An Introduction to "The Nine Lives of Travis Keating"

“The Nine Lives of Travis Keating” – my first children’s book – is set in northern Newfoundland. My family lived there for three years. When I visited them, I went hiking and canoeing, traveled the bays and shoreline by boat, skidooed in winter, drove to hockey practices at the rink, and met their friends. So once I started thinking about the book, I knew right away I wanted Travis to live in that area – although none of the communities mentioned in the book actually exist, other than in my head.


Last month, I stayed for a few days in the community of Quirpon, and then in the lighthouse keeper’s house on Quirpon Island – the most northerly point in Newfoundland. It was a great trip. While I was there, I started making a few notes for my third children’s book – more about that later, as well as about the second book!


I took a lot of photos on this trip with my brand-new digital camera. I’m posting a few that relate to Travis’s adventures: pictures of old fish shacks like the ones in Gulley Cove, and of cliffs similar to those on the way to the cove. There’s one shot of the barrens, the kind of landscape around the community of Ratchet where Travis lives. The oddly shaped trees on the hillside, shaped by the sea winds, are called tuckamore. A dead tree, white like a skeleton, points the way to Gulley Cove; I’ve even included a photo of a knot because Abe, a character in the book, teaches Travis how to tie knots.


My imagination has always been fed by Newfoundland’s rugged, often dangerous, coastline and by the barrens, where you can see so much of the sky. I hope you get a sense of this landscape when you read “The Nine Lives of Travis Keating.”

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54 Responses to “An Introduction to "The Nine Lives of Travis Keating"”

  • heather davis:

    Hi Jill,
    I am so happy to see that your book is in print! Congratulations. We were in the same group at Humber. I’m glad it didn’t get critiqued to death.

    I’m now in my second year of my MFA in creative writing. I’m taking the distance program as I still live in Montreal. Last year was creative non-fiction, but this year I am back to children’s writing, working on a new novel. So, it was inspiring to come across an ad for your book in a pamphlet from my local bookstore.

    Congrats again!!!

  • Marshall Colaiacovo:

    Hi!!!!! I liked your book

  • jillmaclean:

    Glad you liked it, Marshall. I sure enjoyed visiting your class.

  • emily:

    hey thanks for coming to grade four on tuesday i enjoyed it.

  • Makenzie Donnelly:

    Thank u so much for coming to our class
    I really liked it!!!

  • Victoria:

    Thank you for coming to visit Mrs.Tenwolde`s class, it was great. Can`t wait to finish the book.

  • Lorri Neilsen Glenn:


    I just spent the morning with Travis Keating and could not put it down until I was finished. What a wonderful book. The writing is exquisite, the characters took up residence in my head (and are still there, and the story is so full of compassion and insight. Congratulations.

  • Ms MacLean, I stumbled on The Nine Lives of Travis Keating a couple of days ago. I was a couple of chapters in before I remembered that I was still at work, but it was difficult to put the book down. Congratulations on a job well done, and all the awards and nominations that come your way. Any official word on a sequel?

    • jillmaclean:

      hi Francesco,
      I’ve been behind in the blog and I’m mending my ways!
      Thanks for the wonderful review of Nine Lives – so glad you enjoyed it.
      The sequel, “The Present Tense of Prinny Murphy,” is now out, should be in most bookstores in the next week or so.
      With best wishes,
      Jill (MacLean)

  • Jill, I met you briefly yesterday at the Sunnyside Mall, while I was at a charity table for our feral cat rescue, “Healing Animal SCARS”. I am sorry we didn’t get a chance to talk more, but I went into the bookstore later and found the last coopy of “The Nine Lives of Travis Keating” so I bought it. I read it last night and was very impressed. I plan to send it on to a niece who will enjoy reading it! I would love to talk more about animal rescue, so please call me anytime at 469-MEOW.
    Thanks, Sonya Higgins, cat rescuer extraordinaire

  • Isabella:

    Hi Jill MacLean, I just wanted to know why you had Blackie eat a pink lump that look like a sausage. From, Isabella

    • jillmaclean:

      Hi Isabella,
      That was the afterbirth – once the kittens are born. Animals in the wild eat it so predators won’t be attracted. Not very pretty, I know!
      Best wishes,

  • Stephanie Wallace:

    Hi Jill,

    My grade 6 class just finished reading The Nine Lives of Travis Keating. They wrote you some letters but I cannot find a mailing address for you anywhere. Would you be able to send your address to me so I can send the letters to you?
    Thank you so much in advance.

