The Pub Interviews – Cate Gardner

On Tap: Cate Gardner

The ever-talented Ms. Cate Gardner joins us at the pub tonight.  Cate’s stories have appeared in a variety of curious places including Fantasy Magazine, Postscripts and Shock Totem. If you’ve been involved in small press horror/fantasy in the last few years, you have heard or seen her name.  If not, you likely need to get out more. Pretty much everything else of any interest is covered below, or at her always entertaining home on the web at

Drink of choice?

Lime and Soda. That way it looks like I’m drinking and the reason I’m acting so odd is I’m drunk, not that I’m sober. Actually, I believe I can get drunk on lime and soda.

Jukebox selection?

Can we have the ‘Once More With Feeling’ Buffy soundtrack. I feel like standing on the table and singing.

Well Cate, nice of you to drop in.  Y’know, it seems that nearly everyone I follow on Twitter that is involved in the small press has had nothing but nice things to say about your  short story collection Strange Men in Pinstripe Suits.  How did this collection come along?  Was releasing a short story collection something you always planned on doing or did you just realize that you had so much short story gold out there that it was finally time to collect a portion of them?

First off, thanks for cursing me. The next review is going to kick my ass. I’ll admit I feel it’s long overdue and I can’t believe the lovely things people have said about it. I’m sure they’ve all been drinking my lime and soda.

I actually didn’t intend to release a short story collection. At times, I’d considered writing a set of stories to a theme or in the same universe to maybe collect together, but never thought about collecting stories already written. Who’d want to read that? By me. Seriously.

As it turns out, it all happened in an odd and wonderful way, as all things should. Aaron Polson (the publisher over at Strange Publications) left the following comment on my blog, ‘I think there should be a Cate Gardner collection out there’. I commented back with a thank you and an I wish and that for me was that. Next, I received an email from Aaron saying that he really did think there should be a collection, and I’m all ha-ha and before I knew it, Aaron was offering to publish a collection.

If only publishing was always that simple and delightful.

In writing a short story, what tends to come to you first?  Is it the characters, the situation or the setting?

Usually the situation. Or maybe the setting. Let me think about this one for a minute. I guess it all depends on my mood and the actual story.

Recent stories started thus… The genesis of Dehydrated Human Heart evolved from wondering what would happen if a city became divided between day and night (totally unscientific, of course). Name Carved on Empty Space began with the character. With a girl who began to shrink because her man didn’t love her anymore. And for The Quiet of the Hour Glass it was the prompt from ‘Poe Little Thing’ – in space, no one can hear you scream.

I guess they all find their own way.

In the majority of the Cate Gardner short stories I’ve read, there often seems to be a very unique and balanced measure of both horror and fantasy.  Do you prefer one over the other or does it really depend on where the story chooses to take you?

In the beginning (several hundred years ago), I wrote horror and nothing else. These days, my stories are a little odder and often whimsical. Although I never aimed for whimsical or surreal. In fact, at first I was adamant my stories weren’t surreal at all, but sometimes you have to consider the evidence. Now I happily embrace the surreal tag while in my head everything continues to make perfect sense.

Saying that, I’m not certain the above answer makes sense. Are you spiking my drink, Mr Napier? Have you slipped me something sugary?

To coin a bad 80’s phrase (sort of), have you got a supply of shades in hand?  The future for you is looking quite bright.  Let’s start with your chapbook Nowhere Hall, due soon from Spectral Press.  What can you tell us about it without giving the story away?

Well, here’s the official blurb…

We want to live…

In the ballroom, wallflower mannequins stretch their fingers towards Ron. He can’t ask them to dance. He’s already waltzing with other ghosts.

Someone stole the world while Ron contemplated death. They packed it in a briefcase and dumped him in the halls of the ruined hotel–the Vestibule. A nowhere place.”

It’s about a man haunted by another person’s ghosts. In Dante’s Inferno, The Vestibule is the place located just before Limbo. I’m very excited about my story being a part of Simon Marshall Jones’ Spectral Press. The other authors in year one are Gary McMahon and Gary Fry. With a wealth of other awesome writers to follow the subsequent year. I still can’t believe I snuck in between them all. Shush! Don’t tell anyone.

