Monday, May 7, 2007
Welcome to “Up Close & Personal.” For every interview I will be introducing a literary personality discussing his views and insights, as well as upcoming literary events around the world.
Today’s interview is with JA Konrath. His books are known for combining his humor with terror. In the writing community he is well known for self-promotion. He believes that writers must play a large part in marketing their own books. In his blogs, A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, focus on Mr. Konrath’s self-promotion. He is a very outspoken individual, controversial on his views on advertising, the publishing industries and the Internet publicity.
JA Konrath mailed closed to 7000 letters to libraries across the US in 2006, with fellow mystery authors promoting their books to librarians.
E.I. Welcome, and thank you for dropping by. Mr. Konrath, what were you like as a teenager? Please tell your readers more about JA Konrath -- the man behind the author?
JA Konrath: I was a creative type---shooting goofy videos with friends, acting in plays, writing stories. Basically, doing everything I could to ensure that I'd never have a girlfriend.
Then college came along, and creativity became cool. I went to Columbia College in Chicago, where I majored in Budweiser. I took creative writing classes, and got Cs.
Right after college, I decided I wanted to be a thriller writer, since no one wanted to hire me as a late night talk show host opposite David Letterman.
E.I. Could you describe your path to publication--any stumble along the way? Is there anything about you that you would do differently, knowing what you do now?
JA Konrath: I garnered 450 rejections for nine unsold novels before I landed a book deal. I was a slush pile success. No prior publishing credit. No friends in the publishing business.
If I did it over, I would have tried to hone my writing and querying craft on short stories, and would have gone to conventions to meet fellow writers, editors, and agents. Plus, I would have eaten more bran.
E.I. You are well known in the writing community for self-promotion. And that you believe writers must play a large role in marketing their own books. Could you share with your fans about your challenges in Marketing your first book Whiskey Sour ?
JA Konrath: There are over 100 novels released every day, and almost half of these are by James Patterson. How are you going to compete?
The answer: Build a brand.
You need to get your books and name out there. You can do this by visiting bookstores, conventions, and libraries, meeting fans, and havign a large Internet presence.
Only 1 out of 5 books makes a profit, and it's harder to sell your second book than your first. Once your book is in print, you're no longer a writer. You're a salesperson. If you don't like that, don't quit your day job.
E.I. Let's talk about a few of your most recent titles. How about DIRTY MARTINI, coming from Hyperion in July of 2007? What were your challenges in bringing back Lt. Jacqueline “JACK” Daniels?
JA Konrath: I love writing Jack books, and I've never had as much fun writing a book as I did Dirty Martini. It's larger in scope than the previous books, and it's also funnier. Plus, it's going to scare the crap out of people.
I took some criticism for my last book, Rusty Nail, because of the level of violence. Dirty Martni has no real violence in it---the villain is a poisoner who is spreading boutlism toxin around Chicago. The challenge was to make the new book frightening without using any blood. Early readers tell me I pulled it off.
I also believe that Dirty Martini is the most cinematic of my books so far. It has a big ending, and a lot of fun scenes. Since it's a dream of mine to some day have a movie made from one of my books, I'm thinking more about how the narrative would translate to the screen. Do I have a big hook? Do I have enough romance? Do I have any parts for hip young actors?
This is called "selling out." I highly encourage it. Artistic integrity is great, but it can't buy you a house in Hawaii.
But seriously, you should always keep your audience in mind while you're writing. Especially if you're pennign a series. They have expectations. Your job (and writing is a job) is to meet and surpass those expectations, if you want them to keep buying your books.
Treat your fans right, and eventually Hollywood will come calling.
E.I. If you were allowed total control of the Hollywood version of ‘Lt. Jacqueline Daniel who would be in it? And in your opinion who do you think should direct?
JA Konrath: Sigorney Weaver would make a great Jack. I also like Geena Davis, Rene Russo, Mary-Elizabeth Mastrantonio, and Mariska Hargitay. But I'd be happy if they gave the part to Rob Schneider in drag.
Actually, "happy" may not be the right word. But I'd still cash the check.
Naturally, I would want to direct. Though Renny Harlin would be a suitable replacement.
E.I. How have you seen your writing evolve over the years? What new directions are interesting to you?
JA Konrath: I'm taking more chances with my writing, being more experimental. For the fifth Jack book (Fuzzy Navel, coming in 2008) I used eight different POVs (two of them first-person) and did the book in real time, like the TV show 24. It's fun to stretch your creative wings.
I've also learned to cut the fat. My stories are more pared down these days. For example, Dirty Martni has a lot more action that Whiskey Sour, even thoguh the books are the same length. Less description and backstory means more conflict.
E.I. What would you tell those authors considering applying to an M.F.A. program? In your opinion how important is it for a writer to have a writing degree?
JA Konrath: Why are you working on an MFA when you should be at home writing?
An MFA is great if you want to teach. If you want to be published, you need to finish the damn book you're working on. School will get in the way of that.
E.I. What are the tougher aspects about your writing life?
JA Konrath: Promoting is hard. I work about 60 hours a week, and very little of it is writing. Traveling, keeping up with Internet activity, visiting bookstores---that all takes about about 85% of my time.
E.I. What's next for your fans?
JA Konrath: We're all going out for a beer. Then, Twister.
E.I. Are you interested in speaking to groups? If so, how can interested parties contact you?
JA Konrath: I always enjoy speaking groups. Email me and I'll come visit, as long as you pay my outrageous speaking fee.
E.I. Mr. Konrath, thank you so much for contributing to my blog. It has been a pleasure for me to get to know you, and your work a little better. Would you like to end your interview with a writing tip or advice for young aspiring writers?
JA Konrath: Get off the Internet and get back to work.
To learn more about JA Konrath, please visit him at:
Posted by E. I. Johnson at 10:36 AM