Edition 8: Interview with Cat Sparks
Interview by Sophie Yorkston
Who were your greatest female role models?
I’m presuming you mean writers. Growing up: Joan Aiken, Tove Jansson, Susan Cooper, Andre Norton, Vonda McIntyre, Doris Lessing, Maya Angelou. Now: Jane Austen, Margaret Atwood, Kim Wilkins, Octavia Butler, Margo Lanagan, Connie Willis.
What do you feel is your greatest achievement as a writer to date?
Probably getting a story into Hartwell & Kramer’s Years Best SF, volume 16. My next biggest achievement will be delivering a novel to my agent sometime around October this year. Fingers crossed.
What are the challenges female speculative fiction writers face in today’s publishing environment?
There is still a major bias towards works penned by male authors. There’s a type of male reader who doesn’t believe women have anything interesting to say.
What do you think sets women writers apart?
Prejudice sets women apart. If there is a difference between the writing of women and men it probably lies in the realm of subject matter. When women write about domestic issues they are labelled insignificant. Men covering the same ground are considered sensitive and their work is often considered to be some sort of breakthrough perspective. Fewer books by female authors are reviewed in important places (check out the 2012 Vida stats). Old guard, old school, old ways.
You’re very involved with the writing community. You’ve been on the judging panel for the Aurealis Awards, been a long-time publisher and writer. How do you think your involvement in the writing community helps your writing and being published? What does this involvement mean to you?
Being a publisher, awards judge and editor takes time away from my own writing – the precise reason I gave up being a publisher. These activities likely helped make my name be better known but I doubt I ever sold a story because of them. It’s difficult to be a part of the SF community without wanting to pitch in at the ground level and help it bloom. It’s a very inclusive community not limited by grading participants into content providers and fans. I think of it as a living arts community.
Do you find that your other artworks (graphic design, photography) impact upon your writing?
My father is an artist and I was raised to notice colour, composition and the effects of light from an early age–I have a BA in visual arts. Such elements translate very well to the written word. Writing is all about detail. The minutiae. The nitty-gritty. Some writers work with elements of language as their base, whereas I shape and transcribe what I see.
You have a fondness for combining genres in your work. When and why did you start weaving these kinds of stories? What do you love about the meeting of genres?
I don’t set out to weave genres, I set out to tell particular stories that interest me utilising the textual tools that come to hand. Speculative fiction, by its nature, lends itself very comfortably to the blurring of genre boundaries. It’s all fantasy of one form or another, after all, and fantasy is only limited by imagination.