Our featured author for issue 1 is Cat Rambo and her book, Near + Far, which is now available from Hydra House books, either as a print edition, or as an e-book.

The book collects 12 “Near” stories and 12 “Far” stories, and part of the unique experience that is “Near + Far” is that it has been designed in a similar manner to the classic Ace Doubles of yesteryear. More on this in the interview below.

Ultimately, it's the stories that matter, and included within these pages are some of the most heart wrenching, beautiful, odd, and downright funny stories you're likely to read in any collection in 2013.

We could go on, but instead, how about we get Cat to speak about the collection herself:

Ace doubles. For those readers not familiar, what were they? And why did you decide to structure your collection, Near + Far, in a similar style?

Basically it’s two books bound together back to back; flip the book and you’ll find the companion volume. The formal name for it is tête-bêche, which means “head to tail.” I decided to go with that format for two reasons. One, the book started as a plan for two books, one containing near future stories and the other far future, and this seemed like a great way to combine them. Two, I read a lot of those Ace Doubles growing up and loved them. The format’s my homage to that important influence.
Can you tell us a bit about the cover art, the artist, and the process of working with Hydra House Books, who published Near + Far?

Two artists contributed art for the book. Both of the lovely covers were done by Sean Counley, an English artist. He did a marvelous job, producing evocative, interesting covers that each referenced a specific story. The interior art was done by a long-time friend, Mark W. Tripp. Part of the fun of arranging the book was deciding which piece would go with which story.

I loved working with Hydra House. Publisher Tod McCoy was patient, professional, innovative, and always as interested in and passionate about the book as I was.

The collection explores a wide variety of themes, and the two halves segue quite neatly with “Legends of the Gone.” “Therapy Buddha” was a story we found particularly compelling with its theme of social disconnect. Which story, or stories resonate with you the most, and why?

Wow, that’s a tough question. To some extent all the stories resonate for me. Having produced them, I can’t replicate that “click,” that lovely moment when a story speaks directly to a reader, for myself. Stories, though, where I feel I managed to adeptly hit the note I was striving for include “Amid the Words of War” and “The Mermaids Singing, Each to Each.” But there isn’t a single story in there that I’m not perfectly happy with, even the very odd ones like “Legends of the Gone.

We were drawn to the unique qualities embodied in the character of Tikka, from “Five Ways to fall in Love on Planet Porcelain.” What character, or characters do you feel a close bond to, and why?

Belinda in “Surrogates,” perhaps, and her dealings with a world in which she’s primarily part of a couple. And Ms. Liberty in “Ms. Liberty Gets a Haircut,” which is actually inspired by a novel about Ms. Liberty and her group that I wrote in grad school.

If we didn’t have Cat Rambo, the writer, what other Cat Rambo might we expect to see?

I’m pretty sure it’d be either Cat Rambo the game designer or Cat Rambo the software developer. I’m a longtime gamer, and my work with Armageddon MUD was actually where I started learning how to program.

Another possibility is Cat Rambo the veterinarian. As a kid, the James Herriot books made a deep impression on me and that’s all I wanted to be for a year or two.

How have the web and other social media impacted upon your own writing career? Tell us a little bit about the class you run concerning maintaining an online presence.

I’ve been very lucky in that many of my publications have been in online magazines, which I think helps build one’s name a bit more, perhaps, than some of the print publications. I fight a constant battle with social media – while it’s useful (and fun!) for building my brand, that’s still time that could be used for writing.

That’s one of the things I emphasize in my Building An Online Presence for Writers class – how to do things efficiently and get the most use out of the time one spends poking around on the web getting distracted by cat pictures.

Most of my classes are taught online, using Google Hangouts, which always makes me feel so futuristic. In the round of classes that’s coming up, I’m offering the Online Presence class as well as some others: Writing F&SF Stories, a flash fiction workshop, The Art of the Book Review, Literary Techniques in Genre Fiction, Editing 101, First Pages, and Everything You Need to Know about Electronic Publishing (which I’m co-teaching with Tod McCoy, who knows much more about it than I.)

Who were a few writers who were formative influences for you, or ones that you hold with great affection?

I wouldn’t mind going back in time to hang out with some of my favorite writers: Joanna Russ, Theodore Sturgeon, Alice Sheldon, Fritz Leiber, and Thomas Burnett Swann all come to mind.

What are you working on at the moment, and where can we find more recent work of yours?

I am finishing up what I hope is the final! rewrite of the fantasy novel I’ve been working on for nigh a decade. Recent publications include a novella for the Fathomless Abyss series and “Grandmother,” which appeared as an Escape Pod original.

Publications coming up in 2013 include a couple of Daily Science Fiction appearances, a story I co-wrote with Ben Burgis in GigaNotoSaurus as well as Podcastle, and anthologies, including Athena Andreadis’ The Other Half of the Sky (space opera), Bryan Thomas Schmidt’s Beyond the Sun (SF), and Airships and Automatons, edited by Charles P. Zaglanis (steampunk).
Cat Rambo has edited anthologies as well as critically-acclaimed Fantasy Magazine. Her work with Fantasy Magazine earned her a nomination for a World Fantasy Award in 2012. She teaches at Bellevue College as well as runs a highly successful series of online classes.

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.

John Barth described Cat Rambo’s writings as “works of urban mythopoeia.” 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.

Cat Rambo maintains a web site here- http://www.kittywumpus.net/ Her online classes can be found here- http://www.kittywumpus.net/blog/upcoming-online-classes/