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Author interview with Nicholas Kaufmann

Author interview with Nicholas Kaufmann

Author bio:
Nicholas Kaufmann is the Bram Stoker Award-, Thriller Award-, and Shirley Jackson Award-nominated author of numerous books and stories. He has also written extensively in non-fiction, including monthly pop culture columns on horror and dark fantasy for the popular websites Fear Zone and The Internet Review of Science Fiction, and a chapter on plotting short stories in the Writers Digest book ON WRITING HORROR. He lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife.


Hi Nicholas, welcome over at The Book Plank and for taking your time to answer these few questions for us.

BP: First off, could you give us a short introduction as to who Nicholas Kaufmann is, what are your hobbies, likes and dislikes?

NK: I'm a writer who lives in Brooklyn, New York. I tend to write horror mixed with mystery, noir, fantasy, and adventure. I've had work nominated for the Bram Stoker Award, the Thriller Award, and the Shirley Jackson Award, although I did not actually win any of them, so obviously I'm a complete fraud! When I'm not writing, my hobbies include reading, going for walks with my wife, and eating things my doctor would probably tell me not to. I like horror, mystery, fantasy, and empathy, and I dislike disingenuousness, selfishness, and self-importance. I'm not fond of insects or spiders, either. Why do I feel like I'm filling out one of those centerfold questionnaires?

BP: You have been writing for many years now, do you still know the moment when and where you decided that you wanted to become an author?

NK: It's hard to pinpoint exactly, but I certainly remember being creative even from a very young age. I was drawing stories before I could write, or acting them out with action figures. My imagination was fired up first by movies—the classic Universal horror films, Godzilla movies, Sinbad movies, that sort of thing. It was the creatures that fascinated me the most. I was the textbook definition of a Monster Kid. Heck, I even played all the time with little plastic dinosaurs, the scarier the better. As I got older and started reading more, I began to develop an interest in writing about the weird creatures and thrilling adventures that had taken hold of my imagination. My first stories were terrible, just like everyone else's first stories, but I stuck with it and eventually started taking writing seriously as a career choice. I think it was 1999 or 2000 when I fully committed to it, but it was in me since long before then.

BP: You have written various books and short stories, from your own Trent series to the multiple-author Gabriel Hunt series. Which of them did you like to do the most?

NK: Ha! Well, at the risk of annoying Charles Ardai, the mad genius who created Gabriel Hunt, I would have to say I enjoy writing my own stuff the most. But as a writer himself, I'm sure Charles would agree with me that while it can be very fun to play in someone else's sandbox, it's even more fun to play in your own. Besides, the Trent books are very different from the Gabriel Hunt books. While both are action-packed adventures, the Trent books have a much more overt supernatural element to them. There's definitely more fantasy and horror in them than in the Gabriel Hunt books, which are much closer to the "real world" adventures of Indiana Jones and James Bond.

BP: A tie-in, such as Hunt at World’s End in the Gabriel Hunt series, has to have a certain flow. You cannot change a lot about the main character. Did you encounter any specific problems, with rules and restrictions?

NK: Quite the opposite. I found the series bible to be a great help because I was working with a character that someone else had created. There were obvious no-nos, of course. I couldn't have Gabriel Hunt lose an arm, or end the book with him married and starting a family, or anything else that would mess things up for the authors writing the books that came after mine. I could bang him up pretty good and give him a new set of scars, but nothing major or crippling, obviously. And since all six of the authors were pretty much writing our novels at the same time, without being able to read each other's first, it was important that Gabriel Hunt end each novel alive and in at least relatively good health for the next one.

BP: Hunt at World’s End features in the Gabriel Hunt series, many authors have already contributed, how did you get involved in it?

NK: Charles Ardai of Hard Case Crime was putting the series together and reaching out to authors he knew who were reliable and good writers. He originally contacted my friend Stefan Petrucha for the job, but Stefan was too busy with other projects, so he gave Charles my name. Charles contacted me, I pitched the story to him, he accepted, and then we were off to the races. I'm deeply grateful to both Stefan and Charles for the opportunity. Writing a story in Gabriel Hunt's world was so much fun, as was working with Charles, who eats, sleeps, and breathes these kinds of pulp adventure stories. If the opportunity arose, I would work with Charles again in a heartbeat.

