Wednesday, February 27, 2013

2012 The Kitschies Awards

Yesterday, in a ceremony held at the Free Word Center, London, the winners of the 2012 Kitschies Awards were announced:

Red Tentacle (Novel): Angelmaker” by Nick Harkaway (William Heinemann)

Golden Tentacle (Debut): Redemption in Indigo” by Karen Lord (Jo Fletcher Books)

Inky Tentacle (Cover Art): A Boy and a Bear in a Boat” by Dave Shelton, illustrated by the author (David Fickling Books)

The Black Tentacle, the discretionary prize for an outstanding contribution to the conversation surrounding genre literature, was awarded to The World SF Blog.

Congratulations to all the winners!

Monday, February 25, 2013

TOC - "The Best Horror of the Year Volume 5" edited by Ellen Datlow

I come back to the list of my favorite year’s best collections with one of the top titles. Ellen Datlow’s year’s best are always at the highest level of quality and I can’t honestly recall a collection of hers that disappointed me, even for one bit. This year, Ellen Datlow’s “The Best Horror of the Year” sees its fifth volume being released, by Night Shade Books in April, and as always the table of contents looks strong and full of memorable stories. On the note, the cover accompanying this post is not the final one. Since the final table of contents was only recently announced the names appearing on the cover are those of last year’s volume. The only thing not subject to change on the cover is the artwork.

Darkness, both literal and psychological, holds its own unique fascination.  Despite our fears, or perhaps because of them, readers have always been drawn to tales of death, terror, madness, and the supernatural, and no more so than today when a wildly imaginative new generation of dark dreamers is carrying on in the tradition of Poe and Lovecraft and King, crafting exquisitely disturbing literary nightmares that gaze without flinching into the abyss—and linger in the mind long after.
Multiple award-winning editor Ellen Datlow knows the darkest corners of fiction and poetry better than most. Once again, she has braved the haunted landscape of modern horror to seek out the most chilling new works by both legendary masters of the genre and fresh young talents. Here are twisted hungers and obsessions, human and otherwise, along with an unsettling variety of spine-tingling fears and fantasies. The cutting edge of horror has never cut deeper than in this comprehensive showcase of the very best the field has to offer. Enter at your own risk.

“Nikishi” by Lucy Taylor (Postscripts #28/29: Exotic Gothics 4)
“Little America” by Dan Chaon (Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury)
“A Natural History of Autumn” by Jeffrey Ford (Fantasy & Science Fiction – July/August 2012)
“Mantis Wives” by Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld Magazine – August 2012)
“Tender as Teeth” by Stephanie Crawford and Duane Swierczynski (21st Century Dead)
“The Callers” by Ramsey Campbell (Four For Fear)
“Two poems for Hill House” by Kevin McCann
“Mariner’s Round” by Terry Dowling (Postscripts #28/29: Exotic Gothics 4)
“Nanny Grey” by Gemma Files (Magic -An Anthology of the Esoteric and Arcane)
“The Magician’s Apprentice” by Tamsyn Muir (Weird Fiction Review – July 2012)
“Kill All Monsters” by Gary McMahon (Shadows & Tall Trees – Issue 3)
“The House on Ashley Avenue” by Ian Rogers (Every House is Haunted)
“Dead Song” by Jay Wilburn
“Sleeping, I Was Beauty” by Sandi Leibowitz (Goblin Fruit – Winter 2012)
“Bajazzle” by Margo Lanagan (Cracklespace)
“The Pike” by Conrad Williams (Born with Teeth)
“The Crying Child” by Bruce McAllister 
“This Circus the World” by Amber Sparks (Corium Magazine – Summer 2012)
“Some Pictures in An Album” by Gary McMahon (Chiral Mad)
“Wild Acre” by Nathan Ballingrud (Visions Fading Fast)
“Final Exam” by Megan Arkenberg (Asimov’s – June 2012)
“None So Blind” by Stephen Bacon (Shadows & Tall Tress – Issue 3)
“The Ballad of Boomtown” by Priya Sharma (Black Static – Issue 28, April/May 2012)
“Pig Thing” by Adam Nevill (Postscripts #28/29: Exotic Gothics 4)
“The Word-Made Flesh” by Richard Gavin (At Fear’s Altar)
“Into the Penny Arcade” by Claire Massey (Into the Penny Arcade)
“Magdala Amygdala” by Lucy Snyder (Dark Faith: Invocations)
“Frontier Death Song” by Laird Barron (Nightmare Magazine – Issue 1, October 2012)

Friday, February 22, 2013

"One Hundred Years of Vicissitude" by Andrez Bergen

Publisher: Perfect Edge Books
The review is based partially on an ebook copy received through the courtesy of the author, Andrez Bergen, and partially on a bought paperback copy of the book

“First up, a disclaimer. I suspect I am a dead man. I have meagre proof, no framed up certification, nothing to toss in a court of law as evidence of a rapid departure from the mortal coil. I recall a gun was involved, pressed up against my skull, and a loud explosion followed.”
Thus begins our narrator in a purgatorial tour through twentieth-century Japanese history, with a ghostly geisha who has seen it all as a guide and a corrupt millionaire as her reluctant companion.
Thrown into the milieu are saké, B-29s, Lewis Carroll, Sir Thomas Malory, Melbourne, The Wizard of Oz, and a dirigible - along with the allusion that Red Riding Hood might just be involved.

Some of the most rewarding books I read over the years proved to be the ones that didn’t come with too many recommendations or from the authors I picked in the whim of my reading caprices. One such novel was Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat”, a wonderful novel for which I didn’t have any recommendation and implicitly with any expectations from my part. Of course, after the initial encounter with an author it proves to be very difficult to read the writer’s next work without any expectation and only with the anticipation of opening a door to a new world. There is no wonder then that it was impossible for me not to set the bar of expectations high for Andrez Bergen after his debut novel, but if that changed the way I perceive his future works it also made me await them with eagerness. The first in line, Andrez Bergen’s new novel, “One Hundred Years of Vicissitude”.

“First up, a disclaimer. I suspect I am a dead man.” What the main character only suspects in the beginning becomes obvious immediately after that. Wolram E. Deaps is dead and he finds himself in a limbo. A transitional situation for which he has no explanation or from which he has no escape yet. But the state Wolram E. Deaps is in it’s not completely cut off from the state of living Wolram is familiar with. Along the story of “One Hundred Years of Vicissitude” Wolram learns on his own that the state of transition in which he is found comes with childhood dreams reflected on this limbo, with significant physical needs, for instance cold and hunger. But nb  also is a place with new possibilities, such as meeting new people. And Wolram E. Deaps meets Kohana. Together they begin a journey through the memories of the former geisha, a pilgrimage to the significant moments of her life, the events that shape Kohana’s character and her former existence. Is the recounting of a life, with the good, the bad and in between, a flash of an existence before death exerts its final toll.

With the only two main characters on the scene “One Hundred Years of Vicissitude” is similar in many aspects with a play. Much of the story’s magic consists in the relationship between these two characters, but without neglecting the story in the least. Each act of the story takes place in a different setting, the props are changed from one moment in Kohana’s life to another, with the necessary revisiting of the most important ones. The entire odyssey is made in the accompaniment of witty dialogues, delightful characters and captivating story. Or little stories, since the entire picture of “One Hundred Years of Vicissitude” is made by smaller parts that could easily make a tale on their own. But the characters do not make solely a voyage through Kohana’s life memories, it is also an expedition through a certain era of Japan’s history. It is a hymn brought to this wonderful country and to some of the elements that define its individuality. Customs, history, legends, literature, music and pop culture receive homage in Andrez Bergen’s novel. The ritual of drinking saké, geishas, kabuki, monster movies, yakuza or sumo are some of the things that find their way into the novel one way or another.

There are only two characters in “One Hundred Years of Vicissitude”, but one of them makes a connection between Andrez Bergen’s two published novels. Wolram E. Deaps is a character from the authors’ debut novel, “Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat”. As a matter of fact, he is the antagonist of that book, ambitious and greedy. However, not in a single moment I could see Wolram E. Deaps as the character with an unsated appetite for power and money. He even becomes an agreeable character in “One Hundred Years of Vicissitude”. I would not register this aspect as complaint however, because until I experience a state of limbo or any other post-mortem situation first-hand I cannot rightfully affirm how such an instance affects the character of a human being. Wolram E. Deaps not only makes a connection with “Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat”, but he also gives both Andrez Bergen’s novels metafictional qualities. It is early on in “One Hundred Years of Vicissitude” when Wolram spots a book among others with certain characteristics: “On a small round table next to the sofa was a pile of books, at the top of which sat a hardback titled Dead Yellow Women. Peeking out beneath that was a cartoonish goat with a cigarette, on a dirty brown cover.”

I said that after reading an author for the first time it is almost impossible for me to start the writer’s other works without some expectations. Such was the case with Andrez Bergen too, but nothing I expected based on “Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat” could have prepared me for what I found in “One Hundred Years of Vicissitude”. Yes, both novels have witty, intelligent and delightful dialogues, both show a mastering of language and an assured writing technique from Andrez Bergen, both with various odes brought to the things I can only guess that the author loves at personal level. But “One Hundred Years of Vicissitude” reveals new qualities of Andrez Bergen, in particular a warm and wonderful sensibility. The description of Asakusa 1945 firebombing and the reminder of the cruelties of Nanking massacre are touching and emotional. These would have been enough to show Andrez Bergen ability to create emotion, but there many more sensible moments. Distinctly, two scenes from the end of “One Hundred Years of Vicissitude” bring the reader close to tears.

Globalization is very far from the milk and honey heaven we are led to believe it brings, but I am thankful for the possibility it gives me to discover writers such as Andrez Bergen, an Australian, living in Japan and enchanting the readers across the globe, such as myself, with the stylish noir post-apocalyptic “Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat” or this little gem that is “One Hundred Years of Vicissitude”.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

TOC - "The Year's Best Dark Fantasy and Horror 2013" edited by Paula Guran

The list of year’s best titles I follow increased constantly over the years. Not dramatically, but still there are quite a few such collections that I enjoy reading. They are a great source of excellent fiction and over the years I discovered some of the authors I became fond of with the help of the year’s best collections. The first such anthology to announce its 2013 line-up of stories is “The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror” edited by Paula Guran and published by Prime Books. Paula Guran’s collection is at its fourth volume, it gathers 35 stories this year and it will be released on June. Here is the table of contents, listed alphabetically by author:

“Hand of Glory” by Laird Barron (The Book of Cthulhu 2)
“Great-Grandmother in the Cellar” by Peter S. Beagle (Under My Hat)
“Glamour of Madness” by Peter Bell (The Ghosts & Scholars Book of Shadows)
“Down in the Valley” by Joseph Bruchac  (Postscripts #28/29: Exotic Gothic 4)
“Bigfoot on Campus” by Jim Butcher (Hex Appeal)
“Iphigenia In Aulis” by Mike Carey (An Apple for the Creature)
“Nightside Eye” by Terry Dowling (Cemetery Dance #66)
“The Bird Country” by K. M. Ferebee (Shimmer #15)
“The Natural History of Autumn” by Jeffrey Ford (F&SF, July/August 2012)
“The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury” by Neil Gaiman (The Shadow Show)
“England Under the White Witch” by Theodora Goss (Clarkesworld, Issue 73)
“Game” by Maria Dahvana Headley (Subterranean, Fall 2012)
“Escena de un Asesinato” by Robert Hood (Postscripts #28/29: Exotic Gothic 4)
“Welcome to the Reptile House” by Stephen Graham Jones (Strange Aeons #9)
“Fake Plastic Trees” by  Caitlín R Kiernan (After)
“The Education of a Witch” by Ellen Klages (Under My Hat)
“Forget You” by Marc Laidlaw (Lightspeed, June 2012)
“Renfrew’s Course” by John Langan (Lightspeed, April 2012)
“The Tall Grass” by Joe R. Lansdale (Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations)
“Slaughterhouse Blues” by Tim Lebbon (Nothing As It Seems)
“The Eyes of Water” by Alison Littlewood (The Eyes of Water)
“Good Hunting” by Ken Liu (Strange Horizons, October 2012)
“No Ghosts In London” by Helen Marshall (Hair Side, Flesh Side)
“Blue Lace Agate” by Sarah Monette (Lightspeed, January 2012)
“End of White” by Ekaterina Sedia (Shotguns v Cthulhu)
“Pearls” by Priya Sharma (Bourbon Penn 04)
“Bedtime Stories for Yasmin” by Robert Shearman (Shadows & Tall Trees 4)
“When Death Wakes Me to Myself” by John Shirley (Black Wings II)
“Sinking Among Lilies” by Cory Skerry (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issue #92)
“Go Home Again” by Simon Strantzas (Fungi)
“The Sea of Trees” by Rachel Swirsky (The Future Is Japanese)
“Dahlias” by Melanie Tem (Black Wings II)
“Who is Arvid Pekon?” by Karin Tidbeck (Jagganath: Stories)
“Armless Maidens of the American West” by Genevieve Valentine (Apex, August 7, 2012)
“Everything Must Go” by Brooke Wonders (Clarkesworld, Issue 74)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Cover art - "One Small Step" edited by Tehani Wessely

Last year I presented the table of contents of the upcoming anthology form FableCroft Publishing, “One Small Step” edited by Tehani Wessely. Now we can admire the cover artwork for Tehani Wessely’s anthology, one made by Amanda Rainey. It is quite a treat, a wonderful artwork that matches perfectly the theme of the collection. As a matter of fact, after seeing this amazing artwork done by Amanda Rainey for “One Small Step” I can’t imagine a better or more suitable cover for the anthology. And although the year is still at its beginning it is already one of my favorite covers of 2013.

Another piece of news regarding Tehany Wessely’s “One Small Step” is that the stories from the initial table of contents were joined by another, Cat Sparks“Daughters of Battendown”. Here is the final TOC:

“Sand and Seawater” by Joanne Anderton & Rabia Gale
“Indigo Gold” by Deborah Biancotti
“Firefly Epilogue” by Jodi Cleghorn
“The Ways of the Wyrding Women” by Rowena Cory Daniells
“The ships of Culwinna” by Thoraiya Dyer
“Shadows” by Kate Gordon
“By Blood and Incantation” by Lisa L. Hannett & Angela Slatter
“Ella and the Flame” by Kathleen Jennings
“Original” by Penny Love
“Always Greener” by Michelle Marquardt
“Morning Star” by DK Mok
“Winter’s Heart” by Faith Mudge
“Cold White Daughter” by Tansy Rayner Roberts
“Baby Steps” by Barbara Robson
“Number 73 Glad Avenue” by Suzanne J Willis
“Daughters of Battendown” by Cat Sparks

Monday, February 18, 2013

Title spotlight - "The Reading Lessons" by Carole Lanham

“The Reading Lessons” – Lucinda and Hadley are two friends, whose destinies are not meant to cross, with a love for forbidden books and readings. Lucinda, despite her caprices, is the gravitating point for Hadley and their usual play almost an addiction. And like any addiction no good can come out of it. (My review of the short story published in Carole Lanham’s “The Whisper Jar”.)

“The Reading Lessons” is one of the stories of Carole Lanham’s excellent debut collection, “The Whisper Jar”, but it is also the starting point for the upcoming first novel of the author. I’ve seen over the years a couple of short stories that led to longer pieces of fiction, but “The Reading Lessons” is the first in a long time that I await with fervent anticipation. It cannot be otherwise since “The Whisper Jar” was one of the best books I read last year and a collection that revealed a very talented writer. It is true that after reading “The Whisper Jar” my expectations for Carole Lanham’s works are high, but by the looks of her debut collection I have a certain belief that I would not be disappointed. With a first-hand experience on Carole Lanham’s subtle and challenging works I think that “The Reading Lessons” would touch a few very important issues in the author’s uncomfortable but excellent manner. If I am right or wrong or if my expectations are too high remains to be seen when Carole Lanham’s novel will be released by Immortal Ink Publishing on May. Maybe these are a little besides the point too, since “The Reading Lessons” is now one of my most anticipated releases of 2013.

Mississippi 1920: Nine year old servant, Hadley Crump, finds himself drawn into a secret world when he is invited to join wealthy Lucinda Browning’s dirty book club. No one suspects that the bi-racial son of the cook is anything more to Lucinda than a charitable obligation, but behind closed doors, O! she doth teach the torches to burn bright. What begins as a breathless investigation into the more juicy parts of literature quickly becomes a consuming and life-long habit for two people who would not otherwise be left alone together. As lynchings erupt across the South and the serving staff is slowly cut to make way for new mechanical household conveniences, Hadley begins to understand how dangerous and precarious his situation is.

The Reading Lessons follows the lives of two people born into a world that is unforgiving as a Hangman’s knot. Divided by skin color and joined by books, Hadley and Lucinda are forced to come together in the only place that will allow it, a land of printed words and dark secrets.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Premio Minotauro 2013

Yesterday, the winner of Premio Minotauro 2013 has been announced. The jury chose as the winner of the award’s 10th edition the novel “Panteón” (Pantheon) by Carlos Sisí, submitted under the pseudonym of Alicia Sotomonte.

“Panteón” (Pantheon) is a novel of space adventures with Lovecraftian accents. It is a space opera with elements of cosmic terror in the style of “Alien” and its sequel “Prometheus”. As usual, the winning novel will be published by Ediciones Minotauro on March.

Earth, the original planet exploded over 10 millions of years ago. At that time the man had already begun the journey through space. In this new Era, the war and the peace are elements carefully kept in balance by The Colony, the quintessential scientific enclave. From there, the controller Maralda Tardes detects a military activity on a planet away from any trade route and decides to initiate a standard protocol inspection.

In the meantime, Ferdinand and Malhereux, two young junkmen, wait patiently under the surface of the planet for the war to end and to begin the plundering of the remains of combat and extract a succulent profit. Among the remains of the battle they discover a strange artifact that seems to belong to an ancient and unknown civilization, also desired by both the atrocious sarlab mercenaries and the scientists of The Colony. Mal and Fer are unaware that the artifact in their possession could be the key for unlocking a threat older than the galaxy…

Carlos Sisí was born in Madrid in 1971 and currently lives in Calahonda (Málaga). He made his debut in 2009 with “Los Caminantes” (The Wanderers), the first novel in the eponymous series. Since then Carlos Sisí published the next two novels in “Los Caminantes” (The Wanderers” trilogy, “Los Caminantes: Necrópolis” and “Los Caminantes: Hades Nebula”, another novel, “La Hora del Mar” (The Time of the Sea), and a novella, “Edén Interrumpido” (Disrupted Paradise). His debut novel, “The Wanderers”, is also available in English, released by Permuted Press in 2011.


Friday, February 8, 2013

"The Way of the Leaves" by David Tallerman

"The Way of the Leaves"
Publisher: Spectral Press
The review is based on a bought copy of the book

The barrow. The hill upon the hill. A place that was old when the Normans came to England. A place of mystery and secrets and uneasy truce.
Now, two children find themselves drawn to the ancient tor, caught in events beyond their understanding. And what they find in the darkness beneath will shatter the course of their lives forever.

Even from the beginning of “The Way of the Leaves” it is clear that something is amiss. The narrator of David Tallerman’s story is at a loss and he misses Charlotte. Who is Charlotte and why the character longs for the past remains to be discovered in the following pages of the novella.

“In the past is a kind of peace, however paper-thin and temporary. In the past is everything I’ve lost, and everything I once hoped for. Most of all, in the past is Charlotte – and there, at least, I can still reach her.”

The main character and Charlotte are two misfits, but perfectly comfortable with each other which makes the best of friends. Both like to read a lot and both enjoy exploring the surrounding area of their homes. It is true that the protagonist is less courageous than Charlotte, but he follows unconditionally the girl’s investigations. Until, his fears are put to a test when Charlotte needs to feed her curiosity by venturing into a newly discovered barrow.

David Tallerman plays wonderfully the young boy’s unease, the reader can feel his constant scares, the frightening situations that most of the time are bred by his vivid imagination. Immediate dangers or potential consequences of his actions make from the young man a fainthearted character and one that chooses the path of cowardice at some point. But guilty conscience and fears collide in the end and the character is set into action when he is faced with the least desirable outcome.

There are hints in “The Way of the Leaves” of a conflict between old and new religion and beliefs, of judging the appearances and putting a label without looking deeper on the matters. But the main subject is that of estrangement and disappearance, either down a narrow passage in a barrow or in a long and close relationship, of loss and longing, either for the loved one or for a forgotten connection and blood ties.

Nothing jumps out of the shadows or lurks just around the corner in “The Way of the Leaves”, the only threats come from remorse and sorrow. With a bitter, melancholic tone of the main character as guide there is plenty to be found in David Tallerman’s story to overcome the more familiar themes of the tale and keep the reader interested.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Title spotlight - "The Angellove Society: Crux" by Şerban Andrei Mazilu

Marian Coman’s “Fingers and other fantastic stories”, Dan Doboș’s “The Abbey”, George Lazăr’s “The Guardian Angel”, Ioana Vișan’s “Human Instincts” and “Blue Moon Café Series: Where Shifters Meet for Drinks” and Snowdon King’s (pseudonym of Ionuţ Caragea) “Uezen” are all Romanian speculative fiction works available in English. But if all of these rang a bell for one reason or another, the news of another Romanian writer being published in English seemed to come out of nowhere. Out of nowhere for me, because I am certain that there are plenty of people who are not as clueless or oblivious as me to the debut of Şerban Andrei Mazilu. “The Angellove Society: Crux” was released last month by WheelMan Press in both physical and electronic editions, it is the first installment in a trilogy and the debut novel of Şerban Andrei Mazilu. The interesting thing about “The Angellove Society: Crux” is that the novel is not available in Romanian and despite of a series of short stories written so far by Şerban Andrei Mazilu he makes his full debut in English. Nothing wrong with it, the Romanian book market is a very strange beast and the speculative fiction niche stranger still. I can only wish him the best and while doing so I am off to get me a copy of the novel and start reading it as soon as possible.

Şerban Andrei Mazilu lives in Constanţa, was born on 11th February 1983 and he is a navy officer. He studied for two years at the Romanian-Canadian University of Journalism in Brașov, the courses of the Ovidius University in Constanţa, specializing in technical engineering and welding, and between 2004 and 2009 he enrolled at the Maritime Academy, to become a deck officer in the commercial navy. He blogs at The Cat Factor.

 “The Angellove Society: Crux” might not be available in Romanian yet, but it will have a book launch in Bucharest on 9th February at Trinity College Pub where readers can meet the author, watch the book trailer in premiere and get signed copies of the novel. More information about Şerban Andrei Mazilu’s “The Angellove Society: Crux” can be found on the publisher’s website or on the book’s Facebook page.

The mysterious planet Crux suffers silently with a terrible ancient curse. Holy entities and scheming lords of Hell manipulate their children like pawns in an agonizingly long game of chess, while the first Cherub Innanna, creator of the realm and savior of the Nephalem, is shackled inside a pocket dimension in eternal exile. Meanwhile a savior – the mysterious Nilithar - is summoned to Crux.
The events to follow haven’t caught only the attention of the Cruxians, but the Angellove Society’s as well. The fabled group investigates the ancient prophecy through Thomas and Andrew, a powerful half-vampire and a mage of unthinkable potential, who travel across galaxies to find the girl.
Forces beyond imagination will clash in an epic battle of Light versus Darkness, as Crux changes not only its landscape, but its inhabitants as well, and the strangest and most unlikely of heroes will rise and stand against complete annihilation.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Interview with Kaaron Warren

Kaaron Warren is an Australian writer currently living in Canberra. She made her debut with a collection of short stories, “The Grinding House”, in 2005. Since then Kaaron Warren has published three more collection of stories, “The Glass Woman” (2007), “Dead Sea Fruit” (2010), “Through Splintered Walls” (2012), and three novels, “Slights” (2009), “Mistification” (2010) and “Walking the Tree” (2010). Her stories were nominated in numerous occasions for awards such as Aurealis, Australian Shadow Award or Ditmar Award and won the Aurealis Award in 1999 for “A Positive”, the Ditmar Award in 2006 for both short story, “Fresh Young Widow”, and novella/novelette, “The Grinding House”, and the ACT (Australian Capital Territory) Writing and Publishing Award for fiction, “The Grinding House”. Her novel “Slights” also won the Canberra Critics Circle Award.

Interview – Kaaron Warren (initially published in Revista de suspans)

Mihai A.: Kaaron, thank you very much for the opportunity of this interview.
I guess that every author, at some point of her/his life, wished to become a writer, so may I ask instead why did you wish to become a writer? What made you decide to share your stories with other people?
Kaaron Warren: I was a writer from the moment I could put words to paper. At school, even a set of spelling words (outlaw, grandfather, sleeve, print, stop, helicopter, prison) would inspire a story. I loved reading from an early age and everything I read gave me ideas for my own stories.
Sharing my stories came from the same instinct as writing them. I had a heated discussion with someone at a party the other day, about whether or not an audience is important for art. I believe the audience is part of the process, that it isn’t complete unless someone has read the story, or seen the artwork, or heard the piece of music. I think creation should be shared, and that the sharing makes it whole.
Of course, making that happen isn’t always easy!

Mihai A.: Is writing based on talent exclusively or is a skill that can be trained? Does the writing talent require training as well?
Kaaron Warren: I agree with Stephen King, who says that with training and hard work a poor writer can become a good writer and a good writer can become a great writer. He also says that a genius is a genius and no one can learn to be that!
I definitely think that training and practice help. But you have to be open to change, to criticism, and to the understanding that you can always improve. There are some who believe their work is perfect as it stands, and these are the writers who probably won’t be improved by training because they don’t want to change, don’t believe they need to.

Mihai A.: How much of an author writing is influenced by her/his experience as a reader? To what point are these influences beneficial for a writer?
Kaaron Warren: This would differ on an individual basis. For me, I am in part influenced by my reading in a numbers of ways. I might be inspired with ideas if reading a good fiction or non-fiction book. I might be inspired by beautiful, inventive prose to work harder, work better. William Golding is one who inspires me this way. He writes fiction that is outside the considered ways of writing. He doesn’t always have a clear narrative flow, he rarely has contrived tension, and yet I adore his work.
I might be inspired by bad writing, bad plotting, a dull story, to avoid these mistakes!
So I think that all reading is beneficial to the writer in one way or another. It certainly doesn’t hurt.
Interestingly though, if I am deep in writing a novel or short story, I find it hard to read fiction. I can only settle with non-fiction. I think it’s because the fiction distracts me, whereas the non-fiction can inform whatever it is I’m working on.

MA: Who are the authors and which books influenced your writing career?
KW: S.E. Hinton. The Outsiders.
Enid Blyton. The Famous Five books.
Agatha Christie. In particular And Then There Were None.
Ray Bradbury. Everything.
Harlan Ellison. Everything, but in particular A Boy and his Dog and The Whimper of Whipped Dogs.
Daphne du Maurier. Rebecca.
Kurt Vonnegut. Everything.
Celia Fremlin. Everything.
William Vollman. You Bright and Risen Angels.
Edgar Allan Poe. Everything.
William Golding. Everything.
Dylan Thomas. Under Milkwood.
Jessamyn West. Night Piece for Julia
Shirley Jackson. Everything.
Stephen King. Everything, especially The Shining and The Stand.
George Orwell. 1984
Georges Perec. Life, a User’s Manual.

MA: Your first short story was published in 1993, if I am not mistaken, while your first novel was released sixteen years later. Do you see yourself more as a short fiction writer? Are you more comfortable writing shorter fiction rather than longer stories?
KW: I love both. They are so different in their own ways. With short stories, I can express the thought more quickly. But with novels, I can explore so much history, and background, and character behavior.
I like to work on both at the same time. Partly because this saves me cramming all my ideas into a novel!

MA: How much does the experience as a short story writer can help improve the creation of a novel or a longer fiction? What about the other way around?
KW: Short stories train you to remove superfluous words, and I think that’s important in a novel as well.
The story telling is different, though. In a short story, only the elements that are important to taking the story forward make the cut, usually. In a novel, at least in the novels I love the most, there can be sidetracks and explorations. A perfect example of this is Georges Perec’s Life, a User’s Manual.

MA: Although plenty of mediums exist for the short stories do you think that this particular form of fiction fails to attract the same attention as the novels? Do you believe that short stories still have a future?
KW: Short stories don’t get the same attention. A lot of readers dismiss the short story, I think because they want to engage for a longer period of time. They feel as if they are absorbed in a story that finishes too soon! Those are comments I’ve heard, anyway.
However, there are many people, such as myself, who adore the short story. So I do believe there is a future. There are so many mediums, as you say. So many markets, so many ways to present the short story.
I think the short fiction form is important for expressing ideas that may be absorbed in a longer piece. Also, in short fiction you can focus on one single point, whereas in a novel you shouldn’t ever do this.

MA: Although of the same language, the English market of speculative fiction seems occupied mostly by the British or American writers. Is it difficult for an Australian author to break into this market? Are there any particular challenges in reaching the wider audience of this market?
KW: Distance does make a difference, though far less now than in the past, of course. I can’t get to many American or British conventions, which is a shame. Can’t get to readings, all that. You do make connections and contacts at these events, and all this can help to bring your name up when editors and publishers are making decisions.
That said, with the way our world is connected now, I think that if you write good fiction, you will be noticed and you will be able to break into the market.

MA: I dislike when good literature is catalogued one way or the other, but when it comes to genres your writings are labeled mostly as horror. Are you perceived differently as a writer just because you tell horror stories? Do you believe that the horror genre is misunderstood?
KW: This is such a tricky one for me. I am definitely perceived as ‘different’ because I’m a horror writer, and it annoys me in some ways. There are writers who produce books that could easily be classified as horror, but they are classified as mainstream, and therefore people will read them. So I think I can miss readers because of my classification. Readers who, I honestly believe, would get a lot out of my fiction if they gave it a chance!
That said, I am happy to be labeled a horror writer, because I don’t want anyone picking up something of mine and being horrified when they don’t want to be. I don’t write gentle fiction, and I don’t write feelgood stories. So I don’t mind disclosing that my stories are not a pleasant read.
As for whether the genre is misunderstood, that’s a two-way thing. Firstly, it is misunderstood, because there is a lot of excellent horror fiction out there, that breaks well out of the usual slasher/violence/monsters sort of boundaries.
However, there is still a lot of stuff that remains within those boundaries. I don’t have a problem with that; there is a good readership for that kind of horror. It’s not the kind I like to read or write, but it is very popular.

MA: Speaking of genres, your second novel, “Walking the Tree”, sees a certain departure from the themes and approach of the previous ones, “Slights” and “Mistification”. Do you like to experiment with different genres? What other genres would you like to approach in the future?
KW: Having said above that I don’t mind being classified as a horror writer, I don’t ever really set out to write a particular genre of story. I like to switch, I like to mix. One of the reasons I write speculative fiction, rather than non-fiction or ‘reality’ fiction, is that I love to be able to play with truth, reality, past, present, future. I love that almost anything is possible if you write it well enough.
There are often elements of crime in my stories, and in fact I was published early on in three women’s crime anthologies, all with odd, spec fic type stories.

MA: “Walking the Tree” was inspired in part by your living experience in Fiji. How did the places you live in and visit influence your writings? What perspectives can such experiences offer for a writer?
KW: I am always inspired by my environment. It’s the sights, sounds, smells. The events. The words I hear, what makes the local news, what people talk about in a shopping queue. It’s the food, the weather, how the ground feels. All of this adds texture to all I write.
In Fiji, I wrote “Walking the Tree”, as well as a number of very Fiji-inspired stories.
“Cooling The Crows” was inspired by the mounds of old cars that seemed to grow organically in a couple of places along the main highway in Viti Levu.
“The Edge of a Thing” was inspired by, amongst other things, a Fijian wedding where an elderly woman collapsed.
“Green” was inspired by the so-called haunted trees of Fiji, whose branches reach out like fingers.
 “Ghost Jail” was inspired by a set of flats in Suva, which had long since been condemned, but which were still inhabited.
“The Coral Gatherer” was inspired by a stay in a resort, where there was so much coral on the sand we couldn’t walk. Pieces looked blood stained, and bone-like.
“The Gaze Dogs of Nine Waterfall” was inspired by Colo-i-Suva, a waterfall in Suva, which carries warnings of various kinds.
“That Girl” was inspired by some of the institutions in Suva, including the Mental Hospital and the Jail.
Then I moved back to Canberra, and was inspired by the Australian landscape and how it seemed to my fresh eyes.
“Road” was inspired by the road-side memorials to accident victims.
“Mountain” was inspired by the Clyde Mountain, which all Canberrans know well, because you need to travel over it to get to the coast.
“Creek” was inspired by all the creek names you see as you travel our country.
“Sky” was inspired by many things, including the signs to country towns with ever-decreasing populations.
Living away from your own country in particular gave me a far better understanding of my own identity as an Australian, because you are there amongst so many people from different cultures and backgrounds. It’s an amazing lesson in tolerance, understanding, acceptance and more. Even things like breakfast; we all have our own idea of what is ‘normal’ for breakfast, and this differs vastly! And no breakfast is better than any other.

MA: In a series of posts on your blog, “Refreshing the Wells”, the readers can see the various sources of inspiration for your stories. When do you feel that a certain idea can be turned into a story? Does it happen sometimes not to find any suitable ideas around your sources of inspiration?
KW: Someone asked me this in person a couple of days ago. “How do you know when an idea can become a story?”
It is an interesting question. You don’t know until you sit down and try to write it. I have hundreds and hundreds of ideas noted down, and only a few of those will become stories.
Usually, it will be when two or more ideas coalesce. Or when I read something which makes a story click. For example, I recently read a story in the New Yorker about a famous dry cleaner, and that clicked something into place for the story I was working on.
It often happens that those ideas won’t be used. But even writing them down is part of the process.

MA: Most of your stories are deeply layered with psychological elements. Is the psychological aspect more important than the supernatural one for a horror story? Are you inclined to favor one element or the other in your writings?
KW: I think both are important. I layer with psychology because I want my characters and my stories to be believable. I want readers to be drawn into the centre of it all, to really feel as if it is possible.
I love the supernatural elements, too, though. Because the idea that a ghost may be over my shoulder watching is terrifying!

MA: Because you play so well the psychological elements in your stories they have as main protagonists clearly defined characters. How important are the characters for you? Are there any autobiographical details finding their way in the characters you create?
KW: Characters are vital, the most important thing. When I was first writing, I often started with a character sheet. My first novel, written at 14, began that way. I’ll answer lots of questions about them, including schooling, physical scars, all those sorts of things. So that they are set in my mind.
These days it comes more naturally, because I think I run those character sheets in my head more easily! That said, at times, if I feel that something isn’t working, I’ll go back to my character sheets and answer all the questions.
There are no IMPORTANT autobiographical details in my characters, but small things do sneak in! My husband, when he reads a story, will say, “Oh, I remember when you saw that,” or “Yep, I know where that is.”
In my novel “Slights”, the primary school scenes are very much inspired by my own memories of childhood. I had my own school in mind as I described certain scenes.
I try to keep myself out of the actual characters, and that can be hard, especially when it comes to things like food and musical taste. I have to actively choose things to suit my character, not myself!

MA: Your short story “A-Positive” was turned into a well received short movie. How did you feel to see your fiction brought to life on the screen? Was your presence as screenwriter important for the movie to be on an accurate concordance with the short story that inspired it?
KW: Amazing to see it on screen! And shocking at the same time. I watched it for the first time and I thought, “Wow, that is sick. I really did write a nasty, sick, horrible story.” Of course I knew that, but seeing it on screen exaggerated the feeling.
I wrote the first draft of the screenplay, because I wanted to try to keep it true to the story. Michael Cove at Bearcage Productions wrote the final screenplay, and we’ve had some really interesting discussions about the differences in writing for screen and page.
One thing for me was that writing the story as a screenplay made me look at it from a different angle and that was fascinating. Also, the story is very internal and we didn’t want a lot, if any, of voice over. So it was tricky to depict things without the character narrating them.

MA: What other of your stories would you like to see turned into a movie? If it were possible who are the actors or actresses you would like to see play your characters?
KW: I’d love to see many of them! “The Grinding House” novella would be a fantastic movie, I think. “Slights” would, too. For “Slights”, my dream actor would be Radha Mitchell.

MA: You were nominated and won several awards so far and you also have been a juror for Australian Shadow Award and Shirley Jackson Awards, next year a jury member of the Bram Stoker Award. In a solitary art such as writing are the awards the perfect encouragement for an author? How important are such awards for the improvement of a writer?
KW: Awards are a great encouragement, because they tell you that you are doing something right. Of course, not making the shortlist doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong! It just means that for those judges, your story didn’t make the shortlist.
I don’t know that awards improve the writer, but they definitely improve awareness of the writer. When you make shortlists, your name becomes better known.

MA: Is it difficult to judge the works of other authors? Is this another form of criticism?
KW: I try to take of my author’s hat and put on my reader’s hat when judging. Because otherwise I’d be looking at how I would have written it, rather than how they have written it.
I guess it is a form of criticism, isn’t it? You are saying, I like/don’t like this for these reasons.

MA: Looking over this year’s Shirley Jackson Awards list of nominees I’ve noticed some very interesting and pleasantly surprising presences. What do you believe to be the true measure of an author or his works: popularity, sale numbers or writing quality?
KW: Writing quality, number one by far. I hate crappy writing. I really hate it. It wastes my time and it annoys me that it is in print!
Popularity and sales numbers are what keeps you in print, so they are important for those reasons. But they can come for so many different reasons, outside your own control, I think. So they are not the ‘measure’ of an author, but more a measure of how the author is promoted, and how word of mouth travels, and all that stuff. I love it when a brilliant work is recognized.

MA: At what are you working at the moment and what future projects do you have?
KW: Always lots on the go! I’m working on a novel, and about five short stories for various places. As a hint, my obsessions at the moment are: Saturn (planet and god), lighthouses, sea forts, dolls, last things, bread, rocking chairs, birds, institutions, dementia, crime and punishment, the year 1827 and immortality.
My latest story in print is a Zombie versus Robots story in Women on War!

Thank you very much for your time and answers.

Kaaron Warren can be found at She tweets @KaaronWarren