Welcome to Confession of a Reviewer’s interview with, in my opinion, one of the brightest talents to come out of the UK for a long long time, Mr Kit Power, author of Lifeline, The Loving Husband and the Faithful Wife and numerous short stories popping up in anthologies all over the place.
In tonight’s “Part One” of the interview, Kit will tell you all a little bit about himself, his rock star alter-ego and his writing in general.
“Part Two”, tomorrow night will see Kit answer some questions specific to his new book GodBomb! due out in September and will also take on the mighty Ten Confessions.
Night three will, as always, have my review of GodBomb! A book that you must must MUST click the preorder button on. It is superb.
Anyway grab yourself some grub and a beer or two, sit back and relax, but, most of all………enjoy!
COAR - So tell everyone a bit about yourself in general?
KP - I'm left handed. Short sighted. Defiantly long haired, though it's getting worryingly thin up top these days. Blue eyed. Often angry. Politically engaged. Perpetually curious. Probably pretty irritating to be around. Kind of awkward with interview questions...
COAR - Why writing? Why decide on that as a career? Do you have a day job to pay the bills?
KP - I finally ran out of excuses not to write, honestly. It's something I enjoyed doing as a kid, felt like I had some natural ability at – but man, so many easier ways to spend leisure time, right? It took doing a distance learning course to realise I could be more productive if I watched less shit TV, and a combination of that and King's “On Writing” lit the spark. Now I've started, I am hopelessly addicted.
I do indeed have a day job. I'm grateful for it, too. Whilst the dream of being a full time writer has huge appeal, what the day job gives me is total freedom – I write what I want to write, without concern to genre, fan base, market expectations or trends, any of that. Every time I sit down with a blank Word doc open, it's pure “where do you want to go today?” and I love that. If I weren't financially secure, I imagine I'd sling words at pretty much anything to keep my family fed. As of right now, I don't have to.
Of course, it also means I don't write as much as I'd like, currently. But that's the trade-off.
COAR - You seem to be a keen blogger as well. I have to admit to following them religiously. Some of them read longer than books I have read. Where do you get the inspiration for these?
KP - Blogging formed part of my on-ramp to writing. I started doing entries for my band blog, as a way of driving traffic to the site. Once I started writing more regularly, that fell away a bit, but then I did a piece for Gingernuts of Horror, and got approached for a monthly column. It took a bit of back and forth, but from those conversations My Life In Horror was born.
The inspiration is easy – when I first got the concept (write every month about a film, book, album or event that shaped my worldview and that I consider to be horror), I wrote a list of thirty or so column ideas. I've written less than ten of those so far, as other things came up. It'll end eventually, I'm sure – I don't want to force the issue, and logically there can only be so many formative experiences – but right now, I love the episodic, half-assed autobiography that column represents, and I'm a long, long way from being done with it. Honestly, some months it's the most fun I have at a keyboard.
COAR - Take us through your process for a story. How do you start it and follow it through to the final product?
KP - Titles often come first. Sometimes working titles, representing concepts. Or sometimes it'll be a situation. Lifeline was basically that – situation meets concept, the concept being “Is torture porn still torture porn if you take the victim's point of view?” When I sat down to write Lifeline, all I had was that thought, the notion of the guy being knocked off his bike and dragged in off the street, and the line “Basically, I've always wanted to torture someone to death”. That's it.
So after that comes writing. Just keep pounding the keyboard, let the story come. Don't overthink it – try not to think at all, really. Which sounds ridiculous, but... it's like watching a movie on the inside of my head, only I can be in the film, smelling and tasting. And when I'm writing that first draft, it's reporting – what do I see? What do I smell? I write as fast as I can, and I try and write every day, keeping it alive and fresh.
Once the draft is done, I stick it in a drawer, write something else, I used to leave it three months, but that's been reduced more recently. At least a month, though, ideally. The theory is to come back to it fresh, as though it's not even your story. Which I suck at, but that's the theory. Then read it slow. Really slow. Sometimes I'll print out and red pen it here – reading from the page just feels different – but either way I'm trying to read critically. Looking for bad writing, repeated phrases, overworked metaphors, plot holes, all of it. Often in a first draft when I'm speed writing, I'll string two or three metaphors or similes together, so at this stage I will pick the best one and cut the other two.
Once that edit is done, I'll send it out to critical readers – normally four or five people. While they're reading, I'll work on something else – a new draft one, a review, a column, whatever. Then when all the feedback is in, I'll read it and really find out if what I've got is any good.
