Cate Gardner is a British horror and fantastical author with over a hundred short stories published. Several of those stories appear in her collection Strange Men in Pinstripe Suits (Strange Publications 2010). She is also the author of two novellas:Theatre of Curious Acts (Hadley Rille Books, 2011) and Barbed Wire Hearts(Delirium Books, 2011).
Her chapbooks Nowhere Hall (Spectral Press 2011) and The Sour Aftertaste of Olive Lemon (Bucket 'O' Guts Press 2009) have now sold out, and she is currently working on a novel.
Her favourite authors are Robert Shearman, Joe Hill, Neil Gaiman, Gina Ranalli, John Wyndham and Lemony Snicket.
"...a rising purveyor of high literary strangeness..." Publishers Weekly
GNOH – Hi Cate, how are things with you?
Things are fabulous, especially as I get to spend an afternoon talking to you.
GNOH – Can you tell us what is the best thing about being Cate Gardner, and what is worst thing?
The best thing is I get to eat chocolate. The worst thing is I eat too much chocolate.
GNOH – And, what’s this about rats in pinstripe suits and Pirate ships, I would have thought rats would wear tweed?
They're not very fashionable rats. Also, they think the pinstripes make them appear debonair. Silly rats. And all those little things that go missing from your house (the pens, the odd socks), they're ferried through the sewers by rats on pirate ships. Be wary. Or just make sure your socks are particularly smelly.
GNOH – You list Rob Shearman, Gina Ranalli, and Lemony Snicket among others as your favourite authors. What is it about them that you admire so much?
Their quirkiness, their imagination and their ability to tell an awesome story. Rob Shearman can make you fall in love with a character within the first couple of lines, even if that character is despicable, now that is talent. In fact, is there anyone who doesn't like Rob Shearman's stories? Gina is the queen of the bizarre, and Lemony Snicket's stories are delightfully insane.
GNOH – How much of an influence have they been on your own work?
Gosh, I don't know. I discovered Rob Shearman and Gina Ranalli a few years into my new writing career (we have a former writing career, which wasn't really a career, and this new one that isn't really a career yet but would like to be) so I think I'd pretty much chosen my own road by the time I discovered their stories. Lemony Snicket inspired me to try to write middle-grade stories, of which I did write one rather bizarre little book (unpublished), and would like to try something similar again at some point. Writing for kids is so much fun.
GNOH – When did you first start writing?
1991ish. My first short story was published in October 1993 in a magazine called 'The Banshee'.
GNOH – Have you reached the stage where you feel comfortable calling yourself a writer
I've felt comfortable calling myself a writer from the beginning.
GNOH – How would you describe your writing style? And how much has it changed since you first started writing seriously? Has been more a case of refinement, or did you radically change the style.
I'd say my writing style may appear whimsical at times but is always dark. My style has changed dramatically since I first started writing. In the 1990s I was all about the gothic and now it's all about the odd. Radically changed - I think so, but you'd probably have to compare the old with the new (and I'm hoping no one has any copies of those old magazines to do such a thing - I should burn my copies). I have two writing periods: 1991ish through to 2003 and then I took a writing break and returned in 2007. I think it's more a case of me as a person changing rather than my writing changing me. Does that make sense? Does anything ever make sense?
Access to the internet and thus interacting with other writers has definitely helped improve my writing ten-fold. Learning from others is a daily adventure.
GNOH – How do you go about writing, do you develop the plot outline first, or do you develop a character first?
It differs. Sometimes I start with only a title and weave a story around it. I like to think the plot and the character find their way together. I may start with plot, then add a dash of character, which strengthens the plot and adds more to the character, rinse and repeat.
GNOH – What is the your least favourite part of writing?
Tough one. Perhaps the placement of commas. I drive myself insane figuring those blighters out.
GNOH – How important is the integrity of your writing, to you? Would you 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 love it. I guess my answer is - not on purpose.
GNOH – I’m sorry to say that I have only I have only read two pieces of your work, both of which were excellent. In fact I’m struggling to write a review for The Theatre of Curious Acts, that does the book justice. If I were to describe the book as an ephemeral Clive Barker, would you be upset? Baring in mind, if you were, I’d have to go and invest in a Thesaurus.
Don't be sorry, I'm honoured you've read anything of mine. And mentioning Clive Barker would leave me astounded rather than upset. Comparisons are always nice; the trick is not to believe it.
GNOH – You first published book was The Sour Aftertaste Of Olive Lemon. How long did it take for you to get a publishing deal? Did you have to submit the manuscript to many publishers, before Bucket ‘o’ Guts released it?
