In order to continue discovering how other writers see our crazy writing world, I’ve talked with a long time writer peer of mine, Jack Kardiac.
This interview was another over email. I met Jack online (goodreads.com). We met when I posted a need for a beta reader for my short story collection, Perspectives, and he responded with a proposal: I’ll read yours if you read mine. Therefore, I read his second short story collection, Squint, to be available for purchase soon. We worked really well together and have continued to ever sense. I look forward to working with J more in the future. Below is a short biography about Jack and a blurb for his available book, Squint.
Currently Reading: http://www.goodreads.com/review/list/30504247?shelf=currently-reading
Amazon Author Page: http://goo.gl/ClP6Lv
Jack Kardiac was born in Siloam Springs, Arkansas and grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was raised on a steady diet of comic books, Twilight Zone episodes, and Alfred Hitchcock paperbacks. He watches Die Hard every Christmas and Peter Jackson’s King Kong once every summer. In reality, he likes to make people think, laugh, and change the world for the better. When he writes, he enjoys having people desperately running for their lives. Preferably from a giant monster.
Jack currently lives in the remote jungles of Indonesia where he teaches Creative Writing to young, impressionable minds.
And yes, he has a twin brother.
His new book, “Squint: and 10 More Surprising Short Stories,” will be published on October 20th, and is available for pre-order for only 99¢ until then.
- How long have you been writing as a hobby and how long have you been writing professionally?
“I wrote off and on throughout college, mainly short stories and one epic poem about a werewolf. (Slightly less epic today, but I might still rewrite it eventually…) It wasn’t until the summer of 2012 that I decided to create a collection of stories, however, and got back into writing on a regular basis.”
- What’s your genre?
“That’s a tough one. Because I grew up reading Alfred Hitchcock, comic books and watching The Twilight Zone, that’s what I’m inclined to write. So I guess you could say I’m across the spectrum, writing stories that would be categorized as Crime, Horror, Sci-Fi and just plain Weird. (Which is such a generic term and nebulous, but yeah, there’s a genre of short stories called “weird” that mine would fit into. Who knew?)”
(Interviewer note: “Weird” is a wonderful way to explain Jack’s writing. Speculative, perhaps?)
3. When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
“I’m pretty sure it was when I was around 8 or 9 years old. I had watched a movie in the late 70’s or early 80’s called C.H.O.M.P.S., about a bionic dog. I don’t remember much about it, but I was enthralled with the idea of a cyborg pet. So I wrote a short story called “B.O.N.E.S.” (Don’t ask me what the acronym stood for… I have no clue.) I think I even drew a diagram of the little guy. I also think it was awesome.”
4. What do you hope to achieve/What’s your goal/When is ‘success’ in your book?
“Well, here’s the thing: I don’t write for anyone else but me. I’m not trying to be a commercial writer or make it big or anything like that. I just really like writing the stories I write. I like coming up with sparks of ideas, developing them and giving them life. If I have a goal it’s to entertain readers and allow them to temporarily forget their worlds and get lost in one of mine.”
5. What’s your process?
“I begin with three primary components: Setting, Characters and Chronology. First I try to determine where it’s happening, who’s doing what and in what order. Once I have a basic idea outlined, I’ll try to flesh it out with specific scenes, snippets of dialogue and jot down a list of keywords to fit the story – thematic phrases, descriptive adjectives and the primary emotions I want to evoke in the reader. Hooks are key, of course. The more work and effort I put into the beginning of the story, the more satisfying the ending will be.”
(Interviewer note: I find this super interesting because my own process is a lot different than Jack’s. However, it works well for him.)
6. How often do you write/Where do you write?
“I’m currently writing in mad bursts of creativity twice a year: NaNoWriMo every November and Camp NaNoWriMo again in April. The time in-between is spent editing, polishing and revising (which, to be honest, I find almost as much fun as writing). Because I work as a Dorm Parent and teach Creative Writing at a high school during the day, my actual writing hours are pretty limited. Last year I was able to cram in 1-2 hours when all the kids go to school and another 30-40 minute slot at night.
Ideally, I’d love to have a schedule that would allow me to work until 2-3am every night, sleep in until mid-morning and then have a normal*, productive day. (*And by “normal” I mean “socially acceptable”.)”
7. What do you find is the most rewarding part of writing?
“I love it when my idea for a story is actually surpassed by the written story in the end. Also when my wife reads something and reacts to it immediately, by laughing or cringing or whatever. That moment is supremely sublime.”
8. What is the hardest part of writing?
“Honestly? Psyching myself up to do it again. I teach Creative Writing to high schoolers, and some of their rough drafts put me to shame. Their coming up with ideas I would NEVER have thought of, and then they’re churning it out in immediate writing prompts and assignments, and they’re GOOD! It makes me feel like a hack, and as much as I don’t want to compare myself to other writers, I sometimes do.
Since I can’t write full-time right now, my writing output is limited to November and April’s NaNoWriMo events. So between those times I have months of downtime where I sometimes feel I’ve forgotten more than I know. So yeah, I have to get into my head and give myself a pep talk that I CAN do it again, that I AM a decent writer and I WILL come out with a decent story if I only get back on that bike and ride.”
9. Have any advice for younger writers?
“I suppose the first nugget of wisdom I’d like to impart is to fan the flame of your passion.”
(Interviewer note: this reminds me of the Hamilton line “The plan is to fan this spark into a flame”)
“You have the desire to write, so don’t give up so easily when the euphoric feeling of creating wears off and the hard work of becoming a bonafide writer settles in.
Ideas are easy. Writing is easy (for the most part). What separates those who would like to write “some day” and serious writers is really quite simple: Writers write. And rewrite. And rewrite. And then they rewrite again. They don’t stop rewriting and polishing and publishing and marketing their work until it’s done. (And it typically takes a loving third party to make the call.)
Secondly, there’s going to be a lot of writing advice out there, and much of it will be overwhelming or contradictory. Don’t freak out. Absorb what you can, process it and let the ones that resonate with you rise to the top. You – and you alone – know exactly what kind of writer you are or want to become. Learn from others but carve your own path. Embrace your inner Frankenstein and lumber forward, taking one stiff baby step at a time.
Finally, if you want to be a serious, professional writer you simply must read. There’s no excuse for a writer who doesn’t read regularly. To improve your skills you have to familiarize yourself with the work and how other professionals have done it. Conversely, don’t waste your time slogging through someone’s work that you hate. Life is short. Reading junk that will cloud your writing judgement is pointless. Read what makes you feel alive, afraid and amazed, and do it often.”
(interview Note: from day one Jack has been awesome with the advice. He’s always available with a long list of sources, articles, books, etc that will back up his wonderful advice.)
10. Why is writing important? How do you think this affects the rest of the world?
“Simply put, we will be judged by our words. It doesn’t matter how eloquent we are when we speak, how much information we retain in our brains or how good-looking we might be. In the end, we will be judged by our ability to communicate in the written word. So having the ability to make a positive impression with what we write can’t be understated.”
11. What do you think makes a good story?
“My original answer was going to be “giant monsters,” but it occurs to me that not every story I’ve enjoyed has a giant monster in it. So… let me dig a little deeper.
Again, the stories I like have to be pretty simple, without being weighed down with a bunch of needless distractions or chatter. Ideally, they should have a minimum amount of characters, good dialogue, a ticking clock of some sort and have a satisfying end. And by “satisfying end” I mean justice. I’m a sucker for justice, in all its forms. I want the bad guy to get what’s coming to him, and if he happens to lose a toe or a little blood along the way? Well, so be it. Sucks to be a bad guy.”