Today I am interviewing Kaaron Warren, author of the new horror novel, Into Bones Like Oil.
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DJ: Hi Kaaron! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Kaaron Warren: I’m an Australian writer of short and long fiction. I grew up in Melbourne, but I’ve also lived in Sydney, Fiji and Canberra. I wanted to be a writer from the start, as soon as I learned how to read. This is my bio:
Shirley Jackson award-winner Kaaron Warren 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 published five multi-award winning novels (Slights, Walking the Tree, Mistification, The Grief Hole and Tide of Stone) and seven short story collections, including the multi-award winning Through Splintered Walls. Her most recent short story collection is A Primer to Kaaron Warren from Dark Moon Books. Tide of Stone recently won the Aurealis Award and the Australian Shadows Award, and was shortlisted for the Locus Award and the Ditmar Award. She has won the ACT Writers and Publishers Award four times and twice been award the Canberra Critics Circle Award for Fiction.
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 second hand clothing shops and she’s mentored several writers through a number of programs.
DJ: What is Into Bones Like Oil about?
Kaaron: The novella is set in a rooming house, the sort of place where people live for a few years or a few months. The Angelsea sits above a beach, looking over the site of a long-ago shipwreck, and the building is haunted by the people who drowned at sea. The main character, Dora, has left her life behind after a terrible tragedy. She is driven by grief and guilt; these things direct everything she does. The ghosts and the living inhabitants connect in ways that will cause irreparable damage.
DJ: What were some of your influences for Into Bones Like Oil?
Kaaron: This story came from many, many places and has been percolating for a long time. I stayed in a rooming house in Melbourne about 25 years ago and was fascinated by the daily routines, and by the relationships that formed in the dining room and the hallways. I was struck by how transient many people are in life, how we are who we say we are in new places where others don’t know us.
I also gathered stories of disappearances and murders where a rooming house was mentioned. “Last seen near…” There are quite a number of these. I’ve always been fascinated in the possibility of ghosts, and of messages from the ‘other side’. The possibility of absolute proof of an afterlife is interesting, and I like to explore that in different ways.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them?
Kaaron: Dora is the main character. She has suffered a terrible tragedy and is a ghost of her former self. As this is a horror novella, there is less need to have a likeable character but I still want people to sympathise with Dora. I want them to feel her trauma, and to understand her actions. She has lived a very steady life, and when she moves into the rooming house she wants to explore other ways of behaving, so she opens herself up to the other characters in a way she hasn’t before. All the other characters are really in her orbit; Luke, her lover, the first man she has slept with since her husband, Ray, the manager, who is creepy in the extreme but attentive to her and therefore of interest.
DJ: Aside from the main characters in the story, who is a favorite side character or a character with a smaller role for in story? Why?
Kaaron: I really like all of the side characters. They all bring something to the story and most of them came from observations I’ve made, small snippets of conversations. I think my favourite is Freesia because she’s based on the real person, who has died. She called herself a different name but she had that same desperate desire to be seen as free, wearing no shoes during winter and wild hippy clothes, but she was as trapped as everybody else in her behaviours. I feel really sad that she died, even though I didn’t know her at all, and I’m glad I could save a part of her in this story.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing Into Bones Like Oil?
Kaaron: Bringing all of the elements together that I’ve had brewing for a long time, especially the broad range of characters who somehow became friends in the novella.
Being able to explore my own maternal fears for my children, recapturing those early days when you had to keep them alive!
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Kaaron: Atmosphere is really important in this story, because to create a haunted house you need to build a sense of discomfort, make the reader see shadows.
Hopefully readers will also be talking about the ghosts, and how they communicate, because that is pretty creepy and gives me nightmares to think about!
Here’s a small example:
“It was Freesia, talking in her sleep. But Dora could hear a tick tick tick in her ears, her blood beating, and she could smell a saltiness in the air, she was sure, and if she looked hard, tilted her head, he was there.
He was there.
Half-naked, his hair knotted with seaweed and rotted matter, he bent over Freesia and whispered to her. His fingers were half bitten off, half broken.”
DJ: Did you have a particular goal when you began writing Into Bones Like Oil? Was there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across when readers finish it? Or is there perhaps a certain theme to the story?
Kaaron: I wanted to explore guilt and how it affects our lives going forward. Those moments in the middle of the night when you’re haunted by something you’ve said or done.
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from Into Bones Like Oil that you can share with us?
Kaaron: This is a tricky one! A good question, but hard to answer. I quite like this quote, which I think sums up the rooming house itself:
“What’s a man like you doing in a place like this?” she said, instantly regretting it. No past, no future, just the present. In her real self, her real life, she wouldn’t even contemplate sleeping with him. But here, time was contracted. Relationships would form and fall apart quickly.”
DJ: Now that Into Bones Like Oil is released, what is next for you?
Kaaron: I have two novellas coming from Cemetery Dance (one a reprint, one an original). I have a story in Sisterhood, an anthology from Chaosium https://www.chaosium.com/blogchaosium-announces-fiction-program-relaunch/
I have a reprint story (The Gaze Dog of Nine Waterfall) in a charity anthology called Black Dogs, Black Tales
Meanwhile, I’m finishing my next novel and starting on another, and working on stories galore. So many ideas, so little time!
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Kaaron-Warren/e/B003VNFAD0%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share
Facebook: Kaaron Warren
Twitter: Kaaron Warren
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
Kaaron: Thank you so much for inviting me to be a part of MyLife My Books My Escape!
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***Into Bones Like Oil is published by Meerkat Press and is available TODAY!!!***
Buy the Book:
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About the Book:
In this gothic-styled ghost story that simmers with strange, Warren shows once again her flair for exploring the mundane—themes of love, loss, grief, and guilt manifest in a way that is both hauntingly familiar and eerily askew.
People come to The Angelsea, a rooming house near the beach, for many reasons. Some come to get some sleep, because here, you sleep like the dead. Dora arrives seeking solitude and escape from reality. Instead, she finds a place haunted by the drowned and desperate, who speak through the sleeping inhabitants. She fears sleep herself, terrified that the ghosts of her daughters will tell her “it’s all your fault we’re dead.” At the same time, she’d give anything to hear them one more time.
About the Author:
Kaaron Warren has been publishing ground-breaking fiction for over twenty years. Her novels and short stories have won over 20 awards, from local literary to international genre. She writes horror steeped in awful reality, with ghosts, hauntings, guilt, loss, love, crime, punishment and a lack of hope.