Monday 7 February 2011

Dancing With Myself: JOHN KENYON interviews JOHN KENYON

At the weekend I was flattened by some kind of bug. I checked out the sales of Dirty Old Town and that was like lying under a steam-roller (thought about it, too).

A day in bed that wiped out Sunday and here I am on my lunch-break wondering how to change my mind-set.

One thing is to remember how great others can be and how much the opinions of people I respect hugely matters.

Take this at Donald Ray Pollock's blog regarding my collection.

'I guarantee it will be the best 99 cents you ever spent in your life!'

And Anthony Neil Smith said something amazing too (but I'm not allowed to view it here throught the work system, so I can't get it quite right). 'An amazing find', is the way I recall it.
I'll put it up in the next post. His blog's over at

So it's true, money can't buy you love. I think, though, that writing might get you some, thank goodness.

Another thing to look forward to today is John Kenyon's dance. Read it carefully. He's proposing something neat. Let him know if you think it's a good idea by posting here.

Take it away John.

Q: So, late last year you declared on your blog that you're a crime writer. Why now, and according to what measure?

A: It was a realization that was a long time coming. I've written fiction for years, but always toiled under the misapprehension that I needed the validation of publication in some university-edited journal to qualify myself as a writer. Misguided, right? And this from a journalist who has published hundreds of thousands more words than any recent class of the Iowa Writers' Workshop combined. Even then, nearly every story I wrote contained crime and noir elements; no surprise given how big a chunk of my reading such writing comprises.

When I finally took a crack at writing some honest-to-badness crime fiction, it was because I was reading an increasing number of stories on online fiction sites and figured I could do as well or better. The fact that I've been lucky enough to see publication with Beat to a Pulp, Thuglit, Crime Factory and others, means I've got the "as well as" part down. I'm still working on "better."

Q: Did you have any writing-related resolutions this year?

A: In a way. I quit resolving to finish a novel, confident that it'll get finished when it needs to be, not necessarily when I want it to be. Instead, I resolved two things:
1) I was ecstatic in 2009 and 2010 to be published in places like those mentioned above. I resolve that in 2011, my work will be so good that venues that publish my work will be as excited to see a submission from me as I am in getting word that they’ll publish it.

2) I resolve to get back to eating right and exercising, but not because of my health. I'm doing so because I want to look great in the author photo on my book jacket.

3) I resolve to attend Bouchercon this year because it’s practically in my backyard (if backyard can be defined as “the Midwest”) and because I really want to meet the dozens of great people I’ve “e-met” via blogs like this one, Twitter, etc.

Q: Are you like every other online fiction writer, slogging away on stories while neglecting an in-progress novel?

A: In progress, yes. Ignoring, no. I was really knocked out by a

blog post by Kieran Shea earlier this year where he said he was done blogging because it was taking away from the writing he really wanted to do, which was to finish a novel. I completely understand and admire that stance. Eyes on the prize and all that. But I'm not there yet. For me, all of the stories, the flash fiction prompts, the blog posts, they are like my spring training. Any time I think those things aren't helping, I just go back and read a story I wrote a couple of years ago. Everyone sees flaws in their older work, but I choose a half-full point of view and see a benchmark from which I measure my progress. I'm better now, no question. So while, yes, I do have four or five novels in progress (including one that I'm steaming through more energetically and successfully than any that came before), I'm still blogging, still writing stories, still putting words together as often as possible in my quest to get good enough to make it really matter.

Q: Series or stand-alone?

A: Mine? Actually, the book I’m working on now creates a community in which, I realize, all of the other books are set. So, it’s not a series, but things are inter-related. It’s like a “novel in stories” except it’s more a “series in novels.”

As for others I love series, but I also like it when authors write stand-alones. I’m particular about reading series from the beginning. When faced with a daunting back catalog of 12-15 books from an author I’ve been turned on to, I like the ability to read a stand-alone to get a feel for their writing. That’s why I’m reading Laura Lippman, for example, where before the sheer number of Tess Monaghan books intimidated me, I was able to read (and love) What the Dead Know and realized I needed to be reading her. Now, I’m working my way through the Monaghan books.

