Monday, September 8, 2014

Kat & Mouse: The Interview

Time for something a little different. I generally don't do guests - because, let's face it, this is basically the local cable channel equivalent of the internet - but this one made an exception for me. I'm not sure why, though I'm guessing his stylish fedora was on a bit too tight. 

Anyway... Abner Senires is the author of the Kat & Mouse books, which aside from satisfying this writer's own personal sci-fi craving, also reinvents/pays homage to some "classic" ideas, some more classic than others.

S: Welcome, Abner.

A: Thank you, Sean, for having me on the show today.

I see you have questions for me. Have at them, sir.

S: Indeed I do. So, first of all, where did the name come from? And if you say Tom & Jerry, know I'm going to be torn between disappointment and geekish applause.

A: It came from, you guessed it, Tom and Jerry.

(waits for disappointed applause)

S: I think we all knew that was coming. But, seriously...

A: Real answer: I had other names I was playing with. In one version of my notes, Kat was originally called Blackwolfe and she went solo. In another version, they were a duo, Kat was still called Blackwolfe and Mouse went by the name Boomer. All handles, of course, just as they are now.

And then one day the phrase "playing a game a cat and mouse" popped into my head. I think I might've been watching something or maybe read it somewhere. And it stuck. I thought, "Why not call them 'Kat' and 'Mouse,' to play off that phrase?"

Hence the name.

S: And has to be easier to type than Blackwolfe & Boomer, I imagine. Kat & Mouse are serialized fiction, a form that hasn't been done much since the days of Dickens, at least for literature. What led you to write Kat & Mouse in that manner?

A: When I decided to write Kat & Mouse, I had the notion the stories would be told in a specific sequence. I could have just written the stories, submitted them for publication, and had them appear that way. But the possibility arose that I would, say, write and submit stories 1, 2, 3, and 4 but have them end up being released as 4, 1, 3, and 2.

Which would defeat the purpose of the sequence, especially if I had a connecting storyline running through and connecting one story to the next.

So I decided I'd do it as a serialized story. This way, I could control the sequence of the stories and, in terms of the overarching storyline of each season, control when and where I'd drop clues and hints and foreshadowing.

S: Speaking of old-fashioned forms, Kat & Mouse seem very much a throwback to the cyberpunk days of the late 80's and early 90's. Which, as much as I adore it, is a sub-genre that seems to have already had its heyday. So why resurrect it? What about that setting appealed to you and made you say, "Hey, I want to set stories here?"

A: The appeal for me was the intersection of the modern and the near-future. The fact that cyberpunk was rooted in a very recognizable world – today's world – but had bits of slightly advanced tech that wasn't too far removed from the now. It wasn't Star Trek or Star Wars tech. No transporters or warp engines. But people had robotic prostheses and self-driving cars and the ability to insert a program chip into a slot in your head and instantly know, say, Conversational Italian or Japanese or the equivalent knowledge of a graduate in Corporate Law.

And since I wanted to feature modern weapons in my stories, writing cyberpunk was the best way to do that. I already had experience in weapon use and I'm familiar with some of the typical techniques of our military special warfare operators. And these were the types of skills that Kat and Mouse use in their adventures.

Another thing about weapon use--at one point I wanted write sword and sorcery. But I'm not well-versed on fighting with swords, particularly techniques of that era. I didn't want to portray a swordfight between my mightily-thewed hero and the evil sorcerer's henchman and have those in the know say "Bullsh*t! You're doing it wrong." There's a part of me that wants to depict those kinds of things realistically. Or at least as realistically as you can get in a dramatic portrayal. Yes, there are creative licenses a writer could take but I really wanted to keep things firmly rooted in some kind of verisimilitude. I'm kind of a stickler for that sort of thing. Writing cyberpunk made more sense in that department. I could use modern weapons and not worry that my descriptions of their use would offend those in the know.

I suppose you could say "Why not write a techno-thriller instead?" But much of techno-thriller writing is rooted in today's world and dealing with the geopolitics of the day. I wasn't interested in that sort of thing. What I was interested in was the stuff I saw from Robocop and Terminator and Terminator 2 and Demolition Man.

Cyberpunk. That was the field I wanted to play in.

S: I can't believe you just cited Demolition Man as an influence. Though, admittedly, it was a fun film.

Again, I've not quite worked my way through the first volume, but there were to my mind definite echoes in this of not only William Gibson, but also various Japanese anime, and maybe even a little – minus the fantasy elements – Shadowrun RPG. Any of those influence you, and if so, how much? Or were there other influences elsewhere?

A: All of it. Gibson. Anime, specifically Gunsmith Cats, Dirty Pair, Bubblegum Crisis, Appleseed, and Ghost in the Shell. And, yes, Shadowrun minus the fantasy elements, as well as another RPG from the early 90's called, appropriately enough, Cyberpunk 2020.

And the influence was huge.

My template for the visual aesthetic of the serial was Blade Runner. Of course. Classic film cyberpunk. Hopefully I've captured some of that in what descriptions I've written in the stories.

