As you may or may not know, my co-blogger Katie has decided to step down from her position at Vargamor due to her exciting new move to Sweden and due to commitments to a variety of different and exciting new projects she has ongoing currently. Subsequently, this week Vargamor will be welcoming two new contributors to the site and we will be giving Katie a suitable farewell and thanks from the site for her fantastic contributions. When I learned Katie was planning to step down, I knew that we needed to give her an adequate farewell and have done so by interviewing her in depth. Enjoy. ~ Becca
Hello – first off, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m a twenty nine year old writer, poet and blogger originally from the North of England and now based in Sweden.
You’re a writer and poet – tell us a little bit about what inspires you?
Scandinavian history, lifestyle and landscapes are my predominant inspiration, and have been since I was a tiny child, sitting wide eyed in front of Richard Fleisher’s 1958 epic The Vikings, which my Dad had recorded off the TV and onto VHS. (If you have the time, I highly recommend you source this film and give it a watch. It’s a cinematic masterpiece and helped to shape the women I am today, along with the films Watership Down, The Neverending Story and The Secret Garden).
I’m also deeply inspired by death and dying, winter, mental health, the occult, polar exploration and the lives of indigenous peoples in the High Arctic.
My curiosity in everything dark was greatly fuelled by my Grandparents. My Granddad would buy hordes of ghost story books from carboot sales for a few pence, and old Misty annuals from the late 70’s. Misty was a comic which focused on supernatural and horror themes. Each annual was a feast for my young, hungry mind. Books were my best friends when I was growing up, and there wasn’t much that made me smile more than a scary story.
I was very close to my Nanna when I was growing up, and she would let me stay up until stupid hours of the morning, watching documentaries about wolves, serial killers and paranormal happenings. My auntie also played a significant role in encouraging me to embrace fear.
I was forever eyeing her vast VHS horror collection, impatiently awaiting the day when she would say to me that I could pick one to watch. (For the record, the first VHS I selected, when she gave me permission, was Interview With The Vampire. I was twelve and it was a life changer.) I can remember, when I was really small, saying I was going to the toilet, and I would actually sneak into my auntie’s room, just to look at her shelves of horror novels and videos.
Though I’m predominantly inspired by the north and the dark, I’m also inspired by every day happenings, the little things that people tend not to notice, such as a mouse squashed at the side of the road, or the way that kisses on collarbones can feel like fluttering feathers.
How does a day in a writer’s life pan out? Can we see photos of your workspace?
I’ve recently moved in with my boyfriend, so my routine has been a bit all over the place. My workspace is currently a wooden kitchen table, which looks out onto a beautiful rock wall and trees. (We live on the edge of a forest). I’m hoping to make it look like my old work space that you can see in the photo.
I always make a ‘to do’ list the night before. I’m unable to sleep unless I’ve planned out my day in advance. (Though as the years pass I am learning to become more spontaneous as spontaneity can yield fantastic creative results…)
When I wake up I immediately eat breakfast, – branflakes, yogurt and tea (currently Liptons Yellow Label Tea as my Yorkshire stash has run out) with milk and one sugar. This always hits the spot. I can’t do anything unless I’m fed and watered. People who say ‘oh, I don’t need breakfast.’ Bullshit. You need to break the fast if you want to perform at your peak, and I never want to be anything other than my best.
While inhaling my breakfast, I usually do the internet rounds – email, Facebook, blogs, Tumblr, Instagram to check if anything interesting has happened since I put down my electronics eight hours previously. (If the boyfriend is off work, we’ll watch Peep Show or another comedy while curled up on the sofa). I try and spend a bit of time with the book I’m currently reading (at the moment it’s High Lonesome by Joyce Carol Oates) and jot down some notes for a potential poem that I’ll write later on in the day.
99% of the time I’m at my desk (the kitchen table) by 9am fired up to go. It’s important that my desk is tidy when I start in the morning. I despise a cluttered workspace. This also counts for my laptop desktop. It usually gets a clean up once a day.
