Hi folks, I of course also have a story in this collection, an extended version of my previously published “Griddlebone”, so today I’m interviewing myself!
Interview with Debbie Manber Kupfer
- Tell us a little bit about yourself
I’m a writer, editor, puzzle maker, cat herder, tea drinker, and fan of many things weird and wacky!
- When did you first start writing?
When I was about eight years old I wrote a story about turning into a ladybird (ladybug) and sent it to the Puffin Post. I was thrilled when I got a mention for the story. This followed many years of dabbling in the writing arts, but it was only in 2012 after facing down breast cancer that I started to take my writing seriously. That November during NaNoWriMo I started writing P.A.W.S. and ten books later I’m still going!
- Who are your favorite authors?
I’m an eclectic reader. Favorites include Douglas Adams, Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Cornelia Funke, Nick Hornby, D.R. Perry, R.R. Virdi, E.A. Copen, Chaim Potok, Charlie Holmberg, and Paul Gallico.
- What inspires you to write?
Anything and everything. I’m a people watcher. I love sitting in cafes and listening into conversations, and random snippets often inspire my stories.
- Tell us a little bit about your story in Catstruck, “Griddlebone”.
Griddlebone was a Nazi experiment, a werecat created in a laboratory to be used as a weapon. They miscalculated and Griddlebone not only escaped but joined the resistance and fought back against the Nazis. His story originally appeared in Sins of the Past and then I adored the character so much that he was written into Umbrae (P.A.W.S. 3) and has played a role in the series ever since. The version of the story that appears in Catstruck is an extended tale that includes the long anticipated meeting between Griddlebone and his granddaughter, Finny.
- What are you currently working on?
I’m working on book ten of my P.A.W.S. Saga. This one is called Madarak and for it P.A.W.S. members of the avian persuasion are converging on Nashville for a special bird convention. Readers will revisit some of their favorite avian shifters, such as Oswald the Ostentatious and Gordon Frakes, but also meet some new characters from the P.A.W.S. world including the President of Madarak Bird Con, Augustus Flug and his wife Margolit. All being well I plan to release Madarak on June 20th 2023 which is the tenth anniversary of when P.A.W.S. was originally released. The book is now available on preorder.
- Do you have kitties or other pets? (Feel free to add pictures!)
Of course! I have two feline overlords. Miri (named for the character in P.A.W.S.) and Whiskey (who inspired a character in P.A.W.S.)
- Do you have a favorite literary cat?
Whenever there is a cat in a story I am drawn to them, but my all-time favorite is probably Jennie from Paul Gallico’s book of the same name. Such a beautiful, haunting tale. I’m also very fond of the Cheshire Cat in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
- How can readers connect with you?
Want to read a snippet from “Griddlebone”? Sure you do!
“Why? Why, Opapa? Why have you avoided me for all these years? And why are you finally meeting with me now?”
“I had reasons, Katzel, reasons.”
“Reasons aren’t good enough. Details, I want details. There are so many things you never told me.”
“I was embarrassed, Finny. I always felt I could do more. Could have saved them all if I hadn’t been so blind.”
“You saved me,” said Finny. “And Jacob. You saved Jacob.”
“Two cats – just two cats, Finny, and there were hundreds of werecats.”
“Tell me what happened, Opapa.”
Griddlebone looked up. There were tears in his eyes. “Where to start, though.”
“Start at the beginning.”
“You know I was the first,” said Griddlebone “– an early experiment.”
Finny nodded and Griddlebone continued.
* * *
The Germans were seeking a better soldier, a better fighting machine. They hired a scientist to help them with their work, the renowned Dr. Wechsler. He was considered a revolutionary in the field of genetics.
In his laboratory, he created mutants by blending feline genes with human. He chose the cat because it was the easiest carnivore to obtain. It was simple to take an alley cat off the streets. No one missed it, except the other cats of course, but who cared about them.
They wanted a predator, one that they could teach to kill for them, one that their enemies wouldn’t expect. But cats are fickle creatures, and intelligent too.
I woke up in that laboratory, outwardly appearing as I had been – a young man of twenty, but inwardly I could feel the change that had been wrought, could feel the new feline essence inside me. The scientist wanted a demonstration to show the Gestapo chief who was visiting that day. Yes, I decided, I would give him a demonstration.
The Gestapo chief paced in front of me.
“You say he can change?”
He turned to me smiling. “So let’s see it, Herr Griddlebone!”
I concentrated, understanding instinctively what to do. Inside me, I had retained the memories of the old street cat that had been used in my creation. My body contracted and I became a presumably harmless housecat – a large, grey tabby.
“Marvelous,” said the Gestapo chief, clapping his hands, “he will make a wonderful spy, but maybe not such a good fighter. You are working on others I hope. Vienna zoo is at your service; take whatever you need from there. I fancy perhaps a leopard or a tiger.”
Oh, I thought, a tiger’s what you want? I might be able to do something about that. As soon as the Nazi’s back was turned, I pounced. In the air, my body changed, quickly growing ten times my original size. My claws lengthened and sharpened into dangerous weapons and my teeth became vicious canines.
“That’s for my mother and father,” I bellowed, and I sunk my teeth into the Gestapo chief’s flesh. The rest of the Nazis in the room were cowards. They ran from me, screaming, and I had no difficulty escaping from the laboratory.
Once outside,I shrunk back down into regular cat size (my favorite form from then on) and ran out into the streets of Vienna.
I had no clear idea what to do or where to go. My family had been killed on the day I was taken. But the Nazis had given me a gift. In my cat form I could easily blend into the shadows. Nobody suspected a cat, after all.
My attack on the Gestapo chief did not deter the Nazis from their experiments. If anything, it empowered them. If one small cat could create such chaos, what could a whole army of shapeshifting carnivores achieve?
I was making friends with the street cats, but sometimes my new friends would go missing, just as they had when I’d lived as a Jew. Some of the street animals were taken for food by ordinary citizens; the war years had led to shortages of meat. But others were taken by the Nazis so they could continue their experiments.
My first rescue was a glorious thing. I meowed at the door of the laboratory, making myself smaller and inconsequential. A lab assistant let me in, smirking, “Well, we could always do with another cat, though this one doesn’t look like he has a lot of fight in him.”
Little did they know.
Around the room were a number of cages. Some contained cats yet to be used in the experiments. Others contained the results of previous experiments. Strange were-creatures – cats of all sizes and shapes, some grotesquely disfigured as the scientist tried to improve his mutations.
The lab assistants saw me as no threat, just a street moggy, so they gave me a saucer of milk and left me loose on the floor of the lab. “Needs a little fattening up, before we can use him,” one of them said.
I lapped my milk and waited for my opportunity. I wandered around the room, sniffing hither and thither, pretending to explore, but actually I was picking the locks … with my mind. When the scientist made me, he truly didn’t understand the power he was unleashing. The addition of feline genes to my genetic makeup gave me powers I could never have dreamed of before. Telepathy (of course, for that is how I’m speaking to you now)and also a limited telekinesis. The locks were easy to pick, I merely had to visualize the mechanism inside, and they simply slipped open.
I prepared the residents for escape, reaching out to each mind with my whiskers. All could help free themselves, I explained, the werecats and the true cats. Everyone had claws and teeth, after all. On that day, we killed five men in the Nazi laboratory, all but the scientist. The scientist begged for his life. We considered this and decided to be lenient. He could be useful, so we spared his life and brought him with us.
We wondered if we could trust him of course, but he seemed to prefer to be on the winning side.