WHO ARE THE KINDLE ALL-STARS?
Short conversations throughout November with the stellar talent behind the revolutionary short-story anthology THE KINDLE ALL-STARS PRESENT: RESISTANCE FRONT
Ladies and Gents, allow me to present Joshua Unruh. I hope you enjoy this comprehensive and insightful interview!
FS: How did you come to hear about the Kindle All-Stars project?
Josh: I follow Bernard on Twitter. I think I was watching some tv and checking my feed when he floated this idea of doing an anthology of indie kindle publishers. I wasn’t one of those just yet, but I was going to be within a couple months. I had only recently discovered the joy of the short story and liked the idea of getting an edit from an author making a name for himself. So I responded and, as it turned out, was just one of a huge chorus to do so.
FS: What’s your contribution called?
Josh: Arcanoir: Slay Bells Ringing. Arcanoir is a blanket brand I’ve created for hardboiled stories set in the Noir 1930s but with the added wrinkle of magic and fantasy creatures.
FS: And without giving too much away, what’s it about?
Josh: A couple dozen orphans are kidnapped on Christmas Eve and the priest in charge of them has to ask for help from Hob Lesatz, a dirty deeds done dirt cheap type on the San Francisco waterfront.
FS: What was the main inspiration behind it?
Josh: I had written a longer Arcanoir story that also featured Hob, so he was already living in my brain. The plot for this story had a couple of minor influences, but basically came to me whole cloth in the shower one morning. It wasn’t until later that Bernard announced the charity we’d support. Then I knew it was kismet.
FS: Did you write it specifically for the Kindle All-Stars, or was it written prior?
Josh: Specifically for KAS.
FS: Obviously the primary goal behind this anthology is to make some money for disadvantaged and abused children. But secondary to that, it is to promote fresh, new writing talent – the punk rock of literature – and show that Indie writers are out there, dedicated and working hard to produce Class-A work.
If people take notice of what you’ve written for this anthology, what do you hope the outcome is of that attention?
Josh: I’m a staff writer and marketing czar for The Consortium, a non-profit in Oklahoma City with the goal of turning art into a “real job.” We want to employ artists in a 9-5 capacity complete with competitive salary and benefits to create art and then release that art into the public domain. Everything I write has the goal of enriching the Consortium towards that goal. So if I get noticed here and all of my other work starts selling, then the Consortium wins.
I won’t lie, though: the main reason I write is because I have stories to tell and want people to read them. If more people do that, then I win.
FS: How do you write? Are you a plotter? Do you fly by the seat of your pants? When do you write, and where? I write at night, at the dining table, when the kids are in bed and the place is finally peaceful and quiet. And I work everything out on paper before I sit down to write. What have you found works best for you?
Josh: I have a pre-writing package I fill out that’s pretty detailed without locking me into a bunch of stuff I won’t use later. Because, honestly, as good as that map is, I’m going to go off the reservation at some point. So I’m definitely a plotter, but I’m open to where things take me once I get fingers to keys.
I typically write in the afternoons when the kids are taking naps and then in the evenings if I have a deadline or a hot idea. My wife is terrifically supportive of my writing career, so getting time to write isn’t usually difficult. I have an office space in the house that is somewhat set apart and closed off. To finish the job, I have really nice headphones and I like my music loud.
Music has become a much more important part of my process. When I wrote my Weird Westerns, I had a playlist of Marty Robbins, Jerry Jeff Walker, and Johnny Cash to see me through it. I’m writing a Young Adult novel now with three female protagonists, so I asked a friend whose daughter is in the right demographic to make me a mix CD. That’s been shockingly useful. My default is usually glam and punk I’ve never heard of that I find in the archives of the Evan “Funk” Davies show. When not writing, I listen to hip-hop most of the time, but I find the wordplay too engrossing to make it part of “the background” that I need when I’m writing.
FS: How did you find the editing process with Bernard? I found it to be like a smack in the mouth and a pat on the head at the same time, saying “I like this” at one point, to a specific sentence, and then “You need to stay in Active Voice!” the next. I learned a lot, and I think I have a much stronger piece of writing now than I did when I submitted it. What was your personal experience?
