Monday, March 9, 2009

10 Questions with J.A. Konrath

Joe Konrath is the author of the Lt. Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels thrillers, and his blog, A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, is one of my favorites for savvy marketing advice. He’s here to promote his newest novel AFRAID, which he published under the pen name Jack Kilborn. As stated on Amazon:

A helicopter has crashed near Safe Haven and unleashed something horrifying. Now this merciless force is about to do what it does best. Isolate. Terrorize. Annihilate. As residents begin dying in a storm of gory violence, Safe Haven's only chance for survival will rest with an aging county sheriff, a firefighter, and a single mom. And each will have this harrowing thought: Maybe death hasn't come to their town by accident ...  

Let’s give it up for Joe – er, Jack? – and hear what he has to say about dabbling in new genres while maintaining a successful brand.  


Tell us a little about yourself as a writer. Do you outline, or wing it? Do you write daily, or in snatches?

I prefer winging it, but usually have a scrap of paper with some notes on it reminding me what I want to do next. My plots can get sort of tricky, and it helps to know which clues I'm seeding next.

But full outlines? I've done them before, and I hate them. They're helpful when it comes to the writing, but thinking the whole story through before I start writing is a headache that I prefer to skip.


When – and why - did you begin writing?

I fell in love with reading at a young age. I also fell in love with Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, who hosted horror movies on TV.

Unfortunately, I couldn't dedicate my life to Elvira, even though I had posters of her on all of my walls. So I dedicated myself to writing, which is fun like reading, except I get to make up the story.

Since then I've sold nine books and over sixty short stories, so maybe I'm doing something right.

Do you hear that, Elvira? I'm successful now. You can drop that restraining order.


Tell us about your process writing Afraid. What inspired you, and what did you struggle with?

I thought a lot about fear, about what scares people.

Then I pictured the absolute worst thing that could happen to me, and those I cared about.

All of that brainstorming resulted in a pretty wicked scenario, and the plot grew from there. Every few hours I had to step away from the writing, do something fun, to get the evil thoughts out of my head. I'm considering making my publisher pay for my therapy...


Before Afraid, you’ve published mostly detective/crime stories. Why the branching out to horror, and do you think it’s something you’ll continue with?

The majority of my published work is in mystery, but my very first published story was in a magazine called Horror Garage. I love horror. As a writer, one of my goals is to evoke an emotional response in the reader. Fear is the most visceral emotion.

My Jack Daniels thrillers (each named after a drink--Cherry Bomb, number 6, is coming out in July) all have some scary scenes in them, usually when I'm in the villain's head.

With AFRAID, I tried to challenge myself and see if I could be scary for 350 pages, rather than just a few pages at a time.


What was it liked getting published? What was your publishing journey?

I've gotten over 600 rejections, and still get them all the time. WHISKEY SOUR, my first published novel, was the tenth one I wrote.

This is a disheartening, discouraging, terribly difficult business, and luck plays a huge role in success.

That said, I now feel I'm the luckiest guy on the planet. I'm living my dream, and get to make a living doing what I love. If you ever hear me complain about anything, you have my permission to kick me in the pants.

If anyone is interested in seeing some of my unpublished stuff, I made it available for free on my website,


Here on Headdesk, I have a minor obsession with the rules of writing. Is there any particular rule you write by?

Don't never use no double negatives.


In your opinion, what is the most important thing authors can do to market themselves?

Persist. You'll never amount to anything if you give up. This isn't a sprint. It's a marathon. Keep writing, keep learning, keep submitting, keep buying my books.

(I snuck that last one in there to see if you were still paying attention.)


What’s your favorite marketing strategy?

Selling short stories. Your best advertising for your writing is...surprise...your writing. Get in as many magazines, anthologies, and websites as you can. Most of all, it's free, or in many cases they pay you.

Second best, bar none, is giving people what they want, either in person, or on your website or blog. People want two things: Information and entertainment. Give it to them, and some of them will buy your books.


If knew you a teenager who aspired to be a novelist, what would you say to them?

You can do whatever you want to in life, after you get your medical degree.


What’s next for Konrath/Kilborn?

Beer. Perhaps several.

Then Konrath is working on a stand alone thriller, and Kilborn is working on a new horror novel.

Also, I have to find some time to fit in sleep, and maybe a shower. If someone invented a waterproof pillow and blanket, I'd be set.


Joseph Andrew Konrath is married, has three children and three dogs, and currently lives in a suburb of Chicago. He occasionally teaches writing and marketing at the College of Dupage. His short stories have appeared in more than sixty magazines and collections, his work has been translated into ten languages, and he has been nominated for several awards, including the Anthony, Macavity, Gumshoe, Dagger, and Barry. Not to mention the awards he’s won - the Derringer, Bob Kellog, EQMM Reader's Choice, and two Lovie awards.  You can find out more about Joe by checking out his website or his blog.


Aim said...

great interview. It's nice that he's making his way around the blogosphere!

JA Konrath said...

Thanks for having me here today. :)

Creative A said...

Joe - thanks for coming :)

Aim - welcome! I'm pretty excited about it myself, and so far the interviews have been fun to read.


Annie King said...

Anoter great interview! I love this line: "So I dedicated myself to writing, which is fun like reading, except I get to make up the story."

Angela said...

It's good to hear another writer prefer not to use outlines. I tried outlining my current WIP and it's slowing me down. I think knowing eerything that's going to happen has bogged dow my creativity somewhat. Lesson learned for next time..

Great interview! Thanks for sharing it!

Creative A said...

Hey Annie. Joe is always so witty...I wish I could be more like that.

Angela - I know, right? And he's published. A powerful strike for the pansters. Actually, I have my own weird way of half outlining that is more like bridging ideas than outlining a story. I tried really outlining once and it destroyed the story. I need space to explore.

Glad you guys enjoyed it! :) And thanks again to Joe for fitting me in.


Google Analytics