The Spooky Six Celebrates WIHM with Willow Croft and Kaaron Warren!
I’m from the South, in the United States, originally, so ya’ll know we love nothing more than sitting on porches, swapping stories and drinking sweet tea. For this chill chat with Kaaron Warren, I’ve replaced the sweet tea with Bloody Marys and got filled in on all the latest grapevine gossip from Australia!
(The Spooky Six interviews for the month of March will pay tribute to WIHM–Women In Horror Month!)
Shirley Jackson award-winner Kaaron Warren (she/her) published her first short story in 1993 and has had fiction in print every year since. She was recently given the Peter McNamara Lifetime Achievement Award and was Guest of Honour at World Fantasy 2018, Stokercon 2019 and Geysercon 2019. She has also been Guest of Honour at Conflux in Canberra and Genrecon in Brisbane. She has lived in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra and Fiji, drawing inspiration from every place.
She has published five multi-award winning novels (Slights, Walking the Tree, Mistification, The Grief Hole and Tide of Stone, all now from IFWG) and seven short story collections, including IFWG’s The Gate Theory. Her most recent short story collection is A Primer to Kaaron Warren from Dark Moon Books. Her most recent novella, Into Bones Like Oil (Meerkat Press), was shortlisted for a Shirley Jackson Award and the Bram Stoker Award, winning the Aurealis Award. Her stories have appeared in both Ellen Datlow’s and Paula Guran’s Year’s Best anthologies. Both The Grief Hole and the novella “Sky”, from her collection Through Splintered Walls (Twelfth Planet Press) won all three of the coveted Australian genre awards.
Kaaron was a Fellow at the Museum for Australian Democracy, where she researched prime ministers, artists and serial killers. In 2018 she was Established Artist in Residence at Katharine Susannah Prichard House in Western Australia. She’s taught workshops in haunted asylums, old morgues and secondhand clothing shops and she’s mentored several writers through a number of programs.
Her most recent books include Tool Tales, a chapbook in collaboration with Ellen Datlow (IFWG), and Capturing Ghosts, a writing advice chapbook from Brain Jar Press. 2023 will see publication of two novellas: “The Deathplace Set” in Vandal, from Crystal Lake Publishing, alongside Aaron Dries and J.S. Breukelaar, and Bitters, from Cemetery Dance.
You can find her at
The Deathplace Set, a novella, is part of the Crystal Lake Dark Tide Series. It’s in Vandal: Stories of Damage, with Aaron Dries and JS Breukelaar
My novella Bitters is from Cemetery Dance.
Capturing Ghosts on the Page, a writing chapbook from Brain Jar Press. Winner, Australian Shadows Award.
Tool Tales, where I write tiny stories to match Ellen Datlow’s bizarre tool collection. Shortlisted, Australian Shadows Award.
Into Bones Like Oil. A novella about a haunted rooming house. Shortlisted, Stoker Award, Shirley Jackson Award, winner Aurealis Award, Ditmar Award.
Exploring Dark Short Fiction #2: A Primer to Kaaron Warren. Stories and analysis.
The Grief Hole. Theresa knows how you’re going to die by the ghosts who follow you everywhere. Winner, Australian Shadows Award, Ditmar Award, Aurealis Award.
Cemetery Dance Selects: Kaaron Warren, five curated reprints.
The Gate Theory short story collection from IFWG Australia.
Through Splintered Walls, my series of stories inspired by the Australian Landscape. Part of the Twelve Planet series. It includes my novella Sky, which won the Shirley Jackson Award, the Aurealis Award, the Ditmar Award and the Shadows Award.
The Grinding House short story collection, published by CSFG Publishing. Winner of two Ditmar Awards, Winner of the Canberra Writers’ and Publishers’ Award for Fiction.
The Glass Woman short story collection, published by Prime Books.
Dead Sea Fruit, short collection from Ticonderoga Publications. The cover was shortlisted for a Ditmar award, and the book itself shortlisted for the Aurealis award for Best Collection. It won the Canberra Writers’ and Publishers’ Award for Fiction.
Willow Croft: “Hey, look at that derelict Victorian mansion . . . let’s go explore it!” What’s the most unusual setting you’ve read about in a horror/thriller book, or included in your own creative works?
