Interview With Stephen Kozeniewski and Stevie Kopas, Authors of Slashvivor!

Please welcome my special guests Stephen Kozeniewski and Stevie Kopas, both talented horror authors. They co-wrote their new release Slashvivor!–serial killers meet the popular TV show “Survivor.” I hope you enjoy their insightful interview.

1. Do you have advice for other writers trying to get published?

Stephen:  First, remember that success is what you make of it. (Success could just be holding a book in your hands or success could be selling a million copies and a book deal. It’ll probably be somewhere in between.)

Second, be kind. Be humble. Be helpful. Remember you’re joining a community of authors, not hiding in your hole like a hermit. And we can always sniff out the difference between those who want to be a part of the community and those who are just takers.

Third, make friends with people like Stevie Kopas. In fact, just make friends with her. Friend her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, whatever. She’s the tops.

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Stevie:  I’d have to agree wholeheartedly with Stephen, be friends with me. Lol, but in all seriousness, remember to be humble, helpful, and most of all thankful. Unless they’ve got a million-dollar making hit on their hands, most authors have full time jobs or if they are full time writers they’ve got multiple projects at a time that they work on. So, when someone takes the time to help you out, give you guidance or advice, remember that they could have used that time in other ways, but they chose to help you out. Authors are great that way though, especially in the horror community. I’ve met a tone of wonderful people.

I’d also say to remember never to be discouraged. It’s easy to get stuck in your own head and bring yourself down about something trivial, but remember, nothing great was ever easy, so just keep pushing yourself. It’s important to also have a fellow author or anybody in the business really, to talk to when things get tough. You don’t have to go it alone, so don’t. And if you ever find yourself being discouraged by others, remove them from the scenario, you want to surround yourself with people who are excited by, as well as supportive of, any success you encounter, be it great or small.

2. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Stephen:  Thank you. You are my lifeblood. You are that thing that keeps me going when I’m ready to throw in the towel. There’s precious little that can make me smile the way hearing someone liked my book does.

Stevie:  Thank you to every single one of you. When I first started writing, I did it for myself, but now I have someone else to write for. No matter the size of that audience, you guys are what matter, so thank you for all your feedback, positive and negative. You keep me writing. Don’t ever forget to tell an author what you think of their work, because it really lets us know that we made an impact on a reader.

3. What are your thoughts on the fact that both trade and self-published authors have to promote their own work?

Stephen:  Well, it’s part of the deal now, not just for authors but increasingly for everyone. We’re all becoming little one-person operations, promoting essentially ourselves. Some people are nothing more than internet celebrities. They’re just interesting online. Others are trying to sell a product. That’s what authors are, really, is small business owners, and the product we’re selling is our art. So, like with any business, advertising and getting your product into people’s homes is key.

Stevie:  I would say it’s fair. In any business, you have employees where part of their job is community outreach and “going local” in order to grow the business. Whether it’s self-promotion for a new book or selling your pitch for a new MS, authors need to essentially get back to the basics of a small business model that can be applied to many aspects of a day job or sitting at your desk plugging your book. Hard work gets results! I’d say if you’re an author big or small, or any type of artist for that matter, and you don’t like working hard, then you don’t know what you’re in for.

4. What genre do you write for? Your favorite aspect? Your least favorite aspect?

Stephen:  I’m a proud horror author. I love the community. The people here really are amazing. As far as least favorite aspect, there’s more than a little drama I could do without. Neckbeards and windbags and trolls, oh my!

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Stevie:  I, too, am a proud horror author. My favorite aspect would definitely be that nobody judges anybody else’s ideas or projects. Horror is such a wonderful, expressive genre with a great community. As far as the least favorite aspect goes, you get some people from time to time who are “self-proclaimed experts” on what a woman should be writing and there are tons of trolls, just like Stephen said.

5. What are your current/next projects?

Stephen:  Right now I’m very…gradually…working on author edits for the sequel to my sophomore novel THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO. As far as new manuscripts, I’m trying to put together a reverse haunted house story and a piece from the perspective of a secret policeman in a near future totalitarianish America.

Stevie:  I’ve got a re-release coming soon of my fourth book Never Say Die from Permuted Press. As far as works in progress, I’m working on a sequel of sorts to a story from Never Say Die tentatively titled Trevor: King of Zombies. There will also be a second book in that series as well. It’s been super fun to write and I’ve got a team of readers who are loving the early stages so far.

6. How do you find time to write?

Stephen:  Sigh…lately I haven’t been. The ideal situation though is to have an idea that you’re so passionate about that you want to work on it. Then you’ll find yourself sneaking away from the TV and Facebook to slip in some writing time.

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Stevie:  It’s like dealing with a child. I have to tell myself “you’ll get to do this fun thing if you write this many words” or something along those lines. I’m easily distracted and so I have to reason with myself on what I’m focusing on.

