Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Brian Kaufman

Meghan: Hi, Brian. Thanks for stopping by Meghan’s House of Books today. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Brian Kaufman: I was a cook by trade. Spent fifty years working in restaurants. Sixty to eighty hours a week doing things like peeling shrimp, which oddly enough, played into my aspirations as a writer. You’d be surprised how much writing you can do in your head while washing dishes or trimming steaks.

Meghan: What are five things most people don’t know about you?

Brian Kaufman:

  • I once made six errors in a single inning in a high school baseball scrimmage.
  • I played in several heavy metal bands in the 1970s. Played in a lot of bars, but never recorded.
  • I’ve done standup comedy. I was not that funny.
  • I rode a rodeo bull once. Lasted four seconds. The single most graceful movement I ever made was climbing (or levitating) over the fence when the bull dumped me.
  • I am afraid of heights… and bungie jumped from a 140-foot tower.

Meghan: What is the first book you remember reading?

Brian Kaufman: Scuffy the Tugboat (a Little Golden Book). I still have a copy on my “keeper shelf.”

Meghan: What are you reading now?

Brian Kaufman: I just finished A Dangerous Man by Robert Crais. I don’t normally read mystery/thrillers, but I read all of the Elvis Cole/Joe Pike mysteries.

Meghan: What’s a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn’t expect you to have liked?

Brian Kaufman: Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf. Quite unlike anything else he wrote. Minimalist.

Meghan: What made you decide you want to write? When did you begin writing?

Brian Kaufman: I wrote a story about my seventh-grade classmates trapped on an island run by a Russian invasion force. I was twelve-years-old. The English teacher had me read the story to the other students. That’s when I decided that I’d write if my professional baseball career fell through.

Meghan: Do you have a special place you like to write?

Brian Kaufman: I have an office in my mountain home. The window overlooks a ravine where deer like to congregate. The walls are covered with the work of local artists. And I have bookshelves. Full ones.

Meghan: Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Brian Kaufman: I make project-specific playlists for background music. The songs can’t have English language, though. The words disrupt my writing. (Foreign languages don’t seem to bother me.) For horror, I like to listen to Gregorian Chant.

Meghan: Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Brian Kaufman: Time management and my natural tendency towards sloth.

Meghan: What’s the most satisfying thing you’ve written so far?

Brian Kaufman: Dread Tribunal of Last Resort is a Civil War novel coming out in July from Five Star Publishing. The book took me 20 years to research and write. In the end, it’s a love story, so the book was a stretch for me.

Meghan: What books have most inspired you? Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Brian Kaufman: I try really hard to sound like me, so I’m not much inspired by another writer’s style. But their books? Almost too many inspirations to mention. Jane Austen, Poe, Larry McMurtry, H.P. Lovecraft, Ayn Rand, Hunter Thompson, Willa Cather, Raymond Russell, and that Shakespeare guy.

Meghan: What do you think makes a good story?

Brian Kaufman: Compelling character(s) in conflict who undergo changes in such a way as to reveal something important about human nature. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? It’s not.

Meghan: What does it take for you to love a character? How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Brian Kaufman: To love a character, I have to want to write about them (faults and all). That love keeps my butt in the chair and writing. I want to spend time with these people. Even the messed-up ones.

Meghan: Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Brian Kaufman: I consciously avoid autobiographical fiction, so my characters have no more than a little, unconscious piece of me. I find other people to be much more interesting.

Meghan: Are you turned off by a bad cover? To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Brian Kaufman: After my first two novels, I started a publishing company (Dark Silo Press), so I was in charge of the covers. I found an artist on the Internet who knocked me out. I contacted him and offered him a royalty percentage. Jack Larson spent years in the military (working body detail) and the NYPD (working body detail). When he retired, he became an artist…primarily painting zombies. Match made in heaven.

Meghan: What have you learned creating your books?

Brian Kaufman: From junior high school on, writing was my most cherished hobby. Creating the finished product as both author and publisher helped me glimpse the full spectrum of skills necessary to be successful. For example, marketing isn’t just selling. Marketing begins with aspects like market research and analysis, distribution chains, pricing strategies, and publicity. Being a professional (as opposed to a hobby writer) requires a lot of study. I’m still a work in progress.

Meghan: What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Brian Kaufman: I wrote and rewrote the last two pages of my first novel, The Breach, maybe 150 times (including the final rewrite just moments before handing over the galleys to the publisher). I was afraid to read the pages when the book was released, fearing that I’d see what I should have done. Luckily, that wasn’t so. I’m happy with how the ending came out.

Meghan: What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Brian Kaufman: My horror novels are theme and character driven. I can’t get away from it. In Mary King’s Plague, I attempted to write a comic book—some fluff, written purely for fun. When I was finished, I had a serious exploration of some heavy themes, including betrayal, forgiveness, and redemption. I couldn’t help myself.

Meghan: How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

Brian Kaufman: A book’s cover and title are the most important marketing tools a writer has. Choosing an effective title is hard. The one I’m proudest of is The Fat Lady’s Low, Sad Song, which is a play on an old Yogi Berra quote. The novella that was the most difficult to title was The Wretched Walls, a ghost story. Horror Novel Reviews named it a top ten horror read for 2015, but the story didn’t sell. I blame my title, in part.

Meghan: What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

Brian Kaufman: I’m a novelist. Bigger challenge, bigger payoff.

Meghan: Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Brian Kaufman: I love Umberto Ecco, who said he wrote for people who wanted to read the kind of stories he wrote. That bit of self-referencing is problematic for me, because I don’t write the same sort of thing with any two projects. I suppose I fear being a one-trick pony. As for takeaways, I hope that readers consider my themes, but remember my characters.

Meghan: Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Brian Kaufman: When editing, I cut gratuitous scenes, excess gore, poetic moments and other self-indulgence. As a person, I’m a little over the top. As a writer, I try to be more conservative. So, I chop away, using the delete button so I won’t be tempted to put anything back. That’s for the best.

Meghan: What is in your “trunk”?

Brian Kaufman: I joke about this one a lot, but I’m secretly serious. I want to write an epic poem. I have a horror-based story in mind. I hope to construct the poem as a string of sonnets. It will be… epic.

Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?

Brian Kaufman: I am finishing a Cthulhu Mythos novella (In His Image) with a wicked hook that will probably be finished next year. The story begins with a minister shooting his wife and children, leaving his sister to discover why.

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Brian Kaufman: Author webpage ** Facebook

Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview?

Brian Kaufman: Really, a most thorough interview.

Meghan: Thanks, Brian. Wait until you get invited back for interview number two…

Brian Kaufman is curriculum editor for an online junior college. He has published five novels, two textbooks, and a number of novellas. Kaufman lives with his wife and dog in the Colorado mountains, dividing his time between various passions, including writing, blues guitar, and book-hoarding.

Mary King’s Plague

According to legend, when plague broke out in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1644, city officials walled up a tenement neighborhood to contain the outbreak. When the walls came down months later, soldiers found dismembered corpses. Today, Mary King’s Close is one of the most haunted places in the world.

“Mary King’s Plague” – a novella. Betrayal. Forgiveness. Redemption. Zombies.

Dead Beyond the Fence: A Novel of the Zombie Apocalypse

The dead have risen, and there’s no safe place. Coworkers Kevin and Angel take refuge in a college town research facility, where a handful of desperate survivors battle the plague and each other while searching for a cure. Meanwhile, Angel has a secret that will affect everyone in the facility. “Dead Beyond the Fence” includes a bonus novella, “Dread Appetites.” Seven months have passed, and the dead still walk. Will the world ever return to normal?

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