Talking with Writer Katie De Klee

Alice caught up with freelance journalist and writer Katie de Klee.

Where are you at the moment?

As I write this, I am cruising at 40,000 ft somewhere above Maputo. I suppose by the time I finish all the questions I’ll be nearer Morocco air space, but I guess we’ll see as we go.

I am on my way home to Sussex for a short while. For the last year the longest I have been anywhere is 5 weeks. Between Sussex, Northern India, Bali and South Africa’s Eastern Cape, Western Cape (Jeffrey’s Bay, Muizenberg, Kommetjie, Sea Point, Hogsback, Clan William)… It’s been a quite a nomadic year. So the answer I suppose is – I am all over the place! Writing on a plane seems somehow quite meaningful. My life is a bit up in the air.

What are you up to?

All sorts of things. I am editing a book that tackles conservation in Tchad and shares recipes from a tented safari camps. “Cooking For Conservation” is currently on Kickstarter, and I’m in the process or refining and restructuring the text. I also do copywriting, social media and marketing strategy for South African superfood brand Wazoogles (which is going through a major growth spurt). Plus the odd freelance magazine article, bits of creative writing. And I just did a yoga teacher training, so that’s been taking up some time. And I just started learning to surf. So far the shark evasion is going very well… cutting lines down the waves is proving to be more of a challenge. But the sunrises from the water are amazing.

What are you writing about?

Superfoods and breakfasts, African photographers, London grime poetry, the feeling of cold water on bare skin, rebel mice and what it means to get an architectural education.

Tell us a little about your journey to becoming a freelance journalist and writer?

I started out as a freelance journalist in Cape Town in 2013 when I arrived there. I knew very little about the country, so being in a job that demands you ask questions gave me a chance to find out about SA in a way that tourists (and even locals) never do. I worked for a news agency for a year or so, learnt a lot. But writing news is fairy dark and fairly blunt. So after a while I moved to a youth culture magazine and from there to a design/creativity focused platform, Design Indaba. I was the editor of the Design Indaba web magazine for 2.5 years and then decided to go freelance again. In between all of those things I have written for pregnancy websites, advertising, small business, my brothers, myself, and probably a few things I can’t even remember.

What do you enjoy most about writing?

I like words. And story telling. I’m better at telling other people’s stories than I am my own, so for now being a journalist/copy writer feels like the perfect job. I enjoy the challenge of communicating in an interesting way. I like the mobility of my work. Even when I worked in-house for publications I have always been able to move between my two homes, north and south. And this last year I’ve worked all over the world.

Who / what is your greatest inspiration?

Difficult conversation. I have many, and they change every day. Some of the people I met through Design Indaba were really amazing. They don’t inspire me to join them on their mission, but they do inspire me by having such a sense of purpose. Christian Benimana, Tea Uglow, Naresh Ramchandani. There are more writers that inspire me than I can list… Roald Dahl, Jeanette Winterson, A A Milne, Philip Pullman, Milan Kundera, Ernest Hemingway, Charles Bukowski, Tom Robbins… I could go on…

What has been your best travel adventure?

Too many again! Moving to Cape Town has been a great adventure! Nearly 7 years of adventure. Mexico for 7 weeks while I was at university with a couple of friends. We travelled barefoot, eating mangoes and hitch hiking and feeling totally free and brave. India and Bali last year with my boyfriend Warren was an amazing, more adult adventure. Even the last month in Jeffrey’s Bay was a calm kind of normality shift, which opens up a door for more adventures that are similar. We have some adventures planned for the end of this year too.

What are you reading?

100 pages on the internet always. Quartz articles (actually sometimes just their email newsletter). Purple Hibiscus, Charles Bukowski poems, and some books from my course still - at the moment one called Anatomy of the Spirit. Which is interesting, but slow.

What are you watching?

Peaky Blinders, Chef’s Table, Surfing documentaries (not always my choice, but a hazard of hanging out with frothers. "Surfwise" reminded me a bit of my own mad family though, and the Laird Hamilton film was pretty wild. He’s a kook).

What are you drinking?

Tea. Lots of it, an old addiction from cold Edinburgh flats. Sometimes coffee, always tongue-scaldingly hot. Cold beer. Leonista tequila on ice, slowly.

What are you eating?

Mostly vegetarian food. A lot of smoothie bowls for breakfast (you’ll need to meet Warren to understand, we even started making hot smooth oat bowls in the SA winter). Falafels, homemade seaweed sushi rolls, eggs on toast for dinner.

What are you growing?

We grew sprouts and wheatgrass for a while. But then we ate them all… I “grow” my own kefir (“care for”? “farm”?). I got into mushroom and kelp/nori foraging this year too. So the world grows that for me. I try to grow herbs sometimes too… And otherwise some hardy little succulents.

What are you listening to?

My Discover Weekly. It’s pretty eclectic. Franc Moody, Lambchop, Quantic, Paul Simon, Felix LaBand, Bongeziwe Mabandla

What are you dancing to?

Some of the above. Native Young in Cape Town, Franc Moody in Sussex.

Who are you following on Instagram?

Mostly food and travel people, and my friends. And Baddie Winkle.

Online or Offline?


Favourite place in South Africa?

Scarborough beach, and the Karoo.

Favourite place in the UK?

Home at Avins. And the Isle of Mull.

Favourite place in the world?

I haven’t finished looking for that yet..

What is your Escape?

Reading, yoga, swimming in the sea. Listening to music. Cooking. Anything is an escape from something else. What’s your cage?

Katie de Klee

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