7. Did you always want to become an author?

Stephen:  This is going to sound coy, but I really always have been an author. I remember writing when I was very young, and when I wasn’t writing I was drawing concept art. There are novels I’m still working on that I started when I was twelve.

Stevie:  I think in a way, I can piggyback off what Stephen said here in that I’ve really always been writing. I would write plays when I was a kid, short stories, silly “novels.” I was always into writing lyrics and poetry and combining that with music to create beautiful expressions of myself. And it all led me here, so I’d say I always had it in me.

8. Is there any writing rituals you complete before creating your manuscripts/drafts?

Stephen:  I always burn a small effigy of Stevie Kopas.

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Stevie:  I retreat to my yard at midnight and repel Stephen’s darkness with the blood of many chickens.

9. Do you write the beginning/opening first or do you tend to write out of order (with whatever scenes interest you the most)?

Stephen:  Out of order, definitely. My method is to write what are sometimes called “cookie scenes”–you know, the actual gunfight or showdown or whatever that you’re actually excited about–first, then build up whatever connecting tissue I need to. It works pretty well to keep me motivated and it has the added benefit that when I realize all the parts I need to have in play for a particular scene I can go back and layer them into the narrative. Need a hammer in the end? Maybe there was a trip to the hardware store in the beginning, then.

Stevie:  I don’t think I’ve ever written anything in the same order or fashion as a previous work. Sometimes I start at the beginning, other times at the end. I used to write out whole plotlines just so I could challenge myself and see how much I could stray from the original story I intended to write. Like I said earlier, I’m easily distracted, so even in my writing I’ll get an idea at random and then kind of run with it and then bam, I have a completely new plot to incorporate into the main story.

10. While you were writing, did you ever feel like you were one of your characters?

Stephen:  Actually (and I hope this isn’t a huge spoiler) when I was writing the flashback scene where Marisol Martinez–our main villain–meets her first serial killer, I was definitely living in her headspace. So much so that while we were usually able to pick up each other’s threads (even mid-scene) Stevie told me she wasn’t sure where I was going and let me do the whole flashback. What it says about me that I was so in tune with a megalomaniac is probably better left unexplored.

Stevie:  With all of the characters in Slashvivor!, even the good guys, being absolute homicidal maniacs, I don’t know that that’s such a good thing? But, hey, who’s judging? I’d say that Dawn’s resilience in the face of adversity is such a big part of who I am. I also think Dr. Feelbad’s odd way of caring about others or Raze’s playfulness are parts of myself as well. No spoilers, but the shotgun surgery is totally something I’d figure out a way to do in a situation like that to help someone out.

11. How did you come up with the title?

Stephen:  I just tried to come up with something cheesy like you would see on television that would sort of add a level of satire to the gore. I was stuck between two titles: SLASHERPALOOZA and SLASHVIVOR! I forget why I went with the latter, except I think maybe the “palooza” thing had been played out, or else that SLASHVIVOR! just immediately made it clear what the book was about, with “Survivor” being the first and most famous reality TV show.

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Stevie:  I always like to bounce my ideas off others to gauge their responses and see if the entertainment factor is there. I sent Stephen my plot summary and we realized that our ideas were so similar that surely he must have hacked my computer. But anyway, I think the idea had come to me after a combination of experiences. I was in like a three hour haunted house line where 80s music was blasting and the concept of the house was different countries pitting their most dangerous criminals against one another in this Mad Max type world. That was really interesting to me. Shortly after that, I was watching a clip of a foreign game show on YouTube that was just totally absurd and I started wondering if one day we’d ever get to a point as a society where killing people for entertainment would be a thing.

13. Any blogs, websites, social media you’d like to share?

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Stephen:  Amazon, Blog, Facebook, Twitter

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Stevie:  Facebook, Twitter, Website, Amazon

Thanks for being a guest. I hope you guys enjoyed the interview. Good luck with sales!

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby

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#IWSG Blog Hop–Writing Surprised You?

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It’s that time again. IWSG hosts a blog hop the first Wednesday of every month. Writers get to discuss their doubts and fears they’ve conquered, their struggles and triumphs. Even though writing is a lonely activity, it doesn’t mean you can’t surround yourself with people who understand what you’re going through.

Showing vulnerability makes you strong. If you’d like to read more from bloggers who shared their personal experiences, then please click here.

September’s question–Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? For example, by trying a new genre you didn’t think you’d be comfortable in?

I’ve surprised myself with my writing. Growing up, I only focused on dramas and mysteries. In 2011, I focused on my women’s fiction novella Something’s Amiss. It was going to be a romance, but I hated all the rules that came with the genre. My men aren’t manly enough, and my ladies aren’t likable enough. Oh well. My drama Room For Two was published in an online literary magazine. My very first short story that got recognition. I was so proud of myself.

