A Pankhearst Interview
Who are you?
I’m Kate Harrad. I’m a writer, in the small spaces of time I can create when I’m not being an NHS employee, a parent, a partner, a blogger and an event organiser. Actually, what I mostly do is watch The West Wing and eat cake, but don’t tell anyone.
Where are you?
At the moment I’m on a train to Dalston. In general, I’m in South-West London, very nearly in Surrey. I’m borderline London.
And how the hell are you doing?
Fine thanks, how are you? Wait, this isn’t interactive. Back to me then. I’m frantically planning for the start of the school year, trying to get as much sleep as humanly possible, and scouring London for fresh gluten-free bread (because I have coeliac disease). So yes, ok.
Tell us about your new book.
It’s still in the planning stages, because every time I try to sit down and write there’s a small voice that stops me. Not in my head. I mean one coming from the three-year-old standing beside me demanding porridge. Anyway. I’m working on a novel about the London polyamorous community, and possibly another novel about the end of the world. Both comedies.
Why are you publishing independently?
Because Tim of Ghostwoods Books was the one who saw potential in my novel and wanted to publish it, years after I’d given up any expectation of that happening.
How is publishing independently working for you?
I’ve really enjoyed the process of it. It’s a much more personal process than I imagine a traditional publisher would be. And it’s been easy for me, because Tim’s done 90% of the work. All I needed to do was edit the book to his satisfaction, and help with the PR.
Within your writing, what are you the most passionate about? What is it that keeps you doing this?
What I like is the line between realism and unrealism. Things that tremble right on the edge of believability without quite ever ending up on one side or another. For example, the Vampire Church in my book is more realistic than it sounds, because the vampires aren’t really vampires and you can find people doing that kind of thing on the internet. Conspiracy theories have that same air of fantasy-reality because they’re not real, but people really believe them. For me, Christianity feels like that too, which is why I’m fascinated by it in its most extreme manifestations, like the Christian cult in my book who end up very extreme, but still sit around eating biscuits. Contrasts and discrepancies and people who behave in quite contradictory ways without knowing it. I love all of that.
When did you know that you were born to be a writer?
I never had a plan to be anything else. Which, by the way, was stupid – if I could go back I’d at least train as a librarian or something. But a novelist is what I told my parents I’d be at the age of five and what I told my careers advisor I’d be aged 17, and what I came out of university believing. With no evidence – I hadn’t got anything published. I was just convinced of it.
Are your stories plot or character driven?
I know the answer to this is supposed to be ‘character driven’, because whenever I read anyone talking about writing, that’s what they say. That readers want character-driven fiction. The truth is, though, I like plot-driven fiction. Not even that. I like moment-driven fiction. Novels with sentences that make you breathless, or set pieces you can’t get out of your head. For many of my favourite books, I couldn’t even name the characters or most of what happens. I just know how it makes me feel. So that’s what I want to achieve.
Everyone has their own dream. What’s yours? Best seller, feature film adaption, fame, riches, groupies, a gabillion followers on Twitter?
Critical acclaim. And readers who get me. And film adaptations would be great too. I think All Lies and Jest would make a fun British indie movie.
Do you work alone or collaborate? Do you belong to any writers groups – online or local. How do you find the experience?
I work alone. I’ve never wanted to join a writers’ group or do a creative writing course, which is I think a failing on my part. But I just want it to be me and the inside of my head, until I’m ready to show people. And at the moment I wouldn’t have time anyway.
They say know the rules and then you may break them. Which ones do you find yourself breaking the most and does it work in your writing?
I don’t want to sound pointlessly rebellious – and I’m really not – but whenever I read lists of writing advice all I want to do is the opposite. Even if it’s clearly great advice. Because there’s no writing advice that’s true all the time, except ‘make people want to turn the page, in whatever way you can’. Sometimes you should show not tell, sometimes the opposite – look at Jane Austen. Sometimes you should keep your authorial voice out of it, but tell that to Dickens or Rushdie. So yes, I’m very much of the belief that once you know the rules you can break them – and that some of them were never rules in the first place.
I find myself resisting plot structure a lot. My story Narrative Only (recently published in Heiresses of Russ 2013: The Year’s Best Lesbian Speculative Fiction) doesn’t really have a plot: it’s a monologue about a point in someone’s life (admittedly, a very strange point in a very strange life), and that’s how I wanted it, and it works for me. I know about conflict-resolution and three-act structures and so on, but it just isn’t always what I want to do. Not that I’m knocking those structures. It’s just my reaction.
What are your influences for your current book?
I’m in one of those moods where every book I read becomes a potential influence. In the last few weeks I have considered a novel about the London polyamorous community as a fantasy quest epic, a grim dystopia, a lyrically violent meditation on the need to find meaning in life, and a modern drawing room comedy. As you can imagine, this is causing some problems. I’m thinking of just reading PG Wodehouse, Nancy Mitford and Armistead Maupin for the next year, since that combination is closest to what I’d like to achieve.
How easy is it to be a writer when you have two children, a job, an auto-immune disorder, a partner with health problems, and the attention span of an internet-addicted gnat? You know, for example.
It’s really hard! Frankly, I have no idea why I’m still doing this, except that every time I decide to stop I become convinced that my life has no meaning. Stupid obsessed subconscious.
The price for the Kindle verion of All Lies And Jest has been reduced to 99c to coincide with this interview and the Giveaway.