Why do you write?
Because my head and heart are full of observations, curiosities, ideas, synaesthetic impressions juxtaposed with emotional responses, and things I just need to get off my chest. And because narrative – however disjointed – can help us process our experience, and actually give meaning to any bullshit. I create art from words when faced with the mundane, the sublime, and the horrific, and sometimes it’s all three at once. I write because there is no other option for me.
What books do you read?
Everything – poetry, folklore, horror, thrillers, magical realism, gritty realism, existential novels, chick lit, lit crit, philosophy, maritime history (especially pirates – I have a ridiculous collection of pirate histories and biographies), occult history, mediaeval history, mythology, classics, true crime, fictional crime, YA fiction, fairytales, pop science, pop psych, dystopian sci fi, fantasy… if it has pages (or works on a kindle), I’ll read it.
What inspires you?
Life. Death. Finitude. Music, love, sex, wine, loss, forests, anger, walking, motherhood, the sea, urban decay, interactions with other human beings, being removed from other human beings. Stories, folklore, history, the unfathomable size of the universe. Doubt. And everything in-between.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer and when?
I always say it was in the spring of 1984, when I was almost four years old, and I wrote a Care Bears fan fiction on some scraps of leftover wallpaper. It kept me occupied while my grandma redecorated. What I usually leave out is that one of the Care Bears had a knife – but this is important, as I realised they didn’t have to be caring bears in my story. I could change it. (My then-teenaged aunt, who was more like an older sister, was fond of showing me film adaptations of Stephen King stories.) But I learned to read when I was two and made up stories before I could write them down, so it’s difficult to remember a time when words, books, and stories weren’t my life. It’s who I am. I mean, on some spiritual or philosophical level, it probably isn’t who I am, but in any other sense it would be difficult to see myself as anything other than a writer.
How Do you deal with rejection?
Very well. Every editor has their own aesthetic vision for their publication. If my poems or flash fictions aren’t right for them, cool. I’ll send elsewhere. When a poem is accepted, I’m well aware not every reader will feel my work even if an editor does. It’s too subjective to worry about. I’d write whether the work was published or not, but I wouldn’t be answering these interview questions. I’ve thickened my skin over the years. People digging my work, that’s why I continue to submit to journals, because art does make human connections. But rejection is necessary; it keeps us balanced.
Who are some writers you admire?
Daniel Defoe, I have a real soft spot for Daniel Defoe novels. It’s the picaresque, that journey through so much crazy life. And in no particular order, dead and alive, poetry and prose, famous and/or who I know personally, or otherwise: Stephen King, Jack Kerouac, Gary Snyder, Gillian Clarke, Sharon Olds, Mab Jones, Haruki Murakami, Sarah Thomasin, Sally Goldsmith, Sylvia Plath, Bethany W Pope, Greg Graffin (singer-songwriter from Bad Religion), Evangeline Jennings, Albert Camus, Angela Readman, Neil Gaiman, Steve Nash, Anna Percy, Bob Dylan… there are far too many, because I admire anyone who writes, puts the effort in, and does it their own way.
Is writing the only artistic medium you do?
I like making visual art (but I’m not very good at most of it), and I love taking photos and singing as well. I used to think I wanted to be a singer professionally; my voice is strong, I took voice lessons in my teens, been in bands – but for me, making music was always second best to writing the words.
What would be some advice you would give to your younger self?
It’ll all work out in the end, even though it’s painful. There’s nothing you can do to change it, because it isn’t you, it’s them. But don’t be so solitary – join a writing group or something in London. Go to more open mics in Cincinnati. Wherever you live, there will be scribblers. But even if you don’t find them, the trap you’re in won’t hold forever.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Read as much as you can, live as much as you can. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Try not to fear change – in life or in your writing.
What is your writing process?
Scribble a bunch of unintelligible crap into notebook. Scribble some more. Type up anything that might be salvageable. Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. Look at poem / story that now looks nothing like the original pages of longhand. Edit some more. Fin. (Or not, because nothing is ever finished, we just stop staring at it and accept what is.)
Kate Garrett writes poetry and flash fiction. Her pamphlet ‘The names of things unseen’ is part of Caboodle, the six-poet collection from Prolebooks. She is a 2016 Pushcart Prize nominee, and the editor of Pankhearst’s Slim Volume anthologies, and the webzine three drops from a cauldron. She lives in Sheffield.