AHWA Interview with: Kaaron Warren

Can you tell us a little about yourself and the major influences on your writing?

This is something of a big question! My major influences are pretty much my life to this point. Every place I’ve lived, every person I’ve spoken to, every conversation I’ve eavesdropped on. Every book I’ve read, good and bad. Every snippet from a newspaper, every glimpse of a sad dog waiting for an owner who isn’t coming back. All of it influences my writing.

 At a fictional level, the authors that influenced me the most are Harlan Ellison, Agatha Christie, Daphne du Maurier, Celia Fremlin, William Vollman, William Golding, Lisa Tuttle, and more.

How would you describe your writing style?

Hmm. I’d like to think it’s all my own. Warren-esque. Everybody should aim to have their own style. You can be influenced by other writers, but to stand out you need your own voice. 

Please tell us about your most recent work, and how do you think this differs from your early works?

This is a really interesting question! I have a good number of stories coming out this year, in part due to the delays of last year.  I have one called The Steering Wheel Club, in a charity anthology called Give the Devil His Due, for the Pixel Project. The theme of the anthology is abusers getting their comeuppance, basically. It was tricky, for me, to figure out a way to do this that would really destroy the abuser, because often they are filled with arrogance and self belief and even being confronted with their horrendous crimes, they don’t back down.

My story was inspired by an advertisement for cigars in an old Punch magazine. The ad was set in the Steering Wheel Club, an actual place in London, and I was instantly intrigued at the thought of a place where the steering wheels had all been part of car accidents.

How does it differ from my early works? I think I’m a bit more disciplined in my splattergun method. I used to try to include everything, all the thoughts and ideas, and stretch my story to fit. I think I’m better at filtering some of it out now, or really at summing it up better. So while perhaps the story seems less dense, it packs as much of a punch. I’m just better at weaving stuff in. That said, there’s not one of my early works I dislike! I love my voice back then. I hope that doesn’t sound too arrogant.

Writing both long and short forms can be a challenging process. Are there tips you would provide new horror writers on how to move from an idea towards something more substantial they can flesh out into a story?

I think the first thing I’d say is that you need to be sure there’s enough meat in your story to justify moving it from a short to a longer piece. Sometimes an idea is good for a short story, if it’s a twist ending, a particular image you want to convey, or a central horrifying concept that might be diluted by more words. I can tell a novel that started as a story but was stretched to fit; there’s a lot of filler.

One example of this is Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes. Now, I like the novel version, but the shorter version ( I think it’s a novella) is utterly perfect. We get the full story there, and we can add some of our own detail. In the novel, everything is laid out.

So one thing you might need to do is decide whether your idea is a ‘short sharp shock’ ie short story material, or something which won’t be diluted by adding detail and background.

Because that’s the main task in moving an idea towards a longer story. You’ll need to know more of the background of your characters, and the history. You’ll also need to fill out many of the background characters and follow their story, and you’ll need to be clearer on results, and have a plot that isn’t just one thing happening after another, but is a series of resonating incidents that lead us to a point in the novel that becomes inevitable.

Horror writing covers an incredibly broad range of styles and topics. Is there anything you feel crosses a line that you won’t write about as an author?

I never deliberately move towards repulsive things like child abuse, sex abuse, incest, animal abuse and others. However, if the story warrants it, sometimes you need to go there. The thing with horror, for me, is that I’m working out nightmares. I’m not figuring out answers to anything, but I’m trying to understand why. I heard an interview with Richard Roxborough, who played Roger Rogerson in two series. He does a great job playing a truly awful man, and Roxborough says, he had to play the role in character. That Rogerson didn’t wake up every morning thinking, “I’m going to be evil today”. He woke up thinking about his morning beverage and breakfast, and about the job ahead. Monsters don’t believe they are monsters; that’s what I’m trying to understand.

Which of your works are you most proud of, and why? What would you recommend a reader new to your work start with? 

I really hate to pick one story out. For lack of any other reason, I’ll say Slights, my first published novel, because that was when I really believed I was a writer. For that reason, I’ll also say The Grinding House, my first short story collection. I’m about to bring that one out again myself, so look out for it!

It’s also hard to recommend a particular book to start with. For short stories, perhaps The Primer to Kaaron Warren from Dark Moon Books, because that has commentary! And for novel, maybe The Grief Hole? People seem to like that one.

 Are there any pieces of your work you would like to hide, pull back, or rewrite?

I tend not to think about this. A story isn’t ever really finished. No matter how many drafts I do, I always want to change a word, fix a moment, change a sentence, work on a character. I want to iron out the wrinkles.

Could you name three other horror authors that you think we should search out?

Aaron Dries, Joseph Ashley Smith, JS Brukelaar

Have you got any new projects in the works that we should keep our eyes open for?

 Lots coming out this year!

“Corners”, a short story in Weird Fiction Review, a gorgeous production.

“The Red Shrine” in Spawn, from IFWG

“Trial of the Formosans” in Sisterhood, Chaosium Publishing

“The Steering Wheel Club” in Give the Devil his Due, Pixel Project

“Everything so Slow and Quiet” in The Art of Being Human, Fablecroft Press

“Winter Sweet, Winter Grief” in Grimdark Magazine

“Exurbia” in Out of the Ruins, Titan Books

“The King in Yella” in Under Twin Suns, Hippocampus Press

My non-fiction debut, “Capturing Ghosts”, is out from Brainjar Press. This one had essays, notes, workshops and other goodies in it.

How do people find out more about you and your work? (social media etc).

Twitter: @kaaronwarren

Facebook: Kaaron Warren

Instagram: kaaron_warren

Spotify: Kaaron Warren

[This interview first appeared in the June issue of the AHWA’s newsletter. For more information on the AHWA, including how to join, go to www.australasianhorror.com]

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