Interview with author Steve Kozeniewski

Two years ago, I hosted a contest for critiques on this little blog.  The top two finalists were Jess Lawson and Steve Kozeniewski (for those of you who have followed for awhile his alias was Redleg). And, they both have book deals! 

Jess and Steve’s novels couldn’t have been more different — a light-hearted middle grade versus an adult zombie-mystery — but both authors have incredible, memorable voices.  Steve’s book BRAINEATER JONES pubbed this month and would be a great Halloween read for anyone with a taste for dark mysteries, great narrators, and flesh. *snickers*  That was a zombie joke. The synopsis for Steve’s book is after the interview.

Me: Your book is very unlike other zombie books, primarily because your undead main character still thinks.  How did you get inside Braineater Jones’ head?  (I will refrain from the obvious missing flesh jokes here).
Steve: Awww, I wanted to say with a hacksaw.  🙂  Umm, the real answer, I guess, is that Braineater Jones is me but on crack.  I actually wrote the first draft of this book during National Novel Writing Month in 2009.  It was my first time participating in NaNo, and having no idea what went into it, I determined that I would write in first person and not shy away from stream-of-consciousness nonsense-talk, since it really burns up the wordcount.  Just before I started BRAINEATER JONES I had completed a manuscript which I had written in a deliberately detached, unemotional style, almost like a non-fiction piece.  So, I was sick of writing like that and vowed that JONES would feature the purplest prose this side of the 19th century.  It was that mish-mash of time constraints, deliberate gibberish-writing, and an over-the-top premise that gave unbirth to Jones and his unique style.  Oh, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that my content editor, Michelle Rever, also sent me back with a ’30s slang dictionary to make sure it was as slangtastic as possible. 

Me:  Your story has a great mystery to it.  Are you an avid mystery reader?  Who are your favorite mystery writers and how did reading other books help you cement the plot of your own?
Steve:  Hoo, boy, I was all ready to drop the dime on myself and say I’ve never read a mystery in my life when I remembered that’s not true AT ALL.  When I was a kid I DEVOURED Sherlock Holmes.  My parents still talk about how clever I was [eyeroll] because I used to walk around wearing two baseball caps pointing in opposite directions to approximate a deerstalker.  So I guess I learned from the best.  This past year I just finally read THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE and THE MALTESE FALCON, so, sadly, I am woefully illiterate on noir.  All of my impressions of noir that I used for BRAINEATER JONES mostly came from cultural osmosis – cartoons and that sort of thing.  Which probably explains why it’s so over the top.  🙂  Oh, and Justified.  That show is crazy good.  And Veronica Mars, I guess.  So…TV? 
Me: Shut up. You watch Veronica Mars?
Steve:  Not sure how to gauge the sarcasm level on that question, but if you’re asking whether I cry every time I hear “Crimson and Clover” because Veronica never showed up to the boat, then yes, yes I do.

Me:  Do you have other stories in the work?  
Steve:  Yup.  I just signed a contract with Severed Press for my magnum opus, THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO, which I consider to be the BROTHERS KARAMAZOV of horror.  So look for that soon.  I already mentioned the very stilted novel I was worked on just before JONES, which is kind of a political satire/dystopian apocalypse story that I’ve never been able to settle on a good title for.  I’m shopping that around now.  I have three manuscripts that are in the can, waiting to be author-edited and beta-read.  One is a thing about clones, one is a roman à clef about my time in the army, and one is the sidequel to GHOUL.  And my work-in-progress right now is pioneering a new genre of space operas starring ballerinas.  I call it “balletpunk.”  (100% true.)  So I guess you could say I’m either a Rennaissance Man or I really need to buckle down and get my [expletive deleted] straight.
Me: I love it when interviewees radio-edit themselves. *winks* Thanks for being my first victim, Steve!! I’m so excited BRAINEATER JONES has found a publishing home!
About the book:

Braineater Jones wakes up face down in a swimming pool with no memory of his former life, how he died, or why he’s now a zombie. With a smart-aleck severed head as a partner, Jones descends into the undead ghetto to solve his own murder.

But Jones’s investigation is complicated by his crippling addiction to human flesh. Like all walking corpses, he discovers that only a stiff drink can soothe his cravings. Unfortunately, finding liquor during Prohibition is costly and dangerous. From his Mason jar, the cantankerous Old Man rules the only speakeasy in the city that caters to the postmortem crowd.

As the booze, blood, and clues coagulate, Jones gets closer to discovering the identity of his killer and the secrets behind the city’s stranglehold on liquid spirits. Death couldn’t stop him, but if the liquor dries up, the entire city will be plunged into an orgy of cannibalism.

Cracking this case is a tall order. Braineater Jones won’t get out alive, but if he plays his cards right, he might manage to salvage the last scraps of his humanity

About the author:
Stephen Kozeniewski lives with his wife of 9 years and cat of 22 pounds in Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the modern zombie. He was born to the soothing strains of “Boogie With Stu” even though The Who are far superior to Zep, for reasons that he doesn’t even really want to get into right now.

During his time as a Field Artillery officer, he served for three years in Oklahoma and one in Iraq, where due to what he assumes was a clerical error, he was awarded the Bronze Star. The depiction of addiction in his fiction is strongly informed by the three years he spent working at a substance abuse clinic, an experience which also ensures that he employs strict moderation when enjoying the occasional highball of Old Crow.

He is also a classically trained linguist, which sounds much more impressive than saying his bachelor’s degree is in German.



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