Monday, October 5, 2009

Chatting with the author: Kaaron Warren

Foreword: The inspiration for this interview comes from an amazing horror title, which chilled me completely and still evokes unease. I am referring to "Slights" by Kaaron Warren [REVIEW]. It has been quite a while since I have conducted an author interview and I felt curiosity unlike any other to find out what the author was thinking and what kind of person Kaaron was. Here is the result.

BIO: I’m an Australian writer currently living in Fiji. I wanted to be a writer from a very young age, and wrote my first proper short story at 14. I also wrote a novel that year, called “Skin Deep”‘, which I really need to type up.

I started sending stories out when I was about 23, and sold my first one, “White Bed”", in 1993. Since then I’ve sold about 70 short stories, two short story collections and three novels.

I’m an avid and broad reader but I also like reality TV so don’t always expect intelligent conversation from me.

Links: Wordpress & Livejournal

Harry Markov: As tradition at Temple Library Reviews dictates, I will start with the age long question: When did you start up writing and considering making a career in literature?

Kaaron Warren: As soon as I could read, I knew I wanted to write. At five, I read Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and at six or seven I was reading Enid Blyton. I wrote all through primary school; even a list of spelling words could inspire a story.

At 14, a family friend told me I should start sending my stories off to competitions. Before that I didn’t think I would be a published writer. So I did start sending my stories off, first to competitions then, as I became aware of them, magazines and anthologies. I didn’t send many off to start with, and it wasn’t until I was 28 that I sold my first short story.

HM: Your debut novel “Slights” is an amazing horror novel. How did you become enamored by this genre?

KW: Thank you! I mentioned that my reading started with Grimm’s Fairy Tales, so already I was interested in the things that scare us. I’ve always been fascinated by the stories that lie beneath, the truths concealed. I loved creepy horror comics early on and somehow managed to convince my mother to let me read them.

My father had a large collection of science fiction books that I devoured. My local library had a good selection of thrillers and horror novels. So really I was drawn into reading these things and naturally it became the sort of story I wrote.

HM: As an extension to the last question, do you plan on branching out to other genres such as the wide plethora of fantasy and science fiction subgenres?

KW: My next two novels are only nominally horror. One is more a fantasy novel, about an enormous tree almost filling an island the size of Peru. The other is about a magician who keeps a mist covering the world. I’m not sure how you’d place that one! My short stories are often science fiction, in that I talk about alternative universes and possible futures. They are rarely positive stories though, so I think that no matter what sort of story I’m writing there is an element of horror.

HM: Your biography states that you have sold over 70 short stories over the course of your career. I have never had the pleasure of conversing with a short story writer. Which format do you find easier for you: short story or novels?

KW: They are so very different. I love writing novels for the space they give me. I can explore all the paths my mind takes me to, and I can people my novel with many and varied characters. In a short story, every word, every character, needs to have meaning or else it shouldn’t be there. In a novel, this is still mostly true, but you can also have some red herrings in there, and some deeper explorations of the themes and characters.

I love writing short stories because it means I can have that single idea and work it through.

* What sort of world would we live in if our teenagers were put into suspended animation?
* What image does the words “Fresh Young Widow” evoke?
* How would you catch the vampire dogs living at the bottom of a waterfall?
* What sort of person would join a laughing cult?

HM: From your experience, where do you think is harder to build a name for yourself as a debut author: on the short story scene or on the novel scene? And when did you feel you have become recognizable with your short story submissions?

KW: With short stories, you don’t need an agent and can sell often, building your reputation. You can send your stories to many places that accept unsolicited submissions and you can reach a wide audience online and in print.

However, the influence of the novel is more far-reaching and garners more respect.

It is only recently I’ve felt recognized overseas when I submit work. In Australia, I think it happened fairly early on. I remember submitting one story and the editor saying, “I recognized your name and was excited to read this story.” That really is a wonderful feeling! It means, though, that every story you sell has to be your very best. Don’t send out stories you aren’t perfectly happy with, because everything goes on your record!

HM: Your novel “Slights” received quite a recognition, being handpicked by Publisher Weekly. This to me sounded amazing, but how did it affect you and your future plans.

KW: What an amazing thing indeed! Incredibly gratifying and wonderful as an author to be recognized by a highly respected publication in this way.

To be honest, it didn’t affect my future plans in any way, apart from the fact that of course we will put “Publisher Weekly starred review book of the week” on the back of all my books from now on! I try not to be too affected by the good feedback, though I enjoy it. I try also not to be affected by the bad feedback either, though I do listen to it and take heed if I agree!

HM: “Slights” is regrettably a standalone novel, but you are still signed to Angry Robots. Can you reveal some sneak peeks on your future releases?

KW: The next novel, “Walking the Tree” is an exploration into the lives of the young women of Botanica. The schooling on the island consists of the young teachers accompanying children on a five year walk around the tree, staying in the communities along the way. The women are seeking a compatible place to stay and will sleep with many men as they search. Lillah, the main character, is charged with caring for her half-brother, Morace, who is possibly suffering from Spikes, a disease the people of Botanica treat with murder.

