Author Interview: Leyla Atke
The books shown on the left are by Leyla Atke. Click on the cover to order.
This interview was conducted by Douglas Cobb on February 21, 2013.
I have the honor today of interviewing the talented author and illustrator of Charm: An Amazing Story of a Little Black Cat, Leyla Atke. It is a heart-warming tale of love, loss, and the discovery that one can love again. Is it a steamy romance novel? No; it’s the story of how one little black cat can bring so much joy and happiness into a person’s life, and of how the death of a beloved pet can leave a cat-sized hole in one’s heart. It’s also a tale of how God and the miracles He creates can sometimes help to fill the holes in one’s heart, created by the loss of a pet, though, of course, the feeling of loss never goes totally away. Leyla Atke’s book poetically relates these universal feelings, and, what’s more, it’s based upon a real experience in her own life. What follows is the interview she graciously agreed to do with me. I hope you like reading it, and you will check out Leyla’s beautifully written and illustrated book for yourselves.
Douglas Cobb: Leyla, it’s nice to get to know you, and to read about your experiences with rescuing the little black cat that you named Charm. Have you always felt a love of animals in general, and of cats in particular? What was the name of the other cat you mention in the book that you owned?
Leyla Atke: Thank you for this great opportunity, Mr. Cobb. Yes, I always felt a love of animals and cats in particular, big and small ones. I had so many cats in my life that I canï¿½t remember the names of all of them. I usually found them on the street and took the animals home. I remember once I had 7 cats. I usually took the cats from the street, bathed them, administered medical treatment and then found owners for them. Doing so, I saved and arranged in good hands dozens of homeless kittens. The name of the other cat I mention in my book was Masya.
Douglas Cobb: How long after you owned Charm and the events depicted in your book came to pass was it until you decided to write the book?
Leyla Atke: It happened approximately 6 months after I found a new black kitten identical to Charm. I had a two-week holiday. My mind was free from the day-to-day routine and this gave me an opportunity to write my book in just a couple of weeks. I also did that driven by a huge inspiration.
Douglas Cobb: I have read that you’re an Orthodox Christian, and that you feel what happened to you in finding Charm and at other points in the story you believe were miracles. Would you please let our readers know why you think one of more miracles were involved in what happened to you and Charm?
Leyla Atke: Well, first of all I have to mention that it is my own opinion. The readers should draw their own opinions after reading the book.
The circumstances in which I found a little black kitten were really unusual. When I first saw him at the middle of the busy road, I thought he had no chance to survive but I could get and safe him. I wondered how he got to the middle of the intersection without being crushed at the roadside. It seemed like he fell from the sky or someone might have thrown him there just to see what would happen. He simply could not have gotten there by himself. I quickly realized that it could be only me who could safe him. I appeared there at a very right moment. I do believe it was God who sent me to this place to safe him.
Charm possessed a very strong aura. We were connected so much, that I could feel his presence nearby even without seeing him. I have a very sensitive aura. I saw Charm in an amazing dream after his death. This dream was so realistic that it was difficult to distinguish from reality. At that moment there was no distinction between reality and the dream for me. I think it was a prophetic dream. Moreover, I felt his presence when I woke up. I cannot mix his aura with anything else. I am sure that his spirit visited me after his death.
I also consider as miraculous a fact that a new black kitten identical to Charm appeared near Charmï¿½s grave exactly one year after his death. I had a strong feeling that God gave me back my Charm. I was extremely happy for that.
Douglas Cobb: Why did you decide to illustrate the book yourself? I really like your artwork; I just wondered why you made that decision. Was it for mostly economic reasons?
Leyla Atke: Iï¿½ve made the illustrations myself in order to reflect in the best way my experience and vision of the story. I could use the services of a professional painter but I preferred to do that myself.
Douglas R. Cobb: Upon first glancing at Charm: An Amazing Story of a Little Black Cat, I initially thought it might be for kids. That’s because it’s relatively short, and you chose to make the illustrations appear as if they could have been done by a young girl. However, your first-person narrator is really a young adult, who chances upon a black kitten. What was your reasoning behind this look for your book, and the illustrations you crafted so brilliantly to go with the writing?
Leyla Atke: Yes, Mr. Cobb, as you rightly noted in your review, my book is more suitable for teens and adults. The illustrations to this book were made by a little girl who lives inside me. It happened completely naturally. This story aroused in me a lot of emotions and feelings. As a result, there was a little girl with her deep feelings who threw them down on paper as they were.
Douglas Cobb: Are the aunt and the brother in the book based on your own aunt and brother? Do you come from a large, small, or medium-sized family? Do you have other brothers/sisters?
Leyla Atke: Yes, it is a true story. I do have a brother and sister.
Douglas Cobb: One aspect I liked about your writing is that you honestly wrote about the condition of Charm’s body when…well, I won’t go into the details, but you do paint a graphic picture with your description. However, that depiction, and the mention of the one word “castration,” are what might make this book better suited for teens and adults rather than for younger kids. Was your desire to present the story as it happened in your own life behind the reason you included the details I just mentioned?
Leyla Atke: Yes, you are completely right. On the other hand I think that things described by me in the book are absolutely natural. The miraculous element of the book and the happy end may also be extremely interesting for younger kids. In general, itï¿½s a great story also for young kids. Young kids are very curious by their nature. They strive to know the world. Parents can buy the book for them if they think that they are ready to learn these new things. They can also choose to read them the book selectively themselves without mentioning these things.
Douglas Cobb: Have you ever owned any pets other than cats? If so, do you think that of all the pets you’ve owned, cats are your favorite kinds of pets?
Leyla Atke: As long as I remember myself I had cats all my life. I sheltered many homeless kittens from the street. And every saved kitten was an entire story. Yes, I do love cats. I admire these royal creatures because they are so beautiful, clever and tender. I also admire their independence, confidence and craft. By the way, in ancient Egypt cats were sacred animals.
Douglas Cobb: I won’t go into what happens in the story that helps you to renew your faith, Leyla, but something does help you achieve this in your life. Would you say that often, when one door closes, another one will open?
Leyla Atke: Definitely. When something ends, something begins. The end of one thing is the beginning of a new one. It is the law of nature and important philosophical concept.
Douglas Cobb: You have only one more question to go, Leyla! I really am impressed with your eloquence and how well you answered the previous questions. Would you please tell our readers if you are currently working on another book or project? If you are, is it also about animals, and do you have a working title for it yet?
Leyla Atke: Thatï¿½s a very good question, Mr. Cobb! Many people ask me the same. Yes, I am thinking of writing a new romantic and adventure novel. The fact is I read a lot of adventure novels when I was a child. I do really like this genre. Probably, the story will take place in Africa. I am waiting for an inspiration!
Douglas Cobb: Thanks once again, Leyla, for your agreeing to do this interview with me! I was charmed by both your answers to my questions, and by your book, Charm: An Amazing Story of a Little Cat. I, and the staff and readers of this site, wish you much success with this book and any others that you might write in the future. I am looking forward to reading/reviewing your novels and seeing how you keep on progressing as an author.