Andrew Mackay - Twists, Turns, Aliens, and Snarky Banter

Andrew Mackay - Twists, Turns, Aliens, and Snarky Banter

British best-selling Andrew Mackay is the author of the Star Cat series, and writes in a wide variety of genres including sci-fi, fantasy, satire, humor, thriller, and horror. As our Author of the Day, he tells us all about Star Cat: Infinity Claws.

Please give us a short introduction to what Star Cat: Infinity Claws is about.

Star Cat, as an entire saga, is essentially my attempt at a classic, good ol’ fashioned space romp. I grew up in the eighties with movies like The Goonies, Alien, Ghostbusters, and this was my love letter to that time period. My favorite piece of fiction is Arthur C. Clarke’s The Sentinel, which Stanley Kubrick turned into 2001: A Space Odyssey (my favorite film ever!) and so that was really the launching pad, if you’ll forgive the pun, for the series. In fact, those two things—the book and the movie, along with a myriad of other references in a smaller way—were always at the forefront of my mind as I wrote the series.

What inspired you to make a cat the only hope of survival in a sci-fi story?

I love cats, quite simply. I’ve owned – and lost – many in my time. The whole boy and his cat angle in Star Cat is the emotional underpinning of the whole thing. I just needed a way to frame it and make sense, so what better way than to introduce a distress call from Saturn that only cats (female, at that) can understand?

Why did you pick Enceladus as a destination in this book?

I didn’t intend to pick Enceladus as I wrote the series. I just chose one of Saturn’s moons at random and let fate carry the rest. I’d love to tell you it has some meaning in fact, but it doesn’t. I’m of the mind that good works of fiction should entertain. But great works of fiction, especially in sci-fi, should ask more questions than they answer. That’s not to say everything is left unattended – far from it – but when it comes to the ethereal, otherworldly stuff, I don’t think us humans can fully comprehend what’s out there. Perhaps there’s no explanation for what happens. But as long as what happens is clear, then I do my readers and fans the courtesy of writing books that treats them with the respect they deserve.

What inspired Jelly the cat? Is she based on any cat you know?

Not really. If anything, she’s a hybrid of every cat I’ve ever owned, or knew, or know now. My parents have an utter moron of a cat who looks a bit like Jelly. So his looks inspired Jelly’s looks, but Jelly is fierce and unstoppable. She’s a good girl, but she’s a ruthless killer. Has anyone ever stopped to wonder what would happen if their adorable fuzzball outgrew them, physically and mentally? If you’ve ever had that thought, then you’re gonna love Star Cat.

Tell us more about Jamie Anderson. What makes him tick?

Jamie’s a very young boy, easily manipulated, and certainly overexcited to enter his cat, Jelly, into the competition. He’s a driven young boy, and in many ways the archetypal, vulnerable good guy. All he wants is for Jelly to win the Star Cat Competition. But… what happens if you win? Sure, the prize money is great, but is having your cat taken away from you to go on a deadly mission to Saturn worth it? The entire six-book saga is ultimately a dilemma, and a study on friendship and regret, and growing up pretty damn fast.

Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?

It depends on who you ask. If you ask my wife, then the answers may be unrepeatable here! Ask my friends, and they’ll tell you I’m crazy. Ask me, and I’ll tell you they’re all lying. I used to be a teacher. I like to think I can make people laugh. I study people and behavior quite a lot, and I like to think if I ever met anyone reading this that I could successfully divine what makes them drive. I’m crazy about psychology. I’m an incredibly efficient liar and manipulator.

This is book one of a series. Can it be read as a standalone?

It can be read as a standalone, insofar as you can read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone as a standalone. Star Cat books 2 through 6 can’t be, though. The Star Cat Saga (as I call it) is one big story cut into six instalments. Star Cat Forever, the sixth and final book, is my best work – and I’ve written nearly fifty of them.

Tell us more about the cover and how it came about.

