Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
Well hello! Honestly, I’m terrible at introductions. Hi! I’m Keith. I’m a forensic investigation teacher, a coordinator in a computer store, and I’ve written about ten books. Most are actually pretty short. Novelettes and novellas. I do have one novel so far, Necromantica, which is fantasy. One of a few fantasies I’ve written, and am working on. Although I really don’t limit myself to one genre. I’ve got some sci-fi out there. I have a book based on the writings of Gertrude Stein that I can really only explain as Dadaism or Cubism. And some monster stories. A few months ago I put out a book on character development for writers. So, yeah, I bounce all over the place.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
My latest book is a little sci-fi comedy called “Black Friday.” And it’s inspired by my childhood. Getting together with the family at Thanksgiving, really. And, I’ve worked in retail for the past twenty years, so there was a lot of influence in that too. Holiday shoppers really give you an opportunity to see the best and worst in humanity. Often only moments apart. The story itself is about a little girl, five hundred years in the future. She’s the only child at a big family gathering, their annual feast before Black Friday. So, Thanksgiving in the future, completely consumed by door buster deals.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I wouldn’t say so. But I’m a pretty strange guy so it’s difficult to tell. Like, I kind of assume other writers also talk aloud in their character’s voices. Maybe mimic certain actions or act out scenes they’re working on. Alone. …Please tell me I’m not the only one who does that.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
I read a lot of Stephen King growing up. Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. Elmore Leonard as a teenager. Chuck Palahniuk, especially Survivor and Invisible Monsters. Those are two staples. In recent years I’m really into J.K. Rowling, and I love rereading the Harry Potter books for the story itself, but also watching her grow as a writer. David Sedaris is always great. David Mitchell is brilliant. And I love reading film scripts. Especially the Coen Brothers and Tarantino.
Let’s see. Who else? I wasn’t really big into comics, but The Crow by James O’Barr was a phenomenal source of inspiration. I mean, I was thirteen, going through a goth phase, but I remember the hard black and white. How every last image was so brutal, and every feeling being conveyed was palpable. And then his character is quoting song lyrics and Shakespeare. I think it was my first real comprehension of layers and depth in a narrative. I wanted to create that.
I mean, I’ve had plenty of other influences over the years, but that was the one that did me in. That was the story that made me want to write and drip my soul out one letter at a time.
What are you working on now?
Too many things. I actually need to narrow my focus a little and pick a project to finish. I have my series of monster stories, Roadside Attraction. Well, I say series, but only the first book, Siren Night, has been out for six years now. I have the next two stories written. It’s just a matter of getting them to their final drafts. Then there’s a sequel to Necromantica that’s about halfway finished. And I’m doing some more books for writers on character development and world building. The first one in that series, Character Development for Badass Writers, has gotten some really positive responses, so I’m really pushing to get the next one or two out.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
I wish I could give a solid answer on that. I promote on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Instagram, YouTube, Kboards, and a few others. Mostly my one novel, Necromantica, and I’m finding it’s a tough sell. It’s fantasy. It’s dark. So right there I have a niche audience. I can say the same for a lot of my stuff. But this book won a New Apple Award. Every bit of feedback has been positive. People I wouldn’t expect to enjoy it really seem to dig it. So I know I have something. But even with everything I do to promote it, enticing an audience is a challenge. We live in a world where our stories aren’t just competing against millions of other books. Today’s audience has more content uploaded every day than one person can ever see in a lifetime. There’s always a new YouTube sensation, a new super hero movie, a new TV show to binge. Whatever format you use to advertise and promote your work, it takes a lot to stand out. I wish I could say there’s one definitive method or that one site that makes the entire world gush over your book. But as an indie writer, you almost have to shotgun blast everything you have, everywhere you can. Saturate everything. You’ll still fail a lot, but success comes through being persistent.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Make friends with other writers. Help each other out. Offer to read a story or poem and always give honest feedback. Go to workshops. If you can’t find any, start one. Whether it’s in person or online. Don’t even think about publishing until you’ve had plenty of experience working with others. Grow as a writer. And when you think you’re ready, keep working, sharing, and editing with your group. Always listen to other people’s advice. In my experience, the weakest fiction comes from people who say, “I’m going to make a million dollars!” and publish on a whim. Crafting something real, something good, takes time and experience. And you can’t grow on your own. You need peers.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
Know your characters. Not just to plug my Character Development book… Okay, maybe to plug that book a little. But it’s still the absolute most paramount thing in all of fiction. You can have the single greatest plot, the most shocking twist, and some incredible imagery or wordplay. If your readers don’t care about the characters, none of it will matter. We don’t care about the plot. We care about who the plot happens to. If your characters are generic, everything about your story is generic. So really take the time to develop your characters. See them as unique individuals. Ask questions. Interview them. Don’t just come up with one traumatic childhood incident and a strained relationship. Give a person a life. Give him aesthetics. Give him memories. Regrets. Favorite songs. Guilty pleasures. Routines. The more you understand your character, the more readers will want to understand him too.
What are you reading now?
I just finished the Bobiverse trilogy and Ready Player One. I started the first book in the Earthsea series. I’m slowly working through It. Some short fiction by Ted Chiang. I have a textbook on blood spatter that I’ve going through, trying to bring more material into my classes. Hum by Jamaal May is just a part of my nightstand now. Longitude and Latitude, with Attitude by Rufus McGaugh. And I have a small stack of stories by Harry Campion and MH Mead that I keep telling myself not to read until I’ve finished something else. But I’ll probably give in soon.
What’s next for you as a writer?
Coffee. Lots of coffee. Probably some chocolate chip cookies.
What is your favorite book of all time?
Oh man. Just one? Like my “trapped on a desert island with only one book” book? I’m going to have to go with Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.