I'm a speculative and literary fiction writer, living in Seattle, WA with my husband, the artist and data scientist, Chris Sumption, and two cat-children, Molly Bloom and Paul Atriedes.
Born in New York, I attended the University of Colorado, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Clarion West (as the Carl Brandon Society's Octavia Butler scholar) and Launchpad Astronomy Workshop. I'm also a Hedgebrook alum (2010, 2016).I started writing professionally in 2000, with the publication of my first novel, Homecoming.
I'm a Unitarian Universalist, a feminist, fat, and identify as a mix race person of color.
I love serial commas, quadruple espressos, knitting, the new golden age of television, and over-analyzing things. My turn offs include ear infections, black mold, and raisins in oatmeal cookies.
I'm passionate about my other career: I'm a case manager, serving men and women with long histories of homelessness, severe mental illness and/or co-occurring chemical dependencies, working to outreach, stabilize, and connect them to long-term services. In Spring, 2018, I returned to school to obtain my licensure as an additions counselor.
I also read tarot, which I consider an extension of both my background and counseling.
How do you say your name?
KAH-wren GUS-awf SUMP-shun. I don't use a hyphen between my last names.
Anything I've contracted or published before 2016 will probably just be credited as Caren Gussoff. I officially added my married name on 1/1/2016 (though I have been married for more than 10 years).
Why do you get pretty adamant about saying you write science fiction?
I'm actually fine with being called a speculative fiction writer (and call myself that as a shorthand for all I do within genre, as opposed to "straight" literary fiction). And while I have written fantasy, horror, and even mystery, I primarily write "medium-hard" science fiction. I'm obsessed with space travel and first contact, and while I use these topics to play with identity politics, my work is usually based on sound -- if not truly speculative -- science. Though this has gotten much, much better in the past few years, there are still people who assume because I'm female-identified, I must write fantasy or soft, anthropological scifi. So, I get, yanno, adamant.
What's a Didikai? Why do you describe yourself as one?
Didikai (diddykay, didicoy) is a Romanichal word for a Romani -- or Gypsy -- of mixed blood. I am of Kaderash, Russian, and Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, with some German and a itty bit of English/Irish hiding in there, somewhere.
You talk a lot about chronic illness. Why?
I have ankylosing spondylitis, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, and psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. I get skin outbreaks and varying levels of chronic pain in my spine, hips, knees, ankles, and toes. I occasionally suffer from flares. During flares, my pain increases, and my mobility decreases. I get headaches, stomach aches, gastrointestinal issues, low-level fevers, and fatigue. Additionally,I'm in in recovery from bipolar depression and C-PTSD.
But you look healthy!
I take that as a well-meaning compliment! Aside from my psoriasis, which is usually mild, my conditions are "invisible disabilities". There's a sometimes moment of shock when folks first see me using a cane during a serious flare -- I can go from scampering around freely to having limited mobility quickly, when I have a flare. The same happens with my depression: like others with depression issues, I can lose my balance if I'm stressed, overtired, or generally not taking care of myself.
The moniker "spitkitten" dates back to my early days on the Internet. I wanted something, girly-punky-funny-cool-yannowotimean? -- it was the very early 90s -- but, more importantly, easy to remember. Whatever nickname I wanted first had already been claimed, so I tossing around syllables. And a happy accident manifested my portmanteau.
It's still easier to remember than my name, and, at this point, I've have had it for so long that I don't think I could ever shake it -- even if I wanted to.
I'm a beginning writer. Will you read/edit my _____?
Apologies in advance, but: no. I don't read unsolicited manuscripts, and rarely take on editorial or critique work outside teaching the occasional workshop. If you are interested in finding out when I teach, drop me a line and I'll add you to my mailing list.
The good news is that there's awesome places you can get feedback/beta-readers and further instruction:
Available at most major retailers.
I'm not including URLs for web pubs because they change so rapidly. If there's something you want to find, but can't: please contact me.
I've been reading tarot since I was 15, and started doing reading professionally in 2017. You can purchase readings at my Etsy shop, where I also sell vintage trinkets, tchotchkes, and amulets.