An Interview With Cate Gardner
Today folks I am very honoured to have Cate Gardner over for a chat. Cate has been one of my personal discoveries of the year, so much so that I really have to try and track down her back catalogue.
GNOH – Hi Cate, how are thingswith you?
Things are fabulous, especiallyas I get to spend an afternoon talking to you.
GNOH – Can you tell us what isthe best thing about being Cate Gardner, and what is worst thing?
The best thing is I get to eatchocolate. The worst thing is I eat too much chocolate.
GNOH – And, what’s this aboutrats in pinstripe suits and Pirate ships, I would have thought rats would weartweed?
They’re not very fashionablerats. Also, they think the pinstripes make them appear debonair. Silly rats. Andall those little things that go missing from your house (the pens, the oddsocks), they’re ferried through the sewers by rats on pirate ships. Be wary. Orjust make sure your socks are particularly smelly.
GNOH – You list RobShearman, Gina Ranalli, and LemonySnicket among others as your favouriteauthors. What is it about them that youadmire so much?
Their quirkiness, theirimagination and their ability to tell an awesome story. Rob Shearman can makeyou fall in love with a character within the first couple of lines, even ifthat character is despicable, now that is talent. In fact, is there anyone whodoesn’t like Rob Shearman’s stories? Gina is the queen of the bizarre, andLemony Snicket’s stories are delightfully insane.
GNOH – How much of an influencehave they been on your own work?
Gosh, I don’t know. I discoveredRob Shearman and Gina Ranalli a few years into my new writing career (we have aformer writing career, which wasn’t really a career, and this new one thatisn’t really a career yet but would like to be) so I think I’d pretty muchchosen my own road by the time I discovered their stories. Lemony Snicketinspired me to try to write middle-grade stories, of which I did write onerather bizarre little book (unpublished), and would like to try somethingsimilar again at some point. Writing for kids is so much fun.
GNOH – When did you first startwriting?
1991ish. My first short story waspublished in October 1993 ina magazine called ‘The Banshee’.
GNOH – Have you reached the stagewhere you feel comfortable calling yourself a writer
I‘ve felt comfortable callingmyself a writer from the beginning.
GNOH – How would you describeyour writing style? And how much has itchanged since you first started writingseriously? Has been more a case ofrefinement, or did you radically change the style.
I’d say my writing style mayappear whimsical at times but is always dark. My style has changed dramaticallysince I first started writing. In the 1990s I was all about the gothic and nowit’s all about the odd. Radically changed – I think so, but you’d probably haveto compare the old with the new (and I’m hoping no one has any copies of thoseold magazines to do such a thing – I should burn my copies). I have two writingperiods: 1991ish through to 2003 and then I took a writing break and returnedin 2007. I think it’s more a case of me as a person changing rather than mywriting changing me. Does that make sense? Does anything ever make sense?
Access to the internet and thusinteracting with other writers has definitely helped improve my writingten-fold. Learning from others is a daily adventure.
GNOH – How do you go aboutwriting, do you develop the plot outline first, or do you develop a characterfirst?
It differs. Sometimes I startwith only a title and weave a story around it. I like to think the plot and thecharacter find their way together. I may start with plot, then add a dash ofcharacter, which strengthens the plot and adds more to the character, rinse andrepeat.
GNOH – What is the your leastfavourite part of writing?
Tough one. Perhaps the placementof commas. I drive myself insane figuring those blighters out.
GNOH – How important is theintegrity of your writing, to you? Wouldyou dumb down your writing to get the big sale?
I write what I want to write.Dumb or clever. You have to love what you’re writing or the reader won’t loveit. I guess my answer is – not on purpose.
GNOH – I’m sorry to say that Ihave only I have only read two pieces of your work, both of which wereexcellent. In fact I’m struggling towrite a review for The Theatre of Curious Acts, that does the bookjustice. If I were to describe the bookas an ephemeral Clive Barker, would you be upset? Baring in mind, if you were, I’d have to goand invest in a Thesaurus.
Don’t be sorry, I’m honouredyou’ve read anything of mine. And mentioning Clive Barker would leave meastounded rather than upset. Comparisons are always nice; the trick is not tobelieve it.
GNOH – You first published bookwas The Sour Aftertaste Of Olive Lemon. How long did it take for you to get apublishing deal? Did you have to submitthe manuscript to many publishers, before Bucket ‘o’ Guts released it?
Like Nowhere Hall, Olive Lemon wasa chapbook. I’d seen the guidelines for Nate Lambert’s new press (I’d alreadyhad a short story published in an anthology he edited for another press),thought they looked interesting but that he probably wasn’t looking for my kindof story. I wished Nate good luck or some such greeting on a message board wefrequented and he said he hoped I’d send something, so I challenged myself toand hence, Olive Lemon was born. Nate accepted it within a couple of weeks.
GNOH – How did you deal with the waiting process,did you get any rejections and if so how did you deal with it?