Josh: I had a really interesting reaction to the editing. It started out very positive, but with some minor tweaks that had me thinking “hell yes, that’s much better.” But as I worked through the piece, there were some suggestions I just couldn’t agree with. Bernard suggested some slang that wasn’t period (and that is the kind of thing that would kill me if I were the reader) or asked me to change somebody’s reaction because it was lame (even though the fact that it was a lame reaction from a lame guy).
In the end, I’m glad it worked out that way, even if Bernard couldn’t have meant to do it on purpose. I had some great affirmation that my work is strong, which everybody needs from somebody they see as a more established writer. I had some amazing refinements and cuts suggested that made the story as a whole better, which reaffirmed how important and useful good edits can be. Lastly, I had some suggestions that I could, in all good conscience, tell Bernard to go to hell on.
Hilariously, he probably has no idea about that last bit. But in my head, that’s how it felt. “This far, sir, and no further!” Any one of the three wouldn’t have done it, but together the experience made me feel like a real damn writer.
FS: Is there anyone in particular who’s contributed to the anthology that you’re excited to be included alongside?
Josh: Okay, I won’t lie, it’s pretty badass to have my name in something with Harlan Ellison and Alan Dean Foster. And it’s nothing to sneeze at to be in print with the author of the #3 Sherlock Holmes book on Amazon. But I’m most excited to be alongside Courtney Cantrell.
The weird thing is, I get to have my name next to Courtney’s a lot. She’s a Consortium writer (head of our Writing School, actually) and we work together all the time. She’s like a cheerleader who left her parents behind on Krypton, that’s how awesome she is. But this time, I got to be the cheerleader. I told her about KAS and that I thought she’d have something great to contribute. And, according to her blog, submitting a story led to all these experiences that she wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t convinced her to try. That’s pretty great stuff I don’t get to do all that often.
FS: We know that there will be a KAS 2 at some point. Plans are already afoot. Is there a dream name you’d like to see involved in it the next time around? Me personally, getting published in a book that includes a story by Alan Dean Foster is one of those “Wouldn’t it be great if one day…” things that I can now tick off of the list.
Josh: Wow, that’s a tough question for me. So many of my favorite writers today work in the comic book medium. I’m not even sure they do prose short stories. So, assuming they do, if I had a Noir or crime piece next to something by Ed Brubaker or Brian Azzarello, I could probably die happy.
FS: So when you’re not helping to fight evil, what do you get up to in real life?
Josh: I’m a stay-at-home dad as my “day job.” So, basically, I get to play with my boys all day until they’re exhausted. Then, while they’re resting, I get to make magic with words. Combine that with a beautiful and supportive wife, some amazing friends, and a God who loves me…man, just about paradise.
FS: Are you working on anything now? Anything you’d like everyone to know about?
Josh: I just published my first short story, Arcanoir: Hob Lesatz for Hire. It uses the same setting and main character as my KAS offering. In January, I’ll publish my first full length (even though it’s still kinda short) novel. It’s a weird western called Hell Bent for Leather. Later in 2012, I’ll publish another novel, probably my YA espionage thriller with the working title The Secret Life of TEEN Agents. Besides that, I’ll almost always have something appearing in a quarterly speculative fiction magazine I Co-EIC called A Consortium of Worlds.
Just in case I get bored, I’ve got a couple other irons in the fire but they’re a bit too early for talking about.
FS: And to your readers – both potential and existing – is there anything you would like to say? They might be reading this months after Resistance Front has landed, wanting to know more about you. What would you like to say to them?
Josh: As cliché as it is, I honestly don’t believe anything I write is finished until it’s being read by as many people as want to read it. So, without my readers, my work would never feel finished. I’m not exactly Type A, but that would make me insane.
So I guess I’d mainly like to say “Thank You.” But I’d probably also like to say “email me sometime and tell me what you like and what you don’t.”
FS: Thats it! Time’s up! Hopefully we’ll the chance for a much more in-depth chat at some point in the near future when KAS is out on sale!