I recently was given the opportunity to chat with Nina Post, the author of Danger in Cat World, The Last Condo Board of the Apocalypse The Last Donut Shop of the Apocalypse and One Ghost Per Serving. We talked social media, her influences, web comics and quantum mechanics.
First things first, what inspired you to become an author? If not, what were you involved with prior to putting pen to paper?
What inspired me? I think it was some bad shellfish from a pot-luck supper, or maybe a chemical cloud from Area 51. But I knew I wanted to write very early on, so it must be a genetic flaw. I wasn’t consistent about writing until a few years ago. I wanted to write what turned out to be The Last Condo Board of the Apocalypse, and decided to commit to it. Before that, I got my BA in English and worked unrelated jobs. Most were normal, though one was a transportation study that involved verifying if a vehicle was or was not a truck. It’s come up once or twice, when I’ve argued “That’s actually not a truck,” or vice-versa.
What does Nina Post do in her downtime?
I run in the morning (and think about the book I’m working on) and walk with my husband through Seattle’s parks on the weekend (while we talk about the book I’m working on). I cook (and think about the book I’m working on), I read (and think about it in terms of the book I’m working on), I watch movies and TV (ditto).
Who are some of your influences?
Some that stand out to me are Chuck Jones, Steve Martin, Alexandre Dumas, Jim Henson, Stephen King, Fran Lebowitz, Woody Allen (including his essays), Tim Schafer (game designer), Berkeley Breathed, Iris Murdoch, Raymond Chandler.
In your most recent novel, Danger in Cat World, you’ve got a homicide detective who while trying to solve a murder, has to deal with the sudden appearance of several cats out of thin air. What inspired you to take a police procedural and mix it up with the supernatural?
I love a good procedural book. And I’ve been reading non-fiction books and sources about quantum mechanics for several years, including Hugh Everett’s Relative State Formulation of Quantum Mechanics (aka the Many Worlds theory). The book is meant as a riff on parallel worlds, and the cats are a play on Schrodinger’s cat. There is at least one cat in both worlds, and the grieving cat in A duplicates itself in B, one cat each hour, which makes universe B unstable and leads Shawn Danger to question his sanity. The entropy in Shawn’s universe increases with each cat, so the longer Shawn (a homicide detective) takes to solve the murder, the more unstable his world becomes.
Some physicists have posited that a universe can form from something quite minimal. Andrei Linde, who is known for inflation theory, or inflationary cosmology, says the implication of cosmic inflation is that a universe could form from only a hundred-thousandth of a gram of matter, so arguably, you could create a universe in a lab. That’s what the heiress (who was also a physicist) was working on. And the cat got in the way.
The framing device of the parallel worlds grew out of the character’s isolation. He’s alone in what he does — the people who work with him think his methods are weird, his family makes him crazy, he’s not a man of faith, and he’s single. His only real bridge to what feels like another world (the normal world) is his cat, Comet. He can also see into universe A, and can watch another version of himself, one who seems to do everything right.
Are you what you would describe as a “cat person” at heart?
You could also ask if I would describe myself as a “giant water scorpion person” or “tortoise person,” since I have the first one in The Last Condo Board of the Apocalypse and the latter in Danger in Cat World. I don’t have a cat, but I like their self-reliance, their quirks, and their occasionally hilarious determination.
Some authors use social media strictly as a promotional tool. While there’s nothing wrong with that, you also seem to use Twitter to create a more personal connection with your audience. Do you feel it’s important to do this given how easy it’s become for readers to reach their favorite authors?
It really depends on how the author is using it and if they actually enjoy it. I promote sparingly on Twitter and prefer having mini-conversations with people or acknowledging something they tweeted, or just linking to things I like (mostly interviews, movies I liked, or articles from science journals). I’ve met people on Twitter I consider friends now. And some people have picked up my books because of finding and interacting with me there, which is great (I’ve done the same). I also have a newsletter that normally goes out every month, and I encourage subscribers to respond. So I like interacting that way, as well. I think authors should find whatever way of interacting that works for them, and have at least a couple of avenues for readers to connect with them.
Not only are you an author of several published novels but you also dabble a little in comics. Tell us a little about your series! Were you inspired by any other web comics or do you have any you would like to recommend?
I’m surprised you noticed! I have three comics, all hand-drawn: The Corpse and the Danish, about a reticent corpse and a gregarious danish (the food kind) who have woefully misguided jobs as tour guides. They’re both in constant danger, being inherently fragile. I’ve been drawing this one for years, and decided to take it up again. Second, I have Otto Mata, Esquire — a scabrous matamata turtle plies his trade as a maritime lawyer at the bottom of a Louisiana swamp. This comic was inspired by seeing a mata-mata when I visited the San Francisco aquarium, and by my own interest in maritime law. Third, I have The Sloth and the Sloth Moth — an introspective three-toed sloth and the angry moth that lives in his fur operate a micro-business in Costa Rica. I had written my husband a story about a sloth, and was reading about the moths that live on the algae in their fur.
I wouldn’t say that I was inspired specifically by other web comics, and though I’ve read several over the years, I don’t keep up on a regular basis. I loved The Far Side and Bloom County, and would say those were an influence.
Do you have any recent favorite reads?
Hmm, recent? I’m sure I’ll inadvertently leave some out. Robert Jackson Bennett’s The Troupe was my favorite book of 2012. I also liked Tana French’s Broken Harbor, Ben Winters’ The Last Policeman, Seth Harwood’s This is Life, Alan Sepinwall’s The Revolution Was Televised, Tom Franklin’s Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, Jeffery Deaver’s The Vanished Man, and Carolyn Crane’s Mr. Real.
How about a favorite book?
That’s a tough one. I’m partial to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
What can we expect from Nina next?
My next release is Extra Credit Epidemic, a YA mystery slated for an early summer release: When a brilliant yet reclusive high school student uncovers a small cluster of food borne infections, she teams up with a former state epidemiologist turned science teacher to investigate, but as the cases start to multiply, she realizes that she’ll need more than just her sharp intellect to find the source of the outbreak.
And readers can expert more suspense and mystery going forward.
Thanks for having me on Every Read Thing, Brandon!