Q: Who is Abner Senires?
Abner Senires was born in 1745, the son of an itinerant blacksmith father and fortune teller mother…
I grew up on sci-fi and fantasy movies and TV, on 80s cartoons, comic books, anime and manga, and role-playing games. So basically a geek. And proud of it.
I got started reading fantasy in 5th grade with The Hobbit, followed by Lord of the Rings, the Prydain books, half of the Narnia novels, The Sword of Shannara. Science fiction came late in 6th grade. My dad got me started on Isaac Asimov‘s short stories and I later graduated to the Foundations books, then to Herbert’s Dune.
It was about that time (5th, 6th grade) when I ran into an old issue of Reader’s Digest my parents had lying around somewhere. In it was a short story about a guy who wakes up and finds himself trapped on an alien planet. He’s inside this domed forcefield and in the dome with him is this alien creature he has to fight.
I remember how jazzed I got reading that story and I knew I had to write stories like that. So I dashed off not exactly a plagiarized version of the story but one close enough. I showed it to my dad and told him I wanted to be a writer. He had seen me poring over that Reader’s Digest, realized what I was doing, and when I showed him the story and told him what I wanted to do, he gave me a copy of Writing Short Fiction by Damon Knight. He said to me “If you want to learn how to write stories, read this book.”
That started my writing education.
Q: Tell us a little about the Kat and Mouse series
The series takes place in the year 2042 in the West Coast metropolis of Bay City and follows the adventures of Kat and Mouse, a pair of female mercenaries. All they want is to take on straightfoward, non-nonsense jobs, get paid, and get on with their lives. But inevitably, each job turns out to be one that gets the Ladies in over their heads and they have to dig themselves out of the hole they’ve gotten into. And that digging out often involves car chases, running gun battles, and all sort of swashbuckling derring-do.
Q: How did the series come about?
While I was in college I got the idea to write a series of ongoing stories about a character. At the time I had envisioned something along the lines of the Conan stories so I went and read a bunch of Conan stories, primarily from the first three Ace/Lancer paperback collections. The character started to take the form of a female warrior, along the Red Sonja line. Then I ran across the Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories by Fritz Lieber and read the first two story collections. The single female warrior then became a pair of female warriors but I didn’t have anything more beyond that.
And then I think it was one day when I happened to be going through my bookcase in my college apartment. I started to re-read a collected volume of the Gunsmith Cats manga and suddenly it hit me–the two female warriors could be bounty hunters like Rally and Minnie-May in Gunsmith Cats.
Then another thought hit, spinning off from the female warrior duo idea: Gunsmith Cats took place in modern day Chicago. Xena took place in a mythic past that was a sort of Greek myth-based with artistic licenses taken. Another series of female warrior duos, Dirty Pair, took place in the far-flug future of spaceships and laser guns. What about stories of a female warrior duo in the near-future? In the world of cyberpunk?
Kat and Mouse was born.
Q: The series features a lot of action sequences. How do you organize them in order to balance the chaotic nature of a battle with the requirements of moving the storyline along?
Whenever I have to write a fight sequence I first determine who and what the opposing forces are. From there I input a series of fight variables into a combat simulation program I’ve written which takes into account the story elements I’m working with. Then I run those figures, which include statistics about Kat and Mouse, through several iterations until I…
There’s no program.
I really just use a bunch of d20s and a to-hit chart…
All kidding aside–I don’t so much go for chaos of battle but rather go for a hyperstylized depiction of battle. The prose version of John Woo’s gun-fu bullet ballets. Slo-mo as necessary. Leaps and spins and baddies spraying blood and crumpling. That’s the overall sense I go for when writing the sequences.
In terms of moving the story along, I see the sequences as necessary to the story. After all, I’m writing cyberpunk action-adventure. Operative words: “action” and “adventure.” It’s meant to move along at a goodly clip. And the sequences are often part of the obstacle in our duo’s path. To get through them they may have to rely on wits.
And when wits don’t work, out comes the weapons.
Q: How has the distribution of the series affected the way in which you write it and vice versa?
When I first started, I had it in mind to be at least two episodes ahead of what was currently posted. I had originally set it up so that I had six to seven installments of each episode releasing every week. With two episodes set to release, that means roughly twelve to fourteen installments, and roughly twelve to fourteen weeks between, say, episode one’s first installment and episode three’s first installment.
So at first, that was working out well. Episodes one through three had already been written by the time I first posted the series so I had lots of time between three and four. And at first, I was writing episodes within six to seven weeks, from first to final draft.
But as things progressed, Real Life started to get in the way and suddenly, those six to seven weeks started turning into three months, four months. I started to need more time and ended up taking some breaks in the middle of releasing the episodes. I think there were at least two hiatuses (hiati?) in the middle of Season 1. Then a few months break between Seasons 1 and 2. And I know there was another long break in the middle of Season 2.
I ended up dividing each episode into more installments. Nine to twelve (depending on the total episode length) as opposed to six to seven. And I decided that if a break was neccessary between releases of an episode, I was going to tell my readers that there would be a break.
When I didn’t do that initially, I was wracked with stress and guilt at letting my readers down. But I realized it was better to write a good and proper story rather than a completed-in-time-but-totally-crappy story.
Q: What have you learned by releasing the story in this format?
The biggest thing is consistency. Consistency in the posting of episodes and in the general work that goes toward writing these episodes. It’s one thing I’m constantly working on because, as I pointed out earlier, things get in the way and pull me in directions totally unrelated to the serial.
It wouldn’t be much of a problem if this was the only thing I was doing that provided for living and eating. But it’s not yet that. So other matters will take precedence.
It’s a juggling act.
Q: How has your background influenced your writing?
I’ve drawn a lot from movies, TV, anime, and manga. I’ve been known to pull bits of business, plot points, references, and that sort of thing from those source. As I mentioned above, Xena, Gunsmith Cats, and Dirty Pair were the main sources of inspiration for the series.
In terms of writing style for the series, I drew a lot from William Gibson’s short story “Johnny Mnemonic,” Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe stories, and Robert B. Parker’s Spenser novels.
Q: What sort of tools do you use during the writing process?
I know other writers use Scrivener but I think I’m old school. I use OpenOffice to write my drafts and revisions. I also use a yellow pad and a pen to breakdown episodes. And sometimes I’ll type up the episode breakdowns in OpenOffice.
I also have an iTunes playlist specifically for episode writing. It’s made up of songs and music from old anime soundtracks (specifically the original Bubblegum Crisis, Megazone 23 Part 2, and the Macross movie Love, Do You Remember)
Q: Do you have any advice for writers considering delivering a series in serialized format?
Make sure you know who your characters are before you start writing your story. The format isn’t a place to necessarily explore different backstories. Have one that you’ve settled on, one that informs the character and how they’ll act, react, think, etc.
Second, know your story, the one that you’re going to serialize. By that I mean outline. Know what happens when, from beginning to end. Know when you need to foreshadow something that will happen later in the story. Yes, you might be writing the story and then immediately posting that installment. But if you find you need to go back because the installment you just posted contains an element that needed to have been hinted at five installments earlier, I say you’ve just shot yourself in the foot. (Now the pantsers out there will probably scream at me and stab me with pitchforks for saying that.)
Q: Where can folks pick up copies of the first two box sets?
Kindle versions of both “boxed sets” are available at Amazon.
A nice epub version of Season 2 is up at Smashwords and will soon be available at Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and other online retailers.
A better epub version of Season 1 will be up in about a week. Otherwise, the current version is available at Smashwords, Barnes & Nobel, Kobo, iTunes, and other online retailers.
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.
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.