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An Interview with Dan Leissner, Writer of Cool Cat 3: Born to be Bad

by Mike Haberfelner

March 2020

Dan Leissner on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your new novel Cool Cat 3: Born to be Bad - in a few words, what is it about?

 

It’s my affectionate tribute to the cult “exploitation” and “blaxploitation” movies of the 60’s and 70’s; to directors such as Roger Corman [Roger Corman bio - click here] and Russ Meyer. My all-action heroine, Catherine “Cat” Warburton, has rebelled against her wealthy family and indulges her passion for swoul music, guns and fast cars. When not hanging out at the beach, she goes undercover for a highly secret private agency, as a daring crime fighter. Rogue elements in the U.S. government, armed forces and intelligence services are planning a new genocide, refining a formula devised by former Nazi scientists that targets those they regard as subversive and undesirable. Cat recruits a gang of delinquent teenage girls and transforms them into a deadly commando squad. Their mission takes them from secret bases in the remote desert to the dank dungeons of a corrupt banana republic, to sinister laboratories at the bottom of the sea, down the corridors of power to the very door of the Oval Office. And along the way, Cat harnesses the forces of the supernatural and unleashes her inner demons!

 

From what I know, your quintet of penitentiary girls is based on 1970s all girl rock band The Runaways - care to elaborate, and what do The Runaways and their music mean to you, personally?

 

I was a big fan of the Runaways back in The Day; and I still am, I still have all their albums. My original idea was for Cat’s girls to be pupils at an exclusive boarding school. But then, one day, I was listening to a Runaways album and, looking at the pictures on the sleeve, it hit me. There they were, my characters. Also, the content of their songs, such as “Dead End Justice”, in which they portray themselves as escapees from a juvenile prison. Thus, my characters are the badass alter egos that they created for themselves in their songs. I fleshed that out with a lot of research: photos; DVD’s with concert, backstage and interview footage; books; features from the old music magazines and newspapers, from all over the world. What the Runaways and their music mean to me is the sheer excitement of a bunch of kids going for it, living the dream. I had a head full of dreams when I was 16 (in 1971), but I didn’t have what it took, what they had. And I’m full of admiration for all that they’ve achieved since – Cherie Currie, Joan Jett, Lita Ford and Jackie Fox (tragically, Sandy West died of cancer in 2006) – so this is also a tribute to them. I’ve sent copies of the book to Cherie, Joan, Lita and Jackie. I hope that they accept it in the spirit intended, as a labour of love and a token of my admiration.

 

Other sources of inspiration when writing Cool Cat 3: Born to be Bad?

 

My “props”. I collect diecast scale models of classic American muscle cars. I also acquired a scale figure of a bikini-clad blonde to go with them. Looking at them, story ideas begin to form. But chiefly, the aforementioned “exploitation” and “blaxploitation” movies. In Cool Cat 3, Cat takes her girls to a drive-in to see Russ Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! I also quote from a scene in the movie Foxes, in which Cherie Currie appeared with Jodie Foster, in 1980. (I should also make mention of the films of Quentin Tarantino; re-visiting Jackie Brown and Death Proof was a big boost for me.) And always, throughout the writing process, the music of the period: I would have Cat’s funk and soul playing while I wrote; supplemented by the Runaways and classic rock from the ‘70’s.

 


You're very particular in your book about what music your characters listen to - so could you talk about the "score" for Cool Cat 3: Born to be Bad for a bit, and why these tunes?

 

There’s Cat’s beloved funk, soul and jazz fusion: Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding when her soul needs soothing; Sly and the Family Stone when she’s more up-beat; but most especially her “theme tune”: Bitches Brew by Miles Davis, when she’s on fire, feeling mean. Cat’s choice of music reflects her rebellious nature, and her rebellion against her white, privileged and staunchly Republican upbringing. It reflects her liberal outlook, her lack of prejudice, her belief in total freedom. Music can also represent everything that she’s opposed to, i.e. the country & western favoured by the rednecks and white power types she runs up against. She has a more amiable conflict with the sounds her teenage recruits are into, the heavy rock of Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin or the “punk” of Iggy and The Stooges. Those sounds are the expression of their brand of rebellion, of the teenage mind-set. When I was their age, I played Led Zeppelin II and Grand Funk Live until the grooves wore out!

