Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Kenneth W. Cain

Meghan: Hi, Kenneth. It’s been awhile since we sat down together. What’s been going on since we last spoke?

Kenneth W. Cain: Yes, it has, and thank you so much for having me again. It’s been a busy year, not unlike last year, but different. I’ve taken on more editorial work as of late, working for some new publishers like In Your Face Publishing and Silver Shamrock Publishing. There’s some good opportunities coming for writers out there, so stay tuned.

Meghan: Who are you outside of writing?

Kenneth W. Cain: That’s a difficult question, as I’m not sure I really know anymore. I’ve been doing a bit of soul-searching on that question as of late, actually. I like to think I’m a good listener, in part because I care about most everyone I meet. I’m a bit of a bleeding heart, and I believe in treating people as I would have them treat me, so I strive to respect people, even when that favor isn’t returned. I guess I’m just a bit of an old hippie.

Meghan: How do you feel about friends and close relatives reading your work?

Kenneth W. Cain: Nervous. I’ve made huge strides in my writing career, yet that has never changed. I often feel ashamed of my writing, that it’s lacking too much, that I’m a hack. It’s quite difficult to turn that off, the critic, but that’s likely also part of why I’m making those leaps to begin with.

Meghan: Is being a writer a gift or a curse?

Kenneth W. Cain: Well, it’s both. It takes a lot of talent to write something good, so I have the utmost respect for anyone who does. But it’s not a great paying gig, so in that respect it’s a curse. And people can fling a 1-star review at you in seconds, after months (maybe years) of hard work. Also, it’s hard to turn off. I’m ALWAYS thinking about writing. ALWAYS.

Meghan: How has your environment and upbringing colored your writing?

Kenneth W. Cain: I grew up in more of sports-related family. It was expected I would be playing Major League Baseball by now, but that wasn’t in the cards for one reason or another. I guess I’m lucky I took an interest in writing when I did, or I might not have that to rely on. It’s been the best job I’ve had, though my boss is always nagging me. ☺

Meghan: What’s the strangest thing you have ever had to research for your books?

Kenneth W. Cain: I was actually just thinking about this the other day. Someone asked on Facebook or Twitter and it got me thinking. I’m not really sure. I’ve researched an ungodly amount of harrowing topics, but perhaps my research on Nazi Germany was the most terrifying. I wouldn’t say strange—not at first—but things pop up that shock the hell out of you. Then, next thing you know, you’re diving down a rabbit hole for hours on end, jotting notes about this and that, wondering if there’s a story there.

Meghan: Which do you find the hardest to write: the beginning, the middle, or the end?

Kenneth W. Cain: The beginning. Most stories start in the wrong place, so that’s the first challenge.

Meghan: Do you outline? Do you start with characters or plot? Do you just sit down and start writing? What works best for you?

Kenneth W. Cain: I’m a pantser, so I’m always flying by the seat of my pants. That means I know as much as the reader, and I do think that helps me determine whether a scene is working or not at times.

Meghan: What do you do when characters don’t follow the outline/plan?

Kenneth W. Cain: I celebrate. Tear down the walls. Draw outside of the lines. Be different. It’s a lot like real life, unpredictable at times, as it should be. We should celebrate our differences. Grow from them. Same with our characters.

Meghan: What do you do to motivate yourself to sit down and write?

Kenneth W. Cain: I sit and write. Nothing more to it. Though, without my morning coffee, I might be lost.

Meghan: Are you an avid reader?

Kenneth W. Cain: Slow, but yes. I’m always listening to podcasts that have stories or audiobooks, or reading my Kindle, and I’m typically editing at least one book by another writer, so there’s that too. I wish I was a faster reader though, because I’m ungodly slow, and my TBR pile is through the roof.

Meghan: What kind of books do you absolutely love to read?

Kenneth W. Cain: I like reading in my genre mostly, but I like self-help books and Sci-Fi. Space operas and such.

Meghan: How do you feel about movies based on books?

Kenneth W. Cain: Some work, most don’t. People will crucify me for this, but I thought The Count of Monte Cristo was better than the book. Same with The Postman.

Meghan: Have you ever killed a main character?

Kenneth W. Cain: Too often, I suppose. Sometimes, you don’t have a choice. I’m currently shopping a novel where the main characters all die somewhere in the middle of the story. Don’t worry. It will make sense when you finally read it.

Meghan: Do you enjoy making your characters suffer?

Kenneth W. Cain: Absolutely. Suffering is part of life. It’s part of growth. We learn from our mistakes. Our characters are no different.

Meghan: What’s the weirdest character concept that you’ve ever come up with?

Kenneth W. Cain: I recently wrote a flash piece from the POV of a tree. I guess that’s kind of strange.

Meghan: What’s the best piece of feedback you’ve ever received? What’s the worst?

