Interview by Ben Peek
Kaaron Warren is the award winning author of the collection The Grinding House.
1) You emerged as a strong voice in Australia in 1994 with ‘the Blue Stream’, your second published story, I believe, and since then you’ve managed to keep a steady output of short fiction. Now, with your first collection, The Grinding House, weeks away from release, how have you made the selections you have? Is there anything to unite them together, outside yourself?
There is no real editorial thread through the stories. Donna Maree Hanson, my editor, went home with a box of my published stories and read them in a weekend. The list she came up with of her favourite stories matched mine perfectly, so that’s how we went. In usual writerly paranoia, I was sure she was going to call me and say, “I’m sorry, Kaaron, but this is such a box of crap I couldn’t possibly be associated with it.” I’d even fantasised what my response would be to her, “Yes, I understand. Of course you’re right.” Instead she called me in the greatest excitement, saying she couldn’t possibly pick ten stories, she had picked 20 and couldn’t exclude any of them. That was a great moment. There are threads of theme in the stories. Robyn Evans, who did the cover, says she feels a sense of confinement in most of my stories. And by natural selection we ended up with a mix of horror, SF and dark fantasy.
2) The Speculative Fiction genre is known for being a bit of a boys club. What’s your experience of it been, from the point of a female writer who spends most of her time with the darker genre side?
Although I’ve been publishing stories for 12 years, I haven’t really been ‘in the scene’, so I don’t feel qualified to comment on it. Certainly I enjoy being a woman writing dark fiction. Personally, I’ve felt very welcome amongst the blokes anytime I’ve seen them.
3) How do you think the scene is going about bringing in a new audience? Have any ideas?
I think finding a new audience amongst adults is a tough call. Most non-scene adults I talk to say things like, “Oh, I used to read SF when I was a teenager.” They seem to think grown ups don’t read speculative fiction. Grown-ups read the fucking Da Vinci Code or something. It’s pretty annoying. I’ve got two friends who’ve decided I need to ‘broaden my audience, get away from that whole Speculative Fiction thing”. I say, but that’s what I write. That’s what I read. I like these people! They think it’s time I moved on. This is a basic problem finding new audiences. It’s the young we’ll be able to indoctrinate. The whole Young Adult novel thing mentioned by Iain Triffit in his interview. Anyone who is writing a young adult novel is doing the work for all of us, in my opinion. Get ’em while they’re young, get ’em with a brilliant fucking story that has human pathos and plot and isn’t a pile of crap, and maybe we’ll grow our audience. As Cat Sparks said, most of the readers are also writers. I think that makes sense, in a way. There are not many fans who are fans and nothing else because reading spec fic gives you ideas. It makes you think and trains your brain.
I do creative writing workshops at my son’s primary school, and these kids are incredible. So inspiring. They create new worlds and shout over each other to tell me stories of the place. This is the audience, and the writers of the future (Sorry. Is that a trademark?)
4) You’re dead. It Colonel Mustard with the butcher’s blade. They served you up all nice and well. Anyhow, off to Heaven you go, and you see God. You say?
I intend my last words to be “Hare Krishna”, just in case. Their heaven is so cool. I wanna be a cow girl and hang out with Krishna. So I’m going to say it just in case. If I see a God who isn’t blue, I’ll say, “Can you make it so that lollies are good for you?”
5) Favourite swear word?
I have to swear a lot on the inside, what with having impressionable kids around and all. My favourite swear word is, “Shit a fucking brick.”