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Sunday, 5 June 2011

Interview with Slush Pile Reader's First Author KJ Kron


BIOGRAPHY


KJ Kron grew up in a Catholic in Fairfax, VA. After graduating from James Madison University in 1989, he moved to Kansas City to find a place to write free of distractions. He volunteered through the Church helping teenagers with drug problems where he wrote his first unpublished novel, Pinkie System

Eventually he came back to Northern Virginia with a new plan –work overnight in a psychiatric hospital. Four years later he finished his second unpublished novel, Five Guys Named Johnson and took classes at George Mason University to get a teaching license and his masters’ degree in Education.

KJ Kron has taught English and creative writing for 15 years, two of them part-time so he could write Saint Peter Killed God.

1. What inspired you to write Saint Peter Killed God?

There are so many ways to answer this question. It’s really three stories that I fused together. But what really got me interested in it was when I mom put me on restriction when I was 18. I had just finished my freshman year at college and I’d occasionally hang out with friends all night. I thought I could do the same when I got back home.

Wrong.

My mom didn’t like it when I didn’t come home. The day I got off restriction, I stayed out all night again. So she put a Bible on my breakfast plate with the passage “Thou Shall Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother” highlighted. Looking back, I was a pretty immature kid. But that struck a cord in me. I felt it was hypocritical although I couldn’t explain why. I decided to continue
going to church for the next six years, but I did so with a purpose. Instead of just going through the motions, I listened to the sermons with an open and critical mind. I started reading a lot about the Bible as well. I finally came up with an opinion. I might not have even written the book if my mom listened to those opinions, but she brushed them aside thinking I was a failure since I no longer went to church. So for years I thought about it, and then finally wrote it.

2. How did you come up with the title?

At first I called it Wrestling with Religion. I thought it had a nice right to it. A little alliteration. My friends said they liked it. But then my writing coach told me the title had to go. That it was too boring. So I tried Killing God, but that didn’t have the right feel to it. I didn’t really like Saint Peter Killed God at first either. But it made more sense since there is a delusional priest named Peter who considers himself a saint. Then I thought that it might work on another level. “Saint Peter” created the church, so if I’m saying he killed God, then I’m saying the church killed God. Which made me kind of like the title.

3. How much of your book is realistic?

I crammed some of the strangest things that happened to me while I worked overnight in a psychiatric hospital into the twenty-eight days that Peter is in one, which might not be too realistic. But working there for four years I feel makes it authentic. I also have a friend who is a priest and told me a little of what a priest has to go through in order to become a priest and what life is like as a priest. I probably gave him the wrong impression though because he thought afterwards that I wanted to become a priest.

4. Tell our readers some of your thoughts being the first author about to be published under Slush Pile Reader's imprint.

At first I thought I made it to the top of Slush Pile Reader’s chart because I read a lot of manuscripts there, commented on them, and writers in turn read mine as well. But then Slush Pile Reader showed me a file of all the people that read my book that DID NOT have a book on SPR. Over 100 people who had no motive to read my book read it and they liked it enough to vote for it to be published. Many of them read deep into the book and a couple even finished it. Writers want to be read and when people read your book because they want to, that feels really good.

Slush Pile Reader is an excellent idea that I’d love to see catch on. Imagine a web site where readers select the books that are going to be published. With the big name publishers rejecting everyone in site because they’re afraid to take any chances, I’d love to see a publisher like SPR produce books that outsell the ones that the old dinosaur publishers release. If it catches on, it
could be a beautiful thing. Self-publishing and e-readers have exploded on to the market. I’m hoping my book is successful enough to draw people who have self-published to SPR and help make SPR work.

5. Saint Peter Killed God was originally scheduled for a June 2011release by Slush Pile Reader, but you've been backed up with its final edits. Now it's looking like a "soft" release in July, before an "official" August/September release. Have the delays frustrated you or just made you look forward even more to the actual publication?

I’m frustrated with myself. I overestimated how much time I’d have to edit a book. This is my first year with a baby and my wife and I feel like we’re doing something wrong. And the day Slush Pile Reader gave me a copy of the edits was also the day I collected a research paper from my students. So what was I to do, not grade my students’ papers? Force my wife to watch the baby without any help? No, I had to put off editing for a short bit and finally took a couple of days off to do it.

There are some other little hiccups, like waiting for the copyright to come in and trying to get permission for the song lyrics that I’ve used in the story. I’ve waited so long to get published that I’m excited that it’s this close, even if I pushed the released date back. It’s better for me to be happy with it than to rush it though. So even though I’m hoping for a summer release, it could be delayed even further. For that, I blame myself.

6. What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing Saint Peter Killed God to life?

I wondered why no agents or publishers were interested in Saint Peter Killed God, so I hired a writing coach. He sent me a 20-page email listing all the reasons why SPKG wouldn’t be commercial. My coach told me to read books in my genre and books on writing. I reluctantly read one book he suggested and then another. Before I knew it, I read more than 20 books he recommended and I started to see his point. I decided to go part-time the following school year to revise SPKG and went through several drafts before being pleased with it. That’s when I heard about Authonomy and tried my luck there.

I’m impressed when I read novels that I really enjoyed and then find out that the author wrote it in a couple of months. I’ve been working on SPKG for about ten years. Obviously not devoting all of my time to it. There were stretches where I didn’t touch it for a couple of years. But for me to stick with it for so long took a lot of faith (smiles).

7. Did you learn anything from writing your book? What was it?

Things don’t always turn out as you expect. I’ve written scenes that made me laugh and then when I read them, they were quite sad. I also learned that in order to write,you really have to be cocky enough to feel that your story is important enough to be read. Otherwise, I couldn’t have
done it. And you have to be humble enough to accept criticism. It’s a strange balance.

8. Do you see writing as a full-time career?

I dream it, yes. But I have a wife and a one-year-old baby. Right now, I feel like I need to continue on as a teacher. If SPKG is fairly successful, I might be able to go part-time and write another book. If SPKG really successful, then I’d love to write full time. Hey, I can dream, can’t I? Realistically, I’m not banking on it.

9. Are there any new authors who have grasped your interest?

Many. How much room do I have here? I’ll try to limit myself. While at Slush Pile Reader and Authonomy, I read so many new authors that I couldn’t wait to read their entire books. As a teacher I really liked books by Cathrine Chisnall and Steven Sangirardi. Both felt real to me and have given me ideas. Stacey Danson’s Empty Chairs was such a stunner to me. I also have half a dozen authors’ picked out to read as soon as I get a little more time. Ah, if only I had more time. The summer is close; I hope to read a lot then.

10. What are your current projects?

I’m not able to devote enough time to writing a novel. Last summer I wrote some poems about having a baby. I’m not an overly sappy guy so most of them focused on the stresses or humor of it. I’m writing a blog. Occasionally, I might find time to write a short piece of fiction. But in the back of my mind, I’m letting a few ideas simmer on the back burner in hopes that someday I’ll be able to write them.

11. Do you have any advice for other writers?

Find time to write. I envy those of you have it. I had it when I was younger and I imagine I’ll have it when I retire. If only I could follow my own advice and create time. Perhaps I could quit sleeping (smiles).

12. If you have any web sites or social network pages, feel free to list them for our readers to visit.

You can read Saint Peter Killed God on Slush Pile Reader.

I have a facebook page that will announce when the SPKG is released, my blog where I talk a little about my life, writing, and try to interview other writers, and a Twitter account.

I should really be asking you for advice, I got this Book Blogs page from your blog. There's also my Goodreads author page, and you can read Harper Collins review of Saint Peter Killed God on authonomy.

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