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Episode 20 – Author’s choice

Kaaron Warren

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This episode I am joined by award-winning horror writer Kaaron Warren.

Kaaron is a Shirley Jackson award-winning Australian author who published her first short story in 1993. Her short stories and novels have won Australian Shadows Awards, Ditmar Awards and Aurealis Awards. She has published 5 multi-award winning novels, her debut Slights, Walking the Tree, Mistification, The Grief Hole and Tide of Stone. Her most recent novella is a gothic-styled ghost story, Into Bones Like Oil, which has been shortlisted for a Shirley Jackson Award, the Bram Stoker Award and the Aurealis Award.

Kaaron chatted with me about writing across genres, finding the humour in horror, embodying characters and being inspired by the stories behind an object. And she recommended some pretty awesome books too!

The pairings:

Mapp and Lucia by E. F. Benson

A series of novels about Emmeline “Lucia” Lucas and Elizabeth Mapp, the stories are a subtly brilliant comedy of social rivalry between the wars, featuring humorous incidents in the lives of (mainly) upper-middle-class British people in the 1920s and 1930s, vying for social prestige and one-upmanship in an atmosphere of extreme cultural snobbery.

Emmeline Lucas (known universally to her friends as Lucia) is an arch-snob of the highest order. In Miss Elizabeth Mapp of Mallards Lucia meets her match. Ostensibly the most civil and genteel of society ladies, there is no plan too devious, no plot too cunning, no depths to which they would not sink, in order to win the battle for social supremacy. Using as their deadly weapons garden parties, bridge evenings and charming teas, the two combatants strive to outcharm each other – and the whole of Tilling society – as they vie for the position of doyenne of the town.

Kaaron loves this series but particularly this story (#4) as it is full of funny, beautiful and yet somewhat nasty characters! She would pair it with Lobster a la Riseholme – a secret recipe known only to the character Lucia – and a nice glass of sherry 🙂

The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley

Set in a bleak strip of coastline in the north west of England in the 1970s, this is the story of two brothers who accompany their parents and members of their parish on a pilgrimage one Easter. The novel is narrated by one of the brothers from a point in the far future. He recalls the pilgrimage of that Easter in the 1970s and wants to record what happened because a body has recently been found in the area that they visited. He feels a fierce sense of protection over his brother who he nicknames Hanny. As boys they were incredibly close because Hanny was mute up until that Easter and they shared a special communication. However, the boys’ mother Esther (who the narrator refers to as Mummer) is determined to cure Hanny’s muteness by appealing to God and puts him through a series of ardent prayers and rituals to cure him.

Kaaron couldn’t recommend this tense and gloomy, yet according to her, hilarious, novel and the compelling questions it raises about faith, life’s meaning and family. She suggests pairing it with a slow-cooked stew and buckets of tea. When questioned she confirmed no human bits are to be used in the stew! 

Justine’s pairing:

 Body-snatching has never been so heartwarming . . .

Our hero, Professor Andrew Martin, is dead before the book even begins. As it turns out, though, he wasn’t a very nice man–as the alien imposter who now occupies his body discovers. Sent to Earth to destroy evidence that Andrew had solved a major mathematical problem, the alien soon finds himself learning more about the professor, his family, and “the humans” than he ever expected. When he begins to fall for his own wife and son–who have no idea he’s not the real Andrew–the alien must choose between completing his mission and returning home or finding a new home right here on Earth.

I loved this book and read it in one sitting! Dryly funny, irreverent and heartwarming this is a story which will stick with you and remind you what it is to be human. I recommend a lovely, dry yet fruity red wine to go with this book – something easily sippable / drinkable so you can pay attention to this great read!


This episode of Literary Elixirs was recorded via Zoom, please forgive any minor technical glitches!    

Into/Outro music is Mosquito Mojito by Rachel K. Collier. Sourced from Free Music Archive under a Creative Commons Licence.