Monday, June 14th, 2010

Guest Interview: Jason Kahn

Jason Kahn is an author published by Damnation Books, a sister company to Eternal Press. He and I met through the author boards and found we have a lot in common. His story, The Killer Within–available from Damnation Books–has racked up some impressive reviews.

The Killer Within by Jason KahnKAH: Who is Jason Kahn?

JK: I’m a husband, father of two boys, journalist, and writer of fiction when I’m not busy being any of those other things. My brood and I live in Park Slope, Brooklyn, but I grew up in Rockville, Md., just outside of Washington, DC. I attended the University of Michigan as an undergrad and NYU for graduate school for a degree in journalism and science reporting. In my day job, I run a daily news service for cardiologists that is owned and operated by a research foundation. I began writing fiction seriously after college, and started getting published a few years ago. I have a handful of short stories and an e-book to my name as well as a continuing online series and an agreement to write a hardboiled crime novel for Fireside Mysteries, a small press house.

KAH: You work full time as an editor/writer for a large cardiology foundation. Do you feel that this helps or hinders your creative writing?

JK: If anything it helps. In my job as a news editor, I come across a ton of scientific material every day that I have to sift through in order to decide what’s worth writing about. A lot of these items, and I mean a LOT, lend themselves quite naturally to the realm of science fiction and/or fantasy. As a matter of fact, I contribute a monthly blog for Abandoned Towers Magazine in which I present news items I’ve collected from my job and describe how they can serve as springboards for really cool stories. Here’s a link to my latest one.

KAH: What do you do when you feel burned out on writing?

JK: I wage a continuing struggle to find time to write. I wish I had so much time that I had the opportunity to feel burned out. Alas, that has yet to occur.

KAH: Tell us your latest news.

JK: I have a few things going on at the moment. I have an e-book titled The Killer Within that was released by Damnation Books in late 2009. It’s a hardboiled crime thriller with just a dash of the paranormal. I also write an online detective series published by Abandoned Towers Magazine called The Dark InSpectre. This is also hardboiled crime fiction, but very noir and much darker, with a much more supernatural edge to it. New episodes are posted every two weeks. In addition, I have a fantasy short story titled Cold Comfort scheduled to come out in the July issue of Abandoned Towers. It’s about the true nature of love, and the terrible consequences that can occur when love is thwarted.

Incidentally, I believe you know the managing editor of Abandoned Towers, Crystalwizard? Didn’t she do the artwork for the cover of one of your books? She is also a supremely talented editor.

[KAH: Interrupting to affirm that Crystalwizard created the cover art for my story, The Dragon’s Tale.]

And lastly is the agreed-upon crime novel I mentioned earlier for Fireside Mysteries. I need to have a plot overview and the first three chapters by August. So between writing The Dark InSpectre and the novel at the same time, my little brain is quite occupied most of the time!

KAH: When and why did you begin writing?

JK: Academically, I was always drawn to it—high school newspaper, stuff like that. I was headed toward a journalism degree my second or third year in college, so I knew then that I wanted to be a writer. But it wasn’t until the summer after my senior year that I discovered I wanted to be a WRITER. I’d been reading scifi-fantasy books since I was a kid, and during my senior year, my then-girlfriend, now-wife, said to me, “hey, why don’t you write one of those?” Incredible as it may seem, the thought had never occurred to me before. That summer I started writing, and haven’t stopped since.

KAH: When did you first consider yourself a writer?

JK: It changes. Sometimes I think it was after my first short story sale. Sometimes I think it was after my first (and thus far only) professional short story sale. Sometimes I don’t really consider myself a writer at all because I don’t write fiction for a living. Sometimes I think that’s ridiculous because I do make a living writing and editing, just not fiction. Then there are other times when I think that if and when I have an actual novel published, like I hopefully will with the one I’m writing now, that I can honestly look in the mirror and say, Chum, you’re a writer, you are.

Jason Kahn - Dark In SpectreKAH: Have your personal experiences shown up in your writing?

JK: A personal experience that did actually turn up in my writing derived from my inspiration for the Dark InSpectre series. It sprang from a dream I had, which turned into the first scene of the story. It involved the psychic ghost of a dead girl leading the main character, a telepathic cop (me in my dream), into a room with four prisoners (brothers) encased in blocks of semi-translucent material. Yes, I know, very strange dream. But more important than the actual scene was the mood. It was futuristic and very dark and brooding. I mulled over my dream for about a month as I wound a story around it. I saw it as a cross between L.A. Confidential and the psi-core of Babylon 5. And at heart it was a hardboiled crime thriller.

KAH: What authors have most influenced your writing?

JK: Many, many authors have influenced me: Raymond Feist, JRR Tolkien, Ursula K. Leguin, Anne Bishop, Patricia McKillip, Steven Brust, Katherine Kurtz, Sheri Tepper, Fritz Leiber, David Eddings, Stephen Donaldson, Michael Moorcock, Neil Gaiman, and James Ellroy to name a few.

Early on, I would say Feist and Eddings influenced me the most as I tried to write fantasy-adventures, but over the past few years, much more Ellroy as I’ve been writing more noir crime fiction. I read several detective fiction authors as I worked on The Dark InSpectre. Raymond Chandler, Peter Lovesey, and then I read James Ellroy. The Black Dahlia, L.A. Confidential, and many more. I wasn’t prepared, my mind exploded. I could not put them down.

The first-person narrative style he uses in some of his novels and the way he illuminates the darkness that dwells in the souls of his protagonists is very compelling. And his prose hits you like a hammer.

KAH: What book are you reading now? What do you like, or not, about it?

JK: I just finished reading At End of Day, by George V. Higgins. His most famous novel, The Friends of Eddie Coyle, was a crime drama that was the forerunner of much of James Ellroy’s and Elmore Leonard’s work. So after I finished that book, I read At End of Day, which also involved Boston-area crime figures. This book, though, was not nearly as good. It was almost entirely dialogue driven, to the point where I found myself wishing the characters would just stop talking for a single second. Still, I did learn a few things regarding the genre. Higgins’ knowledge of the mundane details that make up the criminal world is like a treasure trove, and his dialogue, while over used, is still right on the money in terms of how real people speak.

KAH: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

JK: I’d say the biggest challenge is finding the time. Both to write and to just think about a story, to work it out in my head. I’m a news editor by day, and my job is extremely busy. I’m also a husband and father of two boys in elementary school. I’ll write whenever I can, but long stretches can go by during which I’m not writing. It can be very frustrating. I go on business trips about 4 times a year, and I find that I can get a lot of writing done on the plane if I’m traveling by air. It’s great getting a few hours of uninterrupted writing time during a flight.
Sometimes the writing itself can be hard. Not the “big scenes,” those are usually pretty well thought out. It’s the little scenes, the transitions, the mundane stuff. That can be extremely hard for me to write.

KAH: Do you have any advice for other writers?

JK: My advice for other writers is simple and direct. If you want to be a writer, sit your butt down and write—something, anything. But write. It doesn’t even have to be good. In fact, when you start, it will probably be crap, and that’s okay. You have to write a lot of crap before you can start writing goodly (see?). It’s how you learn. Write and submit your writing to people other than your family members and loved ones. That’s another way you learn. You’ll get criticism. Accept it graciously, even the stuff you don’t agree with. And above all, keep writing.

KAH: How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc. – please share your links.





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