However, my routine can be broken by the weather. If I see there’s mist outside or freshly fallen snow, I’m out with my camera like a shot. I used to freak out if my routine were to be disrupted, but nowadays I try and embrace spontaneity.
I like to get pressing work out of the way first. If I have paid writing work to do, that gets my immediate attention. I try and get the pressing work finished asap, than I spend some time putting down notes for a new poem. If I’m having a good day, I can get a poem done and published on my blog in forty five minutes or so. If it’s a bad day…well, I’ll end up returning to it at intermittent times until it’s finished, or I’ll retire it to the ‘unfinished stuff’ file on my desktop.
Exercise is an important part of my daily routine, and I like to try and get out for a run or a hike. Failing that, I’ll work out indoors while listening to music or a TED talk. I’ve recently started working out with my boyfriend, which I freaking love.
I break for lunch around one. I wish I was able to just sit and eat my food and give it all a rest for half an hour, but I always find myself multitasking. Lunch has recently been scrambled eggs, bread and yogurt. This fuels me up for the afternoon ahead.
After lunch, I generally attack my big projects, which at the moment involve putting together my first poetry show, working on my book Hyperborean Shadows and editing my 6th poetry collection In The Hours Of Darkness. However, I’ve been finding it quite difficult to stay indoors lately. Our apartment is a few metres away from a vast forest, and I always want to be out exploring and photographing my surroundings. I’m also working on a project called My Other Shadows which involves creating a self-portrait every day for 100 days, so I’ll spend some time on that too. I usually always spend some of my afternoon working on my blogs.
Evenings are usually spent finishing any blogging that I have to do, applying for freelance writing positions and preparing for the following day. I’m very much an introvert, so it’s rare that my evenings will be spent in the company of anyone other than Sebastian. I’ve also started to learn Swedish, so I’m dedicating an hour to that every day. I’m getting better at allowing myself ‘down time’ on an evening, and am usually off my laptop by about nine pm and either watching something with Sebastian or catching up on my current read.
You’ve established your own publishing business – how did you go about that?
I’ve been publishing the work of others for a number of years now. I established a literary magazine called Beautiful Scruffiness in 2009 which ran for five issues and published over 100 writers from across the world. You can check out issue five here.
I’ve also founded numerous other magazines which have had short runs but that I’m still incredibly proud of. You can find the link to my Wyrd Words & Effigies Magazine after the promo video.
A few years back I was in the process of establishing a company called Slice of the Moon with an ex-friend. But he turned out to be a charlatan, and left me in the lurch right after we were about to sign a pretty important writer, so that endeavour went to shit.
I’m involved with Nordland Publishing, a company based in Norway. Nordland was an idea that a friend of mine and I had a few years ago. I’ve currently taken a back seat with this venture, but am still proud to be involved.
Tell us about the work you’ve had published and where our readers could buy your material?
I first started having poetry, non-fiction and short stories published when I was in my teens, in magazines such as KENAZ and by publishers including Mudfog. My first poetry collection can be published here.
My first book was published when I was sixteen, and my second when I was nineteen. Though nowadays, I tend not to really talk about my early publications because my writing back then was fucking appalling. Plus, I was writing about a time in my life which I would rather leave in the past. In 2016 I want people to know about what I’m creating today, not what I was writing when I was an emaciated wreak of a teenager.
I’ve had to work extremely hard to get to the stage I’m at now with my writing career. None of the process has been easy sailing. I’ve sacrificed many things over the years to make time for my writing (though I wouldn’t have it any other way), and my life as a teenager and young adult was anything but normal. Fortunately, I’ve always favoured my own company, and burrowing myself away to write, than going out and doing ‘normal teenage stuff.’
I have my introvert traits, my Yorkshire blood and my unwillingness to ever give up to thank for my achievements. Oh, I should also thank all the people who told me I wasn’t good enough and would never get anywhere.
