Kathryn Gossow is a writer and sometimes gardener living in a two acre garden in a pocket of the Brisbane River. When she is writing, her garden is a mess. When she is gardening, she forgets to write. It seems she cannot have both. She writes for that elusive feeling when she gets into the zone and there is nothing else in the world but her and the words that tumble onto the page. Kathryn has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, won a commendation in the Australian Horror Writers’ Association Flash Fiction Competition and has a number of published stories out in the world.
What drew you to write short stories, especially after being a finalist in the Aurealis Awards for your novel Cassandra?
The best writing advice I never followed was to choose a genre and stick to it. I will read any genre and end up writing all of them too. Short stories are good like that. I can play with all the toys in the genre sandpit and have many voices.
The Dark Poet was absolutely inspired by Elisabeth Stroutbook’s Olive Kitteridge. I fell in love with her book of short stories linked by the single character of Olive. I finished reading it and immediately re-read it. I needed to know how she had produced perfect short stories that read like a novel.
Paul is The Dark Poet, the character who links all my stories, and you get to know him in fragments. The same way you get to know real people. I want readers to feel tangled in the delicate threads that hold the stories together – like walking into a spider’s web.
Are your characters and settings based on your own life experiences?
Choosing to write a collection of short stories linked by a single character is utter madness. You need constant inspiration. You can never rest. Everyone and everything is in danger of turning up as a character or story!
At its core, the book is a love song to the boys I knew in my twenties who destroyed their lives with drugs. Paul is none of these boys and all of these boys. It is the guilt I feel for not saving them and the anger I feel for the hurt they caused.
There are many characters in The Dark Poet, most of them broken. Prophetic Cassandra from my first book returns for an encore. The hero, the storytelling fat man, is inspired by the idea that we need stories more than we need food and shelter. The broody chicken Bridget is my real life chicken, which had since gone to chicken heaven due to a foxy fox.
What is your biggest motivation for writing?
I love how a well-chosen set of words create emotional connection. When Missy Higgins sings “I don’t feel that I deserve the sunshine rays” or Sylvia Plath writes “It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York”, I get shivers of recognition. I know that feeling.
I write because as an introvert it is the best way I know of communicating and connecting. You will never know me unless you read my books.
How many books have you written?
I have written three and one-half books.
Cassandra was published in 2017 and The Dark Poet this year. Taking Baby for a Walk (a little thriller because I can’t stick to a genre) is planned for release next year.
The one-half of a book will be entire when it is fully baked. It is about a librarian who tries to fix people by recommending particular books. Sometimes the consequences are murderous.
What would you say is your biggest accomplishment?
I am most proud that Cassandra was a finalist for Best Fantasy Novel in the Aurealis Awards.
What advice would you give a young writer trying to get published?
Sit in a chair and write. Listen to advice that is right. Don’t listen to advice that is wrong. Learn enough about writing to know the difference. Write from your heart.
What helps you when you hit writer’s block?
When I don’t know where to start, I do free writing with a real pen on real paper. I don’t care about what I am writing. I have whole notebooks of utter rubbish. It is like the stretching you do before you exercise.
When I am stuck in the middle and don’t know what the plot will do next, I go for a walk. It unsticks me.
Describe your writing style in three words.
Dark. Thoughtful. Multi-genre.
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