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Sarasota Tuesday, Sep. 15, 2020 4 months ago

Author, illustrator tells tales of beloved Scottish cat

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Robert Lewis Heron enjoys spinning new yarns about Hamish McHamish, a real-life St. Andrews kitty who died in 2014.
by: Harry Sayer Staff Writer

Robert Lewis Heron has created many things in his life. The Scottish native  has spent decades working as an architect and embraced writing stories upon his retirement in Sarasota. 

Robert Heron has a new chapter in his life — children’s book author and artist. Where he once designed buildings and structures, and wrote thrillers and poetry, Heron now writes stories about a cartoon cat from Scotland going on adventures. 

City leaders in St. Andrews, Scotland commissioned a statue of Hamish McHamish.

Robert Heron is the creator of the new “Hamish McHamish, the St. Andrews Cat” book series. The titular character is based on a real cat beloved in the town of St. Andrews in Robert’s native Scotland. The books support the Hamish Foundation, a nonprofit benefiting local families and facilities in the town.

It’s a change of pace, and Robert Heron is never quite sure what the book is going to be when he sits down to write in his Lakewood Ranch home. But that’s the fun. 

“The cool thing that I love about writing (the books) is when I sit down to write some idea, I only have a rough idea,” he said. 

The new children’s author pursued architecture growing up in Scotland — there was something about the intricacies in designing something that fascinated him as a child. 

He made a career out of it, eventually moving to Maryland in 2001 to start his own practice. Robert and his wife Diane Heron made their way to Sarasota for his retirement and have been living here ever since. 

They’ve kept busy, with Robert Heron writing poetry, thrillers, and short stories. He won the Sarasota Fiction Writers 2019 Short Story Contest and has had his work published in multiple anthologies. 

Robert was contacted a few months ago by the  Hamish Foundation, which was interested in Robert about making a children’s book series about Hamish McHamish. Hamish was known for wandering from shop to shop, it was believed he would bring good fortune to your business. The legend of the St. Andrews cat grew to the point that when Hamish passed away, a statue was erected in his honor. 

Robert Heron puts the books together all from his computer.

Given that it was for a good cause — and that he had plenty of free time due to retirement and the pandemic — Robert leapt at the chance. 

“Robert came home and within a week, he basically had the first book,” Diane Heron said. 

He already had the tools to put the book together. Robert has always had a passion for digital artwork and design that’s run concurrent with his architecture career. His understanding of online tools proved useful when putting together his series, as he had already used his computer’s software to make a children’s book for his grandchildren. 

The real Hamish McHamish cat has a statue in St. Andrews.

Each “Hamish McHamish” book is put made entirely online, from the writing to the colorful cast of characters and the backgrounds that fill each page. Robert used a copyright-free website to select his characters and slightly tweaks them, placing them onto unique backgrounds to create  a composite image for each page. 

Hamish McHamish the cat has gone on plenty of wacky adventures in the series so far, from learning about golf in Scotland to visiting the moon made of cheese with his alien friend. Each character has fun names like Sammy Seagull to Alex the Alien, and Heron puts a small mouse on each page for children to find. There have been a handful of books so far, with more to come.

The finished PDFs are sent to the Amazon Kindle branch, which publishes the actual books. 

The series is now in a few bookstores in St. Andrews. Money raised from the book sale’s go directly to the Hamish Foundation, which also provides wheelchairs for handicapped children and adults to be able to go on the beach. 

 It’s all good fun for the new children’s book author. The ease of making the books, the lack of barriers to entry and the simplicity of having them published, is what thrills Heron the most about his new venture. The days of needing high-end equipment to create stories and art is gone, and nothing could make him happier. 

“I love anything, any technology that allows anyone in particular children to create,” Robert Heron said. “For me as what it's all about. It’s a great time for kids in particular, or even adults to revisit their childhood and get into creative programs.”

 

Harry Sayer is the Black Tie Reporter for the Observer. He is a graduate of the University of Central Florida and previously worked the Black Tie beat for the Observer newspaper in Winter Park and Maitland. You can catch him at one of Sarasota's fundraisers and shindigs. 

See All Articles by Harry

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