Ren Warom is a writer of strange things, not known for an ability to fit into boxes of any description. Published by Titan books and BFS award winning Fox Spirit Books. Mum to three spawn, slave to several cats, writing and editing obsessive and general all round weirdo. Currently studying an MA in Film and Television: Research and Production.
TBL Author Q&A Series: Ren Warom
This is one in a series of brief interviews with a diverse array of writers, editors, and other industry professionals. Check back over the coming months for more!
How would you say your writing career began? Was there a certain event, person, or intuitive impulse that guided you to forge your own literary path?
No certain path at all really. I’ve always read and I’ve always written. I was writing stories, plays, and goodness knows what else from a very young age. There’s a picture of me at maybe six, dressed up with my sister, performing a play I wrote for our parents. I guess loving reading made me need to write. Every time I read, I want to write – it’s a compulsion.
Can you discuss the themes and topics that entice and inspire you most? In what ways has your writing evolved throughout your career?
Inclusion, diversity, acceptance, the messiness of humanity being its most charming asset, especially when the messiest people turn out to be the ones most willing to put their beliefs to the test and stand up for what’s right. I write about mental fragmentation. Outcasts. The lonely. Those in search of anything they can call a self. The marginalized and forgotten. Those who outcast themselves, sometimes for stupid reasons. The ignorance of humanity both appals and intrigues me. The cruelty and compassion. The complexity. I’m not really interested in binaries. I think they either don’t exist or are rare to the point of vanishing.
My writing is (I hope) getting less juvenile and disjointed. My head is a noisy muddle, and sometimes getting it to quiet enough to make sense is damn near impossible. I’m learning not to overwrite. I’m learning to wince less when I have to hurt my characters. But I still struggle to kill them. I’m essentially a wuss. I get attached.
What/who are some of your greatest literary influences?
William Seward Burroughs. Kathe Koja. Samuel Delany. Alfred Bester. George Bataille. Leonora Carrington. Tom Robbins. David Lynch. David Cronenberg. Wodehouse. Anything weird, kooky, slightly off-kilter or a few degrees removed from reality pulls me in. I’m as addicted to odd movies as I am to books. I enjoy weird things the most, but I’ll read and watch in every genre. I use books and films etc to block out the noise of the world.
Your novel Escapology utilizes some deft and intriguing plot movements. What was the process of developing the plot for this novel? In your writing, what is the relationship between character development and plot development?
I’d love to pretend there was method to the madness, but there was nothing but madness to the method. Gonzo, seat-of-the-pants make it up as you go along and hope it all fits writing. Escapology was for fun – I wrote it to re-learn how to love writing again because I was depressed as hell about the notion of ever writing anything publishable, and it did the damn job. But the chaotic methodology meant I had about fifty plot hole panics in total. Not so fun.
For me, character drives plot, and it always goes wrong if I forget that even for a second. When I remember who my characters are and what they’d do, I’m fine. I need to learn to plan better, because when I plan with character in mind (not only at the beginning before I start writing, but every few chapters too), I lose my way far less frequently. It’s all a learning curve. It doesn’t help that forcing my brain to quiet enough to plan is a chore I’d rather avoid. My brain is a sugar-crazed toddler. It wants to run around in the nude, bashing its toys on the walls and smearing donut jam all over its face.
You are very active on your website, facebook, and twitter. How do you utilize your social media/online presence to enhance, and maybe even inform, your writing process?
I can be active. I go through long periods of ignoring it all. I’m bipolar and many other interesting labels, and sometimes I find social media absolutely exhausting. Or too much. I tend to avoid it then.
I use social media to inform my work rather than enhance or promote it. I’m very political and I won’t stop that. I speak out about what I believe in and against things I reject as inhuman or inhumane. That’ll never change. I’m an outspoken kind of person when I choose to speak.
What can you tell us about the publication process? Has your experience finding publishing homes differed from project to project?
The publication process can be painful. It’s a sharp learning curve, takes a long time, and is arduous and frequently boring. You wait around a lot getting stressed and worrying about things you have zero control over. The euphoria of a book release lasts approximately five minutes before panic sets in, and then it’s all panic interspersed with moments of surreal delirium. Seeing my book in shops still makes me giggle like Renfield eating a fly.
I’m not a short story writer, I have accepted that, but I suppose the process of finding homes is basically the same. You try, you fail a lot, you occasionally, jubilantly succeed and then keep on trying – the cycle is endless.
My experience is, I think, normal. From unbearable lows, where I’ve been convinced no one would ever publish me, to the astounding high of being offered a contract. I still grin like an idiot when I think about the successes. They make everything worth it. But I’ll always stress about whether I’ll get another contract or not. I think we all do. That never changes.
You have worked with several presses, Fox Spirit Press for your novella The Lonely Dark and Titan Press for Escapology and your upcoming novel Virology. I wonder what factors play into choosing and developing relationships with presses. In terms of publication, is there something in particular that you look for when approaching different presses?
Both my publishers have delighted in the strangeness of my ideas, the slight discombobulation of my style, the messy, awkward, not-so-niceness and furious, unapologetic diversity of my characters. They like the cut of my jib, and that’s the most important factor. You can’t trust a publisher who wants to change your fundamental style and substance. I have had to do rewrites, but I have never had to compromise my style or my characters. I can’t ask for more than that.
Is there a particular achievement or experience that has opened up the most opportunities for your writing?
Not really, or rather, not yet. I very rarely get asked to do things, and I don’t get invited onto anthologies or to pitch ideas, but that’s par for the course as I’m still very much at the beginning. And that’s fine; it’s at it should be. I’m happy to keep trying and working hard. Good things come to those who break a sweat fighting for them, and I’m stubborn. I don’t give up.
What direction do you see your writing taking now, in terms of both craft and publication? What are your next steps?
I want to self publish some work this year, get some things out there that publishers probably wouldn’t take a chance on. I want to keep trying to level up the quality of my writing, get to that elusive point I’m currently miles away from where gonzo and literary meet with weird and have a party. I want to get another contract, of course. No question about that. The only next steps to that are to keep writing, keep trying, and keep yelling about my work (something I have to get better at, I’m terrible at knowing the points of saturation, so I tend to under-promote).
What guidance might you give to fledgling writers/artists?
Be stubborn. Never give up. Understand you have to be fighting hard enough to break one hell of a sweat to get anywhere in any artistic profession, in any profession at all. Be humble, grateful, pleasant to work with, and polite, but know your worth. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do this: you can, and you don’t need permission. Finally, and the biggest one of all: finish your work. Unfinished will always mean unpublished, unpainted, unplayed, unseen. You can’t sell work that you haven’t completed to the very best of your ability.
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