Sunday, March 20, 2005

J. A. Konrath Interview

Today I have an interview with J. A. (Joe) Konrath, author of the “Jack” Daniels series, the novel Whiskey Sour and a couple of short stories. He also writes horror short stories.

TSOI: Which do you enjoy writing more, Joe, short stories or novels?

JAK: Short stories. I think a finished novel is more satisfying, but I usually knock out a short story in two or three days, so I don't have time to get sick of it.

But the thing I really love writing is poetry. Here's one:

My grandma wears a diaper,
I really hate to wipe her.

TSOI: In addition to mystery/crime short stories you write horror. Which genre is easier for you to write?

JAK: They're both pretty easy. The really tough genre is gay cyberpunk chick lit ethnic sci-fi.

Beware writing in genres you don't read. I tried to do a inspiration book, but didn't know enough about the format, and couldn't sell it. It was called "Soup Chicken for the Dyslexic's Soul."

TSOI: Periodically you hold short story contests on your website. Why? Do you get a lot of entries, and what are the prizes?

JAK: There aren't many short story markets anymore, and most contests have a submission fee. My contest is free, and first prize is fifty bucks and a free book. I've gotten a few hundred entries. Lots of talent out there. Many of the submitters are better writers than I am. But that's really not that hard to do.

TSOI: You are the poster child for perseverance having written nine unpublished novels before you hit with Whiskey Sour. Did you publish any short stories before you got Whiskey Sour accepted?

JAK: Nope. Whiskey Sour was the first thing I've sold. Since then, I've sold about two dozen shorts. And three pairs of pants.

TSOI: Do you see your short stories as a way to promote your novels or yourself?

JAK: Short stories are the best form of advertising. Not only are they cost-free, but a big magazine like Alfred Hitchcock has a circulation of 300,000. How else could I get that many people to see my name? Other than renting a billboard on I-90?

Another good promo idea is to tattoo you book cover on your wife's forehead while she's asleep. Plus, that's a tax write-off.

TSOI: Do you have any more Jack Daniels short stories in the pipeline?

JAK: Jack has another story called WITH A TWIST coming out this summer in EQMM. Her sidekick, Phineas Troutt, also has an EQMM story coming out soon called SUFFER. Plus Phin and Harry McGlade (also from the series) have some shorts on submission to various mags and anthos. I try to always have five to ten stories on submission.

TSOI: Do you outline for either short stories or novels? If yes, to what level of detail?

JAK: For novels, I have to outline because my publisher requires it. If I had my way, I wouldn't outline. For short stories, never. Sometimes I'll jot down notes. The new Jack story is a locked room mystery, and it has about twenty clues in it to help the reader figure out the ending. I needed to preplan those clues perfore I tackled the story.

Hmm. That answer really wasn't very funny. Here's another poem:

I am choking on a yak!
I am choking on a yak!
Please somebody hit me!
On the back!
Yak yak!

Hmm. That really wasn't very funny either.

TSOI: You inject a lot of humor into your stories, though few or none could be considered humorous. Do you think that helps sell your stuff?

JAK: Life is pretty hard, and laughter is always good. That's why I often visit nursing homes and point at the sick old people and just laugh and laugh and laugh. I'm sure it makes them feel better.

TSOI: You mentioned in your interview on Writer's Roundtable (BTW, I listened to the WHOLE two hours) that you have a numerical basis for determining if your work has reached a level of quality suitable to be sent out into the world. Can you give us a brief explanation of that and/or a place where we can learn more about it?

JAK: You listened to the whole two hours? I was the one interviewed, and I didn't even listen to the whole two hours. Did I look fat?

To answer your question, you can learn to critique your own stories by using a point scale. There's a free download on my website explaining it here: http://www.jakonrath.com/tips6.html. It works pretty well--many of my students at the college where I teach have used it with some degree of success.

TSOI: You were pretty intimately involved in the audiobook version of Whiskey Sour including voicing one of the minor (but in a major way) characters and in reading one of your short stories which was included as a bonus. Was that a lot of fun? Do you like listening to fiction? Would you like to see (hear) audio short stories become more available on the web?

JAK: I love audiobooks. They're like getting a massage--pleasurable without having to make an effort. I'm going back to Brilliance Audio and doing the same thing with Bloody Mary, the second Jack book.

The more audio, the better.

Don't listen to erotica on audio, though. You can get an ear infection.

TSOI: BTW, Whiskey Sour is not available on Audible.com. You ought to have a serious talk with Brilliance (publisher of the Whiskey Sour audiobook) about that.

JAK: I'll get my beating stick and whap some heads.

TSOI: You teach writing, I understand, and, unusually in my experience, you teach courses in how to get an agent and marketing. Is marketing more important in getting an agent or in getting a publisher?

JAK: Get the agent first. Many publishers won't even ocnsider your work unless you're represented. How I got an agent (after 450 rejections) is also a fee download on my site. Basically, you market yourself to the agent the same way the publishers market books to consumers.

Fed-Exing an agent a box full of cash also works.

TSOI: What do you think about the future of the short story?

JAK: Eventually, they'll be available as pills. You'll eat one, and the whole story will unfold in your head.

Just be careful you don't mix genres, like taking a Harlan Ellison with a Larry Block. Major bad trip, man.

TSOI: The sequel to Whiskey Sour, Bloody Mary, is due out in June. What is your favorite part of the new book?

JAK: Whiskey Sour was very much a formula book. This one is not. No one will guess the ending. No one will even guess the middle.

There's also more humor. And absolutely zero poetry.

TSOI: Do you have any other thoughts you'd like to share with us on short stories or writing in particular?

JAK: 1. Write everyday.
2. Finish what you start.
3. Submit what you finish.
4. Repeat.

And make sure you study your market, and read the magazines you submit to. It's the main reason for rejections. That, and your story probably stinks, and you have no talent.

But don't let lack of talent stop you. It sure didn't stop me.

This was fun. But next time, I get to ask the questions.

TSOI: Thanks for taking the time to put up with me, Joe. And for all my faithful readers, buy Joe’s books and read his stories. You’ll thank me. And him. (I highly recommend Joe's Tips section on his website. You'll learn something, I promise.)

5 Comments:

At 8:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had to laugh out loud a few times there. Joe, you're so funny...

And Bob, I've said this before, but I'll say it again--I love it when you interview people for The Short Of It...keep it and the blogging up!

Christopher

 
At 11:56 AM, Blogger Candace said...

Bob, thanks for posting this interview. I have yet to read "Whiskey Sour" but it's next. Konrath's short stories are excellent for a guy with, self-admittedly, no talent.

Am enjoying your reviews of "Dangerous Women" which I am reading now.

 
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