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