by Kaaron Warren.
Kaaron Warren’s critically-acclaimed – and award-winning – debut novel Slights is arguably the best horror novel of the year. Here, Kaaron tells us about how it all started…
Slights is the story of a young woman who sees the afterlife as a place where anyone she’s ever slighted is waiting in a dark room to take a piece of her.
I wrote it as a short story first but was frustrated trying to cram all I wanted to say into 3000 words. The more I wrote, the stronger Stevie became as a character and the more she wanted to say. Once I started telling the stories of the people she slights, the novel grew and grew. I wanted to tell those stories, though. I knew that every body in the room had a voice.
In the process, I ended up telling a far deeper story than I first intended. I wanted to think about the possibility that we each choose our own version of hell; I ended up with Stevie, a character who seems to resonate with people even though most think she’s awful.
I wrote the first draft of Slights in something of a frenzy. The local government gave me a small grant, enough for me to take leave without pay from my office job and write for three months.
That’s all I had.
At the same time I wrote a short story “The Speaker of Heaven” which tells an opposite story. The main character can tell the sort of heaven a person will go to if she touches them as they die. So just as in Slights, everyone creates their own hell, in The Speaker of Heaven everyone creates their own heaven. Even the serial killer of young women, the centre of much protest, has his own place to go.
It was a crazy couple of months. My first dedicated period of writing, and this was before I had children so there was nothing else I had to worry about. I wrote until my fingers ached, until my head hurt and I was so happy. Sometimes I wrote in front of the cricket on TV; I found I could look up and be distracted but not for very long, and the comforting voices of the commentators somehow helped me think.
I still remember a friend who is no longer one calling me when I was mere pages away from finishing. She wanted to tell me how awful her day had been. To this woman, awful meant if the light had turned red against her and only four people told her she looked fabulous.
“Can I call you back? I’m about to write The End on my 100,000 word novel,” I said, thinking I’d get at least a “Wow, you’re amazing!”
“If that’s what you think is important,” she said, and hung up.
Yes, you boring woman with your bright red lipstick and your too-loud laugh, it is.
This article first appeared in Robot Legion #1 – the Angry Robot monthly newsletter. Sign up here.
Slights is available from all good booksellers – both online and in meatspace – in the USA and Canada.