My most recent publication is Dying Is Forbidden In Longyearbyen, is a poetry collected dedicated to the north. It can be found here.
My forth collection is The Long Stillness and that can be purchased directly from me here.
I’m currently editing my sixth poetry collection, In The Hours of Darkness which will feature previously unpublished work from the past several years.
Where do you want your career as a writer to take you? What are your goals?
It has always been my goal to have my creative work provide me with a comfortable, balanced life, free from any financial stress. It’s my ambition to go to bed at night and know that in the morning I’ll wake up to a life where I can create all day, and live exclusively from my creative endeavours.
Since meeting my boyfriend Sebastian, I’ve acquired a balance within my day to day existence that I’ve never had before. I’ve never experienced contentment like this, and it’s wonderful.
I’m working incredibly hard to drive my writing career in the direction that will lead to full financial stability, independent of anything but the creative work that I want to do, and I hope that I will have reached my desired goal by the time I turn thirty – in nine months.
When and why did you come to Dark Fashion and what does it mean to you?
I’ve always dressed differently. I can recall being teased when I was small, because my clothes were second hand and not ‘in’ with the latest trend, which at the time happened to be stuff like Naff Naff. (This was in the early 90’s).
My parents used to be bikers in their younger years, and I was always intrigued by their vinyl collections. I would spend ages studying the imagery and what their heavy metal icons were wearing. I can remember opening my Mum’s wardrobe, and getting a hit of the deep, rusty scent of her leather jacket. I adopted my Dad’s old denim jacket, and would wear it to school thinking I was the coolest thing that walked the planet.
My family lived very close to Whitby for many years, and one year in the early 90’s we happened to be there when Whitby Goth Festival was taking place. I immediately became infatuated with the all black ensembles that surrounded me. This chance encounter with a horde of Goths from around the world was a life changing experience, and helped to shape the person that I am today.
Dark fashion empowers me. I’m at my best in black.
Tell us about a few of your favourite garments? Where are they from and why are they special?
My Mother’s Leather Jacket
I came into possession of my mother’s precious leather several years ago. At thirty five years old, it’s older than I am. The zip is broken, lots of the teeth are missing, there’s holes where badges used to sit, and there’s a massive rip gouged out in one side, but I still wear it. When I have it on, I feel close to my mum, and I feel proud that it was once against her back as would lean into my Dad, as they powered their way through the Scottish highlands and winding Yorkshire lanes.
An ex of mine was from France, and he introduced me to French Army Ranger Boots. I’ve had three pairs since 2010 and can’t imagine life without them. They make me feel powerful, confident and sexy.
Norwegian Rat Hoodie
I came into contact with Norwegian clothing company Norwegian Rat a while back in early 2015 and since then I’ve developed a really close bond with the team. Their Skakke Hoodie is the coolest, most comfortable hoodie I’ve ever owned. I practically live in it nowadays. The Skakke Hoodie can be purchased here.
Show us some of your favourite outfits? Why are they your favourite and how do they make you feel?
Outfit 1: I’m all for feeling comfortable but looking cool as fuck. This ensemble is one of my favourites in recent years.
Outfit 2: I found this smock for £2 in a charity shop several years ago and it remains to be one of my favourite finds. I feel like Snufkin’s misanthropic older sister when I wear it.
Outfit 3: Strega fashion has massively influenced my style over the past year or so, and plays an invaluable part in my daily ensembles.
Outfit 4: I feel like I’m channelling my inner Helena Bonham Carter with this entirely thrifted outfit.
Outfit 5: I love what this outfit does to my shape. I feel sexy, darkly stylish and unusual.
You’re quite skilled at taking outfit photos – do you have any suggestions for our readers wanting to emulate?
Good lighting is a must. I think cloudy, shaded days are best for outfits shots. Do what feels natural and try and capture something a little bit unique. It’s also really important your photos are in focus and sharp as possible.
