Kate Inglis • The Dread Crew
I joined the Kate Inglis fan club during its formative years, in the early 1990s. It seems a lifetime ago, just after the migraines became my daily routine, so my memories of that time are shrouded in a heavy Nova Scotia fog.
But I remember Kate well.
It was a Halifax coffee shop, circa 1993 where I retreated to write. Because of my illness, I had just been fired from my job as an arts writer at a local newspaper, and my new neurosurgeon had just discovered a pituitary tumor pressing against my brain.
So I was struggling, and found solace in Kate’s perpetual kindness, and in a sweet, gentle smile that never failed to lift my spirits. She was studying public relations at Mount Saint Vincent, and it didn’t hurt that she and the rest of the team at the coffee shop were all drop-dead gorgeous. But she was charming and welcoming, and if she ever had a bad day, it didn’t show.
Fifteen years later, Kristina pointed me to Kate again at sweet | salty, one of Canada’s best-written blogs. She was same woman — whipsmart and funny — but her life had been touched by tragedy, and there was a bittersweetness in each post that cuts to the heart of things, and often touches the profound.
I wasn’t surprised when Nimbus signed her to a book contract in 2008, and Kristina and I bought a handful of copies of her pirate book from Woozles to send to every middle reader — and a couple of teachers — of our acquaintance.
I met Kate again at a Word on the Street reading, and at the launch of The Dread Crew. In many ways, she’s unchanged from her days in the coffee shop, and I’m thrilled to introduce her to you now.
Kate Inglis, writer, photographer, and keeper of sweet | salty, lives on the edge of a meat-grinder sea on the far eastern coastline of Nova Scotia where she was born. In November 2009 her first novel was published — The Dread Crew: Pirates of the Backwoods, a book January Magazine calls “a spirited tale, gorgeously rendered.” The second edition lands in Canada and the U.S. in late-April 2010.
What was your favorite book as a child? What is your favorite children’s book?
I loved The Phantom Tollbooth and everything by Roald Dahl, of course. Those are still my favourites. I don’t know where Shel Silverstein was when I was a kid, but I’m onto him now.
What is your most marked characteristic? Does it help or hinder you?
Justin would say my mental elsewhereness. I say it helps and he would say it hinders, but we’d be talking about effects on different things.
I’d say my creative fastidiousness. Not in the way of perfection, but aesthetics. I’ve got very particular ideas about how I want stories and photographs to look and sound and feel, though those ideas are in a state of constant change. I do my best to strip out anything that doesn’t contribute. It helps in the clarity of what I put out there, when I manage to pull off what I’d envisioned. It makes me a bit of a creative plodder. And a despot. It hinders the amount of sleep I get.
Which quality do you most like in a man?
Which quality do you most like in a woman?
What is your favorite memory?
Riding my bike in the rain. Opening the email from Penelope, my editor, when Nimbus decided to acquire the book. Eleven years of weekends in Vancouver.
Describe the best meal you’ve ever had.
After leaving Halifax, it took about a year for me to fully integrate Japanese food into my insides. To come to need it. Every Japanese meal ever since has been such a pleasure. Not that they’ve all been fabulous. Sometimes it was just a plate of edamame on the way home from work, or a little tub of agedashi tofu from Lonsdale Quay, or miso soup when it’s cold out. The artistry of it, even when simple. The economy of movement of a good sushi chef. It’s a part of my history now, of so many memories, of a whole segment of my life. Much of my best is tangled up with pickled ginger.
What’s the best book you’ve read in the last two years? The best movie you’ve seen?
The shame. I haven’t read much lately. With a three year-old and a five year-old and client work as well, It’s taken everything I’ve got to write. The best movie I’ve seen lately is Youth in Revolt. I don’t know why I loved it so much. I just beamed the whole way through, right from the opening credits. It made me happy for a week.
What characteristic about yourself would you most like to change?
I wish I weren’t so wracked with self-doubt. You’d think that meeting a few goals would help this, but it’s escalated.
What always make you happy?
A cold beer.
What always angers you?
People who litter.
At this moment, where would you most like to be?
