Stephen Kozeniewski (pronounced “causin’ ooze key”) has a great name. He also writes great books and has one of the best Facebook author pages on the slightly annoying social media site where he consistently challenges you by posing some very serious questions. His books include “Braineater Jones”, “Billy and the Cloneasaurus” , “The Ghoul Archipelago”, and the more recently released “Every Kingdom Divided”. Some of these books are quite difficult to pronounce let alone spell. Stephen is incredibly busy, I am sure, but when Beavisthebookhead came a knockin’ and asked for a few words about his forthcoming book from Sinister Grin Press called “Hunter of the Dead”, Stephen was only too pleased to give me some insight into his writing and talk about this upcoming tale. Let us begin…
BtB: Let’s get to know about Stephen Kozeniewski. Can you tell readers a little (or a lot) about yourself?
SK: The details of my life are quite inconsequential. Very well, where do I begin? My father was a relentlessly self-improving boulangerie owner from Belgium with low-grade narcolepsy and a penchant for buggery. My mother was a fifteen-year-old French prostitute named Chloe with webbed feet. My father would womanize, he would drink. He would make outrageous claims like he invented the question mark. Sometimes he would accuse chestnuts of being lazy. The sort of general malaise that only the genius possess and the insane lament. My childhood was typical. Summers in Rangoon, luge lessons. In the spring we’d make meat helmets. When I was insolent I was placed in a burlap bag and beaten with reeds. Pretty standard really. At the age of twelve I received my first scribe. At the age of fourteen a Zoroastrian named Vilma ritualistically shaved my testicles. There really is nothing like a shorn scrotum. It’s breathtaking. I highly suggest you try it.
BtB: Where does your love of the darker side of fiction come from?
SK: As a kid I read SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK, GOOSEBUMPS, and even some of my sister’s Christopher Pike and Clive Barker books. I never really got into the ‘80s horror even though I grew up in that time period, but I did enjoy a steady diet of Universal monsters, Kaiju movies like “The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms,” and ‘50s paranoia flicks like “The Fly.” I also devoured “Tales From the Crypt,” all three “Twilight Zones,” both “Outer Limits,” and to a lesser extent “Monsters” and “Tales From the Darkside.” So I guess it came from having cable and not a lot to do.
BtB: What was your first published story? Where was it? Who published it?
SK: Ooh, deep cut! My first published story was a microfiction piece called “Clockwork Offal.” It was released by Kevin G. Bufton’s Cruentus Libri imprint in an anthology called ANOTHER HUNDRED HORRORS. It is now out of print, and, thus, immensely desirable. It also featured pieces by such young up-and-comers as Jay Wilburn, Essel Pratt, K. Trap Jones, Gabino Iglesias, Nathan Robinson, and Kerry Lipp.
BtB: How does the writing process work with you? Do you have a minimum word limit that you like to achieve each day or is it a case of however much, whenever you can? Is there someplace you go to write or are you at ease writing in a coffee shop for example?
SK: A thousand words a day is a good goal I shoot for. Of course, there’s so much of the process that’s research (read: Wikipedia), editing, and marketing that I’m not just sitting down and churning out a thousand words a day. For instance, does answering these questions count towards my daily word count? Well, no, I guess not, but it’s all part of my career, right? I definitely do work at it at least a few hours every day. I generally write in my home office (or my non-home office…shh, don’t tell my boss) but I can work at a coffee shop or even the food court at the mall if I need a change of scenery.
BtB: How has your writing progressed from your first ever accepted story? And what do find the most difficult aspect of writing?
SK: I definitely feel less like an apprentice and more like a journeyman now. Having been through the editing wringer several times I can identify problem subjects and even problem words and phrases on my own now. I also know that I have an audience and a niche so there’s less handwringing about whether this is all pointless or I’m wasting my time, which is something I think a lot of aspiring authors have to deal with. Now that I’m at this point in my career the most difficult aspect for me is staying true to what I want to say, while being aware that I could offend or insult the audience. I feel compelled to write about diverse characters, because that’s a responsibility we as authors owe our audience, but I worry that I may be misrepresenting minorities.
BtB: Your last novel “Every Kingdom Divided” was perhaps a little different. No ghouls or zombies, instead it was a dystopian road trip through a fractured America. With the political campaign for the presidency of the United States in full swing, I think “Every Kingdom Divided” would be a great read right now. I don’t want to dwell at all on the politics, but I am interested in why you decided to write this book and where the idea came from?
