Today I welcome one of my favorite Australians, author Kaaron Warren. (Australians and Canadians seem to be a theme around here…)
Kaaron Warren sold her first short story, “White Bed,” in 1993. In the time since, she’s published over 70 short stories, and multiple novels (including MISTIFICATION, SLIGHTS and WALKING THE TREE) and short story collections (including THE GRINDING HOUSE, THE GLASS WOMAN and the forthcoming THROUGH SPLINTERED WALLS). Currently in Canberra, she’s lived in Sydney and Melbourne. The unusual spelling of her first name was a personal choice, she says, “Even at 17 I wanted my writing to be remembered, and I thought that a memorable spelling would help me in that quest. Does it work?”
ANTHONY: Kaaron, first of all: congrats on your recent Stoker Award nomination for Superior Achievement in Short Fiction. Where were you when you got the news, and how does it feel?
KAARON: Because I live in the future (Australia) it felt as if I had to wait an extra day! It was midnight when the email came. I wasn’t quite sure I read right, so re-read it a few times. It was amazing. Just amazing. Making this sort list has been a long-time career goal.
HWA members who are considering their votes can read the story by contacting me.
ANTHONY: Is this your first Stoker nomination?
KAARON: Yes, it is. I made the preliminary ballot with my novel Slights.
ANTHONY: You’ve had short stories published all over the map (geographically and thematically). How does your writing/revising process differ from editor to editor?
KAARON: Writing stays the same, though obviously style may alter depending on the market. If the story is for a specific anthology then I’ll take on a different voice.
Every editor is different in the way they approach things, but I’ve seen the same actions from all the good editors I’ve worked with. Firstly, they want to make sure the story is right, so they’ll ask for more clarity in some places, check continuity, find the plot flaws, ask for more information. They they’ll want the words to fall well, and will look for repetitions or clumsy phrasing. All editors have slightly different processes and I try to work within them.
ANTHONY: I know some authors approach the writing of a novel differently than they do a short story or novella. Are there any differences in your own creative approach to different length works?
KAARON: Creatively, writing a short story and a novel are very similar. I come up with my Spark (the central idea, a character or title), the thing that sets my mind buzzing. That’s the same for all lengths, including novellas. Then it’s the hard work of turning it into a story. Whether it’s long or short will depend on how many paths I take; how much I want to expose of a character’s life.
ANTHONY: They say “write what you know,” and some beginning writers I think that the adage too much to heart. How do you interpret that saying, and how does it apply to your own work?
KAARON: I used to say I wasn’t a fan of ‘write what you know’ but I do think it depends on how you interpret it. If it applies to the senses and the emotions then yes, you should use these to bring your story to life. If you’ve smelt a rose, or horse shit, or old sweat, or bread baking, you’ll know how to describe it.
But as far as writing your own life onto the page? Ugh. An office worker writing about what it’s like to catch the bus every day? No. unless you use it as part of a larger story. Many of my ideas came while catching public transport, and the people I observed. Like the man who would always run from the train to the bus stop, even though we had 20 minutes to wait before the bus came. It made me so curious. Why are you running? I haven’t written about him yet, but I will.
My story “The Wrong Seat” was written during the four hour bus trips we used to take between Canberra and Sydney when we first moved to Canberra. They were very smelly trips and I always wondered; how do people make so much stink? And why? I wrote a sad ghost story about a woman haunting the bus.
So my interpretation is this; take the things you see, hear and feel and imagine them in someone else’s life.
ANTHONY: Your next release is Through Splintered Walls. Tell me a little about the book, and when it will be available.
KAARON: Though the Splintered Walls will be launched at the Australian National Convention in Melbourne in June. You should come along!
It’s part of the Twelfth Planet Press Twelve Planets series. The book holds four stories inspired by the Australian landscape.
“Sky” is a horror-SF novella about a finger found in cat food and where it came from. I think it’s one of my most disturbing stories. I had to work hard to allow it to fall the way it fell. I’m writing about abhorrent people and practices and trying to make them sympathetic. That’s part of the trick of horror writing, I think. Making awful things seem believable.
“Road” was inspired by the many roadside memorials you see when you travel anywhere in Australia. They are heartbreaking, I think. So I wrote a nasty ghost story about them.
“Mountain” began when a truck full of cat food overturned on Clyde Mountain, the main route from Canberra, the inland city where I live, to the coast. The thing was, the truck was cleaned out. People stole that cat food; almost all of it. And this greed shocked me, and started me thinking about what there was on the mountain that made people behave that way.
“Creek” is a sad story about loss, love and women who quake.
Next year’s Australian National Science Fiction Convention will be held in Canberra, and I’m one of the special guests along with Nalo Hopkinson, Marc Gascoigne and Karen Miller.
ANTHONY: And my usual final question: What is your favorite book, and what would you say to someone who hasn’t read it to convince them that they should?
KAARON: This question will make a good friend of mine laugh, because of what he calls my FBOAT. Favourite Book of All Time. Because there are lots! And each time I see him I say, Oooh, this is my FBOAT.
These are some of them. I think it’s a tough list to get onto. I’m pretty picky. All of them are on this list because they make the world slow down when I’m reading them, and that’s why you should do so.
Georges Perec “Life: A User’s Manual”
Barbara Kingsolver “The Poisonwood Bible”
Suzy McKee Charnas “Walk to the End of the World” and the whole Motherlines series.
D M Thomas “The White Hotel”
ANTHONY: Thanks again, Kaaron! Good luck (or break a leg, or whatever charm you Aussies use) on the Stokers and the Ditmars!