Meet Gus Kenney
Gus lives in western New York with his amazing wife and five four legged children. He decided he wanted to be a writer when he realized that he could never be a spy as good as Timothy Dalton's Bond and that Hired Sword was not part of any growth industry. When he is not semi-busy writing, he spends his time pretending he knows what he is doing at a nine-to-five job and the rest of it complaining that it is taking way too long for them to start showing new episodes of his favorite cartoons. If you're bored, or just a creeper, you can check out the insanity that doesn't make it into his books on his social media outlets.
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An In Depth, Exclusive Interview With Author Gus Kenney
What were you like at school?
Quiet. With the exception of a few infamous moments that sums up school for me from about 7th grade through my short term of college. I don't remember anything of great interest before those grades just catholic school with nuns at the end.
Were you good at English?
This is were the few times when I wasn't quiet came into play. I wasn't great at English mostly because I hated the books we had to read in class. I'd read what I wanted to all day but as soon as it was forced on me I wouldn't touch it(except Macbeth). My teacher decided to ask me what I thought of one of those books one day in front of the class and I flat out told her “it sucked.” Being that it was one of her favourite books it was not a well received review. For some reason she didn't call on me much for the rest of the year.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
WORLD DOMINATION!!! But I'll settle for just writing the stories I want, when I want. If I can do it well enough that I don't have to work for another a-hole, even better.
Which writers inspire you?
Terry Pratchett (gods rest his wonderful soul), Maggie Shayne, Sergei Lukyanenko, I'm sure there are more. I don't read as much as I used to. Too easy to get lost in someone else's story and neglect my own.
So, what have you written?
I've written 5 books but only 2 so far are fit for print. One was gods awful, one was too large, and one is in the shop getting overhauled. The Changeling and the Cupboard and The Changeling and the Borrowed Family are my successful attempts and are part of the ongoing series The Complications of Being Lucy. I've dabbled in other mediums but with the exception of a few poems I tossed up on myspace (ha ha ha) nothing has made it out in the world yet.
Where can we buy or see them?
I published through Amazon and their print company Createspace. Here's the links:
I also sell a few print copies through a local gift shop- The Spice Box.
What are you working on at the minute?
This interview and, because I'm a multi-tasker, my Pandora list. I don't usually consider it 'work' but presently I'm writing the 3rd installment of the Complications of Being Lucy. The title is The Traitor's Neice.
What’s it about?
It's the continued adventure of Lucy Bison or as the blurb goes:
Lucy is a pawn. A dark means to a deadly end. An enemy burning with centuries of betrayal has made the opening move to shatter an already divided empire. His first step, the slaying of one of Lucy's guardians. Broken with grief and compelled by rage, Lucy embarks on a journey of revenge to the shadowed and forgotten corners of the five lands. With those she loves by her side, sacrifices will be made to bring her closer to retribution but only if she doesn't succumb to the manipulations of a ruthless enemy first.
What genre are your books?
Fantasy adventure. I used to say low-fantasy as it isn't heavy into its own lore but that never sounded flattering. I wrote it to be accessible for young adults but young-at-heart adults enjoy it frequently.
What draws you to this genre?
I have always been drawn to fantasy for the simple fact I read to escape. And besides Sci-fi (which is my second favorite genre to read) there is no better way to get away from this reality.
Which actress would you like to see playing you in your most recent book if it was adapted for the big screen?
I think this is one of those questions that doesn't apply but to be diligent I'll say Bianca Del Rio. Casting is a dangerous subject in my house as my wife and I (and everyone else who we have dragged into the debate) cannot agree on who we would see playing anyone in any of my books if they ever went to the screen.
Have you written any other books in collaboration with other writers?
Not yet. My best friend growing up, who shared in many childhood adventure together and ultimately led to some of my stories, insists on writing a book together. I bought a ten foot dry erase board to jot down his ideas, sooooooo it will be awhile until that is ready.
When did you decide to become a writer?
Sometime around 5th grade. I still wanted to be a detective (Noir not CSI) around that time and I found myself making up my own crime stories to solve. Eventually it kinda evolved into something more from reading books much older than should have been let out of the library to me and the adventures that turned my back yard and woods into a plethora of fantasy worlds.
Why do you write?
Three days I have dwelt on this question and I still can't come up with anything.
What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?
Originally it was because I was bored in study hall. Later it was because I agreed to a contest with my sister-in-law. Whoever failed to turn in a predetermined number of pages every week got punished. I failed once and with her, well, still waiting on her to turn in something.
Do you write full-time or part-time?
I work on my books full-time but can only actually write them out part-time. Very boring job allows hours to work out characters and plots in my head while my hands are turning wrenches in grease. Some day I'll be able to write full-time, but as I can easily get distracted by shiny objects and puppy dogs, it will probably still be part-time.
Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
I have experimented with many different times of day or days of the week to find my peak writing time. I'm still trying to figure out what works best. The only day I know for sure produces a satisfactory number of pages is any day I call in 'sick' and then spend that time on what I love.
Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?
I try for one page a day. Of course if I miss a day then I need to make up that day's page on the next day as well as that day's page as well. It becomes a vicious cycle.
Do you write on a typewriter, computer, dictate or longhand?
I use a computer for all my writing unless I'm in a bind and have to jot an idea down then I use whatever scraps I can find: notebooks, loose paper, back of a glove, an inspection sheet at work. Unfortunately my handwriting is appalling so I normally can't understand it later.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
I usually write with point A and point C in mind and let the muse wander around to find its way in between. If it gets too far out of whack, then I take it back to point A and try another approach, but save the old bits because they could be good for something later. So far in the 3rd instalment of The Complications, I have about half a books worth of scrapped ideas.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
I have slowly learned how best to provide information for the story itself. I started out by adding to much and then switched and went to minimalism to the point where people couldn't understand it for vagueness. I think I have reached that happy medium of just enough to give someone a sturdy framework that they can build the world in their own mind.
What is the hardest thing about writing?
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
6 to 8 months for first draft. Another 2 months for my editors. And then about 1 more month to apply changes and polish it up. And then a lifetime to obsess over the smallest details that were overlooked and are too late to fix.
Do you ever get writer’s Block?
Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?
Honestly, write something else. Anything at all. You can't get truly blocked unless you stop completely. Sure the story you have been focusing on for months suddenly stalls. No need to fear. Just prime the pump of creativity with some other ideas. Do the paint chip trick (look it up on Pinterest). Look online for story prompts(also Pinterest). Take your characters and put them in strange and unusual scenarios that would never come up in the world you created for them. Write something off the wall like a race of people that aren't carbon based but cocoa based (I call them Fudgelians). If all else fails do some dishes. That always works for me. Don't believe me? Come to my house and wash them. You'll see.
If this book is part of a series, tell us a little about it?
It is the Complications of Being Lucy and is about a girl named Lucy Bison. When we first meet Lucy she is turning nine years old and living with her Uncle Mort under his firm but fair, if a little odd, rules. Over the course of one weekend her entire life forever gets changed and the series follows her as she grows up and comes to terms with her new identity(s), the world as it truly is, and here place in it.
What are your thoughts on writing a book series?
I like the idea of writing a series of books, but that is because any idea I come up with doesn't lend itself to just one story. I take an idea and make a story and that story goes into its own world. And as the world takes shape I start to see the other stories that would fill it, because no character ever lives alone. And it just goes from there. My wife challenges me with each new story I come up with to just find one I can do just one single book to. So far I have not won this challenge.
For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books?
I prefer paper. The smell of the pages when they are fresh and crisp and as they age and get dusty and their edges get fat and soft from thumbing through them often. You can't beat that. Walking into an old library and taking that first breath-bliss!
What book/s are you reading at present?
None, but I have seen plenty recently that I'll be looking into when I have some down time from writing. Fellow authors, or aspiring ones, have recommended some good reads.
Do you proofread/edit all your own books or do you get someone to do that for you?
I have a team of editors that get first crack at cleaning up my story. And by team I mean my wife and three sisters. They usually catch the really obvious screw ups that spell check misses but mostly they are there for content and the overall good/bad of the story itself. Once I've made those changes, I send a copy to my old boss who was an English major and presently a librarian. She gets the real nitty-gritty proper grammar stuff. Once she's done I apply her saving graces and the book is fit to print. This entire process takes some time so it gives me breaks to forget what I've written and come back to it with fresh eyes. And usually those eyes are very judgemental.
Did you format your own book?
Yes, with a lot of tutorials from the internet.
In what formats is your book available?
All books are available in ebook and print through Amazon.com and Createspace.com.
Tell us about the cover/s and how it/they came about.
Ah, the covers. What fun they have been. I have been extremely lucky with the woman I married (for many, many reasons but I'll stay on task) in that she is a very talented artist and photographer. The cover images that have graced my books have been completely created and designed by her. And that was no easy feat as she was trying to manifest an image from a picture I had in my head. On the second and forthcoming book this was easy as my thoughts were more clear and not overwhelmed with fear and self-doubt, but for the first book I wanted to make a good impression. This was the first thing people were going to see about my very first book to be released to the world. It was a lot of pressure. It had to be engaging, compelling, but simple and perhaps a little familiar and inviting, but also suggest something about the story. In the end we were both happy with the design. Me because it was one of the ideas I saw in my head, and my wife because it was finally done.
Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
Yes. I don't like to use the old adage about judging and book covers, but I have avoided looking deeper into a books content if the cover looks comic booky (when it's not an actual comic book) or computer generated with blank faced, died eyed people (when it isn't about pod people). And I think it says a lot about the author when they choice the perfect cover for their book. It shows they care and can convey to others with one look an essence of what waits inside.
How are you publishing this book and why? e.g. Indie, traditional or both?
