As many of you know I tutor writing students and one of my first was Jaylen Grace. The story she was working on was about a cat named Omzak. I’m a cat owner so straight away I knew she’d captured the feline personality perfectly and I think that’s what makes the story work so well. Last week I stumbled upon the book’s Web site and was excited to see the story is now a book. So here’s my interview with Jaylen. And check out Omzak’s Web site at
How would you describe yourself? How long have you been writing?
I’d describe myself as a Bohemian. I enjoy travelling and feel at home anywhere. Someone once said that I could grow mushrooms in a desert, so if I run out of ideas, I might give that a try.
I’ve been writing since I could write. My first stories were about my imaginary adventures with my (then) cat, Pirate. He seemed to really enjoy listening to them and I swear he used to smile.
How did Omzak come to me and where did I get his name?
Omzak The Space Cat Warrior, came to me in a dream. (I saw him as a representation of someone who’s had fame, position and respect and loses it all because of arrogance and pride).
Omzak is banished from Planet Catopia and is sent to Earth to live amongst ordinary cats. This is to teach him the meaning of humility – but he has a tough job coming to terms with it. I woke from the dream laughing my head off so felt compelled to write his story.
The ‘OM’ in Omzak, signifies an awakening to consciousness. I felt ‘ZAK’ gave the name a strong warrior feel.
Will there be more Omzak books? What else is in the pipeline?
At this point, I’m not considering writing more Omzak books. The reason is that Omzak isn’t just a humorous children’s book. There’s a personal development element to it (which is why adults have also embraced it). Since the characters in the book have addressed their faults, poor conditioning and insecurities by the end of it, I’d rather leave it as a ‘stand alone’ story.
This year I was shortlisted for Greenhouse Funny Writer 2012 award. It was for a book I’d literally just finished writing, called Porridge The Two Faced Parrot. The agent at Greenhouse liked it so much that she felt it could be turned into a series. We’ll see what happens when I send her the re-write.
Apart from writing for children, I’ve written a number of personal development and spiritual books. So far these have only been available to my students around the world. From next year, they’ll be available on Amazon to anyone who might like to buy one.
You were once a personal assistant to the Rolling Stones. Do you stay in touch with them? Did you send them a copy of Omzak?
I very occasionally run into Mick (Jagger) but I can’t say I’ve stayed in touch with the Stones. I worked for them for three years which was 35 years ago. Keith was my favourite but I’m sure if I bumped into him he’d say ‘Who did you say you are?’ I haven’t sent them a copy of Omzak yet because the book has only been in UK book shops (and Amazon) for about a week. I have it in mind for the future though.
You skydive and learn something new every year. Do I use these in my stories?
I’ve used elements of my hobbies in stories/books I’ve written but funnily enough, they’ve all come to life through Omzak’s facebook page. His page depicts his life on Earth as he goes about training ordinary cats to become warriors. As I’ve pushed myself to the limits in my life, Omzak follows suit and pushes his would be warriors to the limits!
And how about writing tips?
Take out of your mind that your first book will be a runaway success and simply pour your passion into what you write. If you truly believe in a story, don’t give up on it.
Sometimes the positive difference we’re looking for could be in changing the voice from the 3rd to 1st person. Maybe we’re being TOO descriptively. Maybe the characters aren’t talking enough. Don’t be put off by criticism and rejection. Just keep telling yourself that every ‘No’ is taking you closer to a ‘Yes.’ Don’t beat yourself up on days when you feel your writing sucks. Smile as you rip up yet another chapter and trust that the flow will come back. Oh, and to end this interview, I’d like to say what a great source of guidance and inspiration you were when I was writing the early manuscripts of Omzak. I can never thank you enough for your belief in him.