Wednesday Writers: Kaaron Warren

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.

I first thought about a collection of my short stories before I had a single one in print. I’d written about 20 (actually, half-written. Or at least I knew what the titles were) and I thought I’d call the book Dark Glimpses and all the stories would be called something about a ball. Ball Bearing. Ball Breaker. Basketball. I have no recollection of why. This was in 1991, I think, and I went as far as typing up the contents page.

I let the idea of Dark Glimpses slip away as I began to concentrate on finishing and selling stories. The first sale was in 1993 and by the time Donna Hanson suggested that the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild publish a collection, I had around 40 stories in print, had won awards and garnered a reasonable number of good reviews.

Donna had the task of reading all these stories in one go and deciding what should go on the book. I had my own list, and we matched perfectly. There was only one story I wanted in there that Donna had not selected; ‘Working for the God of the Love Money’, which is reprinted in the French Monstres from Celephais Press. After a short discussion, Donna was more than happy to include it.

I’ve found this with all of my short story collections. The editor wants to have the initial power of selection, but wants my input into the final table of contents. They want to be sure they’ve captured the essence of my work, I guess.

There were two new stories, both edited by Donna. With the novella The Grinding House in particular, her input was integral to its success.

I chose the cover artist, Robyn Evans, a local Canberran. I knew that she liked and understood my stories, and I really admired her work.

Four years passed (a North American edition of The Grinding House, called The Glass Woman, was published by Prime Books in 2009) and Russell Farr, of Ticonderoga Publications, approached me to publish my next collection.

This, again, was very collaborative and a very enjoyable experience. I chose the artist, another Canberran, Olga Read, whose still life work is astonishing. Russ selected the stories and filled us all with his enthusiasm for the book. He produced a gorgeous thing; he is a master of the beautiful book. Russ was definite about including The Grinding House novella, since produced as an ebook by 40K books, the Italian publishers.

Coming up, I have a first; a collection of all-new stories. Alisa Krasnostein, of Twelfth Planet Press, asked me to be part of her Twelve Planet series, along with other writers such as Cat Sparks, Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti. The opportunity to write four new stories, of my own theme, my own obsessions, with this vital press, was one I would not consider turning down.

My theme emerged; the Australian landscape. On returning from three years in Fiji, I was struck anew by the beauty and terror, the vastness, the variety, of this country. The stories I wrote have this at their heart.

Alisa edited all four stories, with a sharp eye and a high talent for knowing what works. The novella, Sky, is something I’ve been working of for some time, trying to capture the true nastiness of it. Sometimes you have to force yourself to continue when writing horror.

Four books. Four publishers. As I write this, I realise again how important and vital (in the sense that it is filled with life) Australian Small Press is. CSFG continues to produce anthologies showcasing Australian short story writers. Twelfth Planet Press and Ticonderoga Publications are publishing collections by brilliant Australian writers we may not otherwise have had access to. With both opening up to novels, the future is bright for writers, readers and publishers.

I love Australian small press because the people running it are talented, brilliant, brave and rather fun, too.

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 and she tweets @KaaronWarren.

Kaaron Warren


6 thoughts on “Wednesday Writers: Kaaron Warren

  1. Steve Cameron

    Exit by Harry Farjeon was read to me when I was in high school. I kept my eyes out ofr that story for close to thirty years. I had no idea who wrote it, what the title was or even where to find it. About 3 years ago I spent quite a bit of time seriously hunting it down. And it was just as good as I remembered. The pacing and sense of weirdness is perfect. It’s about to be released as a short film by a filmaker who read the story in that collection too.

    Ten Tales is an excellent anthology, and I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one who thinks so.

    Interestingly, Harry Farjeon was also a musician – who wrote “Morning has Broken” amongst others.

  2. Kaaron Warren

    It really is a perfect story, Steve. Wow, a short film? Do you have any details? Before I even wrote any stories, I started writing a script for this, because it lends itself so very perfectly!

    Ten Tales has survived many book culls. I didn’t know that Farjeon wrote “Morning has Broken”.

    Fascinating collaboration. I haven’t googled to see what else Farjeon wrote.

  3. Kaaron Warren

    Interesting family! I hope we get a chance to see the movie. For mine, it would have to be very restrained to work.

  4. Pingback: Updates « Kaaron Warren

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