Queue applause track… queue cameras… WHAT? No cameras?!? All right, forget the cameras. Sound only…. no sound either? (sigh) All right, regroup, Let’s just go with the written interview… queue interview… aaaannndd GO!
Stephen Kozeniewski (pronounced “causin’ ooze key”), is the author of the new Red Adept Publishing release Braineater Jones. It’s the story of a man who literally wakes up dead and is determined to find out how he got that way. I just recently had the opportunity to read it and I have to say, this book is a fantastic representation of pulp noir. Very well done, Stephen.
Stephen’s Bio follows:
Stephen Kozeniewski lives with his wife of 9 years and cat of 22 pounds in Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the modern zombie. He was born to the soothing strains of “Boogie With Stu” even though The Who are far superior to Zep, for reasons that he doesn’t even really want to get into right now.
During his time as a Field Artillery officer, he served for three years in Oklahoma and one in Iraq, where due to what he assumes was a clerical error, he was awarded the Bronze Star. The depiction of addiction in his fiction is strongly informed by the three years he spent working at a substance abuse clinic, an experience which also ensures that he employs strict moderation when enjoying the occasional highball of Old Crow.
He is also a classically trained linguist, which sounds much more impressive than saying his bachelor’s degree is in German.
SK: Ha! Thanks for having me, Jeff. No, I don’t mind talking about the war, I just wish I had a sexier answer to give you. First of all, my BSM was for service, not valor, which is to say that there was no thrilling act of battlefield derring-do I did to earn it, but rather a million mostly tedious acts of logistical support and record-keeping. The easiest way I can describe how I earned it is that we started with about 50 people firing rockets from one location, then over the course of a year I was partially responsible (or at least responsible enough to be recognized) for having 200 people in 5 locations. It was a lot of moving personnel, ordnance, and equipment, which is challenging and rewarding work (especially under fire) but not exactly Dirty Dozen stuff.
JLB: Something else in your bio caught my attention, as I’m sure it caught the attention of several other readers. How do I put this delicately? …YOU HAVE A CAT THAT WEIGHS TWENTY-TWO FREAKING POUNDS?!?!?!
SK: Yes, indeedy. We assume young Felix is part saber tooth. We recently got a new kitten, Nibbler, who when we adopted her was 2.2 lbs, so he was literally ten times her size.
JLB: So how did your interest in writing begin? Was there a specific event or time that gelled the desire for you to put pen to paper?
SK: I recall writing as early as 7. Perhaps the real impetus for me to start writing was when my father bought the family’s first computer ’round about 1992. At the time I was just stunned to be able to open a word processing file and be able to go back and edit things without correction fluid and manually scrolling the paper.
JLB: Well, congratulations on the release of your book. Your first, right?
SK: Yup. I had a drabble (a 100 word piece of microfiction) published in the anthology ANOTHER 100 HORRORS. But this is my first full-length solo novel.
JLB: Why Pulp? … and zombies? … and Nazis? … and … I mean that’s quite the combination. What influences jumped into the blender to give you the world of Braineater Jones?
SK: When my editors asked me to make a list of easter eggs and references in BRAINEATER JONES, I came up with over a hundred examples, and I’m not certain I caught them all. The references were as diverse as Night of the Living Dead, Dolemite, Forever Knight, Mission Hill, THE SIRENS OF TITAN, Life on Mars, Army of Darkness, Unforgiven, Hamlet…the list goes on and on. My mind and work at any given time is a bouillabaisse of pop and high culture references.
JLB: You built an interesting alternate reality in Braineater Jones. Zombies in a prohibition era, pre-WW2 America. How did you approach your world building? What train of thought led you to the world of the Mat?
SK: My world-building for BJ was as close to unearthing a pre-existing fossil as almost anything I’ve ever done. Almost as soon as I realized that the zombies in my world were intelligent and fueled by alcohol, the rest of it just fell into place. Of course it had to be set during Prohibition, and of course the dead would have to live in their own ghetto. As the intelligent undead they would be atheists, having seen the light at the end of the tunnel and come back. It all just kind of tumbled into place like Tetris blocks. I actually scribbled the entire world-building in a steno pad during smoke breaks at work over the course of a single day.