Then, I found out about NaNo–a fun challenge of writing 50,000 words in the month of November. 50,000 words! I’ve never written that except for NaNo haha. 30,000-40,000 words is my sweet spot. Since NaNo was supposed to be fun, I didn’t take it seriously. I figured it would be fun to experiment with a genre I’ve never written before. I love horror movies, so why not try writing a horror or thriller story?

My very first NaNo challenge created One By One. I wrote exactly what I’d like to see on the big screen. It took me 30 days to write 50,000 words. Then, it took me a year to revise and edit. I was lucky to have my writing buddy Jim Baroni–a horror author–offer to edit my novel. He helped me keep my publishing schedule. Ever since, I’ve been dabbling in horror and suspense stories. That’s my passion right now. One day I’ll go back to dramas though. I absolutely love a story that can make me cry.

My writing has surprised me, and I hope it continues to do so.

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby

Excerpt of Six Plus One

Two special things motivated me to share an excerpt of my horror thriller Six Plus One.

First, I’m having a book signing on October 7th. The Hedgesville public library wants to celebrate local authors. This will be my third book signing, and I really need to get my butt in gear to get another book published!

Second, my mom’s co-worker, Mark, loved One By One. He bought a paperback copy from Amazon. After he read the book, I autographed it for him. Hearing about his excitement makes me want to publish the sequel Six Plus One!

Here’s an excerpt of Six Plus One (still a work-in-progress draft until an editor finishes looking over it):

Alta bit her nails, lost in thought as she watched the mountains along WV 28 through the passenger seat window. Raggedy looking trailers surrounded by broken down vehicles turned into a blur while the love of her life, Kendrick, drove at ridiculously fast speeds.

The radio blasted a Big Sean song through the speakers. Kendrick, wearing black rimmed glasses, tapped his fingers on the steering wheel in sync with the hip hop beat. Johanna was squished in the backseat by video equipment lying about. Her body pressed against the door, and the sound mic poked at her thigh. She was skinny like a stick, yet had curves in the right places. Best of both worlds.

Alta smiled a little when she glanced back at Johanna. “Regret it yet that you didn’t ride in the other Jeep?”

Johanna giggled. “Never.”

“I’m sure Declan was pissed.”

“Nah, he understands. We needed to plan our segment and go over our production schedule for the weekend.”

“Something we didn’t even do.”

“Something he never needs to find out.”

Alta leaned over the dashboard and glanced at the speedometer. “Babe, shouldn’t you slow down?”

“Really?” With a glint of mischief in Kendrick’s brown eyes, he smirked. “It’s only us on the road. I haven’t seen anyone for the past two hours.”

“So? Last time I checked animals are outside. Wanna run over a squirrel or hit a deer?” Alta rolled down her window to let some chilly August air in the stuffy space. Their rented Cherokee held a smell, the kind where bleach invaded your nostrils like someone cleaned blood from a crime scene.

Kendrick pressed the brake to slow down.

Johanna chuckled. “There’s the Alta I love. Where have you been, girl? You’ve seemed distracted since we left your house. Get in a fight with your dad?”

He’d have to pay attention to me first. “No. Just thinking.”

“About what?” Kendrick asked, squeezing Alta’s knee for a moment.

Alta’s cell phone rang. She picked it up on the second ring. “Hey, dad, what’s up?”

“Wanted to make sure everything’s okay. Kendrick’s following the speed limit? You guys aren’t bringing attention to yourselves, right?”

“We’re going to isolated woods to contact aliens. What could go wrong?”

***In a perfect world, Six Plus One would be released on Halloween, October 31st. Keeping my fingers crossed…

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby

Tips On Writing Horror

So often when we write, we stick to our preferred and known genre, but I was challenged this week to write a spooky story for my writing group and I found it really enjoyable. It got me thinking about horror and other genres I don’t commonly write. So I thought we could explore tips for […]

via Tips for Writing Horror — hijinksblog

***I came across these awesome tips on writing horror from the hijinksblog and wanted to share. Enjoy***

#IWSG Blog Hop–Valuable Lesson in Writing

It’s that time again. IWSG hosts a blog hop the first Wednesday of every month. Writers get to discuss their doubts and fears they’ve conquered, their struggles and triumphs. Even though writing is a lonely activity, it doesn’t mean you can’t surround yourself with people who understand what you’re going through.

Showing vulnerability makes you strong. If you’d like to read more from bloggers who shared their personal experiences, then please click here.

July’s question–What is one valuable lesson you’ve learned since you started writing?

