In my latest interview for Galactic Chat, I interview one of Australia’s finest writers – Kaaron Warren. We talk about everything from ghost hunting to baby teeth, and you will get to hear me rendered speechless, a very rare thing indeed!
Stoker-nominated author Kaaron Warren’s short story collection The Grinding House (CSFG Publishing) won the ACT Writers’ and Publishers’ Fiction Award and two Ditmar Awards. Her second collection, Dead Sea Fruit, published by Ticonderoga Books, won the ACT Writers’ and Publishers’ Fiction Award. Her critically acclaimed novel Slights (Angry Robot Books) won the Australian Shadows Award fiction, the Ditmar Award and the Canberra Critics’ Award for Fiction. Angry Robot Books also published her novels Walking the Tree, (shortlisted for a Ditmar Award) and Mistification, which launched in June 2011.
Her stories have appeared in Ellen Datlow’s “Year’s Best Horror and Fantasy” as well as the Australian Years Best Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy anthologies.
She has recently been named Special Guest for the Australian National Science Fiction Convention in 2013, and appeared at Readercon in the USA as an invited guest.
Kaaron lives in Canberra, Australia, with her husband and children. Her website is kaaronwarren.wordpress.com and she tweets @KaaronWarren.
You’ve recently assumed the role of mentor through the JUMP National Mentoring Program, and in previous years have been involved in AHWA’s own mentoring program. What prompted you to put up your hand to become a mentor? Did you get much input into choosing your mentoree, and if so, what were the criteria that were important to you?
I have two reasons for being a mentor. One is that I believe we should all help to build our industry, and we do that by producing the best work we can produce.
The second is that I received very little encouragement as a young writer, and I do believe it would have made a difference early in my career to have had someone advise me, critique me and push me. I want to provide that to other new writers.
I have a lot of input into choosing my mentorees. It has to be a person you feel you can work with, whose writing you admire and who you honestly feel you can help.
Kimberley Gaal approached me when she was considering the JUMP program. Before I agreed to mentor her, I read some of her work and spoke to her about what she wanted to get out of the process.
She’s a talented writer, and I admired the professionalism she showed in her aims.
So far, it’s going well. We’ve survived our first critiquing session, which is good!
For the AHWA mentorships, I was part of the match up process as well. My three mentorees, Lee Dean, Amanda Spedding and Joanne Anderton, all stood out because of their original voices and the stories they submitted. Working with all three was fantastic, and I learnt a lot about my own writing and processes as we worked.
You’ve been a Judge for the Australian Shadows Award and a Juror for the Shirley Jackson and, upcoming, the Bram Stoker Awards. What are the challenges in taking on such a role? What did you enjoy about it? Have these experiences influenced your own writing?
The main challenge is that it’s a lot of reading! Luckily, most of what I read is the stuff I choose to read anyway. And I’m a fast reader.
There are some pretty woeful books and stories you have to work your way through, but there are a lot of fantastic ones as well. I discovered a number of new authors, and fell back in love with a few more, too.
As far as influence goes, when you read that many books in a genre, ou see the tropes, the clichés. I have a short list of things I want to avoid, including titles. One that surprised me was twins. I would say at least half the books had twins as main or minor characters. Fascinating!
Next year you are one of the Guests at Conflux 9, the 2013 Natcon. What do you see as some of the main responsibilities of a Guest? What are you most excited about?
The guests I remember the most are the ones who get out there, and hang with the members. It’s that personal contact which is wonderful. The panels, discussions and readings are part of everyone’s convention experience; I hope to be available to people who want to talk about their writing or whatever else.
I’m excited about a lot of things. Natcons are brilliant, because you learn so much, and meet up with friends, writers and fans. Meals, drinks, room parties, more drinks, panels, fascinating discussions, readings and so much more.
The other guests (Nalo Hopkinson, Marc Gascoigne and Karen Miller) are fabulous and I’m looking forward to hanging out with them.
What Australian works have you loved recently?
Deborah Biancotti, Bad Power
Lucy Sussex. Matilda Told Such Awful Lies and Thief of Lives
Kim Westwood , The Bicycle Thief
Dead Red Heart, Ticonderoga Books
Ben Peek and Stephanie Campisi, Above and Below
Ishtar, Gilgamesh Press
Two years on from Aussiecon 4, what do you think are some of the biggest changes to the Australian Spec Fic scene?
I don’t know about changes, because I think Australians have been producing excellent work for a long time, but I feel as if we’re being noticed more broadly now. There are Australian names on International Awards, which means our work is being read outside of the country, and that’s fantastic.
This interview was conducted as part of the 2012 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 1 June to 8 June and archiving them at ASif!: Australian SpecFic in Focus. You can read interviews at:
Through good fortune, rather than good planning, I seem to be doing rather well so far with the timing of my guests. To follow Nicole Murphy’s spirited defense of romance on the day after Valentine’s Day, this week I have the pleasure of hosting the delighful Kaaron Warren who was the talk of the internet this week with Sunday’s exciting announcement that she had made the shortlist for the Stoker Awards. Kaaron is a perfect example of what I call the “Haines Effect”, a writer whose incredibly dark and disturbing fiction keeps you awake at night and makes you wonder whether they would be safe to be around, but turns out to be amazingly warm and friendly in person. Here she talks about her experiences with putting together collections of her short stories.
I’ve always adored short stories. My favourite anthology from a young age was one called Ten Tales, which held The Bottle Imp, by Robert Louis Stevenson, and Exit, by Harry Farjeon. These two stories remain two of the most perfect pieces of fiction I’ve ever read, and they are the example I’ve always wanted to achieve. This anthology also has “The Truth about Pycraft”, by H. G. Wells, another wonderful story, and the horrendously racist (so awful there is no way I could read it to my children) “The Circus” by Booth Tarkington. It is similar in theme to Richmal Compton’s “The Show”, which is so funny, ninety years after it was written, that the kids and I weep with laughter when we listen to it on disc. Ten Tales was edited by A. A. Phillips, who apparently developed the term cultural cringe! It was published in 1951; I think I read it when I was about ten, in the mid seventies.