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Underground tale finds a home in Underdog

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The inaugural collection of 12 short stories titled Underdog: #LoveOzYA Short Stories was launched in March. Since then, it’s received an amazing response. Underdog Books is an independent, one-man publishing company established in 2017 by editor Tobias Madden. The stories included explore the dynamic and ever-changing nature of Australia’s culture. 

Kate Sears speaks to 24-year-old Balnarring author Karolina Stamer-Squair who, under the pen name KM Stamer-Squair, contributed Remnants, which was selected from more than 100 online submissions. Remnants is set in a not-too-distant future where the environmental crisis has forced Melody and her family to live underground, just like the rest of the world’s population. Melody loves piecing together information about the past, but then her grandma goes missing and her family is plunged into distress.

When did you start writing creatively and why?

I’ve been writing since I was taught how. As a kid I would write short stories for my friends’ birthdays, or create poems inspired by fairytales. I was brought up in a family that loved books, and their words and stories. It’s unnatural if I’m not writing. 

How did you get involved in Underdog?

I was interning at Ford Street Publishing when I first became familiar with the #LoveOzYA movement. When Underdog had a call for short-story submissions, I happened to have a story I’d penned on my train rides into the city. It was the first creative piece I’d written in a few years, just after finishing my thesis. I found out it had been selected when I was in Italy, one of my favourite places. Some things are just meant to work out.   

Where did your short story idea come from?

I’d spent a year researching environmental criticism and studying dystopian texts, which definitely influenced my headspace. The idea for the story came in summer when I was walking on the beach. It was fairly late into the evening, and yet I was alarmed to realise my skin was burning. UV levels are extraordinary in Australia, and they are still increasing. The panic I felt when I tried to imagine stepping outside at noon in 20 years’ time created the story.  

What do the next five years look like for you?

Hopefully doing some travel/freelance writing, with my novel out and published in the big wide world. And probably studying — I don’t feel I’ve finished learning yet. I have too much curiosity. 

What is your connection to the Mornington Peninsula?

I was born and raised here. It wasn’t until I spent a good time overseas and came back that I realised how phenomenally privileged I am to live where I do. We need to protect and cherish where we live — it’s beautiful. 

Do you have anything else to add?

It’s been a really exciting project to be involved in. It feels wonderful to be connected with so many new and diverse writers; to have your own work sitting next to ones you admire. And working with Tobias Madden was great. I can’t wait to see what he does next; he’s so talented. 

You can find Underdog: #LoveOzYA Short Stories at all good bookstores, or visit

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