While there were no rejectionsfor Olive Lemon, I’ve had my fair share of rejections – they’re part of thewriting process. How do I deal with them? If it’s a form rejection, I usually justsend the story onto the next market etc etc, and if it’s a personal rejectionand if I agree with the comments made then I will revise the story and submitit elsewhere. I deal with the waiting process by getting more things out thereand writing (or procrastinating).
GNOH – The book has now sold out,do you have any plans to release it again?
I’d love to. Maybe as part of acollection (assuming I ever have another story collection) or maybe I’llresubmit it somewhere. I toyed with giving a PDF copy free to people who boughtTheatre and I may still do that if I can figure out how to make a PDF withoutjust scanning the printed pages, which I imagine wouldn’t transfer to ane-reader. I am a technoidiot.
GNOH – Your second book was thewonderfully brilliant Nowhere Hall, from Spectral Press. How did you get involved with Simon’spress?
Simon had reviewed my storycollection ‘Strange Men in Pinstripe Suits’ for Beyond Fiction, he liked it andasked me to submit something for Spectral. It was one of those lucky, flukethings. Right place, right time. It’s been a wonderful year for Simon andSpectral Press and I hope his success continues. He’s very, very enthusiasticand has done an excellent job at getting the stories out to readers andreviewers.
GNOH – Have you read the otherbooks the series, if so which is your favourite?
I’ve read both Gary McMahon’s andGary Fry’s and will be reading Paul Finch’s when it’s released (which itprobably will have been by the time this interview goes live). I refuse to picka favourite. I will say though that I’m really looking forward to AlisonLittlewood’s and Simon Bestwick’s stories. They’re both terrific writers.
GNOH – You are about to release The Theatre Of Curious Acts. It’s dense, layered book with lots of wonderful imagery. Normally this is the sort of book I try toavoid, yet the power of your writingdrew me into the story and captivated throughtout the story. How hard did you have to work, to build upthe layers and the imagery, or did it just come naturally to you?
I worked very hard of course. Ithink. I’m sure I did. I believe there was biting of fingernails and tearing ofhair. In fact, I think you might find some of my fingernails on a particularroad. I love stories that have things hidden within the sentences and behindthe trees.
GNOH – I’ll be posting my reviewshortly, (I’ll say this just now folks, you need to read this book), however,the stage is all yours, why do you think the readers of this blog should buythe book?
Oh my goodness…
Because if they ever happen uponthe four horsewomen of the apocalypse having read Theatre of Curious Acts mayhelp them save the world. Fact. Or maybe lie.
GNOH – Was there a reason youchose The Great War as the setting for the book?
Yes. I’d recently read acollection of novellas ‘Fourtold’ by Mike Stone and one of his stories ‘SanFerry Ann’ was set in France just after the end of The Great War and I loved itso much that I was inspired to write a story with some soldiers of my own.
GNOH – One of the things I lovedabout the book, is that it actually feels as though the book is from the timeit is set in. How research did you dofor the book?
I read diaries and letters fromGreat War soldiers and their families plus I used to sell old prints on ebay(in my non-writing years) and had a supply of old Punch magazines from thatperiod.
GNOH – The characters in the bookfeel real, how much time did you put into creating and fleshing out the mainplayers in book?
Thank you. I always worry aboutwhether or not my characters feel like real heart-beating creatures or clichés.Creating and fleshing out the characters took the length of the first draft ofthe book and back again. By the end, I felt I knew them and hoped they’d feelas real to readers as they do to me.
GNOH – Delerium books have alsojust published your novella Barbed WireHearts, Can you tell us what thestory is about? Can we expect anotherrich and well written book?
It’s about a boy who loses hisheart and a dead girl whose heart starts beating again. They have to
save theirtown before a man named Ghoate steals everyone’s hearts. There are an awful lotof hearts. They also have to save each other. They may not all win.
I hope it’s rich and wellwritten.
GNOH – Strange Men In Pinstripe Suits, is yourcollection of short stories. How did yougo about assembling the content for the book. Is this a career retrospective, or are these stories specifically writtenfor the book?
Strange Men is a collection ofboth previously published and unpublished stories. I chose my favourites fromboth. I loved that I could include stories that had never found a home andseveral reviewers listed those stories as their favourites. I put a wee littletaster of a story at the beginning and my favourite story (which I believeanthology editors do) at the very back.
They’re just a collection ofoddities, many of which feature strange men in pinstripe suits. Until I startedputting the collection together I didn’t realise how fond I was of men wearingthat attire and how often they can be rather sinister.
GNOH – Do you have a favouritestory in the book? And if so why?
Empty Box Motel. It breaks my heart.
GNOH – So what does the futurehold for you. Do you have any projectslined up that you can tell us about?
I have a couple of short storiesdue out next year, but so far, that is it. I should put my head down and writemore. I should do that now.
Thank you for the interview, Jim.Very, very enjoyable.
Thank you Cate, it was fun for me too.
Thank you Cate, it was fun for me too.
Folks you can learn more about Cate by visiting her website