Tuesday, May 3, 2011

HEAVEN HELP BAY CITY - INTERVIEW WITH KAT AND MOUSE AUTHOR ABNER SENIRES


We have with us today Abner Senires, author of the cyberpunk futurenoir series KAT AND MOUSE – Guns for Hire. K&M is a fast-paced, spare, sometimes violent and often hilarious series of tales. It was written as a weekly serial and is now available in paperback and e-book format.

2042. Bay City, California Free State. Kat and Mouse are ronin--street mercenaries--who like cake runs. Simple jobs with quick and large payouts. That's what these were supposed to be. Cake runs. But when the Duo sign on, they suddenly find themselves targeted by a biker gang, a team of corporate commandos, a cybernetically-enhanced special ops agent, a stalker, a band of kidnappers, and a Japanese crime syndicate. And they all want the Duo out of the way. Permanently. Now these sassy sisters-in-arms must survive the onslaught and still get the jobs done. Because in the Biz, it's get paid or get dead. As usual, Kat and Mouse are going to do things their way. Heaven help Bay City...

Following is an interview with Mr. Senires. My questions are in bold to make up for the fact that, in real life, I sound like an eight year old girl.

Let’s start with the most pressing question, Abner: why do you hate pants so very much?

I don't technically hate pants. In fact, some of my best friends are pants. But sometimes, I'm much more comfortable in shorts. I attribute it to my island-based ethnicity.

Now you're probably wondering what pantlessness has to do with writing. Well, it all goes back to an article I read on freelancing several years ago. The author equated freelance writing with the phrase "no pants 'til noon." Or something along those lines. So now, when I think about writing full time, I think about no pants.

Note to self. Stop wearing pants until noon. (My day job coworkers are going to love me.) How did you get started writing? Were you bitten by an inky-o-active spider?

I was not bitten by an inky-o-active spider, no. I was struck by lightning.

No, really.

I was three or four at the time, living in the Philippines with my grandparents. One day, during a big storm, I was hanging halfway out the ground floor window, playing with a length of rebar, jabbing it into this little pool of water outside the window. All of a sudden, there was a bright flash of light at the end of the rebar closest to the pool of water followed by this rumble of thunder. Next thing I know, I'm sitting about four feet back from the window inside the house, on my butt on the floor, and my grandfather is standing over me saying "You shouldn't be afraid of a little thunder."

I'm thinking that rattled something upstairs. *points to head* Made me susceptible to the writing bug. Also made me a bit off, puns and showtunes and all that.

Probably led to the whole pantslessness thing, too.

Later, when I was living here in the U.S. with my parents, I ran across a copy of Fredric Brown's short story "Arena" in an issue of Reader's Digest (I didn't realize who wrote the story or what the title was at the time, though. All I know was it had a guy fighting this alien creature inside this force-fielded area on some distant planet. I learned who and what later.)

After I read that story, I had a revelation. I wanted to tell those kinds of stories, too.

Who are your favorite writers, and how have they influenced KAT AND MOUSE?

My favorite writers are Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, David Eddings, Robert B. Parker, and Joss Whedon.

Asimov doesn't really influence KAT AND MOUSE, but he was my first formal introduction to SF so this is a shout-out to the Good Doctor. Heinlein's strong female characters certainly provided the template for the Duo.

From Eddings and Whedon I learned how to write effective ensemble pieces and scenes. The interplay between the characters in the Belgariad and in shows like Buffy and Firefly are excellent examples. They move story and character but at the same time provide some humor and lively banter.

I think Robert Parker has the biggest influence on KAT AND MOUSE particularly in terms of the style. The terse prose, the minimalism, is something I try to use in the stories. There's a kind of power to the prose when you go minimal, I think.

Also in the voice of the story. I borrowed that from Parker and also from William Gibson. I saw it in Gibson's "Johnny Mnemonic" and I see it in Parker's Spenser novels. What I call the "hard-boiled" style, which goes back to Chandler and some of the pulp writers of the 30s and 40s and onward.

If I could live inside of Raymond Chandler’s prose, I’d be a happy woman. What are the challenges to writing a serial?

Pace is the biggest challenge.

Not so much pace of the story as pace of the actual writing. See, each episode is roughly 6,000 words, sometimes longer. That translates to something like six or seven installments per episode. At one installment per week, one episode will typically run about six or seven weeks.

That means I have at least six weeks to write, edit, revise, and polish a complete 6,000-word story. And that's with day job, life, and other commitments.

Now, I do try to keep at least an episode ahead, but sometimes, things don't work out that way.

I'm actually having heart palpitations thinking of the relentless deadlines. *fetches self smelling salts* Much better. We’re putting out a casting call. Who would you love to see in the main roles?

Interesting you mention KAT AND MOUSE as live action. The episode "Easy Money" began life as a screenplay. I wrote it with Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez in mind. This was after the first Resident Evil.

After that, I kinda started to see certain people in the roles and tend to have that person or personality in mind as I write the episodes. I even put together a little visual reference chart for myself that I refer to as I write scenes.