The cover you see now is a slight remodeling of the original cover which, for me, was ever-so-slightly young adult-y. The current cover is based on the Ryan Gosling movie First Man, which is fitting, because despite the movie releasing a year after Star Cat, the original title for Infinity Claws was First Cat. Go figure. This happens a lot to me, particularly when I was a screenwriter. For more on that, type my name in IMDb and you can see what else I’ve been up to in the movie world.

Readers say the book was fast-paced and hooked them from the start. How did you pull this off?

Having come from a screenwriting background, which includes uncredited polishing and rewrites on features you may well have heard of, I often get this note in my reviews; that my books read like movies. I think that’s just luck, or possibly a force of habit. I don’t really write my books in the traditional sense. When I sit down to write them, I blare movie soundtracks as I type, and picture a giant IMAX screen in front of my eyes and just type what I see. Does that make sense? A good, strong start is vital for any book. For Star Cat, it was the establishing of the good guys, what was at stake… and the fact that USARIC (the future’s NASA) discovers that a cat might be able to decode Saturn’s distress call. That’s intriguing enough for the first chapter, I think!

Which character did you find the most challenging to create?

None of them, in all honesty. I know them all so well. But, if I had to pick one, then it’s from Star Cat: Killer instinct (Book 4) – the bad guy is a giant wolf called Mastazita. He’s a ruthless, bloodhound, but he’s blind. It’s a subtle rumination on death chasing you, and you can’t outrun it. Writing a character who has no dialog can be a challenge, but a great one. A rewarding one. Without speaking, he’s way more frightening. I believe the perfect book and movies are the ones with as little dialog as possible. And that’s a dumb thing to say for a writer whose greatest strength is in writing dialog.

The book reminds a bit of Douglas Adams. Are you a fan?

Totally. I love The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. In fact, Manuel, the floating, holographic encyclopedic book in Star Cat (who may as well have been called Mr. Exposition) is a nod to Douglas Adams. He was meant to be called The Manual, but someone aboard Space opera Beta accidentally type his name wrong, hence Manuel. Also, the more astute comedy observer may see my thinly-veiled Fawlty Towers reference there, too .Fun times. Can you tell I’m a Brit, yet?!

Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?

I don’t write every day. There are those who do, and that’s great. Actually, I’m sure there are people who play tennis every day, and they’re great, too. Good luck to them. Me? Meh, I have days when I know if I sit down and force myself to write it’ll end up useless, or complete trash. With that in mind, I write in chunks. For my next book, for example, I’ll start writing on Monday and I won’t rest until the first draft is done. Every day I’ll pump out between 5-15k words until it’s finished. Then, I’ll rest for two or three weeks. And by rest, I mean be a publisher, work hard on advertising and promotion. An author, if they are anything like me, probably spends about 10% of their time writing, 50% promoting, and 60% getting their figures wrong with their advertising because their math sucks.

What are you working on right now?

This all comes at a really interesting time, because Star Cat is now two years old (hence the celebratory promotion on Sunday!) Next up, we’re back in the same universe. It’s called RED ARMAGGEDON – Book 1 in THE USARIC METHOD sci-fi series. Some of the old gang are back. The world of USARIC is already established. Fans of Star cat are gonna love it for this reason. But Jelly won’t be in it, of course—in fact, the entire endeavor will be astonishingly cat-free.

Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?

Definitely follow me at my author page at Amazon!

Author Page:

And do do do do write to me via email. I love getting to meet new people, readers, and, hopefully, fans!

Email: [email protected]

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FEATURED AUTHOR - Kimberly Packard is an award-winning author of women’s fiction. When she isn’t writing, she can be found running, asking her dog what’s in his mouth or curled up with a book. She resides in Texas with her husband Colby, a clever cat named Oliver and a precocious black lab named Tully. Her debut novel, Phoenix, was awarded as Best General Fiction of 2013 by the Texas Association of Authors. She is also the author of a Christmas novella, The Crazy Yates, and the sequels to Phoenix, Pardon Falls… Read more