After that, it's another round of revisions, then depending on how much critical reader feedback there was, it's either more critical reads or if I'm happier, an editor. Once it's back from the editor, it's time to start submitting...
COAR - How do you keep track of your ideas? Do you carry a notebook with you everywhere or write stuff on the back of your hand?
KP - I do have a notebook, but not always a pen. I'm fairly disorganised like that. But yeah, I capture concepts as titles, note them down. Like, right now I have “The Finite”, “Millionaire's Day” and “The Hand That Feeds” which are my next three pieces I want to work on. Bubbling under are “The Truth Will Set You Free” and “Ghost Dance”. Each of those has at least a novella's worth of idea behind them.
COAR - Tell us about The Disciples of Gonzo? How did that aspect of your life come about?
KP - Well, I've been a rock fan forever, and I did theatre in college and caught the performance bug. So when I landed in Milton Keynes, I finally had the confidence to try and do the singing thing with a group. And I wasn't great to start with but I had passion and I could write lyrics a bit, and I took lessons and I got better. I've been singing in a band for the last fourteen years, and I never want to not be singing in a band.
COAR - If you could have one wish come true would it be to have a successful career with The Gonzos or as a writer?
KP - I honestly can't choose. I mean, I don't have the physical stamina for a traditional rock band career – I couldn't sing the way I do five nights a week, no chance, I'd blow out my vocal chords in about three days. So Gonzo success would have to work in a very non-traditional way from the standard rock and roll music business model. That said, I've dreamed of singing from the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury since I was a kid, and I think we've written enough good songs with Gonzo to make that possible. Or to put it another way, I've seen thirty minute sets at Glasto that are less impressive than the thirty minutes we could bring!
But again, it's a success now, because we're doing it entirely on our own terms – we all work other jobs to pay the rent, the band is a pure for-the-love thing. And I think that shows in the songs we write and the performances we play, and while I'd love for that work to make money, I wouldn't want to be a slave to it.
COAR - Can you tell us if any of the characters in your books are based on people you have come across in your life or maybe even yourself?
KP - Oh, for sure. Frank in Lifeline is basically me with the numbers filed off (and probably more balls). Several members of the congregation of GodBomb! have marked similarities to people I either know or have known.
COAR - Who would be the authors you would give the credit of being your influences and who do you just not “get”?
KP - King, Barker, Fleming, Ellroy, Leonard, Jim and Hunter S Thompson, both Kellermans, Don Winslow, Terrance Dicks. Loads of people, that's just off the top of my head.
I never got Dickens. Shakespeare, fine, but Dickens makes my teeth itch. Respect the man's social conscience and politics, but his prose makes me want to punch myself to sleep.
COAR - I have noticed you are a fantastic supporter of the work of other writers in the way you share things through all types of social media. What is your impression of the world of writing and indie authors especially?
KP - There's a lot of talent out there. Some crap too, of course, but a lot of talent. What's so exciting about the floodgates opening the way they have (thanks to Amazon, whatever else you think of them and their business practices) is that anyone can either put out a book or run a publishing house, notionally. Not everyone should, and not everyone that thinks they can actually can... but there's a lot more people that can than you might think. It's exciting as hell for a book junkie like me.
Also, I have found it to be one of the friendliest and welcoming communities you could ever imagine. I think most writers instinctively understand that it's not a competitive business, really – readers are endlessly hungry for quality material, and it takes far, far longer to read a book than it does to write one, and also most writers are avid readers too (all good ones are, I'd contend), so people are keen to find new writers, and talk about them if they enjoy the work. I've been hugely encouraged by the friendships I've made, and blown away by some of the comments I've gotten from writers that I respect hugely, and I'm just really happy to be a small part of that world.
COAR - What is your preferred reading for your own pleasure?
KP - Crime thrillers, horror. Also really good long form journalism, non-fiction.
COAR - What’s the most difficult part of writing for you?
KP - When it comes back from the critical readers and everyone has a different problem with the story. That can get very disheartening, and it happened a couple of times with GodBomb! I'm hugely grateful for it, because each time it made the story better, but when it went through six drafts, two rounds of critical reading, and I sent it to an editor who said “there's some good stuff here, but this isn't yet fit for publication”...that was a pretty serious gut check. But she was right, and some of the stuff I fixed from that feedback made the book a ton stronger, especially the final quarter.
So that's the toughest part for me, but it's also the fire that forges a stronger story, so it's hugely important.
Well I’m afraid that’s it for Part One of the interview. Don’t forget to come back tomorrow night to read more from Kit when he will answer questions about GodBomb! and of course, confess some!