“Mistification” is the story of Marvo, a natural magician who remembers nothing of his early childhood and spent five years hiding in the walls of a mansion with only his grandmother for company. He has no education, but learns all he knows from the stories people tell him. His job in life is to keep a mist over the world so that people cannot see the true and dreadful reality of it.

HM: Are you brewing a series as well? And how do you prefer to write? As a short story writer I get the sense that you might feel more comfortable with standalone novels.

KW: I am not yet brewing a series! Books number 4 and 5 are very different again from the first three.

I definitely prefer to write standalone novels, and for exactly the reason you state. As a short story writer, I feel like I complete each idea with each story. With my novels it is the same thing.

Oddly enough, Slights began as a short story, but I realized quickly that I could not say all I wanted in just a few words, so it became the novel.

The novel I’m working on now began as a short story, but I kept writing it and writing it from so many different angles, I knew that this was too big for a short story as well!

HM: Okay, I sidetracked a lot, so let’s get to the novel at hands. I found Stevie the most chilling antagonist to have been ever devised. My question is where did you come up with her and did her character involve a lot of psychology reference books?

KW: Stevie is chilling? I’m glad to hear that! I also hope that she is funny and that she inspires a small piece of envy in that she says and does what ever she wants to!

As far as research goes, most of it came from reading newspapers, hearing stories, watching the news, reading far and wide. I did read some psychology books but not to create her, more to underline what I was doing with her. Her character came out of all the women I’ve met, spoken to or read about who feel isolated, and who do not feel part of the world they live in. I think in some ways there is this unrealistic belief that everyone else fits in. I think that a lot of people feel as if they don’t fit in!

HM: Your idea of hell is intriguing as it stirs away from religion and focuses on the psychological aspect. Again, where did the idea for this come from?

KW: This came from a combination of two things. Firstly, I read some Hare Krsna texts when I was young, and was terrified by the visions of hell in these books. They were drawn in loving detail and were designed each one to suit the sin.

The idea came to me that each of us design our own Hell, through our nightmares and our actions. At the same time I started on this novel, I wrote a short story called “The Speaker of Heaven”, which appeared in the Australian anthology Orb, edited by Sarah Endacott. This story was about the opposite; that we each create our own heaven. That we each have a place we dream of and which will welcome us. My story is about a woman who can see the heaven of people and she does this for a living. It all comes to a head when she’s asked to see the heaven of an accused murderer.

The second place it came from was from my ability to tap into the hypnogogic state you fall into just before sleep. Here is where a lot of my horrific imagery comes from. When the day fades and the night seeps in and conscious thought drifts away.

HM: Also I’d want to know which hell would you chose, if you were in position. The Lucifer version or your own?

KW: I think I’d choose mine! At least I have some control over it. I feel as if Steve is in control when she’s in the room, and the room is of her own making.

HM: I am also fascinated by the false narratives and compulsive lying Stevie is so fond of. As the author didn’t you feel tempted to stick to one of those happier alternatives rather than propel Stevie’s life downwards?

KW: I was at times. And I kind of wanted to go in that direction. But each time it seemed false and not true to the story. In the end, the story of Stevie had to be the way it is. Unless the whole book was about the moment she changed, and what caused that change. I didn’t want it to be about that.

HM: Now let’s discuss writing. What’s your routine, when you are involved in a project and do you consider yourself a stream of consciousness kind of writer or the meticulous planner?

KW: With children, I’ve developed a definite writing routine. I write in the mornings when they are at school. I also snatch some times over the weekend or when the whole family is home, but I don’t like to do that much. We are a very connected family and we like to spend time together!

My writing is a combination of both. First is stream of consciousness as I get my thoughts onto paper. Then careful planning as I figure out where the story will go. Then stream of consciousness again as I fill in the gaps.

HM: Every writer’s dream is to ditch their day job and write for a living. In the current state of the economy how likely are you to achieve that?

KW: At the moment, I am achieving this dream! We are posted overseas in Fiji, and as a spouse I am not allowed a work visa. Oh, what a shame! So I’ve been writing like that for three years. Next year, when we return to Australia, we’ll have to see. I’ve applied for a grant, but they are highly competitive. Certainly I have enough writing work to do to keep me busy. If we only have one car I might be able to afford to keep going!

HM: Can you hand out some advice to budding writers? It can be in relation to submitting either short stories or novels.

KW: Send your stories out only once they are as close to perfection as you can bring them. Find a group of writers whose work you respect and start a crit group. Listen to the crits of your peers.

Send your stories out to the magazines and anthologies you admire.

HM: Please, feel free to conclude this interview with a final statement.

KW: The dream can come true, but you need to work damn hard to achieve it and you cannot give up.

1 comment:

Eni said...

Hi Kaaaron, I am glad to learn that you read Enid Blyton during your youth. Well, I am glad to let you know that I have written a book titled "The Famous Five: A Personal Anecdotage" which brings a fresh perspective on Enid Blyton's writings from an international perspective. For more information on the book go to and type in the title of the book.

Stephen Isabirye

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