In Conversation with Author & Researcher Majella Mark
Back in June 2018, I met Majella Mark at Pink Pangea’s annual Writing & Touring Retreat in Venice, Italy. We immediately hit it off and I fell in love with her words. Last week, I was thrilled to learn that she wrote a new book Cats Are Trash Human Beings, What I Learned About Feminism Through My Cats.
I scheduled an interview with Majella to find out all about the book — how she came up with the idea, where she found an illustrator, how she found the courage to go through with it, her advice to writers who are dreaming about writing a book and much more. And yes. We were in our pajamas, on Facetime.
Before we start, here’s a fun photo from our Venice Retreat:
We absolutely love the idea of your book, Cats Are Trash Human Beings, What I Learned About Feminism Through My Cats. What inspired you to create this book?
2020 was a difficult year for many of us for many reasons, but what came up a lot (besides Covid-19) was the exposure to the injustice many marginalized groups experience regularly which was magnified due to the fewer distractions we all had. I knew I wanted to write a book about the injustices dismissed in the women’s rights movement, but knew that the seriousness of the subject would detest people and cause friction.
Then the concept of over dramatic cats came to me as the solution. Using the analogy of cats in a fun way helped soften the intensity of the subject matter. We need more tools to help us better understand concepts of human rights, but we also need a break from the detrimental mood.
How did you go about getting started with the book?
I was in quarantine for a long time with my two cats Gin Whisky and Bourbon and began to record their behavior for fun. I sat with my sister one night and she thought it would be funny if I wrote a coffee table book about the cats. I already thought of this notion of my cats being trash human beings as a joke I share with my sister regularly, but thought it would make a fun title for a book as well. In fact, I wanted to write a book of significance that still brings joy to people, so I thought of writing an adult picture pop up book on feminism and human rights called “Cats Are Trash Human Beings”.
I had a general idea of what I wanted to write and had time between Christmas and New Years. So I buckled down for a week in Connecticut while spending the holidays with my family to knock out the book that will become the reading great for everyone including people allergic to cats and feminists.
The illustrations are stunning! How did you find the right person to collaborate with?
My friend Kevena is a graphic artist who was hitting a creative rut while also on a self reflective journey. As I began the process of writing the book I was looking at different illustrators, but then I realised that having Kevena illustrate the book will not only give her ownership and empowerment but people will also get to see her talents.
She has this feminine softness to her work that was the perfect visual for the project. I can’t imagine anyone else illustrating my book. It was meant to be. We all need that challenge that’s going to boost our confidence and remind us how awesome we really are.
What do you hope readers will take from the book?
The book is meant to encourage people to engage in conversation about heavy subjects such as sexual assault, racism body dysphoria, among other issues. Topics many avoid due to discomfort, denial or simply the inability to comprehend. We are at a point in humanity’s maturity where we have to face the issues that have been pushed to the side for too long. Specifically when it comes to feminism, there is a lot to forgive, appreciate and acknowledge. It’s time to have deep discussions, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy a bit of silliness to help ease into the tough talks.
Did you have any fears when you started to put the book out to the world? How did you overcome them?
I was very concerned that people will laugh at the idea, think it was immature and see me as a joke. I realized that taking no risk at all was worse than failing to try. So what if no one reads the book. I did that shit, I took a chance and I created something I’m proud of. I am writing the book because I have something to say and would be satisfied if one person listened.
Do you have any advice for Pink Pangea writers who are thinking about writing a book?
For any Pink Pangea alumnae who desire to write a book I say leap and the net will appear. If you keep waiting, you will miss the adventure of creating something that is all your own. You can take the route of a literary agent, send book proposals directly to publishers or self publish. No matter what route you aim for just go for it. You have something to say and there is someone in the world who wants to listen.