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March 16, 2012 / schulerbooks

Schuler Author Spotlight: Australian Horror Author Kaaron Warren

This week’s author spotlight hails all the way from Australia. Fanged Fiction, our Lansing store’s horror reading group, picked Kaaron Warren’s debut novel Slights as the March selection, and,  in a first for us, the author is going to be Skype-ing into the meeting! Fanged Fiction is open to anyone, so feel free to come “meet” Kaaron at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 26.

Slights was released in Australia/UK in 2009, and in the U.S. in fall of 2010, earning tons of praise, including a starred review in Publishers Weekly. Kaaron’s post shares some of her favorite books, which made it into the plot of Slights:

In Slights, one of the characters is Aunt Jessie, who is a librarian. She’s a conflicted woman who feels helpless to change the world around her, so she writes the truth as she sees it in the margins of the library books in her care.

When the book launched in 2009, I spoke in my livejournal about the books I chose for her to write in and why. This is an edited version. Mixed in are descriptions of life in Fiji, where I was living at the time.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

I’ve often spoken of this book as one of my favorites. It’s certainly my most re-read. The first time was when I was in Year 6. Maybe 11 years old. I had my mum’s good copy; one of those faux-leather bound ones, with gold leaf. I took it to school in a plastic bag to keep it clean and read it every opportunity I got.

The moments of revelation (particularly one in the boat house) still chill me and make me feel ill. I’ve also spoken before about the physical reaction I sometimes get to fiction which moves me. It’s a sense of something lying in my stomach. Sometimes it’s a specific food, sometimes it’s just a feeling of heaviness.

The way the main character is never named is so clever and so right. She is so much a product of the people around her that she barely has a character of her own, and that’s one way the novel works so well. It’s not a gimmick at all but a real part of the story-telling process.

The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce

This is the stuff I find funny. I don’t find Terry Pratchett funny at all, although I’ve tried. I can see how it’s meant to be funny, but it doesn’t make me laugh.

But this?

“KINDNESS, n. A brief preface to ten volumes of exaction.”

Wonderful. I’m reading Vile Bodies, by Evelyn Waugh at the moment, and I have the same reaction. I want to laugh all the time and my face aches while reading.

 In the Wet by Nevil Shute

Australian Writer Nevil Shute is one of my favorite authors, though I often forget to mention him. In the Wet is surprising book, though I won’t say how.  It’s actually a novel which influenced my writing, in the way he presents the story and draws us in.

Random Harvest by James Hilton

I chose this novel over Goodbye, Mr Chips for the same reason I chose The Growth of the Central Bank: To distance myself from the selection.

Goodbye, Mr Chips is another of my favorite novels. I tear up at the first page and continue that way throughout. I’m a real sucker for teacher stories for some reason. I’m not a teacher myself; in no way gifted like that. But I love the idea of teachers inspiring students to great things.

Bless This House by Norah Lofts (currently out of print)

 With this one, I went back to my favorites. I adore this novel and have read it maybe a dozen times. Growing up I was a voracious reader, and even weekly visits to the library didn’t cover my need for words. I read my parents’ books over and over, this being one of them.

In it, Queen Elizabeth gives Thomas Rowhedge the Merravay estate, and we follow the fortunes of the family and the house through centuries

Lofts, like Du Maurier, is a greatly underrated author these days. She wrote both historical and crime fiction in a sharp, honest way. No illusions about the triumph of the human spirit.

The Day it Rained Forever by Ray Bradbury (currently out of print)

 At Conflux (the Canberra, Australia Science Fiction Convention) a couple of years ago, Ray Bradbury was a virtual guest. It was amazing to hear him speak. He sounded so ordinary, but then not so. He was a little bit bored with the questions, but very polite. Irritated talking about a movie of …was it “Something Wicked This Way Comes”?

He has long been the author I use to push me to write fiction that isn’t ordinary. He and William Golding use words with such originality yet such clarity. They don’t play with style and substance for the sake of experiment, they do it for the sake of the story-telling and the overall feeling of a piece.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

 It took two or three attempts to get into this book, but once I broke through the barrier I absolutely loved it. It helped that this was the book I moved to Fiji with, so I had it as my sole book for about two weeks until our stuff arrived. I loved the style, the story and all of it, though I still find the beginning a bit hard to get through. It’s a rewarding book for me because these days I often don’t persevere.

Immaterial by Robert Hood (Currently out of print)

This collection of ghost stories by Australian Rob Hood is both chilling and heart-breaking. Rob can create characters you care a lot about and has the kinda brain which puts those characters into unimaginably awful situations! I’ve owned this book three times now, because I keep giving copies away and demanding another from Rob. He is the go-to man on all things horror movie. You wouldn’t believe the stuff he knows about giant monsters and snakes. The only thing I’ll say bad about him is that he showed my son a giant snake movie which is still giving the boy nightmares! He has a site called Undead Backbrain, where he lists Evil Doll Movies, Monster Movies, Ghost Movies, Zombie Movies and all sorts of mean, nasty, ugly stuff. (Sorry; that last bit came into my head because I’ve been listening to “Alice’s Restaurant”. If you’ve heard it you’ll know what I mean. If you haven’t heard it, you should. It’s bloody brilliant.)

If you want to read more, the original posts start here.

By the way, while doing a quick check to make sure ‘marginalia’ was the word I was looking for, I was reminded of this site: Found Magazine. Things found in library books, old sewing patterns, on the floor, hidden in a bush. All sorts of story ideas in there! Great place to look if you’re suffering writer’s block.

Kaaron blogs at http://kaaronwarren.wordpress.com

And is on Twitter @KaaronWarren

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