In Conversation With Cate Gardner

The buzz about Cate Gardner’s writing is as enticing as her writing itself.

Described as weird, strange, surreal, quirky and whimsical, one cannot resist the temptation of delving into any one of Cate’s many works.

But reviewers and fans alike are not simply paying lip service. Cate’s writing is otherwordly, and the author took some time out of creating these magical worlds to tell me a bit about how she creates her sometimes dark but always lovely little places to escape to.

Can you start off by telling everyone about your background – when you first started writing and what you write.

Cate: I first started writing at thirteen/fourteen. Just silly love songs with a friend who could play guitar. I thought I could play guitar too. I also thought I could sing. That fell by the wayside when I went to college and started partying, and then, in my early twenties I started writing poetry, which progressed into short stories and then longer works.

I’ve always loved reading, but as a child, I never considered that I could one day write. If you’ll hold on a second, I’ll just get the violin out… We were very poor, lived in a little dilapidated house, and my books were either second hand or from the library. Little girls like me didn’t grow up to be anything. Little girls like me didn’t grow up to be writers. Okay, I’ll put the violin away now. Then I grew up and realised, anyone can be anything they want to be. Except maybe a singer.

As to what I write – dark, fantastical stories with a surreal bent. I also like to add a little humour to the darkness.


What influences do you credit for your unique writing style?

Cate: Tim Burton, Charles Addams, Lemony Snicket, butterflies, depression, optimism, brain cells, my sense of humour, and every story I’ve ever read.


In the very first lines of Nowhere Hall, you take what could be a very everyday situation and weave magic into it with creative wordplay. Do you agonize over every word in every sentence or do these fantastical phrases come to you fully-formed?

Cate: I agonize over every word. Do fantastical phrases ever come fully formed? It’d be a slice of Heaven if they did. I twist sentences every which way and then twist them back again. I suspect I’m not alone in doing that.

When I’m in final draft mode I try to consider every word and make sure that they’re doing their job and if I can think of a better word then I replace the former.

When I’m writing something new, I ache to be at that fixing each word stage. Of course, when I’m at that state, I want to be writing something new.


Would you say your writing is “very British”?

Cate: I’m inclined to say no. Although, I suspect that’s a question for readers to answer, and even their opinions would probably differ depending on their background and nationality. For me, modern horror writers such as Gary McMahon and Simon Bestwick write what I view as very British stories. They set their tales in the sort of places I grew up in and still live in, well except for the supernatural elements and the scary stuff – although my mirror often tries to convince me that monsters exist.

Maybe my writing is more ‘eccentric Brit’. And, to contradict my original answer, I guess it must be British to a certain extent because I am British.


You know I (and many others) have said you are the Queen of Awesome Story Titles. I remember once suggesting that you should open up the Cate Gardner  School of Denomination…Or maybe it was Demonization 🙂  Either way, I imagine you lounging in a hammock, plucking the perfect story title from the night sky. Is it really that magical for you, Cate?

Cate: Ha! No. In a recent guest post over at Deborah Walker’s blog, I revealed my secret book of titles (that wasn’t really a secret at all). I keep a notebook with me at all times and if I hear, read, or think of something that would make, in my opinion, a marvelous story title then I note it down. Sometimes I write a story using the title as a prompt. Sometimes I have an idea for a story or I’ve completed a story (using a provisional title – I always like to have a working title even if it’s something naff) and steal an appropriate title from my notebook. Other times, finding a title is absolute Hell. I’ll scribble a thousand possible titles and shuffle words here and there until I get one that I’m happy to use.

I’d like to thank all the people who’ve said my story titles are good. They ensure I’m never lazy when choosing a title.


Now about your characters…would you say you like to give them flaws equal to their strengths?

Cate: My characters flaws are probably greater than their strengths. I do prefer to write about broken people – broken people who are determined to be optimistic. Maybe their optimism is their strength and maybe their optimism means they’re not broken at all. I shall change that to ‘I prefer to write about people who the world has tried to break and no matter how many times they’re kicked they keep on battling.’ Yes, that sounds much better.


Which of your own characters is your favorite and why?

Cate: I love Swan Ecklund (from my novella ‘Theatre of Curious Acts‘) because he is a complete cad. He’s also rather handsome.


When one reads one of your stories, it is evident that it is a Cate Gardner tale. You definitely leave your fingerprints all over each story, while still allowing each one to shine on its own. How did you hone your writing into the wonderfully fantastical, strange, surreal, dark & dreamy state that it currently appears?

I haven’t a clue. Oops, that’s a terrible answer. I guess it’s a simple case of my head is full of strange, surreal, and dark things. It’s just how I view the world. They’re who I am. Considering that fact, I am now very afraid of some of my writer friends.


What are your plans for the new year? What goals do you hope to tackle and are there any barriers you are determined to break through this year?

Cate: My immediate goals are to write a novel (Cobweb Strings of the Rotting House), to write another novella (plan in progress, no title as of yet), and to stop twittering 24-7. The barrier I’m determined to break through is my shyness and in doing so attend a convention. However, the tickets aren’t booked yet.  I will book them. I will.


Lastly, let everyone know a bit about your upcoming adventures, places to find you, and any parting words you are itching to share.

Cate: I have short stories forthcoming in Dagan Book’s ‘Fish’ and Rainstorm Press‘ ‘Ice Picks’ anthologies and I’m looking forward to reading the other stories in those.

It’s always good to see how other writers interpret the prompts.

Plus, I’ve recently had two novellas published – Theatre of Curious Acts (Hadley Rille Books) and Barbed Wire Hearts (Delirium Books).


Need a little more Cate in your life? Don’t forget that we are running a contest where you can win either a hardback or paperback copy of Cate’s Theatre of Curious Acts. The contest runs until January 29, but I wouldn’t wait until the last minute to enter. These books are in high demand!

Thanks again to Cate for sharing the details of her writing life! Our Bloodlight features on Cate continue next week with a review!


5 Comments Add yours

  1. Lee Thompson says:

    An incredibly talented woman. Great interview, ladies.


  2. Debs says:

    I like here about process, Cate. Your writing is so fluid, I’d imagined it flowed straight onto the page.


  3. Cate Gardner says:

    I wish, Deborah 😉


  4. Katey says:

    This is a really, really wonderful interview. And Cate, you know I love your broken people. So much ❤


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