Like Nowhere Hall, Olive Lemon was a chapbook. I'd seen the guidelines for Nate Lambert's new press (I'd already had 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 kind of story. I wished Nate good luck or some such greeting on a message board we frequented and he said he hoped I'd send something, so I challenged myself to and 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 rejections for Olive Lemon, I've had my fair share of rejections - they're part of the writing process. How do I deal with them? If it's a form rejection, I usually just send the story onto the next market etc etc, and if it's a personal rejection and if I agree with the comments made then I will revise the story and submit it elsewhere. I deal with the waiting process by getting more things out there and 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 a collection (assuming I ever have another story collection) or maybe I'll resubmit it somewhere. I toyed with giving a PDF copy free to people who bought Theatre and I may still do that if I can figure out how to make a PDF without just scanning the printed pages, which I imagine wouldn't transfer to an e-reader. I am a technoidiot.
GNOH – Your second book was the wonderfully brilliant Nowhere Hall, from Spectral Press. How did you get involved with Simon’s press?
Simon had reviewed my story collection 'Strange Men in Pinstripe Suits' for Beyond Fiction, he liked it and asked me to submit something for Spectral. It was one of those lucky, fluke things. Right place, right time. It's been a wonderful year for Simon and Spectral Press and I hope his success continues. He's very, very enthusiastic and has done an excellent job at getting the stories out to readers and reviewers.
GNOH – Have you read the other books the series, if so which is your favourite?
I've read both Gary McMahon's and Gary Fry's and will be reading Paul Finch's when it's released (which it probably will have been by the time this interview goes live). I refuse to pick a favourite. I will say though that I'm really looking forward to Alison Littlewood'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 to avoid, yet the power of your writing drew me into the story and captivated throughtout the story. How hard did you have to work, to build up the layers and the imagery, or did it just come naturally to you?
I worked very hard of course. I think. I'm sure I did. I believe there was biting of fingernails and tearing of hair. In fact, I think you might find some of my fingernails on a particular road. I love stories that have things hidden within the sentences and behind the trees.
GNOH – I’ll be posting my review shortly, (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 buy the book?
Oh my goodness…
Because if they ever happen upon the four horsewomen of the apocalypse having read Theatre of Curious Acts may help them save the world. Fact. Or maybe lie.
GNOH – Was there a reason you chose The Great War as the setting for the book?
Yes. I'd recently read a collection of novellas 'Fourtold' by Mike Stone and one of his stories 'San Ferry Ann' was set in France just after the end of The Great War and I loved it so much that I was inspired to write a story with some soldiers of my own.
GNOH – One of the things I loved about the book, is that it actually feels as though the book is from the time it is set in. How research did you do for the book?
I read diaries and letters from Great 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 that period.
GNOH – The characters in the book feel real, how much time did you put into creating and fleshing out the main players in book?
Thank you. I always worry about whether 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 of the book and back again. By the end, I felt I knew them and hoped they'd feel as real to readers as they do to me.
GNOH – Delerium books have also just published your novella Barbed Wire Hearts, Can you tell us what the story is about? Can we expect another rich and well written book?
It's about a boy who loses his heart and a dead girl whose heart starts beating again. They have to
save their town before a man named Ghoate steals everyone's hearts. There are an awful lot of hearts. They also have to save each other. They may not all win.
I hope it's rich and well written.
GNOH - Strange Men In Pinstripe Suits, is your collection of short stories. How did you go about assembling the content for the book. Is this a career retrospective, or are these stories specifically written for the book?
Strange Men is a collection of both previously published and unpublished stories. I chose my favourites from both. I loved that I could include stories that had never found a home and several reviewers listed those stories as their favourites. I put a wee little taster of a story at the beginning and my favourite story (which I believe anthology editors do) at the very back.
GNOH – Is there a theme that links the stories together?
They're just a collection of oddities, many of which feature strange men in pinstripe suits. Until I started putting the collection together I didn't realise how fond I was of men wearing that attire and how often they can be rather sinister.
GNOH – Do you have a favourite story in the book? And if so why?
Empty Box Motel. It breaks my heart.
GNOH – So what does the future hold for you. Do you have any projects lined up that you can tell us about?
I have a couple of short stories due out next year, but so far, that is it. I should put my head down and write more. I should do that now.
Thank you for the interview, Jim. Very, very enjoyable.
Thank you Cate, it was fun for me too.
Folks you can learn more about Cate by visiting her website
AND YOU CAN BUY SOME OF HER BOOKS BY CLICKING THESE LINKS. i FOLKS i REALLY DO RECOMMEND YOU GIVE CATE A GO IF YOU HAVEN'T ALREADY