I decided to go indie through Amazon because it was simpler, put more control in my own hands, and it seemed to be the way that the world was shifting.
How do you market your books?
Before today it has been a few posts on Facebook and word of mouth. The big push has been setting up a booth at local craft fairs a few times a year. This has worked very well for getting the print book out there and it is a wonderful way to meet a lot of interesting people, fellow authors (there have been so many, it's amazing) and fans of the books face to face.
Why did you choose this route?
I didn't. I just agreed to it, as claiming social anxiety wasn't a big enough counter argument. Heck of a way to cure it though.
Would you or do you use a PR agency?
I presently engage the service of a PR agency. It's called my family and friends. This all started with my aunt asking me to sign her book. She was the only to ask for a very specific dedication which was some overly exaggerated thank you for all she had done for me and how she was critical to any success I had or ever would have with my writing. It was probably written just shy of claiming she taught me to read and write herself. Shortly after, and we all assume it was to live up to what she had asked me to write, she started coming to me with ideas of getting the book in more hands. We started recruiting more and more people to help out with her wonderful scheming and it has just grown from there.
Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?
Don't get too intimidated, discouraged, or overwhelmed by it. There are tons of avenues to explore just pick a few that your comfortable with and one or two that you're not. Don't give up on it. And don't be afraid to ask for or accept help.
What part of your writing time do you devote to marketing your book?
Not enough, but that will change soon.
What do you do to get book reviews?
Publish the book! I don't ask people what they think of the book very often. If you've told me you read it, that's great. If you liked it, even better. If you want to tell me what you did or didn't like about it, what you loved or hated, well that's just fat fantastic icing on the cake. But I won't ask. I don't like putting someone on the spot like that, especially if they were just being polite (it's happened-awkward).
How successful has your quest for reviews been so far?
Given the above answer the results have been mixed.
What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?
Good reviews are good (obviously) and bad reviews are learning experiences. Sometimes its just to learn to handle a bad review and that not everyone will love what you have created. Other times it can be constructive towards story, or structure or some other element within your control and not a persons personal tastes. In a sense all reviews are good.
What’s your views on social media for marketing?
So far so good.
Which social network worked best for you?
The old fashion word of mouth network. A good word and a bookmark from the right person has done wonders.
Why do you think that other well written books just don’t sell?
A combination of small marketing and too many other choices to read. That's the good and bad thing about indie publishing like KDP. You get more opportunities as an author to get your book out there but it also floods the marketplace with so many more options and not enough time or money to read them all.
What do you think of “trailers” for books?
I like them even though it seems counter-intuitive. Watch a video that tells you to read a book. I guess it isn't any different than reading a print ad for a movie.
Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one for your own book/s?
I have none but plan to make one in the future. I just need to find someone with a deep commanding voice to do the whole “In a world...”
Do you think that giving books away free works and why?
Of course it works. It would be a lot hard to give them away and charge someone. Free is a much more effective way to give them away.
How do you relax?
Relax? What's that?
What is your favorite motivational phrase.
I swear to god I will get the (insert painful implement of choice here) if you don't get a move on!
What is your favorite positive saying?
The one I came across recently is (and I don't remember by whom): You cannot solve a problem with the same mind that created it.
What is your favorite book and why?
It's a tie between Guards!Guards! By Terry Pratchett and Reckless Angel by Maggie Shayne. I love Guards!Guards! Because it introduces the world to one of the best coppers in the Discworld while poking fun at every fantasy epic ever made. And Reckless Angel because it was the first romance novel I ever read (by my wife's request) and I learned that a good book was good no matter the genre.
What is your favorite quote?
“What? I'm always angry. It's my raison d'etre. Ask anyone. Grumble, grumble.”
What is your favorite film and why?
Zorro the Gay Blade. If you've seen it you know damn well why.
Where can you see yourself in 5 years time?
Pretty much where I am now only with a comfier chair and less work to do on the house.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
There is a long list from my therapist that I would love to tell my younger self. As for actual advice, I'd say get your head out of your ass and don't waste time going to college for the wrong reason.
Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
Nikola Tesla or David Bowe. Both were very intelligent and gifted men whose work still touches us every day. They were also very generous with their talents.
If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
House of Leaves by Mark. Z. Danielewski. It is by far the most interesting books I have ever read in terms of content, composition, structure, everything. And it is the only book that actually made me scared of absolutely nothing for about a month after.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Write to write the stories that you love enough to create. Make that your priority and your driving force. Then find a good editor.
Where do you see publishing going in the future?
I think you'll see it going much more to ebooks and small printers. Technology and the internet have loosened the stranglehold that many large companies once had on markets. We will no longer have the few dozen books put out a year by publishers that sell there content for what it is worth in their pocket book and not what it can provide to a reader. People will be free to publish what they want and readers will have their pick at the feast.
Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?
Na. I think I've rambled and alienated enough people for now. Thanks for asking!