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Author Interview: Cat Manning
2016-01-21 · by Kerstin
Cat Manning is a writer and editor primarily based in Los Angeles. Her interests include interactive fiction, translation, speculative fiction, and she is one dissertation away from receiving her Ph.D. in English Literature. She can be found on Twitter and on WordPress. She is the author of this week’s story, Invasion.
This interview was conducted via email in January 2016.
Kerstin Hall: You haven’t been the easiest person to cyberstalk. Am I correct in assuming ‘Invasion’ was your first stab at interactive fiction?
Cat Manning: No . . . but let’s say yes, so you don’t go looking for the other stuff.
Kerstin: Nah, I’m not letting you off that easy. What other projects have you worked on? Hit me with one sentence synopsises. Synopsi?
Cat: I wrote ‘Crossroads’ for IF Comp 2015, which I might call “an experimental magical-realist time cave about summoning a witch in the woods.”
Kerstin: Time cave? Sounds fun. What other non-IF works can interested readers pursue, if any?
Cat: None so far–but if anyone’s interested in my forthcoming work, updates on future publications will be on my blog!
Kerstin: Previously, ‘Invasion’ was published on IFDB. It’s early days, but how have the experiences compared, excusing the rather obvious advantage of getting paid by sub-Q?
Cat: ‘Invasion’ was originally written for Ectocomp 2015. The version I sent to sub-Q is cleaned-up, edited, and more streamlined. I’m tremendously happy with the experience of working with the editors to fully realize my vision for this story.
Kerstin: Aw. What do you do for a living?
Cat: I’m working on my Ph.D. in English Literature, I teach university writing, and I’m also a freelance editor for both fiction and non-fiction work.
Kerstin: What do you do for fun?
Cat: Anything but working on my Ph.D.! When I’m not talking people’s ears off about narrative (interactive and otherwise), I like hiking in the nearby hills and irritating the cat. I’ve also started making artisanal soap recently.
Kerstin: Well, I think you kind of preempted this, but I was going to ask you to give me one unusual factoid about yourself.
Cat: Never make me breakfast in the shape of a smiley face. I won’t be able to eat it without being seized with searing guilt at devouring something helplessly earnest and uncomprehending of its terrible fate. (This applies to all anthropomorphized food.)
Kerstin: No jelly babies for you then. Where do you live and where did you grow up?
Cat: Right now, I live in Los Angeles, which is actually also where I grew up.
Kerstin: What influences your writing?
Cat: Music is a huge influence for me: a piece will drastically change depending on what I’m listening to while working, and so I curate my writing playlists ruthlessly to make sure I have the right kind of mood. Other narratives (film, literature, games) do influence me, but more in terms of tone than plot. When I finished Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, I couldn’t work on a light, funny piece in progress for a couple of days.
Kerstin: Are you working on anything exciting at the moment, either in IF or other forms?
Cat: Yes! I have a couple IF projects I’m working on, one in Twine and one in Undum. I also have several half-finished speculative fiction short stories, mostly because I can’t decide if I’d rather turn them into IF projects or complete them in their original medium.
Kerstin: Let’s talk ‘Invasion.’ Without giving spoilers, the creepy little horror story follows a desperate woman on the run from… something. Or some things . . . It deals with questions of identity and memory. Are those particular preoccupations of yours?
Cat: Oh, absolutely. I’m particularly preoccupied with the flexibility of identity–how much of what we claim as our identity can we lose or gain before we stop recognizing ourselves. Selfhood is a much more facile thing than I think we’re comfortable admitting in daily life, and fiction is a way for me to explore the boundaries of that.
Kerstin: What were you trying to say with ‘Invasion’?
Cat: I had a relationship that crossed over into inappropriate territory, and there was a point at which I started fearing for my safety. ‘Invasion’ was born out of that fear and helplessness and anger.
Kerstin: What would you say to an author of traditional fiction who was considering trying out IF for the first time?
Cat: Go for it! Pick a small project and dive in: the absolute best thing you can do is start playing with the tools. There are a ton of resources available, and I’ve found that the IF community is incredibly willing to help. Also, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask people in the IF community questions about your project or tools. Send a Tweet! Send an email!
Kerstin: What are your goals for the future?
Cat: I’d like to keep writing, both IF and traditional fiction. I also intend to finish this degree before the heat death of the universe. I’d like to see traditional speculative fiction communities and the interactive fiction community start talking more, since I think they both have a great deal to offer, and I’d like to be a part of facilitating that conversation.
Kerstin: Let’s wrap up: when you were six years old, what did you want most in the world? What do you want right now?
Cat: At that age, all I wanted was to be a dolphin. I still kind of want to be a dolphin. But I’ll settle for being a writer.
Kerstin: Thanks for your time.