Four on the Floor with Stephen Kozeniewski


Four on the Floor with Stephen Kozeniewski

Stephen Kozeniewski’s novel The Hematophages was named by horror legend Brian Keene as the number one book of 2017, so I was thrilled to have Stephen take part in one of our Four on the Floor interviews. Enjoy!

Bio: Stephen Kozeniewski 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 more impressive than saying his bachelor’s degree is in German.

James Gallagher: Who are your writing heroes, and has mentoring played a role in your development as an author?

SK: Well, barring your Douglas Adamses and your Dostoevskys, Tolkiens, and Vonneguts, my greatest writing hero is Brian Keene. The others being dead, I felt it incumbent upon me to tell him at a signing once. I guess he liked the cut of my jib or something, because I haven’t been able to get rid of him since.

His mentorship has opened many doors for me, as he’s introduced me to editors and publishers, and given me opportunities to work with people and on projects I never would have broken into alone.

Networking is absolutely vital in this business, and at the end of the day it’s never really stopped being an apprenticeship industry. Other authors have helped me get to where I am, and I always try to pass along what I can to aspiring authors as well.

JG: What do you find particularly exciting about the horror genre, and what do you most hope readers take away from your writing?

SK: After decades of being the rented mule of the redheaded stepchild of literature, it definitely seems like horror is finally having its day in the sun. It was the highest grossing horror film of all time last year—a genuine horror blockbuster.

Meanwhile, films like Get Out and The Shape of Water are getting critical respect and taking home awards. The Walking Dead is still a major television phenomenon, and shows like Black Mirror and Stranger Things are blowing up Netflix. I think it’s a terribly exciting time for the horror genre and I’m just pleased to be a part of it.

I hope my readers enjoy themselves. I hate to be pat about it, but that’s the long and short of writing for publication. If you’re not writing with the hopes of bringing your audience some pleasure—whether it be intellectual, vicarious fright, or even just titillation—then there’s no point publishing. Just keep it on your computer.

JG: In what ways has editing (both editing your own work and having it edited by others) sharpened your writing or contributed to the evolution of your writing process?

SK: Not in the slightest. No, I’m just kidding. Before my first professional edit I didn’t know what I didn’t know, if that makes sense. Now I feel fairly confident when doing self-edits that I can identify the major flaws in the piece as well as some of my personal tics. It’s really something you can only learn by doing, I think.

JG: Speaking of your process, do you more often outline your stories or do you start with a more general image or idea and then just let it rip?

SK: Primarily the latter. I’ve tried numerous methods, such as writing extemporaneously (Braineater Jones, Billy and the Cloneasaurus), plotting heavily (The Ghoul Archipelago), and outlining on a whiteboard (Every Kingdom Divided). But when it comes to the debate between pantsing and plotting, I remain firmly agnostic. I just do whatever feels best for the project.


Check out Stephen’s blog or follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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