In the 7th grade, I took a chance by signing up for Mrs. Kirby’s creative writing class. Art had been my passion. Art was all I knew. I had been drawing since I was 8. I loved her class–everything about it. I’ve been writing fiction since 11 years old.

Throughout the years, I’ve learned a lot about writing, but the most valuable lesson that has stuck with me would have to be…listening to music helps set the mood. Music is a must when writing anything. Since I love writing in public places (Daily Grind being my favorite), I never leave home without my headphones.

Spotify is my best friend. The app is downloaded on my tablet and my phone. No shame–I can listen to the same playlists or the same songs for hours straight, and each time the music plays over again it’s like the first time.

When I need to get in a romantic mood for a scene, I listen to Dru Hill, Jagged Edge, Justin Timberlake, Brandy.

When I need to get in a dark mood for a scene, I listen to Civil Twilight, Staind, Seether.

When I need to get in a happy mood for a scene (yeah right–me?–when do I ever write anything happy haha), I listen to Danity Kane, Mya, Destiny’s Child.

When I need to get in a drama mood for a scene, I listen to Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera.

You get the point. Don’t be afraid to let music inspire you.

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby

My Writing Board of Inspiration

If you’re a writer, do you have an inspiration board?

I do.

Here’s mine:

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Before long, I’ll also add bulletins of character sketches, storyboards, and plot outlines for every novella I write. My plan is to turn my bedroom into a writing room. Right now, I still rely heavily on Daily Grind and other public places to get anything accomplished. Soon, I hope my desk in my bedroom will be enough. It sits in front of my window–what I like to call my ‘Secret Window’ view.

I just thought it’d be fun to share a part of my writing process with you guys. Now, I’m off to write a short story. My writing buddy Melissa and I have been challenging ourselves to write 52 short stories in 52 weeks based off of Ray Bradbury’s advice. So far, we’re at the halfway mark with 26 shorts to our names. 26 weeks straight without a break!

I’m also still editing Six Plus One. I’m sorry for being slow, but I want to make sure I have everything right.

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby

#IWSG Blog Hop–Calling It Quits?

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It’s that time again. IWSG hosts a blog hop the first Wednesday of every month. Writers get to discuss their doubts and fears they’ve conquered, their struggles and triumphs. Even though writing is a lonely activity, it doesn’t mean you can’t surround yourself with people who understand what you’re going through.

Showing vulnerability makes you strong. If you’d like to read more from bloggers who shared their personal experiences, then please click here.

June’s question–Did you ever say “I quit”? If so, what happened to make you come back to writing?

Technically, I’ve never said that I’ll quit writing, however, quite a few times I’ve considered quitting fiction writing. At least two times since I’ve published my novellas and short story. I’m a fast writer, but a terribly slow reviser. Sometimes it’s very hard to find motivation to keep going when it takes me a year to publish one book while other self-publishers knock out books every other month. Sometimes it seems like I’ll never be a hustler or pro-active–skill sets a person needs to succeed in this industry.

That self-doubt kicks in all the time. There’s always a voice in the back of my head that says my writing sucks and my critique partners and beta-readers are too nice to point it out.

The feedback I tend to keep getting is my scenes lack emotion. I’m a thinker, not a feeler. That’s why my characters are usually in their heads a lot, thinking of their situation instead of feeling it or acting it out. I’ve also been told that I can be too fast-paced scene to scene.

From this feedback, I’ve questioned my writing skills as a fiction writer. I think I’d be better suited as a screenplay writer or a comic book/graphic novelist. A medium that allows my fast pace writing. My favorite story elements are dialogue and plot. I’m all about the twists and the bittersweet endings. It’d be so cool to see one of my short films on YouTube or to see one of my comics on a bookshelf. There’s less of a stigma being an indie creator in the comics world than in the publishing arena.

After I published Twisted Obsession, I sort of gave up writing novellas once it didn’t sell well. I couldn’t write anything new, and I couldn’t revise my old stuff. I was stuck. I didn’t write or edit any fiction for more than half a year.

Instead, I spent my time drawing comics, by taking free online classes to learn this medium. I also wrote short films and worked on a teleplay with two people. We were going to try and sell it to Netflix. My focus was on being creative and doing what made me happy at the time.

What brought me back to fiction writing–my writing buddies. Melissa and I took a free online writing class from Iowa. Those six weeks of creating a short story every week was pretty cool. It let me know instead of giving up completely on fiction, I could dabble in short stories. Short stories can give short film ideas. Around this time, I also heard from Meka. We shared what had been going on with each other over the year and started bonding again. It was refreshing to see someone in the same boat as me. She motivated me to start revising Six Plus One again. I don’t know what I would’ve done without her. She’s went beyond a normal critique partner, looking over my short novella in multiple stages. I owe her big time.

Thank you Melissa and Meka for getting me back into the writing groove 🙂

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby