Nate Kenyon: An Interview

What’s that? No strange post title? A new post that’s not a write up of some movie you’ve never heard of or comic book you don’t care about? An interview you say?

Yes, today on Brain Tremors we’ve got a very special guest: author Nate Kenyon.

Kenyon is a relative newcomer to the horror publishing world, but you wouldn’t know it from his accolades. Multiple-time Bram Stoker award finalist, glowing reviews and books in both paperback and hardback limited editions, Kenyon’s kicking ass.

I reviewed his most recent novel, Sparrow Rock, here on the blog and later got in touch with him and secured an interview. If you haven’t picked up any of his books you really should. They’re an absolute blast and I can’t recommend them enough (I just finished Prime, totally excellent sci fi). You can find out more on his website, and his books are available everywhere.

Let’s begin at the beginning. Your first novel, Bloodstone, was not only nominated for the Bram Stoker award but was also drew favorable comparisons to the early work of Stephen King, something that your publisher took advantage of in blurbing and advertising the book. Since some of your novels have been so radically tonally different from each other does the use of those quotes on your work make you feel pigeonholed at all?

That’s a great question. First of all, of course I’m tremendously flattered to be compared to Mr. King, who is probably the greatest horror writer in history. Certainly he’s done more to raise the profile of the genre than anyone. He’s always been one of my favorite writers, so he’s certainly influenced me. But I never sat down to try to write just like him. “Voice” is a tough thing to define, but it’s something that just comes out when you write. It’s how you’re feeling at the time, and what’s inside you. I do think comparisons like this can pigeonhole a writer, both in the minds of the readers and with editors who are considering publishing your work.

That said, I can’t worry too much about it. I just need to keep writing what comes out, and let everyone else decide what type of work it is.

Could you talk a bit about your writing process, you’ve stated in other interviews the importance/challenge of balancing a family, a day job and a writer’s life. How do you go about making it all fit together?

It’s a constant push and pull. I’ve gone through different stages where I wrote whenever I felt inspired (younger, no family, no day job) to writing more consistently late at night (family, day job and my only real free time) to writing pretty madly through nights and weekends as deadlines approach and then easing off and focusing on other parts of my life. I think the key is to focus on one step at a time–a goal for each day, or each time you sit down to write. If I look at the big picture (oh my god, I have 70,000 words to write by WHEN???) I can freeze up and then the words get much harder.

Prime, what I find to be one of your most satisfying, cerebral and interesting works, was released in the small press (by Apex) and is your shortest work of stand-alone fiction, a “novella.” What was the reason for that? Was it developed with the small press specifically in mind? And, if I may ask, which arena of publishing do you prefer?

PRIME was originally a long short story–about 11,000 words. I tried to sell it to genre magazines but it was little too long for them. Jason Sizemore at Apex read it and couldn’t use it in his magazine, but suggested I expand the story and we publish it as a novella. I thought that was a fine idea. Since I’d never written much sci fi, I was concerned going in that it would fall flat, but once I got into it the story just exploded. It was one of my most satisfying experiences, and I think all of us (me, my agent, and Jason) all read the final version and thought we had something special.

So I suppose you could say PRIME was developed specifically for Apex. They bought it based on the short story and the hope that I could make it work as a novella. I never submitted it to a larger house (most don’t publish novellas anyway), but since it’s been successful, I have had some inquiries about expanding it yet again to novel length. I’m considering that because I think there’s more story to tell.

I’m not sure which arena I prefer–there are advantages to both. Big houses get you read and have larger press runs and sales, but small presses allow for a lot more personal input in the process, and an ability to do some things you might not be able to do with a commercial house.

The face of publishing is changing, it’s going digital. Because you are new enough to the literary scene you are one of a very few number of writers whose entire oeuvre is available in ebook format. What are your feelings about Kindle, nook etc?

Well, I think it’s the future, no question about it. I think within five years the overwhelming majority of books will be sold in e-book format. Apple’s iPad is the real game-changer in my opinion, and it’s exciting what some publishers are already doing with interactive books. That said, I love print! I’m a techie in many ways–read all my newspapers online, love my iPhone and MacBook, work in digital design as part of my day job–but with books, and books alone, I personally prefer the old model. It’s not rational at all, because I can see and accept the future that’s coming, and I think it’s the right thing too–fewer dead trees, more efficient distribution and business model, better for the consumer. But I can’t help it. I’m sure I’ll adjust eventually.

I’m a movie guy, so the question has to be asked: Do you enjoy genre cinema? What are your favorite films?

Oh, yeah. Love the movies. I love Silence of the Lambs, The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby (and these are some of my favorite books, too). I’m a big comedy, action and thriller movie buff as well. I’m hoping I’ll be able to see some of my own work on the big screen someday. The Reach has been optioned, and Sparrow Rock is looking good too.

A lot of current day author’s seem to have trouble straddling the line between “literary” and “genre” fiction, something that I think many of your readers would agree you do quite well. Are you one to proscribe to labels? What I mean is, do you think of yourself as a “horror writer” or simply a “writer”?

As a marketing guy in my day job, I understand the value of labeling books or writers–brand is important. But I just write what I feel like writing, and I think that if you took my work and stripped away my name, cover art and all the blurbs and marketing and mixed them all up with a bunch of other stuff, people might label one horror, one, thriller, one mystery, one science fiction…my point is, how people perceive things going in makes a big difference in how they feel. And that can be good or bad, depending on the situation. I’d rather have people evaluate each book as they read them, in a perfect world.

I’d like to ask you a question about your next novel, which is set in the immensely popular StarCraft universe. How did that project come about? Are you a gamer yourself? How do you approach a book based on an established property verses one of your own unique creation? Will we get a spoonful of horror with our sci-fi when the book hits shelves? Hypothetically are there any other properties that attract you as a fan/writer?

An editor at Pocket Books read PRIME, my sci fi novella, and asked my agent if I would be interested in writing for Blizzard. I’d never done any work like that, and I’m not a gamer, but it looked like fun, and it would give me great exposure to a large fan base. So I decided to go for it, and I’m glad I did. I’m in the middle of writing the book now, and it’s a real challenge, and different that writing my own stuff. It’s tough because you have to get the details right! But I’m learning a lot about myself in the process. Yes, this will be a pretty dark StarCraft novel, and I think that’s one reason why Pocket was interested in me–the story calls for a little bit of horror, and that’s fine with me.

I’d probably write for Blizzard again, and I might consider other properties too, although it’s very important to me to write more original novels, and there’s only so much time in the day!

Finally, a running theme through some of your books seems to be conspiracy theories (especially Sparrow Rock). Are you a conspiracy theorist? Why or why not? Or can you not answer those questions because big brother may be monitoring this interview?

Nah. Quite the opposite in fact. But I love the idea of them–there something mysterious, something creepy about a group of faceless people pulling the strings around you without you knowing it. It makes for great fiction.

Thank you so much for your time.

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