You’re an active photographer – how do you go about putting ideas together for shoots? When you’re out and about how do you coordinate your photography?
Very often I do just grab my camera and head out, especially if the weather is providing a particularly eerie atmosphere. I often browse Tumblr and Pinterest for inspirational photography, and to gather ideas together, though it’s usually at random times when I have an idea of what I want to capture, like, right before sleep. It usually takes a while for me to ‘get into photographer mode’ once I’m out. It’s usually after an hour or so that I begin to loosen up and the good ideas start to flow.
I started my project My Other Shadows when I was starting to become tired of my self-portraits. I wanted a challenge, and to push myself to new and exciting heights with my self-portraiture. I would recommend all amateur photographers to start a unique project which forces you to pick up the camera every day and enables continuous exploration.
What kind of post production goes into your photos? Do you use any editing software of have any tips for people wanting to create photography with the same ethereal feel?
I use Lightroom, Afterlight, Pic Monkey and Be Funky for my images It all depends on the kind of atmosphere I’m after as to which programme I want to use. I would say that I use Lightroom and Afterlight the most. Never underestimate the power of experimentation.
Scandinavia plays a big part not only in your writing but also in your personality – where did that love of Scandinavia start and what made it stick?
My late Grandfather was an extremely proud Yorkshire man who made me very aware of my Northern heritage from a young age.
I went to a Steiner School from the age of 7 – 14 and Scandinavian culture played a prominent role in our education, from the books we would be read (a LOT of Astrid Lindgren) to the decor we would have in the school at Yuletide. I also grew up surrounded by quite a few Norwegians and Swedes and the odd Dane, so was introduced to the likes of Elsa Beskow and Scandinavian customs on a daily basis. Nature was an invaluable part of my schooling, and the attitude that everyone around me had towards nature was greatly influenced by the Scandinavian attitude towards the outdoors. So really, it’s all I’ve known and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What role does social media play in your life? Do you spend a lot of time online?
Social media plays an invaluable role in spreading the world about my work. It’s also a crucial tool when it comes to gathering inspiration. But I do spend too much time online, and am making an attempt to step away from the computer on a more regular basis throughout the day.
You run a variety of different blogs – tell us a bit about them?
I’ve been blogging since 2004 but it was only in 2009 that I started to take it really seriously. I currently host several blogs: Wyrd Words & Effigies – a celebration of the strange and the shadowy. The Girl With Cold Hands – a blog documenting my life in Sweden and celebrating Swedish Culture. Getting Dressed In The Dark – a Tumblr blog where I express my love for dark fashion and Katie Metcalfe Blogger – where I post new material and personal updates.
Aside from what we’ve discussed already – tell us about your hobbies? Do you craft and create in other outlets?
I’ve been making jewellery from animal bones and antlers for a few years now. I’m also a passionate thrifter. 95% of my wardrobe is thrifted and I’m immensely proud of this fact. I’ve decided to turn my passion for finding strange things into a business…and that’s where my shop Collected By Cold Hands comes in. Everything I will sell through the shop will have been found and collected by me in Sweden.
I’m also a keen photographer, and try and spend time with my camera every day. My photography can be purchased here.
What are your plans for the future?
My plans for the immediate future include:
Learning Swedish. Networking and making crucial creative contacts in Sweden. Creating a blogging empire which can sustain me and open up new writing opportunities. Completing my solo poetry show, touring with it and potentially transforming it into a poetry film and CD. Opening my online shop. Finishing Hyperborean Shadows, my guide to dark northern culture, and having it published. Publishing my latest collection of poems. Maintaining my blogs on a daily basis. Staying fit and healthy minded. Exploring the Swedish wilderness. Being a loving partner and supporting my boyfriend with his career as a black metal musician.
Where could our readers find you on social media?
I’m all over the place, but the three best places to find me are:
Anything else you’d like to say?
Thank you to everyone who made it through to the end of this lengthy interview, you have my respect.