SK: Thanks, I had the same hope that this was a timely novel. I actually wrote the novel in 2009, shortly after President Obama was sworn into office. It was a different time, but already the signs were all pointing toward a vile level of partisanship and I feared that the country could genuinely break up. Rhetoric was so heated that I thought it would be fascinating to write a story where the most outrageous claims of both sides of the political spectrum had come true. Today, in ways it seems more prescient than ever.
BtB: “Hunter of the Dead” is your latest novel, to be released on August 15th through Sinister Grin Press. Can you tell us about the novel?
SK: HUNTER OF THE DEAD is a story I first wrote as a screenplay in 2003 to reject how bowdlerized vampires had become in Hollywood and return them to their folkloric roots. Obviously vampires have been defanged a lot more thoroughly since then, so I think it’s perhaps an even better time to reacquaint folks with folkloric vampires. The story is about a medieval knight who terrorizes the paranormal community of modern Las Vegas, forcing a vampire hunter and the most powerful vampire in the world to enter into an uneasy partnership to defeat him.
BtB: Zach McCain did the cover art for “Hunter..” and it’s excellent. Did you request Zach? And did you have much of a say in the direction of the cover or did you leave it in his more than capable hands?
SK: No, I didn’t request Zach, but his work is amazing. I didn’t actually speak to Zach. I spoke to my editors at Sinister Grin Press, Matt Worthington and Tristan Thorne, and they acted as intermediaries. Ultimately the financial risk on the cover is SGP’s, so the final decision on those matters is theirs, too. But, yes, I basically did get to say what I wanted and see the various iterations and request changes. I generally try not to be a prima donna in the covermaking stage because I’m not very smart about graphic art and I usually trust that my publisher and artist know better than I do. And so far all of my covers have been better than anything I initially imagined.
BtB: You have had various short stories in numerous anthologies. Have you considered writing a short story collection, a novella maybe (they seem to be really popular these days), or are you a lover of the novel?
SK: Well, I actually have a completed novella set in the far future of THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO universe right now, so if you know somebody who wants it, I guess that answers that part of the question. No I’m not married to the novel as a format, and as estimable an author as Adam Cesare has told me that novellas are the wave of the future.
Most of the anthologies I’ve done have been for charity, and editors will usually be able to keep suckering me into those with a sob story about kids or vets or whatever. I expect that I will release a collection one day, once I’ve had enough short stories published in magazines and anthologies and all those rights have reverted back to me. But I don’t anticipate I’ll be releasing a collection of original stories. There’s just not really a market for that and I’m not exactly J.K. Rowling with the people clamoring for it.
BtB: Somebody approaches me and asks where to start with Stephen Kozeniewski. What do you think I should tell them?
SK: Without knowing anything else about them, BRAINEATER JONES is my most accessible work. Usually when I’m at conventions and signings trying to answer this question I’d ask if they prefer horror or scifi and then try to suss out what they’d like best from there.
BtB: On a different note, you recently attended “Scares that Care”. Was it your first time and can you tell us about the event? It’s one of the events in the U.S. that I’d really like to attend if I ever make it back out there.
SK: YOU MUST! Attend next year. I was very much on the fence about attending STC this year because of some personal matters and juggling my schedule. But I ended up going and it was one of the best cons I’ve ever been to. It was more like a family gathering than anything else. Everyone was very welcoming.
BtB: You have an active social media presence, particularly on Twitter (@outfortune). How important is social media to an author in 2016 and, be honest, is it something you enjoy or more of a necessary evil?
SK: Well, social media is indispensable. I mean, meatspace sales are great, which is why I do the convention circuit, but you essentially have to use social media to reach an audience. That’s no guarantee that you will reach an audience, unfortunately. I genuinely enjoy Facebook and from time to time I like playing on Twitter, but I probably wouldn’t do it nearly as much if I wasn’t an author.
In some ways I feel boxed in because I have to remember that I’m a public figure now and I can’t just rant about how I hate bangs or how stupid “Firefly” is because I don’t want to alienate people. You have to walk a fine line between being honest and being considerate. In a way I wish more people on social media had to thread that needle, because some of them just behave in a ghastly manner, and if they were held accountable I doubt they’d do that.
BtB: “Hunter of the Dead” aside, what else does Stephen Kozeniewski have planned for the rest of 2016 and beyond?
SK: I expect THE HEMATOPHAGES, which I would describe as “Office Space” meets “Alien” will be out late this year or early next year from Mirror Matter Press. I pitched a serial about cryptids fighting in the Second World War to “Dirge Magazine,” so if they accept that will also start this year. As I mentioned, I have a novella in the can, but I’m not sure if that will be published this year. I’m almost finished a sequel to THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO so hopefully that will be finished this year. I also owe Sinister Grin a novel called SLASHVIVOR! about a slasher reality show, which I’ll be co-writing with Stevie Kopas.
BtB: Where can folk find out more about Stephen Kozeniewski?
SK: My social media hub is my blog, manuscriptsburn.blogspot.com. I’m active on Facebook at facebook.com/kozauthor and on Twitter at twitter.com/outfortune.
BtB: Some silly questions to round things off…
Coffee or tea?
Books or movies?
Eh…I won’t lie. Movies. But really TV.
Facebook or Twitter?
Facebook. A hundred times Facebook.
Is there a writer or writers, living or dead you would like to collaborate with?
Ah, maybe GRRM. Less for myself and more because I think I could grease those axles a bit. EDIT: I contacted Mr Martin and proposed the option of working with Stephen…he sent this image?!
What is your favourite food?
Probably a cheesesteak, particularly from Jim’s on South Street. EDIT: I wasn’t familiar with a ‘Cheesesteak’, now I really want one (food of the god’s).
Trump or Clinton?…only joking 😉
Well, if you’re only joking I’ll let sleeping dogs lie, then,
BtB: Stephen Kozeniewski. It has been an honor and a privilege. I wish you great success!
Thanks much! Thanks for having me!
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Hunter of the Dead, Synopsis and Info
Someone has begun targeting vampires.
Vampire leaders of the thirteen Houses attribute the string of recent losses to over-zealous vampire hunters. Only Cicatrice, the most ancient and powerful vampire in the world, suspects that the semi-legendary Hunter of the Dead may be the real culprit.
Carter Price, a vampire hunter who despises the way his profession is becoming centralized and corporatized, begins to suspect the Hunter of the Dead is back, too – and no longer distinguishing between vampires and mortals. Against his better judgment, Price agrees to work with Cicatrice.
The uneasy allies attempt to uncover the truth about the Hunter, while a vampire civil war brews in the background. But perhaps most difficult of all, they must contend with their new apprentices, who seem to be falling in love with each other against every rule of man and monster…
Stephen Kozeniewski, Biography
Stephen Kozeniewski (pronounced “causin’ ooze key”) lives in Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the modern zombie. During his time as a Field Artillery officer, he served for three years in Oklahoma and one in Iraq, where due to what he assumes was a clerical error, he was awarded the Bronze Star. He is also a classically trained linguist, which sounds much more impressive than saying his bachelor’s degree is in German.
Praise for Kozeniewski
“I have never enjoyed a writer’s writing as much as I have with Stephen Kozeniewski. I cannot wait to get my hands on HUNTER OF THE DEAD!”
– Phillip Tomasso, author of the VACCINATION series
“Kozeniewski is a rich voice that booms over his peers. I am coming to think of him as the closest thing to the reincarnation or spiritual successor of Ray Bradbury.”
– David Sharp, Horror Underground (now Cinema Bluster)
“Kozeniewski never fails to entertain with his bizarre and cavernous stories.”
– K.P. Ambroziak, author of A PERPETUAL MIMICRY
“I don’t know how he does it, but every one of Kozeniewski’s books offers something totally unique and compelling to the reader.”
– Sharon Stevenson, author of the RAISED and GALLOWS series
“As many people know by now, I am a fan of Kozeniewski, maybe even a bit of a fangirl…It doesn’t matter to me what he is writing, I will read it.”
– Sheilah Randall, Cellar Door Book Reviews
“I’m not usually a standalone novelist sort of fellow but a friend of mine asked me who I thought was the best standalone novelist I read in independent fiction…after a long time, I decided the answer was Stephen Kozeniewski.”
– C.T. Phipps, author of the SUPERVILLAINY SAGA
“What I love most about Kozy’s work is that they’re unique…It’s something fresh and new every time.”
– Shawn Remfrey, Literary Litter
Find Hunter of the Dead and more great horror titles for any taste at the Sinister Grin Press site. Horror That’ll Carve a Smile on Your Face!
Also available in paperback!
Media? Wish to Feature?
If you are a member of the media or a blogger that wishes to review Hunter of the Dead, or feature Stephen, contact Erin Al-Mehairi, publicity and marketing, Sinister Grin Press, at hookofabook(at)hotmail(dot)com.
Thanks for reading!