There is a saying – you don’t choose a cat, a cat chooses you. Karen McMillan was chosen by Blong who was a starving kitten in Vanuatu and is now a music and cuddle loving 16 year old ginger living in Auckland.
Blong (how wonderful is that name?!) is the inspiration for McMillan’s first ever picture book Blong the Cat’s Costume Caper. A spin off from Elastic Island adventures which is for older children, Blong the Cat’s Costume Caper is due to release in early December with the book already optioned to turn in to a TV series for children.
Grandparents NZ had an exclusive with McMillan to hear a bit more about Blong the Cat!
You adopted Blong the cat from Vanuatu, how did you find him and get him back to Auckland?
My husband and I had a week’s holiday in Vanuatu, and we rented a private property. Living in the garden was a tiny stray kitten, very malnourished, all skin and bones. He was the ugliest cat I’d ever seen, but he was incredibly affectionate and sweet. We made it our aim to feed him up over the week, but in that space of time he captured our hearts, so we decided to adopt him. It was complicated getting him over to New Zealand – lots of paperwork and time in quarantine. It cost more than our holiday! But we’ve now had Blong a long time. He was about 18 months old when we first met him, and he is now 16 years old. We named him Blong, a Ni-Vanuatu word, which means ‘belong’ or ‘of’. He’s the most wonderful pet, a very loved member of our family.
What is real-life Blong the cat’s personality like and how is he similar to fictional Blong the Cat?
The fictional Blong is very much based on the real-life Blong. Blong is a very sweet and affectionate cat. He’s a lap cat and he is very social. He’ll happily spend his days following us around and sitting on our laps. I often end up writing with him on my lap. Blong loves music and parties – even at large gatherings he will be there in the middle of it all, sitting on different people’s laps. Blong even likes fireworks and will sit on our deck watching the displays. I’ve frequently seen him moonwalking too, a little like a Michael Jackson dance, and usually when in a tight space, like trying to manoeuvre out of my wardrobe.
The fictional Blong has all these characteristics, but a few more. The fictional Blong not only moonwalks but he can dance any dance you can think of. The fictional Blong doesn’t cough up furballs like ordinary cats, but Blong-a-grams. These are formal certificates when he wants to make something formal.
You have written a variety of books for both adults and children, what made you decide to write about Blong the Cat?
Blong the Cat is one of the main characters in the Elastic Island Adventures series for children aged 8 to 12. We first meet him in the second book, Port Mugaloo. I decided to write Elastic Island Adventures because I wanted to do a fun family project with Milla, my husband’s granddaughter, who was then 10 years old. Our fun family project has turned into something much bigger than I would have imagined!
Blong the Cat’s Costume Caper is the first in a series of stand-alone, spinoff picture books that feature Blong at home with his human Emma and her twin brother Ethan. My publisher felt that Blong was such an appealing character that he deserved his own picture books – which has been enormous fun to see the first book published! The book is a tale of costumes, dancing and numbers, all wrapped up in a bow of kindness.
What is next for Blong the Cat?
There are more picture books in the pipeline which will feature Blong in various situations at home with Emma and Ethan, all age-appropriate for children 3+. But Blong will also appear in Elastic Island Adventures: Alphabet Resort, the fourth book in the main series, on their next tropical island adventure. This book is due out in April 2020 and it involves a wedding, which Blong is very excited about. And I’m about to start writing book five in the series, Kingdom of Blong, where we discover that Blong is this island’s long-lost king!
Can you tell us a bit more about the rights to turn Blong the Cat into a TV series for Children?
It’s early days, but Fuzzy Duckling Media has optioned the TV rights to the Blong the Cat books to be made into an animated TV series for young children. They are in discussion with a number of studios about this currently. If, or when, a TV series gets made, I can’t tell you, but it’s very exciting that there is interest in this idea from key studios. We shall see, but in the meantime, I’m just delighted that families will be able to enjoy this picture book Blong the Cat’s Costume Caper.
Check out the video of Blong the Cat below
Blong the Cat’s Costume Caper, available 2 December. Duckling Publishing