Sunday, August 5, 2012

Writing for Money is a Good Thing: The K. Bennett Interview



It’s my pleasure to welcome K. Bennett to TKZ. K’s third Mallory Caine, Zombie-at-Law book, I ATE THE SHERIFF, is releasing this week. I caught up with K. Bennett at Duke’s in Malibu, where he was eating fish tacos and counting the pelicans outside the window.

JSB: What was the inspiration for your series about a zombie lawyer?

KB: Money.

JSB: Could you be a bit more specific?

KB: A publisher offered me money for the concept and my agent and I thought it would be a good idea to a) accept the money; and b) write the books.

JSB: When publishers give you money they usually like you to write the books, right?

KB: That’s been the standard, yes. But I also loved the idea. Zombies were hot at the time, but only as monsters. I thought it was high time a zombie got to be the hero.

JSB: So you’re saying it’s okay to write for the money?

KB: You’re an odd person.

JSB: Excuse me?

KB: Is it okay for a plumber to work for money?

JSB: Mine certainly does.

KB: Okay then. If he’s a good plumber, you don’t mind paying him. If someone’s a good writer, readers don’t mind paying for the books. And the authors get a piece of that transaction. Writing for money is a good thing, because the only way to make money, generally speaking, is to create value. For a writer, that means writing a great book. The two things—money and excellence—go together.

JSB: How did you happen to make your zombie character a lawyer?

KB: Many people think there really is no difference.

JSB: You say you sold the concept. How did you do that?

KB: I put together a précis and the first few chapters.

JSB: Précis?

KB: Basically a tagline, logline and summary. The tagline was: In L.A. practicing law can be hell. Especially if you’re dead.

The logline was based on the first novel, PAY ME IN FLESH: A zombie criminal lawyer defends a vampire hooker accused of the crime the lawyer herself has committed, even as a zombie-killer closes in and the love of her former life comes back as the Deputy DA she must oppose.

The series summary was a few paragraphs, and included world building: all sorts of demonic and paranormal activity is breaking out in Los Angeles, leading to the theory that Satan is setting up a war headquarters here for a new assault on heaven and earth.

JSB: You’ve chosen to use a pseudonym for this series. Can I ask why?

KB: Sure.

[Silence]

JSB: Um, why?

KB: No comment.

JSB: I’ll pick up the tab on your fish tacos if  you tell me.

KB: Done. I have another name that is an established brand. These books are so different I wanted an easy way for readers to see the distinction. The covers and the pen name do that.

JSB: Can you tell us your real name?

KB: I prefer not to.

JSB: Then tell us about this new book, I ATE THE SHERIFF.


KB: Well, as the title so subtly implies, Mallory Caine, my zombie lawyer, has occasion to eat the Sheriff of the County of Los Angeles. How and why is in the book. Suffice to say that things are not going well in the city. Mallory is representing a werewolf whose ex-wife is trying to take custody of his kids. Her father is in jail. And Satan is on the move.

JSB: What are you working on now?

KB: My third fish taco.

JSB: I mean in your writing.

KB: Ah. I am working on a Mallory Caine short story and, under my other name, several novel, novella and non-fiction projects.

JSB: How about advice for young writers?

KB: I’m all for it.

JSB: I mean, do you have any?

KB: Ah. Well, first off I’d repeat something Lawrence Block once said. “If you want to write fiction, the best thing you can do is take two aspirins, lie down in a dark room, and wait for the feeling to pass. If it persists, you probably ought to write a novel.”

What Larry is getting at here is that it takes more than a minor desire to make it as a writer. You’ve got to be in the grip of it, have a burning desire to do it well.

JSB: Let’s say someone has that. What should they do with it?

KB: Keep it burning. Find a way to stay inspired and motivated. But above all else, produce the words. Set a writing quota. Find out what you can comfortably do each week, up that by 10%, and make that your weekly goal. Add to that the systematic study of the craft.

JSB: You are really talking my language now.

KB: Si finis bonus est, totum bonum erit.

JSB: What’s that?

KB: Another language.

JSB: Oh.

KB: It’s Latin. It means, If the end is good, the rest will be good. The hardest part of the fiction craft is the ending. But you have to nail it. Your last chapter sells your next book, or doesn’t.

JSB: Outside of the Kardashians, you and Tommy Lee Jones are the most famous Ks in America today. How does that feel?

KB: Could you pass the hot sauce, please?

JSB: By the way, what does the K stand for?

KB: Fine writing, I hope.

JSB: Are you going to tell us what the K stands for or not?

KB: It has yet to be revealed. I will someday.