Kenneth W. Cain: I’ve had a lot of great writers pay me compliments, and that’s been humbling. Very much so. But I try not to focus on those things, as they can distract from growing as a writer. But if I had to pick one, it was being compared to Matheson. I mean, that’s pretty awesome for me. Not so much for him.

The worst was an early rejection that informed me I should never write again. And I almost listened to her, too. Her rejection has a lot to do with how I carry myself in this industry now. It was a highly unprofessional response.

Meghan: What do your fans mean to you?

Kenneth W. Cain: I love to hear from them. Love to get notes, reviews, blog posts. It’s overwhelming. I’m completely honored anyone is taking the time to read my writing.

Meghan: If you could steal one character from another author and make them yours, who would it be and why?

Kenneth W. Cain: Ig from Joe Hill’s Horns. He’s just a well-rounded character. I feel like I really got to know him better than most characters.

Meghan: If you could write the next book in a series, which one would it be, and what would you make the book about?

Kenneth W. Cain: Koontz’s Frankenstein series. First off, I LOVE the original. Shelley was a master. Second, it’s an awesome series with some really cool concepts.

Meghan: If you could write a collaboration with another author, who would it be and what would you write about?

Kenneth W. Cain: I’ve been asked to collab with a few, but haven’t gotten into it so much. It could be fun, and I’d like to try it, but the writing styles would have to gel. And the personalities. My list would be long as to who I’d like to collab with. A better question might be, who wouldn’t I want to collab with?

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

Kenneth W. Cain: If I can sell everything I’m shopping around right now, you’re looking at two new short story collections, a novella, two novels, and several short stories (a couple of which have already been sold). October saw two of those short stories out, though one is a reprint for a charity anthology.

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Kenneth W. Cain: All my social media links are on my website. Check it out. Stay a while.

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 or the last?

Kenneth W. Cain: Mostly, thank you for having me… again. And to all my readers, I’d say what I always say: Pleasant nightmares.

Kenneth W. Cain is a prolific author with four novels, four short story collections, four novellas, and several children’s books among his body of work. He is the editor for Crystal Lake Publishing‘s Tales From the Lake Volume 5 and When the Clock Strikes 13. The winner of the 2017 Silver Hammer Award, Cain is an active member of the Horror Writer’s Association, as well as a volunteer for the membership committee and chair of the Pennsylvania chapter. Cain resides in Chester County, Pennsylvania with his wife and two children.

Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: John Quick

Meghan: Welcome back… well, sort of back… back to the annual Halloween Extravaganza, but welcome TO the brand new blog. It’s been awhile since we sat down together. What’s been going on since we last spoke?

John Quick: A lot, actually. I think we last talked after the release of The Journal of Jeremy Todd, and since then I’ve released three more novels, a novella, and another short story collection. In other words, a lot, lol.

Meghan: Who are you outside of writing?

John Quick: A husband, father, geek, and stuck in the 80’s, I guess, lol! I’ve got a horrid day job to help pay the bills so I can do this writing thing, but love spending time with my wife and kids, and friends playing D&D or board games or just hanging out talking about Marvel MCU movies, Doctor Who, and other geek-related subjects. Basically, I’m a guy who never grew up, but had to grow up because I’m in my forties, lol.

Meghan: How do you feel about friends and close relatives reading your work?

John Quick: As long as they remember I’m not what I write, I’m good with it. Two of my closest friends are actually beta readers. I let them do it, because they’re the kind of friends who don’t care if they tell me it’s shit when it is. They could care less about my feelings and more about making sure my career actually goes somewhere. As to family, my wife reads everything, albeit slowly, and while my mother supports my career as a writer, she can’t get past the swearing in my books, much less the subject matter.

Meghan: Is being a writer a gift or a curse?

John Quick: It’s both. It’s a gift because it gives me a way to release the things that wind up trapped inside my head (take that how you will). It’s also introduced me to some of the most awesome people I’ve ever met. I’ve had more than one person comment that when I’m at a con with my contemporaries, I seem happier than normal, and more in my element than they’ve ever seen me. It’s also a curse because it’s a compulsion to do what I do. I get grumpy when the writing’s not going well, and occasionally get depressed with the way the business end of this whole thing works. Make no mistake, this is a job, just one that is immensely more satisfying than anything else I’ve ever done. Like every job, though, it has its good days and its bad. You have to take both if you want to do this.

Meghan: How has your environment and upbringing colored your writing?

John Quick: For a long time, I tried to ignore my environment and upbringing. It seemed that everything was in rural Maine or in a big city. Once I finally stopped being ashamed of my humble beginnings, and kind of made Tennessee a character of its own in my work, things got much, much easier.

Meghan: What’s the strangest thing you have ever had to research for your books?

John Quick: Wow, I don’t even know. I’ve given up on having a normal search history in Google, I’ll put it that way. Maybe it’s the real stories behind the concept of succubi, or what a stun gun does to a human face when that particular warning is ignored. I really don’t know.

Meghan: Which do you find the hardest to write: the beginning, the middle, or the end?