Kaaron Warren: My most unusual setting is the Time Ball Tower in my novel Tide of Stone. The one that inspired me is in South Australia, but there are others all over the world. Looking a bit like lighthouses, they once helped captains and others at sea calibrate the time once a day. The metal ball sat at the top of the tower, visible to all, and at 1pm precisely (although this time differs in other countries, I believe) the ball drops.
In my novel, the worst criminals are treated so that they can’t die, and are imprisoned in the tower. The ball dropping day, by day, by day, is part of the torture of their existence.
Willow Croft: “It was a dark and stormy night . . .” What are your go-to comfort foods, drinks, or other ways to wind down after a long day (or night) of writing?
Kaaron Warren: Comfort foods: depends on the weather! If it’s hot, I love cheese and crackers sitting on the back porch as evening falls.
Comfort drinks: absolutely a Bloody Mary. I try to sample one every new place I visit, although I like my own the best because I can add the exact right amount of every ingredient. One of the worst I had was in a New York bar, where they were already made in a big jug and cost an absolute fortune.
Other ways to wind down: dinner with friends. Tearing recipes I’ll never cook out of old magazines while watching something simple on TV. Going for a walk, or pedalling along on the exercise bike I found on the side of the road. It isn’t still on the side of the road, let me be clear. It’s in my living room now.
Willow Croft: “Did you hear that noise?” Everyone, even us horror writers, have our night terrors. What is it that frightens you the most?
Kaaron Warren: Loss of loved ones, out of my control, or that I blame myself for. Regret so painful you can barely live with it.
I’m also terrified of enclosed spaces, particularly underground, which would explain why I’ve written so many horror stories set in collapsed mines.
Willow Croft: “I’m sure it was nothing. But I’ll just go outside and check, anyway. Alone. With no weapons.” Have you ever gotten writers’ block? If so, how do you combat it? Do you have certain rituals or practices that help get you into the writing (or creating) mindset?
Kaaron Warren: Writer’s block is a really interesting question. I’ve always got something to write about, but it might not be the thing I’m supposed to be working on. So if I get stuck, I’ll work on something else. It might be something as simple as a page of descriptions, where you can let the words flow without really thinking of what they’re saying. I’ll also go for a walk, which really helps break a drought for me.
I don’t usually use rituals to put me in the right frame of mind to write, although I often think of one song that represents what I’m working on, and I’ll play that over and over to get me into the zone. For example, I’m working on a longer story at the moment and the song “Season of the Witch” really helped me get to the heart of one of the characters.
Willow Croft: “Don’t go into the basement!” Are you an impulsive pantser or a plotter with outlines galore? What other writing/industry advice would you share with your fellow writers & creators?
Kaaron Warren: I’m a bit of both. I know where I want my story to end, and sometimes I’ll have an idea how to get there. Mostly I start writing and see where I end up, although this usually means many pages of notes and dot points and snippets, rather than a proper story to start with.
My advice would be to not worry about the words being perfect, not yet. Get your thoughts onto the page and then you’ve got something to work with.
Willow Croft: “Ring ring!” It’s the middle of the night and the phone mysteriously rings. Which notable writer, or person from history, would be on the other end of the line?
Kaaron Warren: In desperately trying to think of someone no one else will mention, I’m going with Mrs Mottershead, landlady of the Blue Post Inn, Chester, England, 1558. I want to hear her tell the story of how, when the Dean of St Pauls stopped by, boasting that the box he held contained a special commission from the Queen to ‘lash the heretics of Ireland’. Mrs Mottershead, somehow, swapped that commission for a pack of cards, and the Dean didn’t notice until he opened it at the end of his travels. Instead of permission to kill the Irish, instead there was that pack of cards. I want to hear her tell this story, and let her know how much I admire her bravery.
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“Bringer of Nightmares and Storms.” Horror writer Willow Croft is usually lurking deep in the shadows of her writer cave, surrounded by formerly feral (but still fierce!) cats for company. Visit her here: http://willowcroft.blog, or check out her other services here: https://kirsten-lee-barger.mailchimpsites.com/.