    Stephanie Wallace
    Carleton Consolidated School
    Yarmouth, NS

    • jillmaclean:

      Hi Stephanie
      I received the letters – they’re wonderful!
      I plan to write a group letter answering some of the questions that several students asked; and send each student a signed postcard. I hope to do this in the next week!
      My thanks to you and to your class

  • Brianna:

    Hi my name is Brianna and i go to Sir William Gage middle school in brampton and i am in a reading club, silver birch.I have read your book The Nine Lives of Travis Keating. This is the best book that i have ever read i loved it. my dad is from newfoundland too. My dad knew some of the places in the book. I have a couple of questions for you, have you ever been to newfoundland and what inspired you to write a book like this? Please write back bye.

    • jillmaclean:

      Hi Brianna,
      I’m really glad you like “The Nine Lives of Travis Keating.” Yes, I’ve been to NL often, as my son and his family lived in different locations there for 18 years. I feel very lucky to have been able to visit them so many times – Grand Falls, Harbour Breton, Stephenville, St Anthony and Port aux Basques.
      My grandson asked me to write him a book – and once I saw a colony of feral cats under a wharf in an outport on the south coast of NL – so that’s where that idea came from.
      Best wishes,

  • MJ:

    Dear Jill,
    I’ve just read “Travis” and “Prinny”, and loved them both! My son Luke and Stuart are team mates, and the books were loaned to me by Dodie. I work in an elementary school library, and hadn’t been able to read either of our copies of “Travis” because they’re always on loan to the kids!!
    Whoever thought you could feel sympathy for a bully like Hud? I like how you give a glimpse of his backstory, enough to get your audience thinking about how he came to be the way he is – makes me want to know more!
    You have a talent for story telling – I’ll be watching for your next book!

    • jillmaclean:

      Dear MJ,
      Thanks so much for letting me know how much you’ve enjoyed the books. I go to a YA reading group, mostly made up of school librarians, so we probably have some friends in common.
      I’m editing the third book (not a sequel) right now, hope it may come out in the fall. And, of course, if it wasn’t for Stuart, it would never have occurred to me to write for kids.
      Best wishes,

  • Barbara O'Connor:

    Hello Jill: We met at John McNeil School last week while reading to the students. I purchased your book “The Nine Lives of Travis Keating” for my grand-son, Connor, who lives in Virginia. I will be visiting him at Easter. I am wondering if it would be possible for you to sign Connor’s copy before I leave on April 1? I know you must be very busy, but this would make this lovely book even more
    special. Barb O’Connor

  • Hayden Nolan:

    I need to know all the cats names for a book report. If anyone knows them, please reply/email me, ASAP!!! I have Felix, Blackie, Rocky, Ghost, Cloud, and small ginger. I cant remember the 7th one 😛

    • jillmaclean:

      I’m glad you found out it was Patches! I was away for a few days, so didn’t get to my blog.
      Good luck with the book report, Hayden.

  • Hayden Nolan:

    Never mind, i was flipping through the book and found it out(Patches).

  • Josie:

    Hi, could you please send me your mailing address as I have letters from my students for you. Thanks, Josie Norton

  • I really Enjoyed this book, “The nine lives of Travis Keating”. It was a very interesting novel, and had some exciting parts. It was definatley worth more then reading and I think there should be a seaquel to it, (still written by the same author). Including a young boy, cats and how life can get harder or even better, I just loved this book! Thank-you!
    Melanie Adams…

    • jillmaclean:

      Hi Melanie,
      I’m really glad you enjoyed Travis’s adventures.
      There is a sequel. It’s told from Prinny’s point of view, and is called “The Present Tense of Prinny Murphy.” It was published in 2009. While it’s telling Prinny’s story, Travis is a character, and so are the cats. Also some new characters.
      Thanks for getting in touch.

  • Josiahs:

    why does huds dad punch him in the face??

    • jillmaclean:

      Hi Josiahs,
      Hud’s dad is a nasty guy…and, I suspect, part of the reason why Hud is a bully.
      I hope to write a book next winter from Hector’s point of view, and I think that may have more in it about Hud and his dad.
      Thanks for getting in touch.

  • Kaleigh:

    Hi Jill,
    I was wondering if you could send me your e-mail address. I’m in a book club at school. We have to pick authors that we want to write to and ask some questions. I picked you. So that would be great if you could.

    • jillmaclean:

      hI Kayleigh,
      I sent a reply to your email address, so hope you get it. If not, submit your questions at the bottom of the About Page, and I’ll do my best to answer them.

  • anmol gupta:

    Dear Jill Mc Lean,

    Your book was awesome, it is one of the best books I read in my whole life time and I am already 11. But I wonder where this wonderful story came out of? Your head? Someone you know? Or maybe even your own life? When I first saw this book I didn’t think it was going to amaze me, but like people say never judge a book by its cover. I am proud that I listen to the saying. Well actually my best friend Andria found this book for me. She is also going to write you a letter. I wish I could meet you {really badly.}I need your autograph!!!