Is money unlimited? Are the kids happily occupied elsewhere? With Justin in Tahiti. One of those stilted huts with a butler and unlimited chi-chis. Either that or paddling off the west coast of Vancouver Island with a deserted white sand beach in front of me, kelp forests underneath me and brushing up against my paddle, yummy food and a down sleeping bag all tucked inside my hull. The found skull of an otter in my net. A horizon of snow-capped mountains. And a seal swimming along behind, snorting disapproval every few boat lengths.
Tell me about a boneheaded mistake you make in writing The Dread Crew.
It’s not so much a single mistake as it is a general thing. I wrote the book over four of some of the most formative years of my life. When I read through it, I see the writer-self of 2005 and 2007 and now. It was brought together in such a way that I doubt anyone but me notices, but I notice. That and and a few cross-eyed typos.
What has blogging brought to your life?
Confidence. Mostly. Sometimes. Sort of.
Who is your favorite fictional heroine and why? And fictional hero?
Mr. and Mrs. Twit.
Who are your three favorite composers?
Saint-Saëns for Élégie in C minor, played by Jacqueline Du Pré. In just over six minutes a cello and a piano capture the human condition completely. I don’t mean that to be pretentious. It’s the only classical music I listen to with any intention. I was twelve when my uncle gave it to me. It collapsed me then, and it still does. The Police for Tea in the Sahara. Neil Young for Helpless and everything else.
Who is your favorite painter?
The only art that’s embedded itself onto me is the art I’ve seen in person, and I haven’t traveled much. First it was Turner’s gigantic murals of ocean storms at the Tate Gallery in London. They’re so perfectly dwarfing and unforgiving, and his light is magic. Then Christopher Pratt. I’ve never seen paintings as calm and as mathematical as his. Each one made me not want to move along. Then it was the Art Institute in Chicago, where I saw Van Gogh and so many others. There was such emotion and violence and passion and starkness in the modern art there. It was relentless, around every corner. I can’t tell you what it all was. I don’t know enough. It just felt like my insides.
Which talent would you most like to have?
I’d like to experience what it’s like to be an athlete. I’ve seen women race mountain bikes. I’ve seen them up-close all covered in dust and sweat and mud and grunting and kicking up rocks from their tires, and it mystifies me. The possibility that anyone can be strong and competitive, given the time and the will, is tantalizing. I’ve had tastes of it, as much as you can when your body is made of udon noodles. I think about it a lot from this couch.
How would you like to be remembered?
Hospitable. Diverse. The opposite of a pill.
What has been the most exciting part of being published?
All these diamonds.
What is your greatest regret?
Don’t make me get maudlin on your ass.
Aside from your sons and your book, of what accomplishment are you most proud?
Growing into my skin.
What is in heavy rotation on your iPod?
All the everyday music we listen to is Canadian, but not for any sort of mandate. It’s just what we like. I just bought Joel Plaskett’s Truthfully Truthfully and Ashtray Rock after seeing him live, and love both. Matt Mays, Wintersleep, Hey Rosetta, The Tragically Hip (Gord Downie is only getting better), Old Man Luedecke, The Arkells, K-OS, Sam Roberts, Martha Wainwright, Broken Social Scene. The only radio we listen to is CBC. Any perceived smugness predates him, but for now I’ll blame it on Rich Terfry.
When was the last time you wept?
I am immune to weeping. Every time my eyes get wet, a ring around the big toe on my left foot zaps me with an electrical current that enriches my mental focus.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Random electrical jolts.
In what way do you hope your life will change now that you’re a published author?
I’d like to keep being an author. That’s all, really. I’d like to figure out the resources and rituals necessary to keep this up forever and all the way to Jupiter.
— XXX —
An aside: I love the interconnectedness of Nova Scotia. The Dread Crew was illustrated by Sydney Smith, who studied at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University. We met him at a poetry reading by Alice Burdick, and I knew — as soon as he told us that he was an illustrator — that he had worked on Kate’s book. I just knew.
I later found out that he’s best mates with my nephew, Jason Levangie, a Nova Scotia filmmaker.