Author Interview: Kat Dunn

It’s the second day of #FFFeb, a sapphic readathon hosted by Charlotte over on twitter (you can find more info here), which seemed like the perfect opportunity to share our interview with Kat for a number of reasons. 1) her books would be perfect to read right now, if you’re lucky enough to have an arc & 2) all the books Kat recommended us are sapphic, as well!

Also, we’re just really excited about it!

Anyway, remember you can follow Kat on twitter for more content, and enjoy!

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Let’s start at the beginning. How did you first get into writing?

I think I was born writing! I have no memory of the point in time that I started writing or telling stories, I just always have since I could hold a pen (and I have no memory of learning how to read or write either). I was on my own a lot as a child, so I used to imagine films in my head, sometimes like fanfiction, sometimes my own characters. It’s how I still write now – I just shut my eyes and let the film play in my head, and then write down what I see.

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What are your favourite genres to read and write?

Fantasy is my number one love, but I enjoy historical, sci-fi and the occasional thriller as well as classics and non-fiction.

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And are there any genres or tropes you wouldn’t write?

I’ve not nothing against romance or detective fiction, it’s just not for me! And I would do a terrible job writing it.

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How do you get inspiration for your books?

My brain is a bit of a magpie. As I’m going around life, shiny things catch its attention and it’s only a few steps from there to ‘oooh what if this happened’. Ideas turn up in my head all the time, so I write them all down on my phone or in a google doc, and slowly those ideas clump together to turn into whole books. On a lucky day, a whole book idea will arrive at once, but often I just have a nugget, and build layers and layers on top.

The most important part is input in. If I’m not reading, watching things, learning, exploring, my ideas totally dry up. I’m a pretty curious person, so I’ll get easily obsessed with something for a week or two and end up learning heaps about the most random topics. Whenever I’m feeling burnt out, it’s usually a sign I need to stop trying to create output and prioritise input.

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Do you have a writing playlist? And if you do, does it focus more on the lyrics or melodies, vibe of the songs?

I don’t have a specific playlist, but I listen to loads of film scores, classical music or lofi when I’m writing. I can’t handle anything with words. I definitely find film scores the best to write to, because they’re written with narrative and emotion in mind so they really help my imagination flow. I particularly love artists like Two Steps From Hell or Future World Music for grand scores that I don’t associate with a particular film.

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What’s your writing process? At what point do you let other people read your drafts and who are they?

My process is kinda… messy. It feels like someone has dumped a box of puzzle pieces in my head, and I’m trying to put it all together with only a vague sense of the picture on the box. Before I start writing prose, I’ll spend time writing up every idea I have for characters, scenes, settings – all my puzzle pieces. I usually know my ending, the twist, the emotional beats I want to hit. I begin piecing things together, like starting with the corners and edges of a jigsaw puzzle.

Once I have that map, then I start writing. In the past I’ve been a bit like that gif of Gromit frantically laying out track just in front of him, planning a few chapters ahead and aiming for major landmarks. But that worked better when I didn’t have deadlines to meet, or a 3 book plot to wrangle. So for book 2 I tried doing a ‘zero draft’ for the first time where I wrote up the whole book in really really detailed note form, scene by scene with dialogue and emotional beats and stage directions. This was 35k long – and the final draft clocked in at about 95k. This meant I could test out my plot and character arcs and when I went through writing it up into actual prose, I could start to fix wonky plot points and boring bits. I really liked this method!

So far, I’ve not really shared my drafts with anyone other than my agent and editor. I’ve always wanted crit partners but apart from a few exceptions the timing has never worked out.

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Summarise your most recent/next book in up to 5 words and a meme.

Queer. Bloody. Political. Swashbuckling. Science.

Not a meme but the closest gif I can get to that bit from Les Mis but super gay.

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And for something that is also very important to us & what we put a lot of emphasis on when blogging. What does ownvoices LGBT representation mean to you?

Countless people have talked about how important representation is far more articulately and powerfully than I ever could, so all I can add is a personal story. I spent a lot of my teens and early twenties confused. I flipped back and forth between thinking I must be gay or I must be straight. It took me so long to settle on bi because it felt like a cop out. Like I was hedging my bets. I grew up under section 28 in the UK which meant schools weren’t allowed to ‘promote’ LGBTQ issues, effectively meaning no teacher or staff member could talk about being anything other than totally heteronormative. I never saw being bi as a real thing people were. It was the punchline of a joke. Representation to me means being more than that. It means being given permission to exist.

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Rec us some great LGBT books you’ve read recently! One can never have enough recommendations!

All f/f, some are out already some are 2020 debuts I’ve been lucky enough to read already:

  • Queen of Coins and Whispers by Helen Cocoran – queen/spymaster twisty court fantasy out March 2020
  • All the Bad Apples by Moïra Fowley-Doyle – a gorgeous, atmospheric book combining history and the present, the supernatural and contemporary issues
  • The Falling in Love Montage by Ciara Smyth – the cutest of Irish romcoms, out June 2020
  • This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone – brain-bending, stunningly written fantasy about two agents in the time war who fall in love through an unusual exchange of letters
  • The True Queen by Zen Cho – fun and clever historical fantasy set in the regency era.
  • The Henna Wars by Abiba Jaigirdar – a super cute contemporary about 2 girls with rival businesses falling for each other.

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What’s one piece of advice you would like to give your younger self?

Therapy isn’t paying someone to care about you, it’s paying a professional who knows more than you about weird brains to help you sort through the garbage you’re carrying around. However self-aware you think you are, you are wrong. Stop thinking being strong and unemotional is the most important thing. What’s happening to you isn’t okay, but you will escape.

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If you could have dinner with one member of the LGBT community, dead or alive, who would it be?

I want to say Oscar Wilde for the dinner party quips, but also I fear him turning his tongue on me, so maybe Sarah Waters because I love her books to bits and they made a huge impact on me as a teen.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Katherine Dunn

Kat Dunn grew up in London and has lived in Japan, Australia and France.

She has a BA in Japanese from SOAS and an MA in English from Warwick. She’s written about mental health for Mind and The Guardian, and worked as a translator for Japanese television.

Her fiction has been shortlisted for the Mslexia Novel Competition, and Dangerous Remedy is her first novel.

Follow on Goodreads | Preorder Dangerous Remedy

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