    Sincerely Anmol ☻

    P.S I didn’t really like cats before but from this book I have learned a lot about cats and think they are neat animals. Also I hope you remember me because I would surely remember you and your book. Another thing is that I think you should have a series of this book. Well I hope you get a chance to answer my questions. I know I ask too many questions, my parents also say I do. Also one last thing I am really going to vote for you! ♥♥♥

    • jillmaclean:

      Dear Anmol,
      Thanks so much for your email – and I’m glad you liked Nine Lives.
      Yes, the book came partly out of my own life (is there a book that doesn’t?). My grandson had to move to northern Newfoundland with his parents, and left behind a really good friend; and once, in a little outport in southern NL, I found a colony of feral cats under the wharf…I’m glad you learned more about cats from the book. I’ve had cats most of my life, and they were always strays who turned up on the doorstep.
      I’m wondering which cover the book that you read had…the first cover is mostly blue, with a sketch of a cat and bird on a pole…but when the publisher reissued the book a year later, they had a new cover with a photo of a ginger cat at the top, and a photo of a boy sitting on a rock gazing out to sea at the bottom. I liked the second one much better.
      There’s a sequel out called “The Present Tense of Prinny Murphy” which has the same characters…
      Best wishes,

  • shae:

    dear Jill
    My name is shae I go to fanning education centre. I loved your travis keating book because I love cats. Do you like cats? I voted for your book for hackmatack but I cant come up for the ceremony. It would be awesome if you came down to fanning education centre to visit the school. If you wont to email me back
    p.s you should have a series of books I cant wate to read the second one!!!!


    • jillmaclean:

      Dear Shae,
      Thanks so much for your email. I’m really glad you liked “Nine Lives.”
      Yes, I like cats. I’ve had cats most of my life, strays who would arrive at the front door, walk in, and say, “where’s the grub?” I’ve also volunteered at animal shelters.
      Maybe a visit could be arranged next year to your school.
      There is a sequel to “nine lives” called “The Present Tense of Prinny Murphy.” It was published in 2009; and two nights ago it won an award for the best kids’ book published in 2009 in the four Atlantic provinces. Yay! It continues the characters from “nine lives” but from Prinny’s point of view.
      Best wishes.

  • J. Borden:

    Hello Jill:

    Some of our Grade 6 students read “The Nine Lives of Travis Keating” for Hackmatack, and couldn’t wait to vote for it as their favourite. They’re really looking for to reading the Prinny sequel. We all want to wish you luck at the awards ceremony in St. John.

    • jillmaclean:

      Hi Janet,
      Thanks so much for your email. I’m glad the students enjoyed “Nine Lives.” And I hope they enjoy Prinny’s story. “The Present Tense of Prinny Murphy” won an award on Wednesday for the best kids’ book published in 2009 in the Atlantic provinces, so I was very happy about that!
      I’ve made enough visits to schools the last couple of years to reinforce my respect and admiration for teachers!
      Best wishes,

  • Madison Mills:

    Dear Ms.Maclean,
    Thank you for coming into Ms.Bishops grade 4 class. Everyone very much loves the book the Nine Lives of Travis Keating and hopes to read the Present Tense of Prinny Murphy.I enjoy the cats in the book and now hope to get one. Congratulations on the big award last night.
    Madison Mills
    A BSS student

    • jillmaclean:

      Dear Madison,
      Thanks very much for emailing me. I had a great time at your school!
      If you’re able to get a cat, keep the SPCA shelter in Burnside or the Bideawhile Shelter in mind. Lots of kitties there looking for homes…
      I was very happy that Prinny won the award!
      Best wishes,

  • Meghan H:

    Dear Jill MacLean,
    Ms. Bishop’s class really enjoyed the visit. We think you are a fabulus writer and are enjoying The Nine Lives of Travis Keating. I really want to read The Present Tence of Prinny Murphy. Great job. I think you deserved the award that you won last night. I hope you continue writing about your wonderful charactors and the cats in The Nine Lives of Travis Keating.
    A BSS student.

    • jillmaclean:

      Dear Meghan,
      I had a wonderful time at your school! You were such a good audience.
      And, of course, I was very happy that Prinny won the award. I have a real soft spot for her.
      I hope I can write about Hector over the winter; my third book, as I think I told you, is YA, and will be published in the fall.
      Best wishes,

  • kerry doucette:

    Hi Jill! i read your book (travis keating) to my class, they loved it! My librarian just showed me your next book, and i was wondering if you do any class visits? we are about 30 min from halifax…we are wanting to read your next book and were hoping to have you come in and discuss your writing process etc

    • jillmaclean:

      Hi Kerry,
      Thanks for the email, and I’m glad the class liked Nine Lives. I do school visits, yes, although I’m pretty busy from now until the end of May – off to NL for a week on Sunday for Hackmatack, to ON May 8 for Silver Birch, to NB the 13th for Hackmatack, then two more schools, and I’m in the middle of editing my third book. I need nine lives!
      If you want to send your email address, perhaps we could discuss it more when I’m back from NL?

