I thought it would be fun to interview her for the blog, entirely under the idea that after spending a bit of time with Kaaron, you would go and buy her books.
Don't make a liar out of me.
Walking the Tree is your the latest book to be released. How are you feeling about it?
You're talking about the extras for Walking the Tree? A kind of DVD extras: you buy it and at the end there's a key for the reader to go to a site and download a free novella, with the story narrated from a different point of view?
That's pretty sweet. There's the link right here in our interview for Walking the Tree so people can buy it right now. Can you give us a quick pitch for it?
Lillah, a teacher, runs the story. She's charged with the extra care of Morace, who is not only her half-brother, but possibly sick with Spikes. It's not good to be sick on Botanica. One thing each Community has in common is that they punish illness severely.
Inside the Tree are ghosts, and up high, in the branches, hang bodies and memories.
Sounds pretty neat. How can readers expect it to differ from previous Kaaron Warren work?
How then, will the third Kaaron Warren novel differ from this one, you think?
Walking the Tree has some realism to it; Mistification doesn't really. It's about a man who cuts a woman in half and makes her smell the shit on the soles of her own shoes.
The first story I came across of yours was 'The Blue Stream', which, if I have it right, was published in 1994 in an issue of Aurealis, when it was run by Dirk Strasser. What kind of things, writing wise,
were you looking for back then?
I'd sent three or four stories to Aurealis, having read it for years beforehand. I'd never really imagined I could sell to them. I thought they were the professional market, for real writers. I was just a person who loved writing, and who was happy to do seven or eight drafts of a story till it felt right.
When I got the call from Stephen Higgins telling me they'd take Blue Stream, I was blown away. All I really wanted from my writing at that stage was to finish stories and edit them to a point I was happy with. I wanted to write stories I wanted to read.
I dreamed of being published and of people liking my stories. With this sale, I started to think it might be possible.
He called you?
First guy to called me in relation to writing was Robbie Matthews. I had no idea how he'd gotten the number, but he told me he had a huge database of writers names and numbers from ASIM. It was just faintly creepy.
I said, "Yep second second story I've only published one before" and other gabbled words.
Stephen said very kindly, "I thought so. You seem very excited."
Of course he wasn't to know I'm an excitable type. I still get excited whenever I sell a story. You should ask Trudi Canavan how high I jumped and how loudly I squealed when I found out Ellen Datlow was taking my story for her "Best Horror 2".
As for being called from a database, at least it wasn't a random caller trying to not sell you something. I hate those guys. "I'm not trying to sell you something" then they laugh heartily. I laugh heartily and go off and write a paragraph or two and come back to find they've hung up on me.
Is this use of telemarketers the Kaaron Warren writing practice, then?
What's changed in what you want from your writing now?
Which brings us to an interesting point, I think. Looking early at your publications, you bounce a lot between high profile markets, and low profile ones. Things like Penguin anthologies such as Strange Fruit and then mags like Going Down Swinging and Fables and Reflections. It was a big difference in audience—was it something you ever gave much thought to, or a desire to keep in print, or just a little of fingers in pies?
Has that changed any now? Do you look at collections and mags and think that they have to meet a certain standard, or deliver something new, for you?
I've got a story in the Morrigan Press anthology "Scenes from the Second Storey", all stories based around the songs from that album by The God Machine. I loved the idea of this; it's something I used to do as a kid, looking for stuff to write. I'd sit down with a favourite album (quite often Alice Cooper's Welcome to My Nightmare) and write a short story for every song. So the concept resonated with me.
That makes a nice way to segue into the 2005 release of your first collection, The Grinding House. Published by the CSFG, it came with a really sweet cover by Robyn Evans, and it seemed to be a nice focal point for Kaaron Warren, pulling together roughly a decade's worth of work into one place.
It was a brilliant cover, wasn't it? I commissioned it from Robyn, whose work I'd admired for a long time. There is one method she uses, layer on layer on layer of different media which she then scrapes away. I loved that idea of scraping away to see what lies beneath.
Before that book came out, the biggest collection of my work was my dad's. He printed out all my stories and had them in a couple folders he keeps on his bookshelves.
You were the one who pushed me to write The Grinding House novella for the book and that was a massive challenge at the time. My kids were really young and I barely had an hour to myself a day. But I wanted new stuff in there if only to prove to myself there was still some ability there, that it hadn't all been drained away by the creative job that motherhood is.
Yeah, I remember that. I still reckon a collection is a good place for a novella—it's a place where you can stretch yourself and not worry about the awkward word count and selling it.
Nah, I don't have anything to tell. I just like collections with novellas in them. It gives a collection a strong, I dunno, backbone, if that makes sense? I remember reading a collection by an Israeli
writer, Etgar Keret. I think it was called THE BUS DRIVER WHO WANTED TO BE GOD. it was full of all these quirky little stories, but after a while it just felt like there was no meat.
As for me, I think, outside books, I'd be around 19, 20 thousand words. You?
Quirky little stories can be good but I agree that there needs to be some kinda meat in there. At the moment I'm reading an old crime anthology. This is the stuff I read when I'm writing hard. It's easy read stuff. Usually well-written, good plots. This one is perfectly spaced with a few short bits, a couple of longer ones and two nice long meaty ones.
Who’s in it?
You know, I haven't heard of any of them. Isn't that cool? Bunch of new authors to check out.
You talk about the creative job that motherhood is, but there's a sense that that itself has became a theme through your work. Would you agree with that?
And there was "The Mother Archives", which may well become a novel, I think.
My other stories are less concerned with motherhood and more concerned with crime and punishment, sex and death, hauntings and revenge.
I do think that being a mother has helped me be more empathetic. When you spend most of your day helping other people be happy, you tend to become practised at figuring out what they need to make them happy.
In my stories, of course, I'm usually keen to make people unhappy!
Haha. Maybe! Though I have to admit, I really didn't like Down to the Silver Spirits. How's that for gushing interview praise?
It was shit, so I trashed it. Part of it ended up morphing into another story, if I remember right--but that isn't so unusual, really.
Nah, I'm really not an Aldiss fan. His stuff just leaves me cold.
I love how it says that Aldiss had a cameo and then was cut out of it and replaced by an actor portraying him.
What about you? What will you do in the cameos in your movies?
Nah, that kind of stuff isn't for me. I can barely stand photographs of myself, much less the idea of subjecting others to me.
I had a job a few years back as an extra in a film, a local dodgy thing. I have to say it turned me off film making entirely—it was one of the least creative and most repetitive things I'd seen. Granted,
I'm sure not all sets are like that, and a lot will depend on the director, but it kind of killed my interest in film making. Should anyone want to make a film about my stuff, they can give me the cash and then I'll bugger off.
Anyhow, I see I have been put into my place about your concerns for fiction (though I think if I'd said 'family', I might have been more correct), but do you think that The Grinding House was a good representation of yourself as an author?
How then do you think the new collection, which will be released by Ticonderoga Press later his year, will differ from it?
It does seem that living in Fiji has had a large impact on you, and in what seems to be a largely positive way--has it felt that way while you've been writing the stories?
Have you ever gone back and read your stuff?
How about you? Are you a re-reader?
Not really. I glance to make sure everything looks good, but, on the whole, I just see the errors and mistakes and ways I could have done something differently and better. Maybe it's not the best way to be, but I guess I'm just demanding on myself, and it's never reaching what I think it should be.
That sounds like all my work...
Why are you typing it up?
Heh. You know, I wrote a book when I was fourteen, or thirteen. Some awful fantasy novel. I lost it when my Mum sold the computer a few years later, and I always regretted that.