One thing that always irritates me is a bunch of ass kissers. I see it all the time. I don’t praise anything unless it knocks me flat and it takes a number of ingredients to do that for me—a helluva story, originality, emotional truth, an imagination with power and vision, a challenge, and vivid writing. Cate Gardner has all of those things in spades, so I was thrilled when Jassen sent me her new book Theatre of Curious Acts. And lucky for me and you she’s agreed to an interview. It’s a real pleasure, so a huge thanks to Cate and another to those who read and spread the word.
Me (the asker): How and when did you start writing?
Cate (the incredible): That t-shirt business we were talking about the other day, I’m changing the letters to ‘Cate (the incredible)’. In fact, I might even trademark it. Okay, maybe not and I suppose the mirror would disagree because the words would be back to front and it might mix them up and think I’m Cate (the edible). Luckily my mirror isn’t a zombie. Sorry, what did you ask? Oh yeah, when did I start writing…
I started writing when I stopped partying. Fact. A friend and I wrote songs at school and thought we could play guitar (well she could) and sing (well she could), and after that I didn’t write again until I was twenty-ish. My friends had glued themselves to other-halves, my family worked nights and I was home alone. I started by writing poetry (bad poetry) and progressed to short stories.
Me (again): How does the process work for you? Big outliner? Follow your muse into the forest and pluck magic flowers stained with names like METAPHOR, SYMBOLISM, CONFLICT, MYSTERY?
Cate (again): Sometimes I outline, sometimes I don’t. I have to be careful with outlines as I bore easily and I have to be careful pantsing because sometimes the fairies run away with me and all kinds of nonsense tumbles out. When I do outline it’s normally a couple of lines about what I’d like to happen. I’m sure I’ll eventually figure out the perfect way to work.
Me: Your work reminds me of a dark Neil Gaiman with more subtext and lyricism. Who would you compare your writing to?
Cate: I wouldn’t dare compare it to anyone.
Me: What’s your favorite part of the process?
Cate: When I’m playing with ideas, I want to be writing. When I’m writing, I want to be editing. When I’m editing, I’m desperate to write or formulate ideas. Ooh wait, better answer – an acceptance. Then I can swirl in my chair and think I’ve accomplished something even if I’ve spent the last half-hour playing Mahjong Titans.
Me: What are some themes that pop up in your work?
Cate: I’m rather fond of Death in all his/her forms. I need to stop writing about Death. I think I’ve done Death to death (cue – groan). I’ve also fashioned a few stories around hearts, broken and removed. I suppose there’s often a bit of despair running in the background, and hope.
Me: What are you working on now?
Cate: A story for an anthology I was invited to write for set in an ice hotel. It’s provisionally called ‘The Menagerie of Frozen Birds’, assuming the birds stay. I’m also supposed to be working on one of two novels. Note the word ‘supposed’.
Me: Who would win in an arm wrestling contest? (Provided no one tickles anyone) Me or you?
Me: Do you lean toward short fiction or long?
Cate: Both. My favourite length is the novella.
Me: How has your idea of a writing career jelled with the reality, or are they at war?
Cate: Once upon a time I thought the words ‘writing career’ meant giving up work and sitting in my large office while spending a few hours typing and the rest reading or answering ‘fan mail’. Seriously, I have an addiction to receiving and opening mail. All gifts gratefully received. In fact, it means sitting in my small office, sometimes typing for a few hours, twittering, twittering some more and buying books so that I have mail to open. I should add that I have no problem with reality, or with dreams.
Me: Any questions I should have asked but was too enchanted to mumble?
Cate: Nope. The enchantment only lasts the length of those questions and then we both turn back into frogs. Ribbit.
Thanks a bunch, Cate!
And there you have it.
Go investigate her stories.
Go be amazed.