Kate Cayley

Kate Cayley was raised in Toronto, moved to Halifax for university, and now lives in Toronto once again.

Her favourite authors as a child were C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Louisa May Alcott, L. M. Montgomery, Joan Aiken, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Jean Little, and Katherine Patterson. She was home schooled along with her two younger brothers, which made for an odd and interesting growing up with lots of time for reading.

When she got older, she moved on to Shakespeare, the Romantic poets, and everything by and about the Brontë sisters. As a teenager, she visited Haworth parsonage in Yorkshire, where the Brontës grew up, and picked up a rock from the moors, which she now keeps on her desk.

After graduating from university, Kate co-founded a theater company called Stranger Theatre. She directed, wrote, or co-wrote ten original works with the company. Stranger Theatre’s work spanned performance, puppetry, storytelling, multimedia, and tap dancing, and told stories inspired by fairytales, history, mythology, and Alice in Wonderland. She toured with the company to festivals in Halifax, Montreal, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York City, and Istanbul, Turkey. In 2004, she co-founded The Cooking Fire Theatre Festival, a festival of performance in public space held in Dufferin Grove Park in Toronto every summer. In 2008, she joined the playwright’s unit of Tarragon Theatre in Toronto, and her first full-length play, After Akhmatova, was produced as part of Tarragon’s 40th Anniversary Season. She is currently one of Tarragon’s playwrights-in-residence.

While all this was going on, she also began to write poetry, and then, hesitantly, fiction. The Hangman in the Mirror (2011) started life as a play called The Hanging of Françoise Laurent, collectively created with other members of Stranger Theatre. As the play developed, so did the book, until the story took on a fictional form quite different from the dramatic one. In the end, the voice of the heroine became so demanding that the book seemed to be writing itself.

As a writer, she finds her greatest inspiration in the strange, uncanny, and almost unbelievable tidbits of history that are, incredibly, true. She works most easily and with greatest relish when freely inventing stories around one improbable truth. Her advice to young writers is to write every day if you can, read all the time, listen carefully, have immense patience, take writing seriously, and have fun; otherwise there’s no point.

Kate lives in west-end Toronto in a house beside the train tracks with her partner Lea and their two young children, Livia and Tom. Her future writing plans include several ideas for plays, a short story collection, and another historical novel for young adult readers based on the life of Mary Ann Talbot, a woman who disguised herself as a man, adopted the name John Taylor, and went to fight in the Napoleonic wars.