As a self confessed cat lady, I just feel in love with how mischievous Matisse captures your imagination as he get caught up in lots of curious adventures, meeting lots of other characters along the way. I especially love “Matisse and his Tickly Tales” because the funny little poems remind of my own mischievous cat Arbo and his cat adventures.
I wanted to get to know more about Matisse the Cat and the humans behind his creation so I caught up with Amanda recently and found out more...
Who are the humans behind the brand?
Matisse the Cat - A normal Bengal pussycat but when his boy Hugh isn't about goes on adventures when he gets a tickle in his whiskers.
Amanda Walsh - Matisse’s ghost writer, she writes about his curious adventures.
Barry Walsh - The Tickly Whiskers Man – he introduces Matisse to the world!
How did Tickly Whiskers (Matisse the cat) begin life?
The ‘real’ Matisse was born on the 22nd July 2010 in Boughton Gifford, Wiltshire. Barry and I adopted her on the 30th August 2010. Yes, the ‘real’ Matisse is a she but she wants to be a ‘he’ in the curious adventures (because little boys don’t like reading about little girls, even if they are cats!).
I always wanted to write about exciting adventures. As a little girl my favourite stories of all time were Alice in Wonderland and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. When I was recovering from an operation in December 2010, and while Matisse kept me company on the bed, together we began to create ‘The Curious Adventures of Matisse the Cat’.
My customers and I love Matisse and reading about his adventures - where do you get the inspiration to create lovely stories and beautiful illustrations?
I find it easy to visualise adventures in my mind, probably because I’ve never grown up! I imagine that I’m Matisse walking around the house and garden and consider what could tickle my whiskers and where it could take me to. When I identify the link I always think of a situation where Matisse could be caring, compassionate and lend a helping hand. It’s important to me that the stories are fun, optimistic and have a very happy ending. I also want to encourage children to really love and value animals. It makes me smile to think of a Matisse the Cat reader sitting in a classroom wondering if his or her special friend is off on an exciting adventure just like Matisse.
Anne Zimanski (Matisse’s make-up artist) and I are wonderful friends. She lives in Michigan in America. I write the stories and then Anne draws and paints each character, background and scene as individual mini watercolours. She sends them to me and I create the pages in the book just as I imagined them as I was visualising the story (it’s just like creating a cartoon).
I send the finished pages to Nigel our page setter and he gets the book ready for printing. When everything is perfect, I send the book to the printers and 6 weeks later they arrive ready to be dispatched to Inside Out in Cheltenham.
What is your favourite Matisse Story?
Every time I write a new book it’s my favourite. I can’t pick one favourite because I love them all.
Sneezy Scarecrow was my very first book, so that will always be special. It’s also got a very personal supernatural experience for me. I had a black cat called Palio for 18 years (he was the love of my life!) When we printed the book for the first time, I was really shocked. If you look at the page 3, where Matisse has just popped into the garden, it looks like there’s a black cat looking out of the cat flap. It’s as though Palio wanted to be in the book too. The illustration was a hand painted watercolour and this was not on the original.
The Runaway Tuk Tuk is all about not taking each other for granted. It’s probably my most heartfelt book. It’s a little emotional ride but I wanted to write a book for children who sometimes feel that they’re not wanted when really they are.
Grumpy the Ghost is not really a ghost story, Grumpy is really like a little boy who doesn’t want to do things but when he does he really enjoys himself. I love it when he finds his new home (the coat of arms above the fireplace is the Walsh coat of arms, so that makes it special).
Tickly Tales is very special to me. This is not really a children’s book (although I’m delighted when children do enjoy it!) this book is for cat lovers of all ages. I’ve had cats all of my life and this collection of little mini stories in verse is based on all of the experiences I’ve had with my four legged friends. We went to the Supreme Cat Show at the N.E.C. three years ago and Tickly Tales sold out within 3 hours, it made my year!
The Little Lost Donkey, well I had to write a story with a donkey in it, because I love them, who doesn’t? This book was a real pleasure to write. It made me smile throughout the whole creative process. Barry and I have had many great holidays in North Wales and the light house is South Stack, the pier is Llandudno pier and life boat station is the old life boat station in Moelfre. They push bike beside the caravan is based on the bike Barry had when he was a boy (it also appears in Grumpy Ghost). I always try and put a little mini character into each book and Colin the Crab is great in this one. I love him sitting on his deckchair underneath his sun shade.
Santa’s Magic Snow Globe, well what can I say, this was great fun. The story is about Santa’s audition, the little frightened penguin and my favourite mini character ‘Jack Frost’. I am a real Christmas person and when Anne and I were developing this book every day felt like Christmas day. Every time Anne sent me an illustration for this book was like getting a present. It could be my favourite but now you can see that choosing a favourite is not possible. I really enjoyed putting the little extras into this book with Anne. Watch out for the Snowman – he melts with fear the closer he gets to his audition. Jack Frost is having his own mini adventure and that present beside Matisse on Christmas morning look familiar (not to mention the snowman in the garden!).
What can I say... each book is my favourite!
What has your biggest business achievement so far?
Loving what I do. It’s great when you’re work is a real labour of love.
What makes you happy?
Getting messages from readers when they’ve really enjoyed Matisse’s adventures.
What does a typical day at Tickly Whiskers HQ look like?
Are there any exciting new projects/Stories on the horizon for Tickly Whiskers?
Ohh yes! The next curious adventure... Matisse and the Secret Pawsport coming out in spring 2016. Hopefully, the new Matisse the Cat plush toy and a Magic Snow Globe!
We love being a Matisse the Cat stockist and already excited about the latest curious adventure in the Spring, in the meantime check out the current range on our website and in store and make sure you follow Matisse’s adventures on Twitter.
Until next time,