Steve Kozeniewski, the author of Braineater Jones and The Ghoul Archipelago, took the time to sit down and give me a wildly entertaining interview. He not only shares my initials and nearly a first name, but also shares a passion for horror and writing. Steve was recently signed to Permuted Press and I can only imagine the success we can expect from Steve in the future. Now sit back, relax and enjoy a peek into the mind of Mr. Kozeniewski himself.
HMS: Thank you for taking the time to hang with HMS and answer our questions, Stephen!
SK: Thanks for having me, Stevie! And if you don’t mind me saying, I love your name. And your hat.
HMS: Why thank you! I’m a big fan of your name too. So let’s get down to the basics, tell us about your roots in horror. How did you get involved in the genre and what sparked your interest in writing?
SK: Oh, good question. I’m trying to think back to my earliest horror memories. I know it’s very in vogue these days to mention Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, which is why it’s probably the first series that jumps to mind. I definitely read those and Goosebumps and probably at least a few other similar knockoffs during that era (which is probably severely dating me with your audience.) Also, as a passionate television addict I have strong memories of watching Tales From the Crypt, Are You Afraid of the Dark, The Outer Limits, and those sorts of shows. Wow, when I actually lay it all out like that it seems like I have deep roots in horror back to early childhood! I didn’t really start writing horror in earnest, though, until about 2001.
HMS: What are some of your favorite books that you’ve read over the years?
SK: Horror? Well, nothing tops The Rising. I never really got into Stephen King (yeah, I know, sue me) but I did read Different Seasons at some point. Oh, I think Geek Love is an underrated classic. And I really enjoyed This Book is Full of Spiders. And it might be exaggerating to say that I “enjoyed” Brain Cheese Buffet, but it did make such a mark on me that I wrote an article about it…
HMS: You currently have two published novels, The Ghoul Archipelago and Braineater Jones; tell us the ideas behind these two very different works and what potential readers can expect from the books.
SK: I like to say that Braineater Jones is 90% humor/10% horror and The Ghoul Archipelago is 90% horror/10% humor. BJ is a fun, frothy romp about a wacky zombie detective trying to solve his own murder. I’ve had lots of readers say something along the lines of, “I don’t normally like horror, but I LURVVVED this book.” I’m very glad it has crossover appeal and lots of audiences seem to enjoy it.
TGA, though, is hardcore horror at its most extreme, a tale of blood, gore, and cannibalism set in the South Pacific. This novel is my attempt to really earn my bones in the horror community. And from the reviews (and anguished e-mails) it seems I’ve succeeded.
HMS: Was the writing process different for you when you wrote your second book as opposed to your first?
SK: Oh, yeah, miles different. For one thing, my debut novel (BJ) was in first person, so it was more or less an attempt at transcribing what I was thinking. My biggest issue was that my fingers are slower than my brain. I had a vague sense where the plot was going but overall it developed in a very stream-of-consciousness, freewheeling style.
My sophomore novel (TGA) went through at least three distinct phases of existence (which probably explains why it seems stitched together like the Frankenstein monster.) There are nine separate viewpoint characters, which means I had to develop nine people to the point where I could see the world through their eyes. (Only your nerdiest of readers will appreciate this, but I actually developed all of my characters based on where they landed on the AD&D alignment chart.) The planning was intense, and to bring all of the elements together by the end required going back and forth a lot, planting story seeds earlier and earlier.
HMS: Speaking of the writing process, are there any special surroundings you need to be in when writing or any routines you go through?
SK: I will only write on top of a giant pile of money, surrounded by many beautiful ladies.
HMS: I think that I’ll start writing my next book in that exact same way. So I know it’s like picking a favorite child, but between Braineater Jones and The Ghoul Archipelago, which is your personal favorite?
SK: Well, Braineater Jones has a special place in my heart, of course. That lovable scamp was the first fictional character I managed to foist upon the world, and brought me every other “first” that comes with being an author. (First release party! First royalty check! First crushing sales disappointment!)
But no, I must unabashedly say that The Ghoul Archipelago is my favorite. BJ was just kind of a lark. It’s just for fun. TGA is serious. It’s my magnum opus. Essentially everything that I have to say on most matters I said with that book. I think of it as my Brothers Karamazov. If I died tomorrow people might regret that I never wrote anything else (“might” being the operative word here) but they’d always have TGA to remember me by, and know that I was satisfied with it.
HMS: Congratulations on your recent deal with Permuted Press! Tell us a little bit about what we can expect from you and Permuted. What does this mean for you as a writer?
SK: Thanks! Well, I believe this means I’ve “made it.” At least, that’s what everyone keeps telling me. Certainly, as a direct result this deal has landed me such coveted opportunities as an appearance on Zombiepalooza Radio and an interview in Horror Metal Sounds. Frankly, I find it all kind of terrifying and/or mystifying and I keep waiting for the next e-mail from the person I thought was the president of Permuted to ask me to wire a bunch of money to Senegal.
But assuming it all turns out NOT to be a 419 scam, you can expect to see three new trilogies. The first will be a dystopian political satire about what happens when the Culture Wars turn into a shooting war. The first book in that series is tentatively titled Every Kingdom Divided, and that will be the first book you’ll see. I’ve already sent it in to Permuted. EKD should go into editing this summer.
After that, the other two trilogies are a space opera called The Hyena (a long-time dream and personal favorite of mine that I’m happy to finally see come to fruition) and a series centering around the mysterious Hunter of the Dead, which is a more traditional vampire horror tale.
HMS: What future projects are you most excited about and explore with us why you’re itching to get started on it!
SK: Oh, gosh, more than I’ve already gone over? I have no idea what’s next after the trilogies I owe Permuted, but I am itchy to dive back into the world of The Ghoul Archipelago.
Oh, actually I DO know what I’m most excited about, although it’s on a very different front than novel-writing. I’ve been working with Steve Rimpici, the voiceover artist who did the audiobook for Braineater Jones, as well as Zee Risek, an animator who worked on Comedy Central’s Ugly Americans amongst other things, to put together a BJ cartoon! I have no idea what kind of timeframe is involved in bringing a television show to life so I’m not sure when/if audiences can see it, but development is definitely under way.
HMS: As a writer myself, it’s important to always keep an eye out for each other and give the best advice we can. What piece of personal advice would you give to other aspiring writers out there? What rule of thumb have you always lived by as a writer?
SK: The best piece of writing advice I could give an aspiring author is, “Never take writing advice.” As for a rule of thumb I would say “Never judge yourself against other authors” although that sounds dangerously close to writing advice so you probably shouldn’t take it.
HMS: And now for my favorite question to ask Horror writers: the zombie apocalypse is upon us! The object to the left of you is your weapon of defense against the undead! What is it?
SK: A lady’s mitten.
HMS: Thank you Steve for answering our questions and I look forward to your future novels. From us at Horror Metal Sounds to you, good luck and keep it up!
SK: Thanks for having me!
Be on the lookout for Steve’s future projects ladies and gents, I would definitely watch the cartoon about Braineater Jones! And good luck Steve, with that lady’s mitten.
Both of Steve's books can be purchased on Amazon. Follow Steve on Facebook, Twitter or his blog.
Stevie Kopas, Associate Editor HMS
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