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Jill Woodbine was your protagonist in her novel and The Femme Phantom is your main hero in Hidden Harbor Mysteries. Was the gender of your heroes a conscious choice or did the story come first?

Jill’s story was supposed to be about someone with an inquiring mind willing to look deeper into things than your typical survivor. She’s a newly-minted journalist and trained to ask questions and question those answers. She’s young and smart, but also very clever – which is a different thing than smart. I wanted people to underestimate Jill to give her room to investigate. I hate to say it, but given the nature of HG World and its people, being “a girl” made it easier for her to slip under the radar of management. Jeb, Hank, Jack and others don’t see women as threats. That’s what had me leaning toward Jill over, say, Bill.

Was that an early decision? I ask because the romance with Red Molly is central to moving Jill from the first half of the story into the second. Would Molly have changed gender?

Red Molly came later. Jill’s sexuality was created in part to explain that she knows how to hide secrets, particularly who she is and what she wants. There’s that whole chapter about how she felt strongly about a girl but because “normal” and “accepted” meant liking a boy, she learned how to live a lie even to the point that she denied herself. After coming out, she recognized those aspects of herself in others, allowing her to see that the people around her were intentionally lying to one another. They all believed they’d be rescued. They all believed that Management was just a committee of aw-shucks citizens like themselves. It helped her be the investigator I needed her to be. I think Molly is the same way. She hides herself and I think that ability to see through the lies we agree to tell each other is what they had in common.

What about The Phantom?

Barbara Wilson is based in part on Dark Horse comics’ “Ghost”, The Shadow, and other weird “Oriental” myths found in pulp fiction. I had worked with Veronica on Jill Woodbine and heard her work elsewhere, so I wanted to work with her again. I also wanted to tell a story set in the 30s that was full of the usual pulp and crime noir tropes, nothing heavy or serious, but with the ability to turn a convention around to keep it fresh. So instead of the big male hero, I wanted a strong, sexy heroine.

What about her relationship with Kat?

I wanted Kat to be the most loyal sidekick ever, someone who wanted to grow up to be The Femme Phantom but also someone younger listeners could identify with in the show. The romantic suggestions are there because part of my stupid brain wanted to play on Fredric Wertham’s insinuation [in “Seduction of the Innocent”] that Batman and Robin were lovers. Would it be any more or less objectionable if the heroes were women? That’s the anachronistic question I pose to the audience. Sure, the merest suggestion of this between two male heroes would have been outrageous, but Barbara and Kat? I don’t know.

Is Barbara Wilson a lesbian?

No. Well, I will say that I think Barbara is above all that. The kind of love she feels for everyone close to her is passionate, but not necessarily physical. Her ability to “hear people’s songs” means she sees everyone laid out before her, good and evil. She loves Kat and I think Barbara knows there are some feelings growing in Kat which both concern and flatter her. She also accepts that Caspar is attracted to her and considers himself a protector and trainer. Barbara might be a little conflicted because she sees him as something of a surrogate father to her, but she also sees that he has many qualities in a good man. But again, none of that is sexual. Maybe her lover is Hidden Harbor? Who knows?

Madame Alraune aka Mistress Penumbra is a powerful woman in Hidden Harbor. She owns a big chunk of it as a business woman, but has also managed to take hold of the underworld through her speakeasy called Club Penumbra. I really love the scene introducing her to the show. She has this one scene but then moves from there to the next scene and the description is like an asp slithering through the grass with people parting to let her through with a mix of awe and fear. And Kathryn Pryde does such a wonderful job bringing out that sense of danger and power in her voice. Love it.

How do they compare to the women in HG World?

You have a good range of female types in HG World. I wouldn’t call Ruby a strong character at all. She’s damaged emotionally which makes her a constant victim of Jack’s abuse. When we meet Ronni, she’s an introverted nerd, but she grows into an equal partner to Hicks and she has one of my favorite scenes with the severed head of Grey Anders which showed she is very capable of functioning in this new world. Balamani is still something of a wild card. Sarge is almost a parody of the strong female character from the 1990s. I think of them all, I wrote Doreen Garrison to be someone who represents a force of will. It isn’t a matter of gender, but strength of character. Doreen is one of my favorite characters because she went through so much and remains the most human of everyone. She had to do things she regrets, but her regret is because she had no choice but to surrender some of her humanity to survive. That action doesn’t corrupt her, but forces her to do right in all subsequent decisions. Plus, Tracy Hall does one HELL of a job in that role.

Did she kill Thomas in that one scene?

There’s that scene. Yes. Thomas is dead and the question in the episode, particularly that scene, was how much pain must he inflict before Doreen entered that darkness herself to do what was needed to protect herself and Aaron. Everyone in that church is broken, so there’s a different scale for tolerating bad behavior than in our world. Even so, Thomas crossed several lines in that episode. In his mind he was proving something to her. At some point in writing him I had to stop being rational and just cut through to the fact that Thomas had lost everything in his life and was going to claim someone for himself. He is saying all those words, but he doesn’t even see Doreen as a human being, just something to possess. There was something of a Lennie Small quality to him in that barn in that he doesn’t set out to hurt but does so anyway because he can’t control himself. But there’s also a monster that emerges when Doreen proves harder to subdue. Doreen survived that trauma only to have to relive it. Fish and Mrs. Green come at her with the whole “murderer” and “slut” accusations, especially when she starts giving orders alongside Dawkins. It’s an ugly situation.

Jo, who takes a big role in The Googies, is tied to the source of the apocalypse. She starts off as a weird, assassin sex worker, but we’ve learned that she has a much stranger past and a connection to the root of the infection changing the world. The Googies consider her their priestess, but what that means differs from the original Brotherhood to the Reformed Brotherhood. Jo has a lot in common with some of the events toward the end of Jill Woodbine, too. It’s all connected.

What’s the point of The Googies and how does that fit into HG World? Is it the same show? A Spin-off?

The Googies is supposed to tell the story of the UNNDD, that team led by McInnes and Grant, between Season Zero and Season One. The idea of The Brotherhood, talking zombies, all the stuff that showed up out of nowhere at the end of Season One is explained here. There are two “Brotherhoods” one that believes humanity should become zombies and the other that believes that they can work together to become a super race of immortal beings through collaboration with certain, more developed strains of Pervasive Auto-Immunonecrosis. I wanted to tell the story through other eyes, which is why Ken Peter became the narrator of the piece.

So if you’re playing along chronologically, I guess… Season Zero, then Googies, then Season Two and Jill Woodbine run simultaneously.

It’s taken a long time to tell this story. Why so long?

Lots of reasons. The story ballooned out of control. Originally there were to be five scripts. They were very long and complicated. It’s really two stories – the story of the Brotherhood and the story of Ken Peters. Ken could have his own podionovel like Jill Woodbine, but I didn’t think about it that way and wrote everything together. So five scripts became ten and each chapter became more complicated to produce.

We also began Googies with more hands on the production side. There were seven people at one point, which dropped to three. There was also a burnout factor there with everyone going for so long. But it all gets back to scripts that just got out of control assuming we’d have a system to crank it all out. If I had to do it over again, it would be half the size it ended up being. But then we might have had “The Diary of Ken Peters” instead of Jill. Not sure how I’d feel about that, despite loving James Baxter Patton.

Could it have been both?

Maybe. The good news is that HG World allowed me to work with both of them and a bunch of other awesome folks in Hidden Harbor Mysteries.

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