Friday, March 13, 2009

JA Konrath & Jack Kilborn Cornered By Rob Walker (an interview and a reunion)


Today Acme Authors Link welcomes the indomitable JA Konrath to our humble niche of the internet. Konrath is the author of six thrillers in the Jack Daniels series, all named after drinks. He’s also got a new book coming out, a horror novel, under the pen name Jack Kilborn, called Afraid. You can visit him at http://www.jakonrath.com/.

I stalked suspense-thriller writer JA Konrath amid the Chicago shadows on a moonless night in search of the vacant warehouse that fronted the winding Chicago River where it turned sharply as a knife’s edge. Using the light from my cell phone, I hastily checked the address scribbled on my palm. If things got ugly in my search for the creator of the Jackie Daniels series here, author of Whiskey Sour, Bloody Mary, Rusty Nail and more, I might need the phone to call for help. Konrath, it was rumored, liked to do hands-on research, and my father didn’t raise an idiot, and having read Konrath’s ticklishly horribly scary yet hilarious novels, I truly did not wish to wind up in a Konrath novel myself. Especially not as a victim. Somber boat rigging beat out an anthem in the night. The shadows here befit a Bogart film, I was thinking when a George Raft voice came lilting out from behind a creaking door just cracked open. “Walker, inside now.”

I had come to this seedy section of Chicago to interview Konrath who some believed had an evil twin, one who actually wrote the books while the ‘other’ put forth the gargantuan, amazing marketing efforts on JA’s behalf. Of course, no one knew for certain how Konrath kept his cottage industry going at such a breakneck pace, but it had become legend among mystery, suspense, and thriller authors, not to mention the entire horror community. This since his arrival on the publishing scene a handful of years before. I was determined to learn the truth, but I hoped to come away unscathed as I’d promised my wife and children that I’d return safe and whole despite going to see a man termed by many as a true maniac. To ensure my safety I had a sealed affidavit of my last known whereabouts placed in a bank vault, and I was packing a snub-nosed .38.

Konrath remained in shadow, one eye on my wake as I entered the shabby place he’d selected for our meeting. No drinks, no music, no crowd—an empty warehouse, or so it appeared in the darkness. Then he threw a light switch, and I marveled at the sight before me. What appeared to be a million or more books! At first I assumed the poor fellow had had to purchase back every book he personally guaranteed to his readers as worthy of their purse. Then it dawned on me, and I realized why we were here—the place housed every book that the man had ever read in every genre. With head downtrodden he confessed: “The wife said I had to get them out of the house. Besides, the dogs were chewing up my first editions.”

Joe led me to a small table and chairs in one corner of his warehouse of titles where he lit a small kerosene lamp and shut down the costly overhead lights. Here too he had a cooler and from it, he snatched out two Sam Adams for us, and I began to relax. We sat and I tugged out my phone and pressed the key for tape record, and damn if my gun didn’t fall out at Konrath’s toe. Joe grabbed it up, twirled it around like a kid with a toy, and was about to fire it off when I said, “Hold on, it’s real and it’s loaded.”

“Why the gun, Walker?” he asked, a look of absolute puzzlement coming over him, the gun still in his hand.

“The neighborhood.” I shrugged. “Hey, I grew up in Chicago, too, you know. I followed the Blues Brothers.”

He accepted this and placed the gun between us. “So, you’ve got questions for me?”

I rolled out a scroll filled with questions. “Hope we have time for a few of these.”

He sipped his beer. “Best get to it. Twenty minutes I have to be on my way to O’Hare to hop a plane for Florida—speaking at the Writers Who Can’t Type Convention.”

I raised an eyebrow, surprised. “You can’t type?”

“No. Neither of my personalities can. JA Konrath, he’s the hunter. Jack Kilborn, he’s a real pecker.”

“I see. Well, we’d best begin.” I raised the volume on the recorder. “How has Chicago, this great city with its colorful history, informed your novels?”

“Informed my novels of what?” Konrath again looked puzzled but then he cracked up and slapped the table.

“Come on, you know what I mean? You’re a product of Chicago, right? How has it affected your stories, your style, man?”

“Born and raised in the Windy City, my friend. Perfect setting for thrillers. You got locations galore, plenty of room for action, intrigue, suspense, romance, laughs… and horror.”


I checked to make sure my phone was recording. “Tell me about horror.”

Konrath grinned at me, eyes glinting. “You know all about horror, Walker. Hell, I was reading you when I was a teenager. In fact, I read you under three different pen names before I knew they were all you. Maybe that’s why I decided on a pen name for Afraid.”

I glanced nervously at the gun, then checked my crib sheet. “That’s your first Jack Kilborn book, coming out at the end of March, right? Does it take place in Chicago?”

“Wisconsin. A tiny little town of nine hundred people. Something evil comes to town, and the population gets reduced. Drastically.”

“Any funny stuff in this one?”

