Monday 26 March 2012
Dancing Again: JOHN KENYON
So, it has been a little more than a year since you visited with us. What do you have to show for that time?
Glad you asked. I edited an ebook anthology (Grimm Tales), published the first issue of a magazine (Grift), finished the first draft of a novel, started another and published a few stories along the way.
Wow. When do you sleep?
I get that a lot. Add in the full-time day job, the family with two young boys who try on a daily basis to run me ragged, recreational reading… Let's just say I couldn't begin to tell you who is on "Dancing with the Stars." Or "American Idol." Or what a "Real Housewife" is. Or apprise you on the comings and goings of the Kardashians (did I spell that right?). When I do watch TV, I'm usually on the treadmill – two birds, one stone.
Last year you shared some resolutions with us. How did those go?
I resolved to get more work published, to eat right and exercise, and to attend Bouchercon. Let's just say mission accomplished on two fronts, and I'm still working on the third (see above comment about the treadmill).
Short stories have taken a bit of a backseat this year, though I still have some things in the pipeline at Beat to a Pulp and Needle that will make it look like I'm working harder than I am.
Bouchercon was an absolute blast; an eye-opening, career-defining experience. I will be back. Get ready Cleveland.
So, I can't turn around without hearing about Grift. What's the story there?
I first floated the idea for the magazine in this very space in February 2011. It took me months to get the idea off the ground. I decided I needed to have something to announce at Bouchercon to drum up interest, so I zeroed in on the name Grift, printed up business cards so I'd have something to stick in people's hands when I met them, and set about making a nuisance of myself in St. Louis. Then came the hard part: wading through dozens of great stories in search of the greatest, and working with writers to come up with kick-ass content that would set the crime fiction world on its ear.
Ed Gorman called this "the most ambitious and extraordinary first issue of any kind" he's ever seen. How'd you do it, and what's next?
Those were very kind words from the guy who helped to bring Mystery Scene into the world. In truth, it wasn't that difficult. I've formed relationships with many exceptional writers over the years, and I asked a handful to write essays for it. No one turned me down, proof positive that the crime fiction world is made up of amazingly good-hearted people. Dozens of writers submitted short stories, and several of those left on the cutting-room floor would make a good publication in their own right.
As for what's next, more and better. I'll open submissions at the end of March for #2, and I hope to see more non-fiction: reviews, interviews, essays, etc. I love short fiction, and that always will be the backbone of Grift. But given the response to this issue, it seems others share my desire to read and learn about the genre as much as they do to read the work of those in the genre. My goal is to provide more context for that work, to enrich it and enhance enjoyment.
You did a lot of work over the past year getting the work of others out in the world. What about your own writing?
As I mentioned above, one novel is done – the first draft, anyway. I'm revising it now. I started a second as a palate-cleanser, but set it aside once revisions started on the first. I'm also chipping away at a novella-length work with the hope of adding to a certain pugilistic series.
The biggest news is that the fine folks at Snubnose Press have agreed to publish my first short story collection, The First Cut. That gathers the cream of the past few years of my writing, and will be out later this year.
Given what you know now about publishing, where are things headed?
This time last year, I had a handful of stories available through web publications. Now, I have an ebook out, a print publication and another ebook on the way. Would I like to have a hardcover on shelves with the logo of a Big Six publisher on the spine? Of course? Can I carve out a comfortable career without it, if that's the way things go? Definitely. It is becoming increasingly clear that it is the work that matters.
I look at the experiment Reagan Arthur Books did with George Pelecanos' What It Is as a great example. When they announced a new Pelecanos ebook for 99 cents, I bought it within seconds. I later learned that they were coming out with a $10 paperback and a high-end, slip-cased hardback. Three formats to meet the desires of three different types of reader. All released on the same day. I think that experiment is going to become the norm in the not-too-distant future. You can debate ebooks vs. print, free vs. cheap vs. too expensive, hardback vs. paperback, ad infinitum. Here is the truth: Get the words into readers' hands, and everything else takes care of itself.