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An Interview with Dan Leissner, Writer of Cool Cat 2: Hell on Route 666

by Mike Haberfelner

February 2019

Dan Leissner on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new novel Cool Cat 2: Hell on Route 666 - in a few words, what is it about?


That’s a good question. I’m not sure that I can follow the plot – and I wrote it! It’s the sequel to Cool Cat, which was published by Midnight Marquee in 2007. The “Cool Cat” of the title is Catherine “Cat” Warburton, blonde bombshell and rebellious wild child of rich and influential parents, who goes undercover for a very secret crime-busting agency. Her world is that of the cult “exploitation” and “blaxploitation” movies of the 1970’s. Sinister supernatural forces are causing mayhem and murder in polite suburban neighbourhoods and escalate to threaten the whole of human civilisation. Cat “embarks on a wild ride of blood, lust and terror that takes her from leafy suburbs, hippie colonies and Indian Reservations to barren wastelands and down the ‘Devil’s Highway’ – Route 666 …. Aided and abetted by ‘Soul Sister’ Selena and the exotic Aiko, she encounters rednecks and Hell’s Angels; trigger-happy cops; medicine men and guerrilla fighters; strange cults; monsters and demons and the legion of the living dead – and a black Boss Mustang with plates that read ‘666’!”


What made you decide to write a sequel to the first Cool Cat, and how have the character and her world evolved since then? And if you don't mind me asking, what took you so long to write another book about her?


I’d always intended writing a sequel to Cool Cat and to go on and make it a series; Cat’s world is one that I enjoy escaping into. In Cool Cat 2, Cat has evolved in that she’s even bolder and more daring and reckless; her world has become more insane and has expanded in the sense that in Cool Cat she was merely rescuing her country from dark forces whereas in Cool Cat 2 she’s saving the entire planet. There are several reasons why it took so long to complete the sequel to Cool Cat. Firstly, I’m a very slow writer! Second, during a prolonged spell of writer’s block, other writing and research projects intervened. Then, in late 2011/early 2012, I had a mental breakdown owing to pressure of work (as a freelance copy-editor and proof-reader in law publishing) and was hospitalised for five months. When I came out of hospital I focused for some time on writing poetry about that whole experience which is now up on my Facebook page. At that stage, Cool Cat 2 was only part completed and it took me a while before I was sufficiently recovered to return to it.  


Quite obviously, one of the inspirations for Cool Cat 2: Hell on Route 666 were pulp magazines from yesteryear - but how closely do you remain to these when it comes to the actual dreaming up of your storyline let alone the wording of your novel?


I discovered the dubious delights of those lurid 60’s/70’s “pulp” magazines, with titles like Man’s Story, way back in my formative years (I was 15 in 1970). But it was really the “trash fiction” novels that inspired the Cool Cat books, especially a series written by Rod Gray that featured Eve Drum: The Lady From L.U.S.T. (League of Undercover Spies and Terrorists). He wrote the first one in 1967 and the series went on well into double figures. I’ve managed to find some of them on ebay. I wish I had just a little bit of his productivity! As for my storylines and writing style, I’ve tried to be as authentic as possible by getting into a mindset where I’m writing as if I’m actually in the 1970’s. At least with some elements of the story-telling; neither I nor Cat subscribe to the frankly right-wing and/or racist attitudes that often prevail in the vintage pulp/trash fiction.   


Also, you dedicated Cool Cat 2: Hell on Route 666 to filmmakers Russ Meyer and Roger Corman [Roger Corman bio - click here] - which I think is very fitting, but could you at all still elaborate on their influence on your work?


Ah yes, now you’re talking! The movies are my main inspiration; and in your excellent reviews of Cool Cat and Cool Cat 2 you rightly state that my writing style is very cinematic. I made the dedication to Meyer and Corman because they’re the big names, but in truth, my debt is owed to the entire “exploitation” and “blaxploitation” genres. You only need look at my cast of characters to see where I’m coming from: Cat herself; “Soul Sister” Selena; and the “exotic Aiko”. We’re talking films like Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Coffy and Cleopatra Jones, Ebony, Ivory & Jade and Savage Sisters. I haven’t seen those last two, but the posters were all I needed!


