with Kate Tooley:
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
Kate: Any of my childhood friends will tell you with widely varying degrees of fondness how I perpetually made-up stories and forcibly cast them in different parts, so that’s probably where it started. As a grade schooler I fell in love with authors who blended fantasy and reality like Madeline L’Engle and authors who could completely immerse you in the past like Mildred D. Taylor. But I read everything I could get my hands on from the shampoo bottle to the dictionary.
Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?
Kate: Authors like Carmen Maria Machado, N.K. Jemisin and Jordy Rosenberg who aren’t afraid to break “rules” in service to the story and who step all over genre boundaries. Also the writers who have such delicate control of the line that the shape of the sentences is doing work for the story — Kathryn Davis, Marie Helene Bertino, K-Ming Chang. There are a lot of writers who’ve influenced me over the years – I love the modernists for all their play with form – but I’m so grateful to be living in this present moment with its incredibly rich, experimental literary landscape.
Q3: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Kate: My whole life I’ve been equally confused and fascinated by people. Creating, whether through theater or visual arts or writing, is my way of understanding other human beings and also my awkward love letter to them.
Q4: Who has helped you most with writing?
Kate: So many different people over the years. As a kid it was my best friend Alex, in college my ingenious playwriting friend Daniel, more recently I have to shout out Erika Franz. Since grad school there’s been a glut of incredibly gifted writers who’ve helped me immensely in such a variety of ways that I can’t even start naming them, but I think my professor and thesis advisor Marie-Helene Bertino has taught me more about writing and myself as a writer than any other single person.
Q5: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing & did any travels away from influence your work?
Kate: I grew up south of Atlanta but spent summers outside of Philadelphia with my aunt. I have a deep love for both places, but never felt like I belonged fully in either. A lot of my writing is trying to reconcile that sense of conflicted identity. It left me with a fascination for the ways apparently small cultural differences can create huge divides and a kind of internal sadness about all the failures of communication that make being human so difficult.
Q6: What do you consider your most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far to you?
Kate: Every time I’ve been able to write about my experience of queerness has been powerful for me personally. It still seems inconceivable sometimes that I get to do that without being censored, that people read it.
Q7: Favorite activities to relax?
Kate: I love to play my guitar badly. Doing something creative that I’m inherently not good at and isn’t for anyone else feels important as a practice. I also love cooking and making cocktails for friends, exploring the city with my tiny dog, and, of course, I read constantly.
Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem/writing of yours or others?
One that I think about often is from Virigina Woolf’s Mondays and Tuesdays:
“But when the self speaks to the self, who is speaking?—the entombed soul, the spirit driven in, in, in to the central catacomb; the self that took the veil and left the world—a coward perhaps, yet somehow beautiful, as it flits with its lantern restlessly up and down the dark corridors.”
I was closeted for a long time and these lines have always both resonated with me and made me sad. I think a lot about all the parts of ourselves we hide and the dark moments they try to call out to us. I wonder what would happen if we started listening.
Q9: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?
Kate: I’m calling this my “Fall of Weird Microfictions” I just had a body horror micro published in Retreat West called “Lilith Comes to Me After I Pray for Wholeness” https://www.retreatwest.co.uk/lilith-pray-for-wholeness/ and in October I have a film noir micro series, “The End of the World is the Original Femme Fatale” coming out in Gargoyle Magazine https://gargoylepaycock.wpcomstaging.com/current-and-back-issues/
Social handles: @kate_tooley on Twitter @talking2walls on Insta