Kaaron Warren is a Speculative Fiction author, focusing mainly on horror. She’s had quite a few short stories published, as well as three novels, including Slights. Her characters and settings are memorable and chilling. Kaaron is Australian born and currently lives in Fiji with her family.
Q1: What draws you to write Speculative Fiction?
KW: I like the fact I don’t have to stick to the truth! That anything is possible. If I want a ghost sitting at the breakfast table, I can have a ghost there eating Coco Pops!
Q2: What was the first piece you ever had published?
KW: White Bed, in Shrieks, from The Women’s Redress Press. This is how it started:
I saw my future. Squeezed my eyes tight and glimpsed; me, alone, cold and barren, reading a thick book and eating a large salad straight from the bowl, sucking my fingers before I turned each page.
I opened my eyes and the horror was still before me.
Q3: What did it feel like?
KW: I still remember the phone call. I’d moved from Sydney to Canberra, and not all of my mail followed me. The editors called me a week before the launch. I was stunned, speechless. I hadn’t actually believed I’d sell a story before that.
Q4: What was the defining moment that made you say “Yes I’m a writer”?
KW: I always believed I was a writer. I think the first time I really believed I was going to do it for real was when I was fourteen and wrote a real short story. I wrote it in a sitting, then edited and rewrote it. I also wrote a novel that year and that was hard work.
Q5: How long have you been writing? What keeps you writing?
KW: Written seriously since 14, sought publication from around 23, published from around 28. I keep writing because I am full of ideas and sentences. Also because people ask me for stories now and who am I to say no?
Q6: Who are some of your influences?
KW: Writers: Michael Marshall Smith, Christopher Fowler, Harlan Ellison, Lisa Tuttle, many, many others.
No teachers. I’m afraid I don’t look back with fond memories; I found very little encouragement of my writing through school.
Personal friends: Cat Sparks, Donna Hanson, Matt Farrer, Gillian Polack, Lauren Beukes. All great writers and great supporters. There are so many more. I’ve found the world of Speculative Fiction incredibly supportive and positive. Most people know that the stronger the community, the stronger the opportunities.
Q7: What’s your favorite speculative fiction work?
KW: I have a lot, but the one I’m thinking about now is “You Bright and Risen Angels” by William Vollman.
Q8: Slights would probably be considered horror rather than science fiction or fantasy. Why do you write horror?
KW: Even when I write science fiction or fantasy, there are elements of horror. I’m not sure why all my ‘what ifs?” are dark and nasty, but they seem to be. I think partly it’s because the world is such a messed up place in so many ways, so there is unlimited material and inspiration. My ideas notebooks are full of outrage and offence.
Q9: Where does the inspiration for a character like Stevie come from?
KW: She is every sad and lonely person I’ve seen in my life. Every tough chick, every angry girl. She is the old man I saw on Christmas Eve carrying a turkey roll for his solo lunch the next day. She was the kid who doesn’t get invited to the neighbour’s party.
She is all that plus more.
Q10: Stevie is a rare type of serial killer: a young woman. Did you do research on real female serial killers to build her character?
KW: Not specifically for the novel, but I’ve always been fascinated by serial killers, so my reading was done over many years. I have newspaper clippings, fiction and non-fictions books, magazine articles.
Q11: Why do you think women are less likely to become serial killers than men?
KW: I really hate to answer this one! I’m not good on gender questions. I had a boss who used to say “Women are made to bring people into this world, men are made to take them out.” I guess that’s a pretty standard belief.
Q12: Have you ever had any negative reactions to the characters you write?
KW: Negative in that people don’t like Stevie much, yes. Mostly very positive in that people understand her, want to know more about her.
Q13: What’s the best positive reaction you’ve received?
KW: It’s hard to choose one. Many of the reviews have brought tears to my eyes because they talk about Stevie as a real person. Every time she works for someone it is so satisfying.
However, receiving the starred review and book of the week from Publisher’s Weekly was pretty amazing! “With outstanding control, Warren manipulates Stevie’s voice to create a portrait of horror that in no way reads like a first novel.”
Q14: Do you believe in Stevie’s theory that each person we’ve slighted in life will be waiting for us upon our death? If so, has that changed your daily behavior?
KW: I do kind of believe it. I certainly believe in some variation of karma. I also believe that we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be hurt by the unintended slight. That has helped me deal with the small things of life. The thoughtless comment from a usually kind person, that kind of thing. I think it’s important to move on from that and learn how to deal with it.
Q15: Do you think that being a woman author has made getting published harder or easier for you?
KW: I don’t really think it made a difference. I’ve never had the sense of discrimination either way. That said, “White Bed”, the story I mention above, was in a women’s only horror anthology, so that helped, I guess, though I’d like to think it would have been published anyway!
Q16: Where do you think the future of speculative fiction is going? More inclusive of diverse characters, or more exclusive?
KW: I see a very positive future. I think the stories being told are further-reaching and more accessible to the wider audience.
As far as diversity of character, I hope so. I think many writers are trying to move beyond stereotypes and include characters beyond their own small lives. Also, with more publication of those writing outside of the US and the UK, we’ll see far more diversity of character and story.
Q17: What are you working on right now? Any other series or stories in the works?
KW: No series, but am finalizing Walking the Tree and Mistification for Angry Robot Books. Working on a novel about last things and another about a very strange archive. Working on short stories inspired by Fiji and beyond. Always lots going on!
Q18: Finally, do you have anything else you’d like to add?
KW: I think we’ve covered most things! The advice I give to people who say they wish they could write but don’t have time is; keep a notebook. Write down a good title if you think of it, or a character detail, or an odd idea. Have that ready for when you do have time. Lots of people will never get to it and I think that this process, this writing down of ideas, can be satisfying enough for many. For the rest of us, we end up with dozens of notebooks around the house with scribbled, barely remembered lines.
You can purchase Slights through Amazon, Borders, and Powell’s Books, and directly through the publisher, Angry Robot Books.