Tell us a little about yourself and what you like to write.
I’m Kate Griffin – well, no, I’m actually Catherine Webb, but I write urban fantasy as Kate Griffin. I usually write a series set in London, in which I do my very best to update the stuff of ‘traditional’ magic to a more modern vibe. Thus, vampires are registered with the NHS blood banks, curses are sent by text and the most powerful spells around are written on the back of travelcards. I love London and always had this nagging suspicion that ‘magic’ should harken to its older sense of ‘wonder’ rather than ‘speaking old words in a dead language’, and I guess the city has always given me that sense of delight.
What was the idea behind “An Inspector Calls”?
Have you ever had to deal with your local council? The hours I’ve wasted dealing with bureaucracy – the hours listening to the same hold music on the same loop, of banging your head against an officious wall as you try to explain, to implore someone to understand that what you’re asking won’t bring down the government, and may actually improve the quality of life for yourself if not others, but no! Because there’s just… one… more… form!
And I guess that I’ve always felt that it’d be interesting to extend this idea into the realms of wizardry. I’d love to see how Merlin reacted to negotiations with the department of work and pensions. It’d be genuinely fascinated to see how long it takes an angry necromancer to summon an undead hoard after spending an hour queuing at the post office. I guess I thought it’d be fun to combine magic with the least magical experience of modern life.
Also, the weekend the brief came through, I had a friend round, who sat still and not only listened, but also got excited by the whole idea, and let’s face it, both those make a world of difference.
How urban do you like your fantasy and who are your must-read authors?
Um. I’m not sure I know the answer to the first part of that. I know that I think ‘urban’ fantasy shouldn’t necessarily involve reciting spells in Latin or summoning a unicorn (unless it’s petrol-powered) as that to me just seems like traditional fantasy in a city, rather than urban fantasy using modern things. But other than that… I’m not sure I can really give a truly sagely reply…
Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman kinda go without saying. I love everything Roger Zelazny ever wrote ever. It’s not fantasy, but Raymond Chandler’s also always on my must-read list. I wish I’d got my shelves built at the time of answering this question, as then I’d be able to actually browse my books and give a better reply, instead of crawl through the piles on my floor….
Has your involvement with background stage-craft influenced how you write scenes?
Um. Consciously: no. When I work as a lighting designer, it’s an entirely different discipline, full of numbers, angles, three dimensional shapes and colours. The rhythms of stories are still the same on page and on stage, and as an LD it’s useful to be able to get a handle of the shape of a play and the direction it takes, but that’s more of writing influencing lighting rather than visa versa.
Unconsciously: probably. Tom Lehrer said that a good mathematician plagiarised everything but called it ‘research’. In the world of scribbling I think it’s probably fair to say that very few indeed set out to consciously plagiarise anything, but that no one can go through life without being influenced by what they see, hear, feel and do. I’m not consciously aware that, as a technician, I’m changing how I’m write. I’m fairly sure I am, in much the same way that if I were a lawyer or shark tamer I’d probably be influenced by my work.
What are you up to next?
Let’s think… well, I have a Top Secret Book being published early 2014 about which I am barred from saying anything at all for reasons which I’ll explain in two years time when I’m permitted to say something. I’m writing another book at the moment which is also a Top Secret Something, and have a final book on submission about which… you guessed it… I’m still forbad from saying a word. I’ve got a play on at Riverside Studios in spring 2014 which I was asked to write for after a director ran some devising workshops, but that’s under yet another name – Kate McCormick, although isn’t top secret. In the other job I’ve got a few more shows to light before the year is out, as well as a couple of gigs. I’m also working towards yet another exam in a martial art called escrima which is one of the most relaxing outlets I’ve ever encountered. So. In a cryptic, very unhelpful way… lots happening.
[Kate Griffin is the name under which Catherine Webb writes fantasy books for adults. First published when a teenager, she’s been writing for just long enough to have started to forget her early plots and characters. She likes big cities, urban magic, Thai food and graffiti-spotting. To keep herself occupied between chapters, she works as a theatre lighting designer, in the happy expectation that two artsy careers create a perfectly balanced life. Find her at www.kategriffin.net]