Other sources of inspiration when writing Cool Cat 2: Hell on Route 666?


To “exploitation” and “blaxploitation” I added the supernatural and the demonic. So, you could say, all those great classic zombie and monster movies; the list is endless. I did that partly for pure enjoyment, because it lets my imagination run riot. But also, plot-wise, it’s liberating. I read a quote somewhere, that once you introduce the supernatural into your plot you can make anything happen, anything goes.


Music seems to play a big role for Cat in Cool Cat 2: Hell on Route 666 - so what would her playlist consist of (if there already were "playlists" back in the 1970s)?


Right on! Cat couldn’t live without her music. She expresses her rebellious nature, and exhibits her “cool”, in her taste in music. Her “playlist” consists almost entirely of jazz, soul and funk (which of course provide the iconic soundtrack to the movies that inspired my books). Some of the giants in those fields are referenced in the Cool Cat books, e.g. Miles Davis, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, Sly and the Family Stone …. Cat likes to think of Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew as her theme tune! Her taste in music is a personal and social statement, as her adventures often take her into territories that espouse a very different and opposing philosophy, be it expressed in easy listening, heavy metal or country & western. 


Now what was a typical writing session like when bringing Cool Cat 2: Hell on Route 666 to paper (or the computer screen or whatever you use)?


I do my writing onscreen, although I often dash off notes on paper as they occur to me. Being a terribly slow writer, I’m not one of those who can be disciplined enough to write so many words a day or for so many hours a day. I need to wait – sometimes days, sometimes weeks – for the next scene(s) to percolate in my subconscious; and then one day, it all comes out in a rush, whether it be one page or fifty. To help stimulate me, I like to write to appropriate “mood music”, something from Cat’s “playlist”. 


What can you tell us about your overall writing style used in Cool Cat 2: Hell on Route 666?


My writing style is very descriptive. I enjoy writing that way because it enables me to escape into and become immersed in Cat’s world, because it helps me develop the narrative; and I hope, draws the reader into Cat’s universe. My writing is very “character-driven”; Cat’s personality and my knowing how she would respond to any given situation, dictates what happens next. My style is also very cinematic, with fast cutting from scene to scene and between events that are often happening parallel to each other. I’d like the readers to feel that they’re watching a movie as much as reading a book. That’s how I see it as I’m writing, it’s like I’m shooting a movie.


Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Cool Cat 2: Hell on Route 666?


The critical reception for both Cool Cat and Cool Cat 2 has been very gratifying, both from your good self and a couple of other relevant websites. I must confess that I’ve had minimal contact with my reading “public” (I assume I have one). However, those responses that I’ve had are to the effect that the books are a fun read, and that’s what they’re meant to be. As far as I know, no one has been offended by them; and my – and Cat’s – stance on matters such as social injustice and racial prejudice has been appreciated.


Will there ever be a Cool Cat 3? And/or other future projects you'd like to share?


Cool Cat 3: Born To Be Bad is now with my publishers in the States, Midnight Marquee and, all being well, will be published this year. By way of a teaser, this time Cat saves the world from combined social, political and supernatural evil by recruiting and training a deadly commando squad of delinquent teenage girls, characters inspired by the 70’s all-girl rock band The Runaways. This time, I’ve injected elements of the “teen movie” and those “women-behind-bars” flicks such as The Big Bird Cage and Big Doll House. As for future projects, that’s all pretty vague, as usual. Who knows, Cool Cat 4 may pop into my head at any moment!


Your/your novel's website, Facebook, whatever else?



Feeling lucky ?
Want to search for books by
Dan Leissner
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The links below
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I have a Facebook page but I’m still very new to all this social media stuff and so am still getting to grips with it. I want to separate my poetry about my mental health journey from my other writing, so I may well create a special Facebook page for the books.


Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?


No, I’ve droned on long enough! Just “hi to all you cool cats out there”; and, as the saying goes, “hope you enjoy reading the books as much as I enjoy writing them!


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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Thanks for watching !!!



On the same day
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A Killer Conversation

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directed by
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