John Quick: The beginning. I always have a scene come into mind right away, but it’s usually once things start going. I hate having to write up to that point, but love going past it.

Meghan: Do you outline? Do you start with characters or plot? Do you just sit down and start writing? What works best for you?

John Quick: I am a total pantser. When a story comes into my head, it’s a scenario, including the people involved in it. Then I start writing and wait for them to introduce themselves and show me how they’re going to deal with that scenario. The exception is the final book of a potential fantasy trilogy I’m working on, where I had to outline it to keep everything straight in my own head. It made it very tough to work on. The outline’s finished, but the actual writing is ongoing, if you’re curious.

Meghan: What do you do when characters don’t follow the outline/plan?

John Quick: I let them lead me. If I don’t know where the story’s going, how will the reader?

Meghan: What do you do to motivate yourself to sit down and write?

John Quick: I treat it like the job it is. Simple as that. And as complicated.

Meghan: Are you an avid reader?

John Quick: Absolutely. I couldn’t write if I didn’t read a lot, too.

Meghan: What kind of books do you absolutely love to read?

John Quick: Horror or fantasy, and I want believable characters and a story that sucks me in.

Meghan: How do you feel about movies based on books?

John Quick: They’re hit or miss. I can deal with them as long as they keep the spirit of the original work. You mess with character motivations, development, or how they act, and we’ve got issues, though. That’s why I hated Legend of the Seeker. I loved the Sword of Truth novels, but the TV show acted like they only read the first book and ignored the rest.

Meghan: Have you ever killed a main character?

John Quick: Sure. In the fantasy series. But that’s almost a trope now, isn’t it?

Meghan: Do you enjoy making your characters suffer?

John Quick: The way I see it, if the reader loves the character, and the character suffers, so will the reader. Isn’t that what horror’s all about?

Meghan: What’s the weirdest character concept that you’ve ever come up with?

John Quick: Most of my characters are normal-ish. If they don’t feel real, I don’t use them. Hence, most aren’t any weirder than I am (again, take that how you wish, lol).

Meghan: What’s the best piece of feedback you’ve ever received? What’s the worst?

John Quick: Best? Don’t put your eggs in one basket. I’ve worked with several small presses, as well as doing some self-publishing. Because of that, I’m not as afraid of any one of those falling apart. I have alternates if I need them.

The worst? Try a Facebook ad. I did, and I might as well have flushed the money down the toilet. It might work for someone else, but it sure didn’t for me.

Meghan: What do your fans mean to you?

John Quick: I write for myself (write the story you want to read). That said, I’m still adjusting to the fact I actually have fans! Those I have, though, I love dearly. They make me feel I’m on the right path with this, and they make me feel it’s all worthwhile. While, as I said, I write for me, there is a part of me that hopes they like it too, and worries about it after every release.

Meghan: If you could steal one character from another author and make them yours, who would it be and why?

John Quick: Brian Keene’s Levi Stoltzfus. I’d love to throw him in one of the Cochran books and have those two deal with a case. I think that would be a blast.

Meghan: If you could write the next book in a series, which one would it be, and what would you make the book about?

John Quick: That’s a tough one. While it’s not a proper series, I’d love to play with the characters from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comic series. I’d do a story about a guy who’s slowly going insane, and bring in the Endless to make it really hit home. I can see how all of them could fit into the story. Would he pull out of it, or would he succumb to it? I’d have to write it to find out, but it would definitely be interesting getting there, either way!

Meghan: If you could write a collaboration with another author, who would it be and what would you write about?

John Quick: I’m actually doing that right now. It’s about a band in 1984 that makes a bargain with something for fame and fortune, and the impact that has on their lives over the years. I don’t want to say more about it right now; you’ll just have to see it when it’s finished.

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

John Quick: I have a new novel coming out in November from Silver Shamrock, called Hidden Hearts (though the title may change). It’s a ghost story / haunted house novel that contains some of the most emotional stuff I’ve ever written. Beyond that, I’ve got a few things in the works that may or may not pan out, so keep watching to see how they develop!

Meghan: Where can we find you?

John Quick: I’m everywhere. Facebook (personal profile or fan profile), Twitter, Instagram, or my website.

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 or the last?

John Quick: I could never have guessed how my life was going to turn out when I first started this a few years ago, and am thrilled beyond belief at how it’s gone. Thank you to everyone for all the support, and I can’t wait to see where you let me go in the future!

If you ask his wife, John Quick is compelled to tell stories because he’s full of baloney. He prefers to think he simply has an affinity for things that are strange, disturbing, and terrifying. As proof, he will explain how he suffered Consequences, transcribed The Journal of Jeremy Todd, and regaled the tale of Mudcat. He lives in Middle Tennessee with his aforementioned long-suffering wife, two exceptionally patient kids, four dogs that could care less so long as he keeps scratching that perfect spot on their noses, and a cat who barely acknowledges his existence.