BP: If you would have to sell Hunt at World’s End with a single sentence, how would it go?

NK: Oh gosh, I'm not great at this. Here goes: "Gabriel Hunt is on the trail of the Spearhead, an ancient, legendary weapon of unbelievable power, a weapon that has also attracted the attention of a modern day death cult and a billionaire madman intent on destroying the world." Ugh, yeah, I'm not very good at the single-sentence thing.

BP: Did you have to do additional research for writing Hunt at World’s End?

NK: Tons. A great deal of the story takes place in Borneo and Turkey, and I've never been to either. Luckily, the Internet is a great research tool. It helped me write about those locations with a great deal more authenticity than imagination alone would have allowed.

BP: What was the hardest part when you were writing Hunt at World’s End?

NK: It wasn't hard, per se, but Charles did edit a character out of the novel who I thought was a lot of fun. His reasons for doing so were 100% right—this character stretched credulity even for a novel that features an ancient Hittite death cult in the modern-day world—but I really did love that character. He was called the Deathless One, and he was the cult's muscle. He had little stones fused to the skin all over his body, making him practically invulnerable to weapons. Maybe I'll use him again in a different book someday. I suspect someone like the Deathless One will be more at home in a fantasy novel than a "real world" novel.

BP: Besides the hardest part, which scene or chapter did you enjoy writing about the most?

NK: Oh, there are so many I enjoyed writing! I love writing action scenes the most, and there are a lot of them in the novel. There's a jeep chase in chapter eleven that was probably my favorite to write. Gabriel Hunt and his companion Joyce Wingard are leaping between speeding jeeps and fighting off the bad guys, all the while trying to steal a rare, important artifact from them by tossing it to each other, back and forth from jeep to jeep. So much fun! If the novel were a movie, I think that scene would be the centerpiece.

BP: If you were allowed to take back all the published copies of Hunt at World’s End and make one adjustment, would you do so? And if yes, which part and why?

NK: Nah, I don't think I would. It's better to look forward than to look back, don't you think?

BP: Now that Hunt at World’s End has been re-published, do you have any other projects that you wish to pursue in the near future?

NK:  Well, the second book of an urban fantasy-noir series I'm writing for St. Martin's is coming out September 30. It's called Die and Stay Dead, the sequel to last year's Dying Is My Business. It's about a thief for a Brooklyn crime syndicate who discovers he can't stay dead, although every time he cheats death someone else has to die in his place. I'm very excited about the series. I'm working on book three right now. If the first two books do well enough, you should see book three, which is tentatively titled Only the Dead Sleep, out in 2015. I've got some other novels percolating in the back of my mind as well.

BP: Everyone enjoys science fiction and fantasy in their own way, what do you like most about it?

NK: The level of imagination at work. I love the other worlds, the other rules, the other creatures science fiction and fantasy contain. I hesitate to call it escapism, because I also like reading really dark stuff like horror and noir, and those generally contain elements one would rather escape from than escape to, but I do think there's something to be said for stories that take us away from the limitations of our own lives. I wouldn't be interested in a novel that mirrors my own life because I'm already living that. I'm far more interested in novels that will take me places or guide me through experiences that I don't deal with every day.

BP: If you would have to name your top 5 favorite books, which would they be?

NK: I could make a list, but the titles and their rankings would change before I even finished, and then I'd have to redo it and we'd both be here all day! Suffice it to say some of my favorite authors are Peter Straub, Clive Barker, Paul Tremblay, Laird Barron, Sarah Langan, and David Wellington. And probably twenty more names I would be tempted to add. See, this is why lists are terrible!

BP: And just lastly, can you tell a bit about what will be in store for the readers of Gabriel Hunt: Hunt at World’s End?

NK: They'll find a rollicking, globe-spanning adventure filled with action, suspense, humor, swordfights, scuba diving, jeeps, helicopters, tombs, rooftop chases, the occasional kissing, and just a hint of the supernatural. But mostly, what I hope readers will find is a story they enjoy.

BP: Thank you very much for your time Nicholas and good luck with your future writing.


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