Please welcome Cat Rambo to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Beasts of Tabat was published on March 27th by Wordfire Press.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?
Cat: I started writing when I was a kid, and have always had a facility with language. But in terms of “serious” writing – which I would define as thinking of that as the thing I focus on more than anything else – that would be 2005, when I went to the Clarion West Writers Workshop. I’d always assumed that I’d be a writer, but there came a point where I said well, I guess I’d actually better start on that. Clarion West seemed like a good way to do that.
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Cat: Both! My process is kinda weird because it varies very much from story to story. Sometimes they come to me whole. Other times I have to scrape them out from the inside of my skull in a somewhat painful and tiresome process.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Cat: Butt in chair. I am a highly distractible creature, and the Internet is full of all manner of shiny things.
TQ: Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?
Cat: I have so many that I love. Recently I’ve been rereading Robert Silverberg’s Lord Valentine’s Castle, which I first read as a teen and which blew me away. It’s been pleasant to find it just as compelling the second time around.
For short stories, influences include Carol Emshwiller, Theodore Sturgeon, and James Tiptree Jr. For novels…holy smokes, so many but if there’s one writer that really influenced Beasts of Tabat, it’s Thomas Burnett Swann.
TQ: Describe Beasts of Tabat in 140 characters or less.
Cat: In a world that depends on intelligent magical creatures for its economy, what happens when they demand their rights? Plus there are gladiators.
TQ: Tell us something about Beasts of Tabat that is not in the book description.
Cat: There is a circus that, like Teo, hides a secret.
TQ: What inspired you to write Beasts of Tabat, your first adult fantasy novel? What themes run through the novel and do you believe that fantasy should address big issues?
Cat: I think fiction is about being human. One of the things I tried to explore in the book is what happens on either side of the equation when you have a group that is oppressed, in a system that is designed to perpetuate that system. I’m fascinated by how we view the Other, and how we demonize and infantilize sometimes in order to keep the boundary between ourselves and that Other distinct.
At the same time I wanted to write a kickass, fun story, with interesting characters, in a deeply immersive and awesome world. I think I managed that.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Beasts of Tabat?
Cat: I looked at things. I thought about what it would be like to be inside a body that has extra limbs, or wings, or a tail. And I thought about what it would be like to live in that world. In some cases I’ve read sources from 18th and 19th century America, and often I’ve borrowed from that history in shaping Tabat’s story.
TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Cat: The easiest was Teo, who is young and for whom everything is new and wonderful and worth describing. He’s deeply romantic and believes the best of everyone, and while that’s a mindset that sometimes leads to his getting hurt, it’s one I share some aspects of.
The hardest? Bella Kanto. Because I wanted her to be charming and infuriating and awesome, and that is a pretty hard mark to hit.
TQ: Which question about Beasts of Tabat do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
Q: You spent roughly nine years on this novel. Was it worth all the work?
A: Beyond any question, yes.
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Beasts of Tabat.
“I don’t like to read much, as a rule. It isn’t a particularly useful skill. There are too many things you can’t learn from a book, from how to birth a basilisk whose eggs are stopped (one of the most delicate arts Jolietta taught me) to how to deflect a dagger blow. And things in books aren’t true sometimes, something which I know better than most.”
TQ: What's next?
Cat: I’m hard at work on the second book, Hearts of Tabat. And I’ve got some stories that I’ve promised as well as some for my ongoing Patreon campaign, so it’s a busy 2015. I have another two-sided collection, this time of fantasy stories, coming out in the fall, as well, and I’m finishing up a new Ms. Liberty story for that right now.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Cat: Thank you so much for allowing me to be here!
Beasts of Tabat
The Tabat Quartet 1
Wordfire Press, March 27, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 325 pages
When countryboy Teo arrives in the coastal city of Tabat, he finds it a hostile place, particularly to a boy hiding an enormous secret. It’s also a city in turmoil, thanks to an ancient accord to change governments and the rising demands of Beasts, the Unicorns, Dryads, Minotaurs and other magical creature on whose labor and bodies Tabat depends. And worst of all, it’s a city dedicated to killing Shifters, the race whose blood Teo bears.
When his fate becomes woven with that of Tabat’s most famous gladiator, Bella Kanto, his existence becomes even more imperiled. Kanto’s magical battle determines the weather each year, and the wealthy merchants are tired of the long winters she’s brought. Can Teo and Bella save each other from the plots that are closing in on them from all sides?
Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 150+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov’s, Clarkesworld Magazine, and Tor.com. Her short story, “Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain,” from her story collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012. For more about her, as well as links to her fiction, see http://www.kittywumpus.net