So here goes, my cast list for Kat and Mouse. The main characters, at least.
KAT: Milla Jovovich as Alice in Resident Evil
MOUSE: Michelle Rodriguez as Rain in Resident Evil
REVELL: Sean Connery as Ramius in Hunt for Red October
SPECS: Joe Pantoliano as Cosmo from The Fugitive/U.S. Marshals
FAST EDDIE: Dominic Monaghan as Charlie from Lost
JAKE STEELE: Nathan Fillion as Mal Reynolds from Firefly/Serenity
MURPHY: Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones and Han Solo
JADE: Ali Larter in Heroes

*jolts self out of daydream* I heartily approve of this casting. You chose to self-publish KAT AND MOUSE. Self-publishing seems to be on everyone’s minds right now. I’ve seen a gamut of opinions on it, but very little about the how-to. What did it take to get this published?

This might be a long answer so I'll try and keep it to a manageable length.

For the print edition, I went with CreateSpace. After reading through various other POD places, I decided CreateSpace was going to work best for me. Plus, I liked the Amazon connection.

Next, I had to take the text of all 10 episodes and do some copyedits. Now, there was already a round of copyedits done when the episodes first went up. Anything missed back then was now caught and corrected at this point. There were some bits that got cleaned up. A line here, a line there. A bit of clarification here.

Then I had to format the text and the pages at the correct trim size and with the correct interior bits. Headers. Pagination. Front matter. Margins. Spacing. Typeface. Gave myself a crash course in book design. Just enough so that I could at least "look the part."

Then another round of copyedits, making sure the text actually looked like it came out of a legacy published book. And then exporting that final product as a PDF file for upload to CreateSpace.

After that came cover design. I originally did one that looked good at the time but when the proof copy came, I decided it needed more "pop." More "oomph." So I re-designed the cover. Spent a week giving myself a crash course in photo manipulation using PaintShop Pro. Then dove it with the design.

Back to the proof. When that came in, my wife went through the book for a round of copyedits. A fellow writer also chimed in with edits, for which I was grateful. Then I went through for yet another pass.

After all that was done, the final files were uploaded to CreateSpace. They make sure the files are properly formatted and voila! We have print edition.

Next came formatting for ebook. Mainly ePub and Kindle.

For ePub, I went with Smashwords and used their style guide to format the text. It was more or less a matter of taking the original file that went to CreateSpace, knocking out all the pagination and headers and page formatting and going to a bare-bones text with minimal formatting. Once that was done, off it went to Smashwords for finalization.

Kindle was a bit different. I had to hunt down some guides for that. Kindle formatting turned out to be basically stripped-down HTML with some CSS. I'd hand coded web pages before using HTML so I wasn't completely in the dark with the process. It was pretty easy in that respect but it does take time. Global search and replace came in really really handy for a lot of that work. When that was done, I used Mobipocket Creator (an ebook management program that does a great job at Kindle format conversion) to create a finished file that I then uploaded to the Kindle site for finalization.

And that's what I did on my summer vacation--I mean, how I self-published KAT AND MOUSE.

Whew!

Question Time! A bullet train leaves Cleveland at 8 AM, traveling west at 168 mph. It’s got a leaky nuclear reactor. Kat and Mouse leave Bay City at 9:15 AM, heading east with a contract to recover a men’s European carryall from the shady conductor. When and where do they meet, and what happens next?

Ha! Trick questions. Most of Cleveland was destroyed by two 10 kiloton suitcase nukes in 2027.

Well played, Mr. Senires. What’s in store for the ladies now?

I won’t get into too many details but I will say there’s more to come about Jake and Kat, more about the human traffickers, more about Malachi and Jeffries, and more about Sakura. We’ll also visit again with Valkyrie, Absinthe, Fast Eddie, and Jade. And there’s some upcoming fun things involving certain Alliance folks doing bad things and a character currently in the wings who’s got a bone to pick with the Duo.

And there we have it! You can follow Abner, and Kat and Mouse themselves, at the following links Though do be careful. Every now and again Kat shoots first and asks questions later.

Website: www.abnersenires.com                Blog: acetachyon.blogspot.com
Twitter: twitter.com/acetachyon                  Book link: www.abnersenires.com/katandmouse

7 comments:

  1. The blurb is great! Sounds like something I'd be interested in reading. Will check it out.

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  2. Cleveland got nuked???

    *cries*

    (especially as my hometown is downwind of any fallout)

    Wow. There was a reason for the pantslessness. Who knew?

    If you sound like an 8 yr old girl, what does Abner sound like? (Inquiring minds want to know.)

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  3. Heaven help Bay City. Heaven help us all. God I love that blurb! Good job, Abner and Hizzizzle!

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  4. Margo, I do recommend it. Fun stuff in small bites. Perfect commute reading (provided you don't drive yourself).

    Kristen, thanks so much!

    Bos - Abner sounds like himself, of course. :D

    bettie - Foshizzle, 'tis a brilliant blurb.

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  5. hills - That was a fabulous job. Thanks for bringing the Swedish Fish. I hope the cupcakes I brought were tasty.

    Bos - yes, sadly, Cleveland got nuked. And by accident, of all things. The domestic terrorists had their base of operations there. Actual target was Detroit. Then...some bad things happened.

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  6. The things one learns in the least expected of places. Yeah... I need coffee, why do you ask? :D

    Loved it, you two. :)

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