Are you ready for Nine Lives on the Seven Seas?
I hope so, because Swashbuckling Cats launches today! To celebrate, I thought I’d write a bit about my story “All Cats Go to Valhalla” and give you some of the tale’s secret origin.
Confession the first: I am not a cat person. I used to be. Before I had to live with one. I loved cats until I had a roommate with one. Then things changed. Now I guess you could say I admire the little jerks as impressive murder machines I’m glad I don’t have to share my home with.
Why the hell would I write a cat story then? Well, I happened to be on Twitter when Rhonda and her publisher at Tyche Books started joking about this anthology (this is neither a huge surprise or coincidence, I am…often on Twitter), and so I joined in the fun, tweeting silly cat GIFs, not really thinking an actual open call would happen. But when it did, since I’d been egging it on, I offered up my metaphorical axe.
(Also, I also happened to have made a whiskey bet with a writing friend about which of us would sell five stories to Rhonda first. (This became story number four for me.))
The first thing that came to me for “All Cats Go to Valhalla” was my protagonist’s name. I’d had a note about a character called Kills-the-Sky in my miscellaneous writing folder for ages, but hadn’t found the right personality to attach it to, or the right story to use it in. (Fun side note: Kills-the-Sky is also the name of my Tabaxi Ranger in an online game of Curse of Strahd with some writing pals.) I couldn’t shake the image of that axe-wielding viking kitty though, so I knew I’d make the story Norse mythology based, and if I was writing a Norse myths story, why not make it a part of my Thunder Road universe?
The next part of the story to arrive was the title, which was unusual for two reasons. First, I don’t typically care for pun titles. Second, the final title is usually the last thing I type in a story, watching the end of submission window growing closer while I mutter, “fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck.” It was kind of refreshing to have it locked from the near the start of writing.
The plot came from a line in one of the Thunder Road books about vikings coming to North America to bury their nightmares, which had been my attempt to tie stories of Newfoundland Old Hag sleep paralysis to the myths of maras. Having the first spur of the plot, I took some historical elements, such as an article I’d read about vikings travelling with cats on their ships, and I went for it, figuring if I tried to plan too much that the cats would just have their way, anyway.
I decided not to make my viking cats anthropomorphic because I figured real cats, stuck at sea, would have its own tension even before I started throwing monsters and gods at them, and, as an added bonus, I’d be able to fit the story more neatly into my Thunder Road ‘verse. Years and years ago, I’d really enjoyed Tailchaser’s Song by Tad Williams, so that probably influenced me too. Finally, I pulled up lots of images of Norwegian forest cats to cast my characters, and started following Black Metal Cats on Twitter for inspiration. This story ended up a bit darker than I thought Rhonda might want, but it was the story in my head, and anyway, there’s some humour in there. And, obviously, things worked out. Rhonda liked “All Cats Go to Valhalla” enough to buy it for the anthology.
I hope you’ll enjoy it too!