Beyond Nowhere Hall, there is also your short novel, Theatre of Curious Acts which will be published by Hadley Rille Books.  Same question for that…and in your best Bostonian accent, if you will.

I’m torn between referring to Theatre of Curious Acts as a short novel and a novella. Mr Reynolds (the publisher) referred to it as a novella in his acceptance letter and I’m want to agree with him. It’s officially a short novel in length at 42,000 words, but I know folk are often disappointed to find such a short book, whereas if we call it a novella, they may be pleased it’s slightly above average length. I hope.

What’s it about. Here’s a little blurby thing…

When players in a theatre show lure soldiers returned from the Great War to a strange otherworld, the boys already broken by man’s war, discover they must fight in the greatest battle of all to save the world.

Nineteen-year-old Daniel Cole returns home from war wanting the world to end.  His brother and parents are in their graves. Nothing is the same. During a performance at the Theatre of Curious Acts, Daniel and his old friends, fellow soldiers, slip into a strange otherworld. Now Daniel must fight to save a world he wants no part of, and worse, he is about to fall in love with Death.

I love this book so much. And I have so many people to thank for getting it to the point it’s at now. The original version sucked lemons.

Recently, you threatened violence upon me via Twitter after admitting that I had not seen an episode of Supernatural. What are some other staples of your television viewing?  Are there any particular shows out there that you believe really delve into story-telling more so than just a formula to get audiences watching?

My favourite all-time show is ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’. I think every writer should study the Buffy scripts. They have it all. I love how Whedon and his team use the supernatural to portray things that happen in every teens life. It’s about love, friendship, loss, normal things tied up in a vampiric/monster bow. I also adore Being Human. The original British version that is and not the Bastardised American version. So annoyed about that. And disappointed for the American audience, they miss out on the gorgeous Aidan Turner playing Mitchell.

Yes, us Americans tend to adapt things as our own and then make them a lesser product.  I do apologize.    But I digress…

Tell us about your self-proclaimed love/hate relationship with Walter.  Will there ever be a steady and stable relationship to be had between the two of you?  (Or, for a more professional approach to this question: Have you found that working with a dictaphone—which you blogged about purchasing some time ago– helps or hinders the creative process?)  I think I’d constantly be changing the tone of my voice in an attempt to sound more professional…

I hate my voice so much. I don’t know how anyone can bear to listen to it. Walter, however, I love. Every writer should invest in a dictaphone. Or should we refer to him as a Digital Voice Recorder before the silly folk come out with the old joke…ahem! Put it away, boys. 😀

I’ve waffled so much madness to Walter that I can’t actually keep up. I have a file full of first drafts (or should I say draft zero’s) of stories I’ve waffled to him late at night. And some of them may actually make it out of the file and into the inboxes of editors. I thought he’d be a great asset during NaNoWriMo, but, surprisingly, we didn’t speak during November.

What projects are you currently working on that you’re excited about?

Ooh, I’m finishing the first draft (or hopefully have finished by the time this interview goes live) of the book I wrote during NaNoWriMo. It’s a dystopian time-travel story with a giant robot, fabricated people and ghosts caught between time. I also have plans to write a surreal novella and a creepy alien invasion tale. Plans don’t always come to fruition so we shall see what 2011 brings.

Thanks for swinging by, Cate!  Should I have the bartended call you a cab?

Thanks for inviting me, Barry. I don’t get out much. Before you call me a cab, could you help me down from the table?



  1. I’m looking forward to getting Strange Men off of my TBR shelf and onto my nightstand. Olive Lemon is still one of my favorite indie stories, I expect nothing but brilliance from this collection.

  2. I am so excited about the many and varied kinds of Cate Gardner Goodness upcoming. Thanks, Barry, for giving us an interview that gives some real insight into where she gets all this incredible stuff. It is awesome–and I mean that in the literal sense, as in awe inspiring.

    Whedon is awesome. I really keep meaning to watch Buffy and just–haven’t. That’s so sad, because I love everything else he’s done… but that’s the big one! Doh!

  3. Lovely interview. The collection is absolutely stunning. I’m keeping my eye out for a copy of ‘Olive Lemon’ to turn up on the internet… any chance of a trip to Cateland is well worth taking.

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