Konrath/Kilborn shook his head. “This one is all scares, no laughs.” He leaned forward, lowering his voice. “I’m predicting that a lot of people who start it won’t be able to finish it. Too frightening.”

“Why the switch to horror?”

“I’ve always written horror. The Jack Daniels series has a lot of scary scenes. But Afraid gave me a chance to sustain the terror-level for a whole book, rather than just a few chapters.”

I checked my notes again. “Would you classify any of your books as your favorite? And if so, can you explain why?”

“I like Rusty Nail. It introduces Alex, who becomes Jack’s nemesis for two more books, Fuzzy Navel, and Cherry Bomb, coming out this July. It’s a pretty wicked book, in between the jokes.”

“As wicked as Afraid?”

“I’ve never read a book as wicked as Afraid.” He smiled. “Except for some of your stuff, Walker. Remember the first time we met, I called you a sick son of a bitch?”

“First words out of your mouth. Endeared me to you forever.” I switched gears. “ No author on the planet has done more guerilla-styled and classy promotion and marketing than has JA Konrath both on the web and in the real world, and if a prize were given for most endurance in an author on a tour and self-promotion effort, it must go to you, Joe. In fact, if I had a canned ham, I’d award it to you now.

“Thanks. I might even share it with you, if you threw in some bread and cheese.”

“You’re a generous man. My question is: Can you offer a quick word of advice to authors, new and old, who struggle with marketing or have flat out given up on it?”

Konrath took in a breath, blew it out slow. “Okay, in a nutshell. The one who gets their name on the most pieces of paper, wins. That paper could be a book, a short story in a magazine or anthology, or virtual paper, like a blog or web page. The more places people can find you, the better you’ll do as an author. So you need to help people find you.”

“How?”

“Having an Internet presence that’s all about offering information and entertainment. Making sure people can easily find you, while also making sure other people find you when they’re searching for something else. That means you have to give good content.”

“What else?”

“Meeting as many people as possible, in person and on the web. Some people have more power than others. Media folks. Reviewers. Booksellers. Librarians. Bloggers. Give them extra special attention.”

“You make it sound easy.”

“Writing is a service industry, my friend. Give good service, and people will come back for more.”

We hear footsteps just outside and Konrath blows out the single kerosene lamp we have been laboring under. “Who is it, Joe? Who’s after you? For God’s sake man, perhaps I can help. If you are in some kind of trouble . . . you must tell me who is stalking you?”

“Same people who are after you!”

“Fans?”

“Creditors!”

After a moment, the sounds from outside become muffled and soon are gone altogether. Joe relights the lamp. My gun is back in my possession, but the phone is still recording. “Final question for the ACME blog, Joe is not a question. This space is completely and utterly yours to sound off. Your time to add anything you wish. Anything I’ve failed to cover.”

“You’ve been in this biz long enough to know the secret, Walker. It’s about survival. But you can’t survive on your own. We’re writers. There’s no competition between us. My fans are your fans, and vice versa. So we need to treat each other better. Support one another. Recommend each other’s books. Hell, we should buy and review each other’s books as well. Never ceases to amaze me that something so simple, so obvious, is done by so few.”

Konrath stands up, offers his hand. “Thanks for the interview, Walker, and for watching my back. You know I’m your biggest fan.”

I nod, and he walks off into the shadows before I can return the sentiment. But if you’re reading this, Joe, know I feel the same way…

If you’ve enjoyed our brief interlude with Joe Konrath, you can learn a great deal more about him at his website - http://www.jakonrath.com/


MySpace - http://www.myspace.com/jakonrath

For more tedious information about moi, it’s http://www.robertwalkerbooks.com/

Thanks for coming by –
Rob Walker

22 comments:

Morgan Mandel said...

I'm not sure which of you scares me more. Great interview.

Morgan Mandel
http://morganmandel.blogspot.com
http://twitter.com/morganmandel

F. M. Meredith, author said...

You two are something else! I love both of your books--and I do love horror so I'll have to get the newest one, Joe/Jack.

Great interview!

Marilyn
http://marilynmeredith.blogspot.com
http://fictionforyou.com

Tony Burton said...

OK...
Now I know I'm never sharing a hotel room with either of you guys! I don't think I could sleep.

Of course, you'd probably sleep just fine. But the problem is, I wouldn't know if you were REALLY asleep or just pretending and waiting for me to drop off. And then who knows what might happen?

Ack. I have to go open the windows and let some sunlight in! You're scaring me.

Tony Burton
http://www.honeylocustpress.com/serendipity/
http://www.tonyburton.biz/

Tony Burton said...

OK...
Now I know I'm never sharing a hotel room with either of you guys! I don't think I could sleep.

Of course, you'd probably sleep just fine. But the problem is, I wouldn't know if you were REALLY asleep or just pretending and waiting for me to drop off. And then who knows what might happen?

Ack. I have to go open the windows and let some sunlight in! You're scaring me.