JSB: Just so long as it’s not Korky.

KB: I promise.

JSB: Any last words?

KB: Et tu, Brute?

JSB: No, I mean from you.

KB: Ah. Well, it’s good to reflect on death. You’re not going to be around forever. Your books, most likely, will not be read a hundred years from now, except by accident. What is it besides being a writer that you’ll be remembered for? How do you treat other people? How do you reach out and help those less fortunate than yourself? What will they say about you at your funeral?

JSB: That’s a good way to end this interview. What is it you, K. Bennett, would like someone to say about you as your coffin lies open at the front of the church?

KB: I would like them to say, “Look! He’s moving!”

If you have any questions for K. Bennett today, I’m sure he’ll be pleased to answer them.

K. Bennett will be signing copies of all three of the Mallory Caine books at Mysterious Galaxy in Redondo Beach, Friday, August 24, 7:30 – 8:30 p.m. Go HERE for more information. 

22 comments:

  1. Thanks again, K, for dropping in to TKZ.

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  2. My pleasure. Very hospitable of you.

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  3. Since good writing gets paid, and this blog post is great writing, how do you two split the large sum of money you got for posting this?

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  4. K, welcome to TKZ. Question: have you met any actual zombies while researching your books?

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  5. Karl, each year we Zoners take our profits and rent a villa in Monte Carlo and blow our money in high stakes games at the casinos.

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  6. Joe, yes. I killed two birds with one stone by attending a Los Angeles bar association meeting.

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  7. Yay book three is out!

    This was an awesome interview! Thank you, K, for stopping by to let Jim interview you. I am only sorry this wasn't a video. ;)

    I LOVE zombies, and I am currently writing a zombie apocalypse novel. But I seem to be getting a lot of people telling me that zombies are "overdone" (these people being other writers, not agents).

    I'm ignoring them, because I love this book, but sometimes it's hard. Did you make a conscious decision to ignore the naysayers, or were you confident that the "lawyer" part of your premise would make it different enough?

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  8. Awesome blog post. That K. Bennett has an interesting imagination. Does Mallory Caine benefit from the use of Tums?

    What has been the pros and cons of of publishing as K. Bennett? I love the titles.

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  9. Elizabeth, zombie's were "hot" when I came up with the idea, which usually means one is too late IF one is writing "just another" of the same. So I tried to come up with something new, a fresh take. It was a) the zombie as hero; and b) doing cross-genre by combining zombie fiction with legal thriller.

    As for your other question, it's true there comes a point of market saturation, but if it's a story you love, you find a way to tell it with originality and passion. Dig deeper into character. Find your voice and let it flow. Then you have a shot at having your book stand out from the slush.

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  10. Jillian, Mallory does not use Tums, she uses accountant brains to settle her stomach.

    Writing with a pen name does present challenges. For one thing, you have to establish some social media presence, which is like taking on another marketing task. But I'm not overdoing it. Word of mouth is still the best marketing tool.

    I did get to come up with a cool signature, though, which I use at the book signings. Also, when I do the occasional blog at kbennettbooks.tumblr.com I have a different voice to play with.

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  11. I'm not sure I want to know what that cool signature looks like - brain splat perhaps?! Sound advice, though...especially that there's nothing wrong with writing for the money:)

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  12. Hm, you've given me an idea there, Clare....

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  13. JSB you are very clever and I am a fan. I genuinely appreciate your sense of humour and skills. I am certain your stuff is the best zombie stuff written (and the most tongue-in-cheek).
    Speaking to the wind I want to say that I am beyond done with zombies, werewolves, vampires, etc.
    I suspect that twenty years from now it will be as popular , at that time, as hard core rap.
    Cash in now! There is nothing wrong with commercial success and entertaining tales.

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  14. LOL. Hilarious. Fish Taco's?! Jim, jim, jim... yuk, yuk, yuk!

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  15. tjc, entertainment is the key, isn't it?

    And Darren, you haven't lived! The fish tacos at Duke's are superb!

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  16. This was awesome. I needed a good laugh. :-)

    ~Jennette

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  17. Jennette, happy to help. I trust the three books have some as well.

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  18. Thanks for the wonderful advice K! I just wrote that paragraph on a sticky note and stuck it to my computer.

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  19. I'm totally embarassed. I always thought K. was female. Sorry about that . . .

    Terri

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  20. How refreshing was THIS interview? Thank you. Let me know when I can sign up for a workshop with either one or both of you-- now that would be a treat.

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  21. Thanks so much for putting a smile on my face, both with your story concept and your humor. Money? It couldn't hurt. Entertainment? It sounds like your books will entertain.

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