Interview with Cat Rambo — Near + Far

John Barth described Cat Rambo’s writings as “works of urban mythopoeia” — her stories take place in a universe where chickens aid the lovelorn, Death is just another face on the train, and Bigfoot gives interviews to the media on a daily basis. She has worked as a programmer-writer for Microsoft and a Tarot card reader, professions which, she claims, both involve a certain combination of technical knowledge and willingness to go with the flow. In 2005 she attended the Clarion West Writers’ Workshop. Among the places in which her stories have appeared are ASIMOV’S, WEIRD TALES, CLARKESWORLD, and STRANGE HORIZONS, and her work has consistently garnered mentions and appearances in year’s best of anthologies. Her collection, EYES LIKE SKY AND COAL AND MOONLIGHT was an Endeavour Award finalist in 2010 and followed her collaboration with Jeff Vandermeer, THE SURGEON’S TALE AND OTHER STORIES. Her most recent collection is NEAR + FAR, from Hydra House Books.
Interview with Author Cat RamboPhotos from the World Fantasy Convention 2011 in San Diego, CA 
author of Near + Far 

Cat, I was intrigued by the  Ace double format of Near + Far. I was wondering where you get your story ideas?

Story ideas can come from anywhere:  something I’ve observed, a phrase, an image, a dream, or even an incident in my own life. For example I saw a cashier about to step on a pen in a store and thinking about that led to a flash piece, “At the Core.” Other story ideas are reactions to stories I’ve read, sometimes recently, more often far in the past. Those take a lot of forms: amplifications and contradictions, celebrations and rebuttals. “Long Enough and Just So Long,” which appeared in Lightspeed Magazine, is a reply to a Heinlein story that I loved but which bugged me, “The Menace From Earth.”

What is the usual process for your fiction writing? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

My process has changed in recent years:  I do a lot more planning beforehand. I do a lot of my writing by hand, and may do a free write about a story before I started, in order to see if anything interesting emerges.

I still, though, try to let the story grow organically. I find a too detailed outline leaves me unwilling to write the story, as though all the interesting parts had been done already and only the drudgery was left.

Once you have an idea that sparks your imagination do you research your idea or do any world-building exercises, or do you just begin to write and see where the Muse takes you?

Usually I start and see where it ends up. Sometimes though, some research is needed because it’s going to shape the story. For example, I’m working on a military fantasy story right now, involving a Roman soldier stationed at Hadrian’s Wall. That’s something I know very little about, and so I’ve been doing a good bit of research for it.

HH-Near-CoverWhat is your daily writing like?

I go out in the morning to get my huge latte from Jitters Coffee. Then I come home, look at my email to make sure nothing needs answering immediately, and get started. My goal each day is 2000 words of new fiction, which I don’t always hit, particularly when I’m in the middle of revising things.

Are you a full time writer? If so when did you make the decision and what factors led to the decision. If you are not a full time writer…Is your plan to one day being a full time writer?

I am a full-time writer. In 2005, I left my job technical writing for Microsoft because I decided if I wanted to be a writer, I needed to get started. So I went off to Clarion West that summer. Since then, my spouse has been kindly paying the mortgage while I work on freelancing, which is a somewhat sporadic financial existence.

Can you tell us about your experience working with your current publisher? (Any other publishers?) (And/Or your self-publishing experiences?)

My current publisher is the best! Tod McCoy of Hydra House Books  put a lot of work into the most recent collection, and it shows. It is a beautiful book, I loved working with him on both the book as well as the marketing and publicity, and I would highly recommend Hydra House Books to anyone.

I’ve dabbled in self-publishing, but have not found it particularly fruitful. I’ve also been a part of an interesting shared world project, the Fathomless Abyss, which is an experiment in collective self-publishing.

What is your current release and (without spoilers) tell us about the new book or series.

The most recent book is Near + Far, from Hydra House. It’s a book done in the old Ace double format, where you flip the book over and find a new book on the other side. One side is all near future short stories, and the other is all far future short stories. It’s nothing but science fiction stories. I hope to do a similar volume with all fantasy.

Can you tell us about some of your other writing and any appearances or signings that you have planned?

Right now, I’m finishing up what I hope is the final rewrite of a fantasy novel, tentatively titled The Moons of Tabat  as always, I’m working on several short stories and a novella for the Fathomless Abyss project, A Cavern Ripe with Dreams. I have short stories forthcoming in a number of anthologies, including Clockwork Phoenix Four, Beyond the Sun, The Other Half of the Sky, and Glitter and Mayhem. Convention appearances this year include SpoCon, WorldCon, SteamCon, and Orycon.

As an author what inspiration or advice would you give to a writer who is working to make the transition to Author?HH-Far-Cover

Patience, persistence, and a thick skin are qualities every writer should cultivate.  Keep a number of lines in the water, by which I mean have more than one project in the works. But the best advice I can give anyone is don’t be a jackass. The writing world is an astonishingly small one, particularly with the connections created by social networks.

Who is your favorite author, and can you recommend a book by that author?

Oh, I have so many favorite authors! I’ll recommend one that I often draw on for examples when teaching, Dorothy Dunnett. she’s not a speculative fiction author, but a historical one. She is so good at so many things, including seeding information into the narrative without drawing attention to it and writing dialogue with accompanying gestures on the part of the characters that tell so much about them. The best starting point is the first book of the Lymond Chronicles, The Game of Kings.

Cat, I want to thank you for coming by the blog, and Congratulations on your Nebula nomination for “Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain“. 

If you would like more information about Cat Rambo you can find her books on Amazon, and updates about her writing on Twitter, Facebook and on her website:

Cat’s Amazon page


Eyes Like Sky and Coal and Moonlight

Near + Far

A Seed On the Wind

The Surgeon’s Tale (with Jeff VanderMeer)

Clockwork Fairies

You can keep up with Cat online:






Headshot photo credit: On Focus Photo
Cover design for Near + Far by Tod McCoy

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