Your new novel Cool Cat 3: Born to
be Bad - in a few words, what is it about?
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!
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?
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.
sources of inspiration when writing Cool
Cat 3: Born to be Bad?
“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
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?
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!
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?
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
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?
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?
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.
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?
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.
(other) future projects you'd like to share?
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.
book's website, Facebook, whatever else?
Feeling lucky ?
Want to search for books by
The links below
will take you
just there !!!
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.
you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
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
for the interview!