 

How would you describe the overall writing style you've applied in Cool Cat 3: Born to be Bad - and how do you think the new one compares to the earlier books, stylistically?

 

I would describe it as “cinematic”, with a lot of fast cutting. It’s also very descriptive, of the appearance of the characters and their environment, because I believe that helps establish character and create atmosphere and a sense of time and place. I also like to try and capture the way various characters speak, be it a good ol’ boy in a “White Power” T-shirt or an urban ghetto’s “bad mutha”. My writing has always been that way, including Cool Cat and Cool Cat 2: Hell On Route 666. In Cool Cat 3, my depiction of the supernatural events is more impressionistic, because this time they’re not something that Cat is confronting externally but are happening to her, within her, and are therefore a more disordered and dreamlike, nightmarish, experience. In keeping with the horrific nature of those events, I’ve piled on the gore more than in the previous books. And in the individual combat and big battle scenes; because this is also a “teen movie”; and teens love their gory movies.

 

What can you tell us about audience and critical reception of Cool Cat 3: Born to be Bad?

 

The reviews I’ve had, such as yours, have been good and enter into the spirit of the thing, that it’s intended to be an entertainment and an homage to a bygone age. They’ve also appreciated the stance that both Cat and I take against racism, prejudice and inequality in any form. As for the audience, I hope that it’s both young and old, anyone who’s looking for some escapist fun. I hope that it will be appreciated by anyone who’s into the era that inspired me. Hard to believe that it was so long ago!

 


How do you feel that your main character Cat has evolved over the three books of the Cool Cat series? And with the powers she has gained in this book, what does the future hold for her, and any chance for another sequel, and which direction might it go?

 

The first big change comes right at the start of the book when Cat discovers that she’s vulnerable. She fails a mission! She’s not superhuman after all. She experiences “burn out”, has a breakdown and is hospitalised and then sent on leave, a working vacation as the new phys.ed. teacher in a reformatory for delinquent girls – and the story takes off from there.

Cat’s breakdown was informed by my own experiences of mental health issues. In 2012, I fell prey to pressure of work (in law publishing) and had a major breakdown. I was hospitalised for several months with a diagnosis of severe anxiety and depression. The other big change, for Cat, is that while previously she had battled against external forces of the supernatural, she has now acquired those powers herself. Her battle is now an internal one, to master those powers and turn them towards positive ends. She has now become a genuine super-hero, with super-powers! As for a sequel, I’m not sure; a trilogy has a nice sense of completeness to it. However, Cat’s acquisition of her new powers does have possibilities, so if a good plot comes to me, it could happen. I do love writing about her and living in her world.

 

With the five girls whom Cat takes under her wing, you've created a quintet of promising characters - any chance to branch them out into their own series eventually?

 

That’s a tempting idea; I enjoyed writing about them too and it would be fun to bring them back to life again. If I get a response from Cherie, Joan, Lita and Jackie and if it was positive, I might be encouraged to create further adventures for their fictional selves.

 

Any (other) future projects you'd like to share?

 

I have another manuscript being read by a publisher, a heavily fictionalised account of the career of the notorious outlaws of the Wild West, the Dalton Gang, Daltons! Their Dime Novel. In 1892, they tried to outshine their boyhood hero, Jesse James, by robbing two banks at the same time; and came to a bloody end. The album by Eagles, Desperado, is inspired by their story. I sent a synopsis to specialist western novel publishers and one of them has recently asked to read the whole thing; I’m waiting to hear back from them. I’ve also written a lot of poetry about my mental health journey, some of which has been published in mental health journals; and I’ve given readings at mental health events.

 

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

   

Feeling lucky ?
Want to search for books by
Dan Leissner
yourself ?

The links below
will take you
just there !!!

I’m not into social media that much although I am on Facebook. I’d like to create something online for my mental health poetry. I haven’t thought of creating anything online for the books, maybe I should. I have tried to give them a “plug” on any relevant websites/Facebook pages that I could find, sites and pages to do with the cult movies and “trash fiction” of the 60’s and ‘70’s, The Runaways and the ongoing careers of their former members.

 

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

 

Nope, I think that covers it. Except to wish everyone a lucky escape from the Corona virus! Maybe it’s an evil conspiracy that Cat should be investigating ………..

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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Thanks for watching !!!



 

 

Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
-
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD