Watch out for the give-away question at the end of the interview.
Q: You lived in Fiji for three years. How did this come about? And do you find living in Fiji has influence your writing?
My husband was posted there as part of the diplomatic service, so we felt a bit ordinary when we came back! I was hugely influenced by Fiji in my writing; the environment, the people, the history, the culture, the shopping, the food, all of it was so different to life in Australia.
The thing is, coming back to Australia has inspired me as well. The stories I’ve written over the last 18 months have been hugely inspired by the Australian landscape. The rivers, the country towns, the suburbia and the winding roads you travel.
Q: I see you’ve sold around 70 short stories (three collections: The Grinding House, The Glass Woman, Dead Sea Fruit (coming soon from Ticonderoga Publications). Would you say the short story is your natural length? Or do you feel equally comfortable writing novel length?
Both. Some stories are naturally short stories, others require far more exploration. I really love both things and love that I can write short and long.
Q: Your stories have been described as dark and disturbing. Are you a secret dark fiction (horror) fan? Does this mean you have the kind of dreams that make you wake up with vivid images and the echoes of a scream reverberating around in your head?
I love reading horror stories, but not the slash and burn kind. I also love the best crime stories, the ones that are full of horror.
I’m not such a fan of most horror movies.
I don’t have nightmares all that often; not the sleeping kind. My horrors come from hearing the news, reading the papers and magazines, from listening to the stories people tell, from watching my elderly neighbour be locked up against her will in a dementia ward.
Q: Your mantle-piece must be getting very crowded with the swag of Ditmar and Aurealis Awards you’ve won, since way back in 1996. What do you think goes into an award winning story?
Originality of idea and voice. Sharpness and clarity. A real story. Characters you can believe in.
Q: You sold three dark fiction books to Angry Robot. That must have been a real buzz when the news came through. Slights appears to revolve around death and the afterlife. What inspired you to write this book?
It was an amazing moment, to read the email from Marc Gascoigne telling me he was buying all three novels. I had to ask my husband to read it, because I thought I was dreaming!
My concept of the afterlife in Slights is that you create your own hell by the way you behave on Earth. This was inspired very clearly by the Hare Krsna concept of hell; that your personal hell is designated by the things you do. If you are a drinker, or a meat eater, or a philanderer, a very certain hell awaits you.
Q: Walking the Tree is your second book. Even after reading the blurb I find it hard to pin down the genre. What theme are you exploring with this book?
It’s quite an anthropological theme. I wanted to understand how much difference geography makes; how being born ten kilometres apart can make two people have very different lives.
I also explored the concept of the network; how everything connects.
Then there’s the idea of women in control; women the ones who leave. They are the ones who make the major life choices. I wanted to explore how this would affect people.
I also thought about the need to go home, the draw for home at the end of one’s life. I wondered what it would be like not to have this.
In doing this, I had to change my own perceptions. I had to understand that in the world of Botanica, leaving is important; saying goodbye is a natural thing.
Q: Your latest book is Mistification. It looks like dark urban fantasy. Can you tell us a little about it?
It’s the story of Marvo, a true magician. He’s born in a strange room, in silence, and for the first four years of his life he doesn’t speak. He has no opportunity to go to school. Once he leaves this childhood home, he listens to stories, and he learns from all he knows from them.
I think Angry Robot would classify it in their category of WTF!
Q: I was prompted to start this series of interviews because there seems to be a perception in the US and the UK that fantasy is a bit of a boy’s club. Do you think there’s a difference in the way males and females write fantasy?
I’m not sure that there is. I don’t think I can pick a writer’s gender from their writing, unless they deliberately choose to write in a particular way.
Q: Following on from that, does the gender of the writer change your expectations when you pick up their book?
Not at all. I do read some books totally on spec, but most books are either by friends, or have come recommended, so I’m dealing with those expectations instead!
I’d love to be able to solve a couple of long term murder cases! It would be hard to pick which one. I guess Jack the Ripper is a major one I’d love to know the answer to. But I’d also love to know what happened to the Beaumont Children, and to Eloise (another young girl who disappeared when I was about 7). I still have nightmares about all those kids, and feel such sorrow for the families not knowing.
What’s your favourite bricks and mortar bookshop?
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Follow Kaaron on Twitter: @KaaronWarren