1960s America. 🙂
6. What does success look like to you?
I would love to get a novel published that is written about in a large publication such as the New York Times. It would be wonderful to be able to quit my job and write full time, but that’s more of a pipe dream.
7. Do you have a favorite place to write or writing ritual?
I generally write at my kitchen table with a cat on my lap and another sitting on the window shelf above me. If I REALLY need to work, I go to my local Starbucks, where the baristas recognize me because of my ever-changing hair color.
8. What do you do when you are not writing?
I’m a trademark examining attorney at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. I also participate in community theater productions (usually Shakespeare) with my friends.
9. Any last words for our readers?
I hope y’all enjoy Grumpy Old Gods! I know I had a blast writing my story for it. 🙂
Rachael Dickzen is a former journalist and current trademark attorney who is currently writing and publishing the “AntiquiCats: Felines of History” series on Amazon. She is also revising her Hamlet prequel novel (set partially in purgatory and partly in Reformation-era Denmark). Her work has appeared in Gypsum Sound Tales’ Colp, Talking Soup, The Drabble, Offbeat Home and Life, Offbeat Bride, Burke Patch, and Loudoun Extra. She also wrote and directed “Most Horrible” in the Britches and Hose Theater Company’s New Works Festival. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and two (sometimes three) very loved and spoiled cats. You can learn more about her current projects at www.rachaeldickzen.com and at @RachaelDickzen on Twitter.