Interview by David McDonald.
Kat Clay is a photographer and writer from Melbourne, Australia. Her first novella, Double Exposure, was released in print and e-book June 2015 with Crime Factory. Her fiction traverses noir, horror, fantasy and the weird, exploring topics such as sinister cities, the representation of women in fiction and the macabre. In 2015 she was awarded a Melbourne UNESCO City of Literature Travel Grant to attend the World Fantasy Convention. Kat’s non-fiction work has been featured in The Victorian Writer, Literary Traveler, TNT, Travel Weekly, Matador Network and Weird Fiction Review. She is a member of the Australian Horror Writers Association and Sisters in Crime.
Kat’s video and photographic work has been seen on major news programs, The Age, Herald Sun and local newspapers. In 2012 she was a finalist in Travel Photographer of the Year, New Talent. Her work experience includes video production and digital design for non-profits and commercial businesses.
Kat holds undergraduate degrees in Media Arts and International Studies, as well as a Graduate Diploma in Creative Writing from UTS. While studying at university, she completed a year abroad at the Universite de Poitiers, France. She speaks fluent French and is well travelled, having visited 30 countries including a year living in South Korea. In her spare time she enjoys watching movies, playing music, cycling and hiking.
Last year saw the release of your novella, “Double Exposure”. Could you tell us a little bit about the book, and about your writing in the crime genre?
Double Exposure is the story of a scandal photographer in 1948 who begins to see dead bodies through his camera lens. He has to solve the mystery of these murdered women before he’s framed for the crime (terrible pun I know). The book discusses issues surrounding the male gaze in photography and the representation of women in crime fiction. All while being a rollicking crime story!
Double Exposure is also a mix of weird fiction and hardboiled crime. I’ve always enjoyed genre bending work, such as Finch by Jeff VanderMeer and the work of China Mieville. The book also combines my love of photography and film noir. I had the idea percolating for about three years before I got the chance to pitch it on the fly to Crime Factory, who published it in print and e-book as part of their Single Shot series.
Basically I love genre fiction – anything that intersects between horror, dark fantasy, noir and the weird. So that’s what I write!
If you’d like to buy the book (insert shameless self promotion) you can find all the details here: http://www.katclay.com/publications/double-exposure/
Funnily enough, I’ve only really been involved in the spec fic community for around three years, although I’ve been writing it for over 10. It was only when I moved to Melbourne that I realised I wasn’t alone in this writing gig, and there were a lot of fans and writers with the same interests as me. Before that, I’d felt really alone as a writer, often being the only genre fiction author to turn up at writing groups, getting strange looks after submitting fantasy stories for critique.
I was surprised when I found out there was no association for SFF writers in Australia – I would have loved to connect with spec fic authors or know about conventions when I was growing up in Western Sydney. There’s a real sense of isolation working alone, and with my expertise in digital media I saw a perfect opening to provide information and connect authors to each other. Connecting creative people is a real passion of mine. So I was very fortunate last year to win a travel grant from the Melbourne UNESCO City of Literature to begin researching this project.
So far the response has been really positive – I’m currently assessing the results of a survey to gauge interest, but most of the participants have said that they want an association. We need to build up authors so Australia can continue to produce magnificent SFF. It’s slow going because I’m not doing this as part of uni studies; it’s on top of my freelance and regular job.
I send out a monthly newsletter which is full of opportunities and events which you can sign up to here: http://eepurl.com/b4MwiD If you have events or news, I’d love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org You can also like the facebook page here facebook.com/asciff
Your creative pursuits are not just limited to writing, you’re also a talented photographer (amongst other things). How do your different talents interact or influence the others?
I’m very lucky that I earn all my income through creative work, through both part-time and freelance work producing videos and digital content. Photography had a huge influence on my novella, Double Exposure, as I did a heap of research into historical photography methods, learning how people would handle and use old cameras. A lot of the descriptions are seen through the eyes of how a photographer would look at the light. Photography and video producing also make me aware of my environment; I film a lot of case studies, and I am always watching body language to make sure people are comfortable in front of the camera, which in turn informs my writing. I try to add these specific and authentic observations to the worlds that I create.
What Australian work have you loved recently?
I recently enjoyed reading Marlee Jane Ward’s Welcome to Orphancorp, and I’m also reading Andrew Macrae’s Trucksong, which has been on my TBR pile for ages. It really captures the Australian voice in an original dystopian vision. I’m also looking forward to reading Vigil by Angela Slatter, also on my ever growing TBR pile, as I really enjoyed The Bitterwood Bible last year.
5. Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?
I love this delicious question! Do you really want to be on a long haul flight with your favourite author? What if you fall asleep and start snoring? What if they’re one of those people who put a blanket over their head for the entire flight? In the end though, I decided to go with Maurice Leblanc and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Two creators of the most delightful characters in crime fiction, Sherlock Holmes and Arsene Lupin, gentleman thief. First class of course.