  • rayanne:

    Dear Jill Maclean
    I loved your book nine lives of travis keating! It was the best book i’ve read in a long time. I hope there will be a second book!! I’m one of Shae’s friends and we both fell in love with your book.
    It was really good.

    • jillmaclean:

      Hi Janet,
      I’m glad you liked Nine Lives – I had fun writing it.
      There is a second book, published in 2009, called “The Present Tense of Prinny Murphy.” It tells Prinny’s story; Travis, Hector and Hud are in it, as well as some of the cats, and some new characters. I think you’d enjoy it.
      Best wishes,

  • Jena:

    dear jill
    who is your favourite creator in the story the nine lives of travis keating? I enjoyed it so much i voted for it for sliver birch. I pretty sure it’s going win almost everyone has voted for it. Hope your book wins for sliver birch.

    • jillmaclean:

      Hi Jena,
      I’m glad you like Nine Lives! I think my favourite cat is Felix, who has a mind of his own…followed by Blackie, who just wants a quiet life.
      I come to Ontario in early May for the Silver Birch ceremony.
      Best wishes and thanks for emailing me,

  • madison and abby:

    Dear Jill,
    Thank you for writing me back. I will be sure to tell Ms.Bishop that you did. We are searching the stores for the Presant Tense of Prinny Murphy.
    The class is almost finished The Nine Lives of Travis Keeting.
    Madison and Abby

    • jillmaclean:

      Hi Maddison and Abby,
      I’m sure Woozles downtown would have Prinny, or Chapters or Coles.
      I saw Ms Bishop Saturday at an art show in Lunenburg.
      Take care,

  • will:

    hi,I was just wondering if a 3rd book is going to come out,thanks a lot
    from william
    p.s. i didn’t even read the second yet but i liked the first one so much.

    • jillmaclean:

      Hi William,
      The second one is The Present Tense of Prinny Murphy.
      My third book, due out this fall, is called Home Truths. It’s not connected to the first two at all.
      But I hope, over the winter, to start the third one set in northern Newfoundland. I have the title, so that’s a start – The Hidden Agenda of Hector Baldwin.
      Thanks for getting in touch.

  • I saw this book at Chapters – bought it and honestly couldn’t put it down! I loved it from the first page. I loved the voice, the boy and how you totally captured that small fishing community feel. I do hope you have more books I can purchase. Nice to see a fellow NS writer at Chapters! This book should be in every elementary school library and today I plan to showcase it to my kid’s librarian – Ecole Rockingham School – might have to donate my copy but it would be worth it. Loved it!!! Said that already but had to repeat myself.

    • jillmaclean:

      Sorry, first of all, that it’s taken me this long to reply. I’ve been copy-editing book #3, called Home Truths, and due out in the fall. Only so many hours in a day!
      I’m so glad you enjoyed Nine Lives. There is a sequel, called The Present Tense of Prinny Murphy, also available at Chapters. Many of the same characters, plus some new ones, and told from Prinny’s point of view. You might enjoy it!
      Thank you getting in touch,

  • Hello Jill.
    My night table is always well stocked with books, but I did finally get to Prinny’s tale and I have to tell you that I loved it. Once I started I couldn’t put it down. She’s an amazing character: resourceful, courageous, independent, caring and smart. Although she has a long list of strengths, her weaknesses help to make her very real and I couldn’t help but empathize with her problems.
    There are always issues when you write a sequel, but I think you dealt with them masterfully and made this book different enough from your first that it stands alone. I liked Travis. But, dare I say it, I think Prinny’s tale is even better.
    If I was still teaching, your book would certainly be well used in my classroom.
    It was such a pleasure to meet you in Toronto and to hear you speak at the CANSCAIP meeting. I look forward to the day when our paths cross again.

    • jillmaclean:

      Hi Anna,
      Thanks so much – good to hear from you. I haven’t yet read your book, as I only just finished copy editing book #3, it went beyond the deadline due to the illness of the editor. What a marathon! So now I’m madly trying to catch up on the backlog of stuff that has been ignored for too long. such as blog. I know that’s a cardinal sin.
      And then, when the backlog is done…read, read, read. sounds heavenly.
      Do take care, and we’ll keep in touch. Jill

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The Hidden Agenda of Sigrid Sugden
Jill MacLean's latest book The Hidden Agenda of Sigrid Sugden , published by Fitzhenry & Whiteside and is available in bookstores and on-line!

This book is the completion of the Newfoundland trilogy which started with The Nine Lives of Travis Keating, followed by The Present Tense of Prinny Murphy.

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