A Moment With... Kathryn Gossow
Kathryn Gossow is an Australian author of fiction that skirts speculative and confronting topics and puts a toe into the depths of dark personalities. Gossow’s, Cassandra, a story about a young girl with the fortune-teller’s gift is an Australian twist of an Ancient Greek story. The Dark Poet, a collection of short stories that cleverly weave the tale of one man and the impact he had on various lives. And now, Taking Baby for a Walk, the confronting story of 5 year old Bree-Anna, taken from her dysfunctional family and equally fractured community. Follow the links to read my review on each of Kathryn’s excellent stories.
I’m always in awe of writers that can create wonderful characters out of seemingly mundane settings. Gossow does an excellent job of pulling back the layers to show what is hiding behind the banal masks of ordinary people. Is anyone truly “ordinary”? Her deft treatment of the Australian landscape her characters live is as edgy as her flawed characters. I’m so happy to bring this moment with Kathryn Gossow to you.
Kathryn, thank you for agreeing this to this interview. Let’s jump right in…
1. I see from your bio and your Instagram feed that you’re an avid gardener. How does this love of being in the garden and of nature in general feed your creative writing?
It’s a flow time - when I am not thinking of anything much except the activity of gardening which is good for my brain, giving it a rest and making room for something else to pop in and surprise me. Gardeners always turn up in my books. I can’t help myself. And then there are all the things that arrive in gardens, magpies, ants, rain, avocados, droughts. For me, a garden is a small world full of inspiration. I thought I could hermit in a garden, but COVID taught me my hermit limit is five months.
2. You have a definite talent for providing descriptions that are sparing yet spot on and evocative of the settings and characters you’re sharing with us. Does this spring naturally from your creative flow or are you a ruthless editor (or both)?
Thank you! I am not sure how I do that. I remember early in my writing practice, thinking I needed a whole lot of detailed description. So much purple prose. I thought that is what good writers did. I don’t know if it was a course I attended or something I read suggesting the description be slotted into the action. Readers don’t want to read a paragraph describing the sunrise, but a well-chosen word or two can tell them what sort of sunrise it is and how the character feels about it. I am time poor, no time for ruthless editing! Sometimes I only have 15 minutes a day to write and can only write 50 words. They have to be worth their weight.
3. You’re a keen observer of humanity – are you finding your characters in real life from watching the interactions happening around you or do you pull them from news and current affairs, and how much research goes into the various thought-processes and situations you share?
Taking Baby for a Walk is set in the country town where I live so I promise no one I know is in book! I really promise. I am a Social Worker by training and some people would say that makes me a bleeding heart but actually I think it means I am less judgemental. Everyone is a mix of good and bad and everyone is in part a product of their family and society. Also, I love true crime. Always have. When I started writing Mr Randall my kidnapper, he came to me fully formed but I thought I should do some research too. I must have absorbed all that true crime into my psyche because his character fitted ‘a type’ of opportunistic kidnapper who would thoughtlessly pluck Bree-Anna from the side of the highway. I wanted readers to rethink their stereo types in this book. Sure, Bree-Anna’s mum is somewhat neglectful, but she is also clever and proud.
4. You contributed a short story to South of the Sun: Australian Fairy Tales for the 21st century. Its jam packed with stories from some really great Australian authors and I loved your “The Miraculous Tale of the Ugliest Girl in the World”. Do you think Australian story-telling is coming into its own now or is there still a way to go before readers really take Aussie stories on board (and onto their book shelves)?
I also helped edit South of the Sun! It took over my life for several years and I learnt a lot about fairy tales and the amazing women I worked with on the Anthology: Louisa John-Krol, Lorena Carrington, Gabi Brown and Patsy Poppenbeek, who I have never actually met in the flesh! I love Australian stories. My book club has been reading together for over 10 years and at least three quarters of the books we chose are Australian. I don’t know why people don’t read Australian stories. Don’t we all want to see ourselves reflected in the fiction we read?
5. What can old and new fans of your writing expect next? Are there other projects (not necessarily writing related) that you’d like to share with us?
I have written about 50 000 words of my current project. Similar to The Dark Poet it is a composite novel of five long short stories, this time connected by a librarian who tries to rescue people with a well-chosen book. I have been inspired by fairy tales and Celtic mythology, so harking back to what I did with Cassandra. I also got tremendous satisfaction from working on the South of the Sun anthology and have a desire to collect the writers’ stories together. I have a vague idea…but it is too soon to talk about it…
Find Kathryn at these online locales...