Q: I’ve heard you’re thinking about starting a new crime fiction-related magazine. Is this true?

A: What do they call that in politics? Floating a trial balloon? OK, I’ll bite. Yes, I’m considering it. There are a handful of great publications out there, and each is doing a fantastic job of fulfilling its mission. Needle is the best place for straight-up fiction, Crimespree almost feels like the newsletter to an exclusive but welcoming club and Mystery Scene is a slick compendium of mainstream news. Still and all, I think there is room for something that offers a little of that and more. The closest analogue I can think of is Crime Factory, with its blend of fiction and non-fiction, and to be honest, it is the consistently high quality of that publication that keeps my idea on the shelf, for now. I’m an editor by trade, and have put together four or five titles from scratch, so I know it would be something fairly easy to conceive and very labor-intensive to pull off. Stay tuned. Maybe it’ll be ready in time for Bouchercon.

Q: What will tip the scales and make you commit to this?

A: A sense that people want something like this and are willing to support it by contributing stories and long-form non-fiction, and just as important, willing to buy copies and spread the word. That and finding out a way to do it economically and with the greatest reach. I know UK readers pay a steep price for POD stuff from the U.S., for example, and I’d like to find a way around that.

Q: What has been the biggest surprise to you this year related to crime fiction?

A: I probably shouldn’t limit this response to crime fiction, but I would say the ascent of ebooks. In the space of 2010, I went from feeling that I’d never want a Kindle because I love printed books too much to coveting one because my computer’s hard drive is now clogged with many ebooks that I want to read in a more convenient format. Most of those are crime fiction, and I think that’s because people writing and publishing in the genre get it more than most. They understand that it’s a low-cost way to get your work out there, and that selling 1,000 books at 99 cents is more cost efficient than paying $5,000 to print up a thousand books and trying your luck at self-publishing. And as a reader, I can sample much more from a wider variety of writers than I could if limited to what my budget can support at $25 a pop for a hardback.

Q: Your blog,
Things Id Rather Be Doing, is intermittently a great place to go to read about crime fiction (I miss the Monday Interviews), but you also write about literary fiction, music and pop culture. What gives?

A: I miss the Monday Interviews, too, and plan to bring it back. Life gets in the way, you know? As for your actual question, I write about things that interest me. It’s like that first question: One thing that helped me to realize I was really a crime fiction guy was to see the preponderance of crime fiction content on the blog. But while that’s an interest, perhaps my main interest, it is just one of many. So, while I’ll take the time to write about great new crime fiction, interview authors and hold contests like the recent
Crime Fiction Fairy Tale challenge (congrats again, Nigel!), I’ll also write about favorite bands, great albums movies, television and other things that trip my trigger. Posting may be sporadic as I plug away on that novel, but grab the RSS feed and check in every once in a while - something entertaining is just around the corner.

Sea Minor says that there's no need for that healthy diet. The dust jacket photo will look just great.


  1. Interesting stuff--a possible new zine, bringing back interviews, a novel, plus short stories published at some of the best venues around--John Kenyon's a straight-up renaissance man.

  2. Thanks for interviewing yourself, John. You did a good job on both sides. I'm waiting to hear more about the new zine!

  3. John, I for one would be thrilled if you started another quality crime/mystery publication. Right now there's a lot of room out there for another magazine (especially with the demise of thuglit and Pulp Pusher.) so I say go for it.

  4. Third, and especially if it takes an expansive view of what constitutes crime fiction.

  5. Thanks for the feedback, folks. I have a lot of ideas, but obviously can't pull this off alone. As things progress, I'll be putting out the call, so stay tuned.

  6. Great idea John. Hope it pulls together. I should point out in spite of his busy schedule JK is always ready to extend a helping hand to his fellow writers. His excellent advice has helped me make a story better many times. John gives back to our community every chance he gets.