Feb 20, 2012

Author Interview: Nat Katz

When I founded The Weaving Knight, I had in mind the idea of a writing-focused site that did a number of things. Through it, I would publish some reviews, some news, interviews, fiction of my own, prompts and activities, resources links, and a number of other things. I've actually gotten around to most of that, and I enjoy the diversity that the site represents. Last week, I announced (perhaps too feebly) that I'm going to try my hand at running a fanzine. There will be more on that later this week, in a separate post. For today, I'm going to be giving you the first-ever interview conducted on The Weaving Knight.

The interviewee, whom I've known for a few years via the internet (and an encounter at the NYC Strand bookstore), has courteously agreed to let me pick his brain. He put a lot of thought and effort into his answers, and I'm very grateful for his cooperation. If you like the interviews, or have any suggestions for up-and-coming writers who might prove an interesting conversation (or benefit from a bit o' exposure), feel free to email me at travis@theweavingknight.com. I had fun doing this interview, and I wouldn't mind making them a recurring feature.

And now, onto the show!

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Nat Katz is an up-and-coming writer with a burgeoning talent for spinning strange stories. His fiction has been published in or featured at several venues, including the Historical Lovecraft Anthology, Linger Fiction, Bards and Sages Quarterly, and most recently, Eschatology Journal. He also has a smattering of microfictions and reviews published here and there, and writes his own review blog, The Hat Rack. He has courteously agreed to this interview, and I encourage all my readers to check his work. You can find some of it through the links provided at the bottom.

1) Lets start at the top. How long have you been writing creatively for yourself?

When I was seven, I wrote a crossover fanfic between Harry Potter and Star Wars. If I wrote anything before that, I can't remember it. The story reached a rather impressive seventy pages in my notebook, but has, alas, been lost since. A shame, as I'm rather curious.

2) Over the years you've spent writing, you must have developed some kind of ‘process.’ Would you care to shed some light on it?

Most of my process isn't particularly special. Though I don't do formal outlines anymore, I do find that I have to know the details of a scene before I write it (otherwise what on earth would I type?). The actual draft is generally just a matter of sitting down and banging it out, often in two or three overlong sittings. Afterwards, I print out what I've got and go through it, correcting for style and, to a lesser extent, content, though I've usually gotten the latter where I want it by the time I type the last words. When editing, I'll freely admit that I'm a bit addicted to cutting. I'll often remove 40% or so of a story's length. Then there's just the matter of putting the changes into the electronic document, which is about as mind numbingly dull as anything conceivable, and off we go. (Editor’s note: I agree with that last statement whole-heartedly).

3) Do you remember finding your first audience? How did that feel?

My first audience was on the EPIC Games forums, when I was writing a novel-length story set in the Gears of War universe. Though I've long since left fan fiction behind, and though my interest in the Gears world crashed and burned with the release of the second game (and, I think, [my interest] may've been far more a result of the ingenuity of my fellow writers than any intrinsic worth in the setting). [T]he community there is one that I look back on fondly. Though I understand the downsides of writing fan fiction, and its confines, I think that those who bash it as a means to get into writing are overlooking that aspect. While it's nearly impossible for a novice writer to gain an audience of any kind on his own merits, it's easy if there's already one built into the fandom, and I think that the effects of being read, and by complete strangers, are impossible to overlook when it comes to building one's self esteem, style, and discipline.

4) How would you appraise your early experiences with your first audience in shaping your voice, style and themes?

I don't think much of what I sought stylistically in my Gears fanfic is still applicable to my work today, but the work there was still invaluable in shaping my mindset as a writer and some of the skills that I would later need. Serially publishing a work online, whether in an original setting or not, and writing it as you go, forces several things upon the writer. First, and perhaps most importantly, there's the necessity of writing, of getting something out there and producing, even if it's not your greatest creation from the first word to the last. That can, of course, lead to uninspired work, but I find that the far deadlier danger is that of paralyzing yourself and not writing at all. Tied with that first boon is that having an audience waiting for the next installment cuts down on your possible revision time, something else that is crucial to success but also all too easy to lose yourself forever in.

5) Despite being an undergraduate, you've really worked on developing an impressive and diverse portfolio that has seen exposure in a variety of magazines and anthologies. How many hours a week do you spend working as a writer?

Not nearly as many as I'd like to. Right now, I try to spend some small amount of each day writing, but the attempt's often a failure. I often end up doing nothing at all for long stretches, punctuated by bouts of furious work.

6) It's a cliché question, but who would you list as the most important among your influences?

I'm not sure that I can narrow it down to a single influence for the entirety of my work, but some authors that have played a large role in my imagination and creative process are H.P. Lovecraft, Thomas Ligotti, George R.R. Martin, Alastair Reynolds, and Jeff VanderMeer.

7) Ligotti, Lovecraft, Martin, and Reynolds are all purveyors of dark fiction. Your own work tends to be darker. What is it about the shadow that draws you in as a writer?

I write darker fiction for a variety of reasons, not the least of them being that that's simply how my imagination runs. Digging deeper, though, I find that darker fiction's not only often more interesting (nebulous as that is), but is also more keenly felt. Though it's no doubt overgeneralizing to say so, things seem to fracture and fall apart in a thousand ways and be healthy and right in but a few, and those few, while no doubt great to live through, aren't exactly thrilling to read about. Conflict's the center of story and all that. When I read upbeat and positive fiction, it doesn't strike me, grab me, glue my eye to the page and force me on. It's a nice dream, but I know with every word that it's not real, isn't happening to me, and that there's nothing to really be getting excited about. Darkness, meanwhile, reaches through the page and stabs you in the gut. Imaginary darkness is no more real than imaginary light, but I seem to have a far easier time accepting fictional tragedy than victory, fictional unhealthiness than wellbeing, and fictional misery than joy. Which likely says something rather unpleasant about me, but, alas…

8) Are there any important resources you use or would recommend as a writer in finding markets or contacts?

Duotrope is immeasurably helpful for finding markets. Absolute Write is a great place to meet and interact with other writers and, also, to get critiques.

9) Finally, where can interested readers find your work?

My nonfiction is centered around my blog (evilhat.blogspot.com), and links can be found there to all of my published fiction. So far, I have a story in the Historical Lovecraft Anthology, one with the now defunct webzine Linger Fiction (reposted here), and one in the newest issue of Bards and Sages Quarterly (print / electronic).

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So, there you have it! The Weaving Knight's first-ever interview. Again, I'd strongly encourage you to check out The Hat Rack and some of Nat's other work. It's a rich and frightening catalog sure to delight the curious reader. Thanks for reading!



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