What are you currently writing/working on?
I’ve always got multiple projects going; keeps me occupied and lets me switch gears once in a while, which keeps writer’s block and boredom at bay. Right now, my two primary projects are an upcoming short story collection, Insomniac Nightmares, which should be out around May – editing and formatting are the order of the day, there – and Blood and Steel: Vampire 2.0, which is a horror comedy dealing with Dracula getting run over by a police car. No, seriously. That one is about 1/4th to 1/3rd done, and usually gets at least a sentence scribbled on it a day, if not significantly more.
When and how do your characters come to you? Is it in a moment of inspiration, an epiphany? Or do they grow in some murky recess of your mind?
A little of both. It really depends on the character. Some of them have been hiding out in the back of my head for years, waiting for the chance to speak up. Others just pop up and start talking for no immediately discernible reason. Generally I’ll trip over some random nugget – an image on the internet, an article on Wikipedia, a random throwaway comment from someone at work – and it’ll lodge in the back of my head for a little while. Then some “expert” on the subject will pop up and start talking to me.
There’s an acceptance that authors often write in traits or characteristics of themselves into their work, is there any part of you in any of your characters?
There’s a little bit of me in all my characters, I think. Generally the less savory bits, but that may have more to do with my own self-image rather than deliberately inflicting all my worst traits and phobias on innocent imaginary creations. I really think it’s impossible to separate the writer from the written, at least completely; a little bit is going to bleed onto every page. If it doesn’t, I suspect there’s something being done wrong, somewhere. But that means you have to take the villains as your errant children, too, which I suspect some people aren’t too comfortable with. Admitting that Andrew (a fractured, vengeance-driven wish-granting fairy found in Woken) probably has more of me than any other single character in him seems to freak people out for some reason… hmmm.
How do you develop your characters? Do you let them brew in your subconscious, use character interview sheets, or something completely different?
I really don’t know. Most of the time, they’re just suddenly there, full formed and ready for duty. I don’t do anything as formal as interview sheets or character studies, though I do ask them some pointed questions and see what their answers are; yes, that does mean I am often to be found sitting in my chair, staring at my word processor, cigarettes and coffee close at hand, talking to “myself” while my dog and girlfriend shake their heads in unison and wander away. I will often do this while giving the characters atrocious accents, to better separate them from myself, though only rarely do they actually end up possessing those accents.
Are you a planner, or free writer?
Planning? What’s that? Kidding. I plan. Sometimes. I’ll say to myself “I want this kind of scene to happen,” or “This character will need to do this at some point,” but they tend to be vague, and I don’t tend to invest much into them. By the time the story gets to a point where those ideas might fit, I’ve often gone down a rabbit hole that I find a lot more interesting and entertaining than whatever the original plan was. Following Stephen King’s advice on the subject, I tend to let the story and my characters do what they want to, rather than trying to force them back to my plan. I am thus almost 100% pantser.
When you are developing a book, what tools or techniques do you use, e.g. timelines, mood boards, character interviews, scraps of notes?
I don’t, really. Sometimes I’ll scribble something on a scrap of paper or jot it as a parenthetical into the manuscript, but for the most part the initial draft is almost 100% heat-of-the-moment scribbling. Later I may attempt to work out a timeline or a character profile or two, just to make sure everything is reasonably straight and there’s no grievous continuity errors, but even that is more likely to be found written in crayon on the back of a Keno ticket rather than any kind of organized “book bible” or anything.
I’d love to one day have a giant whiteboard/corkboard a la Castle, and stick notes and strings and photos and quotes all over it, but I think that has more to do with indulging my inner child rather than thinking I’ll actually do anything productive with it.
Has your technique changed over time?
Beyond moving from a purloined typewriter and those school notebooks they sell for 88 cents to a tablet or ridiculously overblown computer, or not being able to go for extended periods anymore due to health reasons, not really. The words might be a little bigger, the grammar and syntax might have gotten a little clearer, but I think the voice is still mostly the same, and the process hasn’t really changed: Some imaginary person… or creature… or inanimate object (on occasion) starts whispering into my head, and I start scribbling what it says, wanting to find out how their story ends.
Where do you draw inspiration from? Do you actively look for it?
I don’t think I do, at least not on a conscious level. The concept of going out “looking for ideas” seems really bizarre to me. I accept that other people can do it, that it’s a thing… but it doesn’t seem to be in my makeup. Instead I get walloped with half a dozen or more random “What if…?” thoughts from seemingly unimportant or unrelated things.
As an example, Vampire 2.0 came about when something Barlowe says in ‘Salem’s Lot – that he’d get run over crossing the street in a big city – gelled in my mind with a character I was playing in a friend’s Aberrant tabletop RP game – a techno-geek turned vampire who had psychic control over computers – and then bounced off of something a friend said at dinner – “Wouldn’t it be funny if the devil had a minion who was some kind of gangster wannabe, and totally inept at his job, but he was stuck with him?” and resulted in Vlad Tepes being run over by a cop car, resurrected by modern science, and saddled with a chubby-chasing, Christopher Walken-wannabe gargoyle assistant.
Things like that have pretty much left me with the decision that just letting my mind wander and fixate on what it wants, then sifting through the pile for anything salvageable, is what works for me.
I have an odd sleep and work schedule, so time of day doesn’t really come into play. It might be 3 AM, before my shift, one day; it might be noon between doctor’s appointments the next. Place is also largely unimportant; I write when the words want to come, and if that means hunching over my tablet in the cab of my truck while waiting to go in somewhere or it means hiding in the corner of the bedroom at the keyboard, then so be it. The one major factor that doesn’t change is that I have to have relative quiet. Ambient noise is fine; the dog barking, people in the next room watching TV or talking on the phone, the coffee pot burbling, the neighbors arguing. But there can’t be any active noise – no movies, no music, no conversations that potentially involve me – going on around me. My brain will try to latch onto those and start making weird associations as it is prone to do, and either I’ll end up writing about those instead of whatever I was supposed to be working on, or it seizes up and refuses to put words on the page.
Also, caffeine and nicotine. Probably not good for me, I know, but I must have them. If I can’t lean back in the chair and “hrrrrm” at what I’ve written with my giant Spider-Man mug in one hand and a cigarette in the other, I just don’t feel right.
And the last thing. A lot of creative folks tell me it’ll be the death of me, that it’s bad for productivity, but I have to take a break once in a while. I can’t get behind the “writing device must be blockaded from outside influences!” mindset; I have games and social media galore on both my tablet and my PC, and use them. Scribble a paragraph, hrrrrm, play Diablo for twenty minutes. Go back, write a page or two, head over to YouTube for a video. Come back, write out some dialogue, go check my e-mail. If I don’t shift around that way, I get restless and frustrated, and it shows in the work. Amusingly, while I’m doing those other things, there’s a nagging voice that says “Hey, weren’t you supposed to be writing?” that will usually guilt me back over to it. I think if I actually maintained a “work-only” setup, I’d go bonkers, getting angry with the writing and the artificial chains of productivity I’ve wrapped around myself, and wouldn’t get anything done at all… which would be bad, I imagine. So I keep my battle.net and Family Guy icons right next to Pages, and thus remain somewhat sane.
Half way into writing my first novel, it’s taking over my brain! What advice can you give me on completing it? Or maybe an easier question. What do you wish you had known about writing a book before you started?
The most important piece of advice is also the simplest: Don’t stop until the story is done. Throw words at it. Pile them on. It doesn’t even matter if they’re good words, because if you stop, you let the white space win, and every time it wins, it gets harder and harder to go back and try again. If the words are bad, or don’t fit, or mess you up, that’s what revisions and second drafts and the all-important delete key on the keyboard are for.
As far as things I wish I’d known, there’s two big ones. The first is that your job is not over just because you wrote “THE END” on the last page. Whether you’re seeking traditional publishing or exploring self-publishing options, you’re only just starting when you scribble those final magical words. In the near future you’re going to have to learn things like formatting, marketing, a dollop of design, a dribble of social networking, and likely more than you ever thought there was to know – or wanted to know – about paper stock and trim sizes. There’s nothing quite like that first soul-crushing blow when you charge into the fray, manuscript held high, and say “Bwa ha! It is finished!”… and then you look at what else you have to do – or have someone point out those things, if you don’t see them yourself, which sadly, a lot of us don’t – and hang your head, wanting nothing more than to trudge back to your writing cave. Knowing that those are things you’re going to need to know, eventually, lets you prep for them, have the bases covered, and devote more time to your writing later, instead of derailing your creative dreams for an indefinite period while you play catch up.
The second is that your book, story, poem, novel, whatever… it’s yours. You made it. It’s your baby. There may come a day – maybe the day after it’s finished, maybe years later – where you’ll look at it and wince and want to forget it exists. Don’t. Know that moment will come, and accept your wayward creative child, even the ugly parts, and look at it with a sense of pride, saying “I made that.” So what if it’s got some nicks and dents, or isn’t the next Mark Twain? It’s yours, and you finished it. The warning that there will come a day where you may actively hate your own work, for whatever reason, and the advice to love it anyway would have saved me more than one dark pit of despair.
The publishing industry is in decline across the board. Do you think things like the Kindle are bridging the gap, is there still the same love for the written word, or is it being diluted by the modern obsession with tech and gadgets?
I’m not one of the doomsayers that says books are on the way out, print, digital or other. Someone, somewhere, is always going to want to hear a story, and someone, somewhere, is always going to want to tell it. The audience may be changing in terms of the way they want it presented to them, but the audience is still out there. Personally, I’m not a fan of eReaders; I don’t think they’re hurting books and stories, I’m just in love with the tactile sensation of a book in my hands, the smell of paper and ink. But I think they’re important in keeping the idea of books and publishing relevant in today’s world. The obsession with new and shinier pieces of technology can complement the written word, if authors and publishers will use it; I’m willing to bet a lot more people check the articles on BuzzFeed, read magazine-format sites or actually follow the footnotes or author recommendations via hyperlinks than ever read the newspaper, subscribed to an actual magazine or sat in a library for hours checking and double checking handwritten lists of related volumes.
Reading and readers are changing beasts, but evolution isn’t all bad. Otherwise we wouldn’t have those nifty opposable thumbs to hold the pens with. 😉
50 Shades of Grey author EL James was reported to make around £100k a day at the book’s height, and the upcoming film will make her millions. Do you find it a shame that the most lucrative and famous book franchise of the moment is one so widely derided for its lack of literary value? Or is it just good to have a book going mainstream?
50 Shades and its related mania is a really sore spot with me. On the one hand, it’s nice that more people are reading, and talking about what they’ve been reading, and maybe even thinking about it. That’s not a bad thing. And given my own literary interests, I’m not going to hate for a lack of literary merit, because honestly, what does that even mean? But on the other…
Suffice it to say, I’m not ever going to be a fan of Ms. James and her work, but if it got folks reading and thinking, then it has served a useful purpose.
If a fascist regime was burning the worlds libraries, what books would you save?
‘Salem’s Lot, followed by as many books on mythology as I can hide in my knapsack. The former because it’s my favorite book; the latter because I think those stories of gods and monsters and heroes serve as the original seed for nearly everything that came after. Save them, and in time someone will read them again and say “Hey… I bet I could tell this story this way,” and *boom* Books are back in business again!
Okay, so that’s being really simplistic – and more than a little highbrow and pretentious, I suppose – but I really think that keeping those “root” stories alive is the best shot at keeping books in general going or poised for an eventual comeback. That applies to fiction and non-fiction, too; mythology and history have always been tangled together, and much of our science comes from people either trying to prove or disprove the things hiding in religious or folkloric accounts.
Which publishing route have you taken? Did you always know you were going to go down this route, and if so why?
For the time being, I’m self-published, primarily through Amazon’s CreateSpace platform. I don’t think I had any specific plans to end up there, but I figured it would work as a way to get something out there with my name on it, which theoretically would help long-term in either creating sustainable income or snagging that elusive publishing contract; the experience was pleasant and painless enough that I’ve repeated it several more times. That’s not to say I’m in any way against traditional publishing – and if Penguin or Simon & Schuster come knocking at the door, I’m most assuredly not going to say “No, thanks,” but I find the level of control and interaction I have with the process instead of dropping a pile of pages in the mail and waiting around for them to decide what to do with it amuses me and keeps me engaged. Plus, going back to the “Books are your children” metaphor, home schooling them seems, in some ways, to be kinder than dropping them off at military school and telling them “Come home in 9 months. And don’t forget your paycheck.”
What do you wish you knew about the publishing process before you started?
The number one thing I wish I’d known is that vanity presses and about 90% of the self-publishing houses are bloodsucking leeches out to get you and destroy you. That’s probably a little melodramatic. But after my experiences with a print-on-demand publisher who shall remain nameless, I’ll just say that if anyone is considering self-publishing, search the name of any company you’re potentially going to be working with on Google, and add the word “scam” to it. See what comes up. You’ll save yourself a lot of trouble and money in the long run. (Of course, the idea of just typing “<soandso> scam” and finding 2 million results were still roughly ten years into the future when I finished and submitted my first novel, so perhaps my naiveté and troubles were more forgivable. Still. Search before you sign. Always.)
What is the best advice you could give to aspiring novelists like me? Or what was the best advice you were ever given?
Going to go with the stock answer: Write, write write. Read, read, read. It’s true. Stop doing either, and the whole thing is liable to fall apart. And one other bit of advice: Let someone who hates you read your manuscript and rip it apart. You’ll need a thick skin, and you’ll need to know what works and what doesn’t; having someone who most assuredly is not your friend wielding the red pen can accomplish both of those aims, or at least help you on your way.
Is fanfic to be welcomed as it broadens interaction and the readers experience or a scourge that devalues the ability of an author?
Fanfiction and I have a complicated relationship. My first “serious” work – if anything can be called serious at the age of six – was Super Mario Bros. fan fiction, and I know plenty of folks who got their starts – or who have lucrative side endeavors – writing it. That’s before you get into the hundreds of Star Trek and Star Wars novels, which are essentially glorified and potentially canonized fan fiction at heart, or 50 Shades. There’s definitely a market for it, there’s certainly an interest in it, and I don’t see anything wrong with wanting to create your own “What if?” scenarios in your favorite franchises. It also can help with writer’s block, or for folks who are struggling with world-building; there’s an already existing world that you can plug your story into, and feel your way around while you figure out how it’s all supposed to work.
That being said, there’s also a lot of fan fiction out there that is poorly written, exists only for erotic or fan-service notions of who should be hooking up with who – Wincest fiction broke my brain – or is seemingly only there to start or finish arguments.
Does that mean fan fiction is bad and should be banned? No. Lots of “real” stories and books have those same problems. Does it somehow automatically mark the author as a pariah amongst “real” writers? Don’t think so. But I don’t believe that means it should be universally lauded, either. It’s something to read. If it entertains you, great! If you had fun writing it, great! I don’t think it really needs much more acknowledgment than that. Which also tends to be my stance on nearly any other form, format or genre of the written word.
When I was younger, I had more, but health problems have stripped almost all of them away. I used to play piano and bass, and to do oil painting, but my hands won’t cooperate with those endeavors anymore. For the last ten years or so, it’s pretty strictly been writing. Now, if I ever get awesome cybernetic implants, I might pick up the brushes again…
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
I really don’t know. Quite possibly dead; not to be morbid or anything, but if I didn’t have writing as a creative outlet – or know some of the people I do through writing – I don’t know that I would still be here. If it’s more of a lighthearted question, in the “swap your existing presumed ability to go do anything else you want”, I’d have to say a soap opera star.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I don’t know that I can pinpoint the exact moment, but I know I was writing little stories almost from the time I figured out what a pencil was. Someone, somewhere, has a five sentence story about how beautiful a pair of my kindergarten teacher’s socks were. But the first conscious memory that says “This is what I want to do” was when I swiped my dad’s typewriter when I was six or so and wrote that Mario fan fiction on it, mainly because I really enjoyed the sound the keys made – an audible and tactile addiction I’ve never been able to rid myself of, as the thick pile of receipts for mechanical keyboards shows – and the way the pile of paper got bigger the more I worked on it. From there I moved to an awful D&D style vampire story, and never stopped.
What authors do you admire, and why?
I am sadly not a deep thinker, so my answer will probably sound a trifle too pop-culture, especially if someone’s expecting me to say something like Mark Twain or Malcom X or Chaucer, but I really have to give the top slot to Stephen King. He brought amazing detail, smart and interesting characters and well-done dialogue to popular fiction when a lot of folks said it couldn’t be done. He was continually hitting the best-seller lists and taking home literary and scholastic honors and did it all while writing spooky little ditties about kids in haunted hotels or monster clowns living in the sewer drains. He can write in nearly any genre and sell you on it, and I have never read anyone else who can punch you right in the heart with stories about children or love. 11/22/63 is possibly the best love story I’ve ever read, and it’s hiding in a sci-fi time-travel book by a “horror” writer. That’s an accomplishment. I also have to give him credit because without him, I would probably not be who I am today, or doing what I do; it was the discovery of ‘Salem’s Lot on my sister’s shelf that initially got me heavy duty into reading, and made me want to try to tell stories myself.
I’m also very fond of Clive Barker, who always manages to find the right balance of what to tell you and what to leave you wondering about – or imagining – which is probably the one place where I feel King falls flat.
To find out more about Kaine visit his sites or read his author bio below:
Kaine Andrews was born in San Diego, California, before being spirited away to Carson City, Nevada. There he has remained, with the exception of one memorable week in Bend, Oregon and one small tour in hell (AKA Chandler, Arizona.)
Raised among a family filled with NASCAR loving, mechanically minded folk who considered themselves witches, Kaine’s unique upbringing and early escape from the halls of education, along with the theft of his father’s typewriter, led him to the demented scribbling that he refers to as his “work.”
Through the course of his life, Kaine has been involved in television production, retail work, criminal psychology, newspaper writing, radio and criminology as well as earning trade-school degrees in private investigation, computer programming, freelance writing and motorcycle repair. This eclectic background has left him with a fractured worldview and a number of unique experiences to translate into his writing.
He currently remains in Carson City, while dreaming of the Oregon coast, wrestling with his pet coyote and hoping to one day elope with Katy Perry.