JLB: So what is your writing process like? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
SK: I’m not a big fan of the P-words. I tend to let things grow organically, but I usually know where a plot is going in a general sense. I’ll write myself notes or do world-building when I have to, so it’s not like I totally eschew planning. Recently I’ve taken to keeping a whiteboard on the wall to make physical charts, like character spectra or plot models. For instance, in my upcoming novel I broke down the characters into each of the nine alignments from Dungeons and Dragons. But I get most of my breakthroughs in the shower. Is that pantsing or plotting? I don’t know. Claim me for your side if you must, word nerds.
JLB: Are you disciplined about your writing? Do you have a set time and place where you sit and write, or do you just go when and where the mood takes you? What’s your writing environment like?
SK: Well, I wouldn’t say I have a routine or anything. I like to sit down at my desk whenever I have a few hours, which is kind of whenever. You can check out my office in any of the vlogs I’ve been doing this year. I like to listen to my “kitchen sink” music mix and burn a candle when I’m writing (sue me) and in ancienter times I demanded a cup of coffee and a cigarette to get anything done. But my house is non-smoking now.
SK: Well, this year I’m reading all 100 books on the Modern Library’s Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century, which explains the aforementioned vlogging. So, I don’t have a whole lot of spare time. But generally speaking I like to do karaoke on the weekends and I’m a big fan of Warhammer. Mostly painting, because I haven’t played in a good…seven years?
JLB: Let’s have fun for a minute. The movie rights are optioned, and the casting manager wants your input. Who should play Jones? Anyone living or dead… um, or undead? – Go!
SK: Dead? Humphrey Bogart or Gary Cooper. Living? Well…I didn’t really come up with one for that. But I’d like the Old Man to be voiced by H. Jon Benjamin. What I like most about this scenario is that, as we all know, the author of the source material is usually the first person the casting director goes to for advice…
JLB: So what’s next? Are you going to continue Jones’ journey, or do you plan to try something new?
SK: Well, I just signed with Severed Press to publish my magnum opus THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO and I’m about a third of the way through the sidequel to that. (“Sidequel?” How’s that for pretentious author talk?) I’ve also got a couple of manuscripts in the can that need to be edited. One is a sort of play on BRAVE NEW WORLD, one is a roman à clef about my time in the army, and the one I’m currently working on is what I and fellow RAP author Mary Fan refer to as “balletpunk.” (That is, science fiction starring a ballerina. Yeah, I don’t know what to make of that trend, either.) Is Jones dead? Well, not if you clap your hands and believe, folks. But, yeah, if the fans demand it, I might continue Jones’s journey someday.
JLB: As a last question, are there any last words you want to leave for your readers?
SK: Thanks for reading my work. I know you have a choice in books (an overwhelming choice) and the fact that you would pick up mine is, frankly, humbling. And I’d also like to thank Jeff for having me. This is a great guy. He DDed for me the first day we met, and that’s a sacred bond I won’t soon forget. (SACRED BOND!)
JLB: Aww… shucks. ‘Twart nuthin’. Besides, if you were inebriated enough to get into a motorized vehicle with me behind the wheel, you were obviously in no condition to drive, right? (Just kidding folks – I was designated driver by simple virtue of the fact that I don’t drink much, and everyone else wanted to be extra safe. I don’t recall anyone actually being all that schnockered.)
So folks, if you are interested in picking up a copy of Braineater Jones, it’s available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iTunes. Go check it out. And oh yeah… Stephen and Red Adept Publishing are also running a Rafflecopter giveaway. So click and enter to win Amazon gift cards.
If there is something you want in life, keep plugging away at it. Who knows, perhaps with enough time, hard work, and a bit of genetic manipulation, you too can create a gi-normous, part-Pleistocene cat!
For anyone who wants to find out more about the twisted mind that gave birth to Braineater Jones, you can catch up with Stephen’s latest projects on his blog, Manuscripts Burn, or hit him up on Twitter where he goes by the handle @Outfortune.
That’s it for now. So go out and write something. And as always. stay safe.