Tony Burton
http://www.honeylocustpress.com/serendipity/
http://www.tonyburton.biz/

Norm Cowie said...

You have some talent at this kind of writing, Rob. And you almost make Joe sound friendly.

Norm

http://fangplace.blogspot.com

TdeV@bstw.com said...

Whooboy. I've already volunteered to review Afraid for Mr. Kilborn and NOW I learn that I'm unlikely to be able to read the book.

All the same, this is the best blog post I've read in ages, so thanks for the chuckles!

Theresa de Valence
http://www.ReviewsByTdeV.com

JA Konrath said...

Thanks for having me here Rob, and all the ACME authors. This was a lot of fun.

I'm linking to this post on my blog tour, very soon.

Chester Campbell said...

Love the warehouse scene. You guys ought to get together and shoot a YouTube video of it with a little Jaws music in the background..

Austin S. Camacho said...

Not only was this a GREAT interview, but that's the best picture of Konrath I've ever seen.

Thanks much, fellows, and wow... how come you guys haven't written a novel together? Wait a minute... with all the names you both write under, maybe you have... Hmmmm....

JA Konrath said...

I'll give you the name of my photographer, Austin. He can make you look almost as good. :)

Rob Wallker said...

What can I say? I thought Konrath was going to field all the questions while I went out on a binge. Hey, we folks at ACME "Know Drama" but who could have predicted that JA would pull a Joquin Phoenix on us all, eh?
I put the word out, perhaps frightened too many off that Joe would be on hand at Acme, and now we pay the price, damn it. I should've kept this low key. What the hell was I thinking. As to being AFRAID...that is reading AFRAID, it's scary, yes, but if you liked Ruins, and if you like Poe, and if you like Richard Matheson and Robert Bloch (the greats of horror fiction), you will love AFRAID. Move over Lovecraft. It's Joe unleashed and at his best at once. I strongly support Joe's new persona Jack Kiborn and be AFRAID.

Thanks eveyone for stopping by and I will check back for more comments later today and tomorrow.

Rob - and another thing, Joe's wickedness is just a cover for a sweet heart; you gotta love 'im. See yous guys around on facebook, twitter, crimespace, myspace, your face, my tush, etc.

Pat Mullan said...

God, I do miss you guys! I was sitting right there at the table.

And I'm really AFRAID to read AFRAID. Definitely not in bed before I turn the lights out.

Joe, one of the first places I hung out when I left Ireland and went to England was KILBURN in London - it was a true Irish ghetto (that's before I departed for Canada and your country).

Great interview, Rob :)

jane, candid said...

Rob and Joe,
what an entertaining format for the interview! Loved it. As the month goes on, it must get harder and harder to maintain the originality... or do you still have lots of surprises in your back pocket, Joe?

Rob Wallker said...

Great now ACME is in Ireland! Great to see you here, Pat Mullan, me ol' friend. Got good blues in Ireland, I'll bet. Remember the Blues club Miranda and I took you to in Chicago? We had a great time that night. Joe's warehouse is not far from there!

For those amongst ya who wanna read more darkside Chicago, noir Chicago, go to City for Ransom, right Pat?
Your review of the book still blows me away!

rob

Margot Justes said...

And here I thought Jackie Daniels was scary.
Great interview but I'm afraid-very afraid to read your latest.
Anything soft and gentle on the horizon for you, Joe?

Margot Justes
www.mjustes

Kim Smith said...

Thanks for the great interview. I would love to see this done on video.

Taffy said...

Great interview! Kept me reading!

Rob Wallker said...

I'm just glad that ACME got off the STENCH thread. For a while there, every subject matter on the blog had to do with things that SMELL... Oh, wait a minute, Konrath did have a distinctly permeating odor about him as he had not bathed in some time, hiding out, on the lamb as it were...Oddly enough, the man has no sense of smell...at least not of his own smell! Yuk-yuk! You know I had to get him before he got me!

rob

Jean Henry Mead said...

Wow! Great interview and I have to follow you guys with an interview with Rob on Mysterious People?

Jean
http.//acmeauthorslink.blogspot

rob walker said...

This blog will be seen in a couple of weeks as an interview for Mysterical E ezine online as editor Joe de Marco loved it.
YEAH RAH!!

rob

kiramatali shah said...

Often we forget the little guy, the SMB, in our discussions of the comings and goings of the Internet marketing industry. Sure there are times like this when a report surfaces talking about their issues and concerns but, for the most part, we like to talk about big brands and how they do the Internet marketing thing well or not so well.


www.onlineuniversalwork.com

kiramatali shah said...

Often we forget the little guy, the SMB, in our discussions of the comings and goings of the Internet marketing industry. Sure there are times like this when a report surfaces talking about their issues and concerns but, for the most part, we like to talk about big brands and how they do the Internet marketing thing well or not so well.


www.onlineuniversalwork.com