Middle Grade Weird West Author Spotlight: Catt Colborn

Welcome, Catt!

Catt Colborn is a writing professor at Stockton University and has three books published under PFI Press and one from Bizarro Pulp Press, an Imprint of JournalStone Publishing. She’s an academic member of the Horror Writers Association. Catt worked as a conference assistant in Philly and an art initiative worker in South Jersey. She collects expensive bourbon, fine cigars, and weenie dogs. Her upper MG, Weird West novella, Biting the Golden Dust Canyon, will be available on Amazon, print and Kindle, from PFI Press, June/July 2022.

Learn more about Catt on Twitter: @CattColborn, or Longshot Productions.

Biting the Golden Dust Canyon and author images

About Biting the Golden Dust Canyon

Sanabelle Sanzers is an heiress to a secret sickness cure. Goldie Sparks is an heiress to a huge chunk of gold. When Sanny is separated from her Auntie Roslyn and the two youngins’ on a train to Beaumont, avoiding more perpetrators, the two girls must pick their muddy selves up and hightail it to the town of Biting the Dust Canyon. The urgent headlines of the missing “inventor’s daughter” are spread across town. Wild rumors that the town is cursed spreads even quicker. Now the girls must choose to venture ahead of their rejoined family and break the curse or to stay safe in the warded hotel with the smart and mysterious reporter, Junior Robins. But to quote Goldie Sparks, “We girls don’t need savin’!”

Interview with Catt Colborn

Tell us about yourself – what is something readers would be surprised to find out?

I started my freelance career writing clean, western romances that sometimes were set in “get a wife from a catalog genre,” and I loved my clients and learned a lot about the Old West but loathed the topic at the end of each day. So, I found myself procrastinating and scribbling hardened cowboy tales and gritty children and teen westerns. I took my last, clean, MOB (Mail Order Bride), ghostwriting job after I wrote a few chapters to my weird take on the genre. 

What is it about the Weird West genre that draws you to it? What are your favorite aspects or examples of this often-underappreciated genre?

I love the fun play on voice, the old sayings, the noir-like characters in dusty, gloaming settings, and some of the properties of Wild West tales such as: weapons (I like target shooting), cool hats, likable antagonists, and loyal horses. I gravitate toward the weirder ones, where I guess I wouldn’t be a “little lady in distress.” The weird element in any category feels like home to me. I had a long life of defending what others have called “campy” and “unrealistic” in my writing. Um, fiction. Labeled weird. The writers, who understood the strange elements, laughed, and punched my shoulder, but the craft elements are here to stay so at least acknowledge it. You don’t have to know how-to or love it, but many do. 

Many Weird West stories are geared toward adults. Can you speak about your inspiration behind writing an MG story centered around the Weird West? 

Funny you should mention this because I wanted to mention how hard it was to query for MG, female-driven, weird, horror westerns: very hard. Traditional publishers and agents are open to it, their feedback was detrimental in editing to the bones of MG horror. It’s very hard to get them to trust that some elements won’t be traditional here. We needed some weird wild west for upper MG with the comeback of Goosebump-like tales. I don’t blame anybody. They don’t know me (or maybe my time with the weird genre) enough to invest in me (yet). I also took to heart the feedback not to go overboard on the adult perspective with the kids.

There’s that ongoing fight in my mind that I did come from the 80s—our upper, middle grade, westerns, horror, and romances were pretty mind melding. Look back at the lists from 1986. Also see what kids were sneaking out of the thrift or yard sales from YA or horror. Think about the birth of the cable box, where we had free range. You’ll straighten in your boots from their perspective.

I don’t go there, and they’re right—a middle grader wants to see themselves through the character’s eyes. The clean ghostwriting had a purpose. In the end, the format helped in the suggested revisions to keep the book age appropriate. I hope the crossover readers will enjoy the take through the younger version of themselves. It’s for kids, although I had the coming-of-age tales, Stand by Me and The Goonies, playing in the background while writing. 

If you were living in the Weird West, what kind of character would you be? 

Bounty Hunter. I wouldn’t be good at wearing all those frilly aprons and such. I’d like to be riding horses and owning cool weapons. I was always great with deduction and figuring out puzzles. Not sure how my private self would make it in a small town as a sheriff or deputy.

Are there any other writing projects you’re working on?

Currently, I have three projects wrapping up: Adult Fantasy, The Rippling (forthcoming by the end of the summer), I also have an all-female cast, science fiction anthology, Journey to Ishtar Terra and Other Weird Tales (Halloween), and a WIP, untitled and genre bending at the moment, which could take the place of the others at any moment like MG did. The works tell me, which is next, I don’t have any control over it. I’m surprised to be writing this interview right now when I think of where the novella was a few weeks ago.

What are you reading right now? 

Chapter Six of On Writing, by Stephen King, The Emotional Thesaurus, by Akerman and Puglisis, and Rivet Your Readers with Deep POV, by Nelson, have been my craft tools as of late. I want to make sure I’m reaching the younger readers and dabbling in Deep POV because this is how people are reading in 2022. I’m changing careers, so I have time to get to my fiction TBR pile!

I’m ashamed to say I’m late starting Only the Good Indians and My Heart is a Chainsaw (Stephen Graham Jones) and many others. My sister gave me Where the Crawdads Sing (Delia Owens) months ago, knowing my obsession with the setting and wanting to discuss the mystery.

And for Weird West, I am going to pick a female author to maybe inspire me for an adult, female-driven novella next. I’m an avid reader as a writing instructor, but higher ed was kicking my butt for a few semesters with the health crisis, being online and in-person, and setting up my online classroom in my office until 10 P.M. every night. So, I’m excited to get some free time back to read and write.

Favorite weird west movie/book/comic/etc. and why? 

Immediate reaction: Outer Range. I ate that show up in a few sittings. It was brilliant. What made me want to start penning weird west: my friend owns a comic store in Berlin, NJ, and one day, he handed me Book One in a graphic collection called, Dark Tower: Gunslinger Born. Awesome to score for free, right? I loved everything about it: the vengeful yet disciplined kids, the heartache, and the words that were created for the world-building. Thinking back, it probably wasn’t long before I was ghostwriting and writing my westerns. I am a “pantser” and don’t outline anymore because I found if you want to test the weird waters, it’s super-fun to let the story tell you where it wants to go. I did this in Weekly Furapy for Bizzaro Pulp Press and no regrets!

Oh, can we please mention current music to this question (even though it has some modern references)? When God’s Country from Blake Shelton comes on, I anthem-yell the hell outta’ that while writing western fiction.

Anything else you’d like to add about writing or the Weird West? 

I think we are told to do a lot of things as writers. I think we are suspected to write a certain way if you attend formal writing classes, workshops, and panels. If you don’t write a bestselling novel and still discover what makes your voice unique from all others, then you have succeeded at being a rich author. Done. Nothing else matters. No money in the world can take that away from you. You are the master of your worlds.

Learn more about Catt Colborn:

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