S: I think you have, yes.

A: From Shadowrun and Cyberpunk 2020 I essentially borrowed world-building details, particularly when I wrote out the timeline of the world of Kat and Mouse.

From Gibson, specifically the short story "Johnny Mnemonic", I borrowed the voice. That minimalistic style. I also cribbed a little of that from Raymond Chandler and Robert B. Parker and from James Cameron's screenplays.

The influence from anime resulted more in the desire to write about kick-ass female leads. And you get a lot of that in anime, especially in the titles I mentioned.

S: Would you rather see a live action movie, a television series, or a Japanese anime (or even comic book/manga) adaptation?

A: Yes. To all.

While I did write a Kat and Mouse screenplay (which I then adapted as the Season 1 episode "Easy Money") I would love to see a television series.

S: If I had the money to be a producer, I would see this happen. ... Dream cast for the above?

A: I don't watch too much current TV (I'm a few seasons behind and only get my fix via Netflix and Hulu), but from actors I've seen so far I would realistically cast the TV series as follows:

  • KAT: Meghan Ory (Ruby/Little Red Riding Hood from Once Upon A Time)
  • MOUSE: Allison Scagliotti (from Warehouse 13)
  • REVELL: Anthony Stewart Head (Giles from Buffy)
  • FAST EDDIE: Dominic Monaghan (from Lost and Merry from Lord of the Rings)
  • SPECS: Lee Arenberg (Leroy/Grumpy from Once Upon A Time)
  • JAKE STEELE: Sam Witwer (Aidan from Being Human)
  • CONNOR MURPHY: Josh Holloway (Sawyer from Lost)
  • JADE: Emily VanCamp (from Revenge)
  • SAKURA: Kelly Hu (from Warehouse 13 and Lady Deathstrike from X2)
  • ABSINTHE: Amy Acker (Fred from Angel)
  • VALKYRIE: Felicia Day (from The Guild)

S: I'm sad to say I only recognized about half those names. Clearly, I too, am behind in my TV watching. Because I read a lot, he says. Moving on...

Last but not least, aside from serialized fiction, you also do your bit for radio drama, another arguably archaic art form (say that 10 times fast) that has made something of a comeback in podcasts and the like. What got you into that?

A: Several years ago I had it in mind to get into voice-acting. You know, for video games, cartoons, animated films, that sort of thing. I took classes for about a year or so and started looking into possible work. Somewhere in my Internet searches I ran across an open audition call for voice actors. Someone was producing an audio drama as a podcast, it happened to be unpaid, totally volunteer, and they were looking for people. I decided "Why not? It might be unpaid but I'd get some experience performing on the mic. And the credit wouldn't hurt." So I auditioned and got the part. Small supporting one but a part nonetheless.

And it was a fun experience.

So I went looking for other opportunities and found this niche of folks writing, directing, producing, and acting in audio drama podcasts. Tons of people. So for about two or three years, I was auditioning and getting cast in a whole bunch of audio dramas. At last count, I think it was about forty-something appearances. Some were one-time roles. The majority were as a recurring character over several episodes.

It's been a while since I last did audio drama, though. Other things cropped up. Plus, I wanted to put focus back into writing in general and Kat and Mouse in particular.

S: Any projects we can look forward to, either of your own or someone else you want to give a shout out to?

A: There are more Kat and Mouse stories on the way. I've sketched out the overall arc for Season 3, sketched out the episodes, am revising the first 2 episodes and have outlined and started episode 3. I'm hoping to start "airing" them at the serial site by mid- to late-November, depending on how things work out over the next several weeks.

S: Excellent. I won't hold you to that calendar, though. And other things?

A: There are a couple of other writing projects in the hopper. One is a space opera piece. The other is a story that actually takes place in the world of Kat and Mouse, about the members of a cyborg SWAT team. Both of them are still in the pre-writing phase. No idea yet when they'll get to being written. Right now the focus is on the Ladies.

As for shout-outs, there's some great comics I recently ran across that I think everybody should be reading. RACHEL RISING by Terry Moore, RAT QUEENS by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch, and LAZARUS by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark. Excellent stuff. I believe RAT QUEENS and LAZARUS have two trade collections out at this time and RACHEL RISING is on trade collection number four. So go and get them. Now.

S: You heard the man, folks. And if you haven't read Kat & Mouse yet, you need to do that, too.

Abner Senires writes sci-fi pulp adventure and probably drinks far too much coffee. He lives just outside Seattle, WA with his wife and a pair of rambunctious cats. WEBSITE:
BLOG: TWITTER: @abnersenires KAT AND MOUSE, GUNS FOR HIRE: PAYBACK Things are heating up for near-future female mercenaries Kat and Mouse as they tackle even more hair-raising jobs for shadowy clients and run afoul of terrorists, freedom fighters, hired assassins, a Japanese crime syndicate, and warring punkergangs. And smack in the middle of this, an enemy from the past is back and wants revenge on the duo. Now these two sassy sisters-in-arms must fight back and survive...and still get their jobs done. Available from:

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