A Conversation with Author Jan Kozlowski

This entry appeared on author and NEHW member Kate Laity’s website.

Writer Wednesday: Jan Kozlowski

by Kate Laity

My pal and fellow Horror in Film and Literature lister, Jan Kozlowski, first fell in love with the horror genre in 1975 when the single drop of ruby blood on the engraved black cover of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot hypnotized her into buying it. She sold her first story, Psychological Bacchanal to the EWG E-zine in 1997. Her short story, Parts is Parts, won awards in both the International Writing Competition sponsored by DarkEcho’s E-zine and Quoth the Raven’s Bad Stephen King contest. Another short story, Stuff It, was sold to an independent film producer and went into production as a movie short called Sweet Goodbyes. Her short stories have appeared in: Remittance Girl’s A Slip of the Lip anthology, Lori Perkins’ Hungry for Your Love: An Anthology of Zombie Romance and Fangbangers: An Erotic Anthology of Fangs, Claws, Sex and Love.

She is extremely proud and excited to announce that her first novel, Die, You Bastard! Die! debuted February 7, as part of Lori Perkins’ new horror line, Ravenous Shadows, edited by the legendary John Skipp.

Q: What do you write on? Computer, pad o’ paper, battered Underwood? Give us a vivid picture.

I do the majority of my writing on my cherished MacBook Pro laptop. I tend to turn my MacBook on at 6:30 a.m. and don’t shut down until 9 p.m. or later most days [Ed: Hmmm, you can shut them down?]. If I either get stuck or get a jones to feel pen against paper, I’ll pull out my old white L&M Ambulance Company clipboard loaded with scrap paper and start scribbling. The board is a souvenir of my days as an urban EMT in Hartford, CT and I keep it around as a reminder of what I COULD be doing for a living.

Q: Do you listen to music while you write? Does it influence what you write?

I almost always listen to my local Dinosaur (Classic) Rock radio station when I’m working. Since Die, You Bastard! Die! is such an ultra violent story, I tried putting together a play list of heavier metal like Avenged Sevenfold (my granddaughter’s favorite band), Testament, Broken Hope, Disturbed, but I ended up distracted by the unfamiliar songs. Listening to the rock I grew up with in the 70’s like Bob Seger, The Eagles, Bruce Springsteen and Aerosmith, with a little Tom Waits, Frank Zappa, Nathan & the Zydeco Cha-Chas, Bon Jovi and Bacon Brothers thrown in via iTunes works best for me.

Q: Do you write in short bursts or carve out long periods of time to work? Is it a habit or a vice?

For me, writing is a business. I’ve been freelancing since I was about 12 and sold articles about raising tropical fish to my hometown newspaper. For the past 15 years or so I’ve run my own freelance writing shop doing all sorts of business and web related writing, editing and research work. Over the past two years, I’ve slowly been moving away from the business projects in order to focus on my horror fiction, but whether I’m writing fiction or non-fiction my work style is the same….commit to the project and write until the client, the editor or I’m happy with the finished product.

Q: What writer would you most want to read your work? What would you want to hear them say?

That’s already happened…on one of the drafts of Die, You Bastard! Die! I think I managed to gross out my editor, legendary Splatterpunk King, John Skipp! Now if I can, one day, pay Dean Koontz back for the creeps he gave me with his novel Whispers, I’ll die a happy writer.

Q: On the days where the writing doesn’t go so well, what other art or career do you fantasize about pursuing instead?

When I was a little girl my grandfather used to tell me stories about his adventures working for a funeral home during the pre-embalming fluid days. I always thought I would have loved working in mortuary sciences, but when I was going to school women weren’t exactly welcomed into the funeral services industry. Now that times have changed and we have a first class Mortuary Sciences degree program at our local college, I’ve always thought that would make a fabulous Plan B, even now at age 50+.

Q: What do you read? What do you re-read?

I try to read a little bit of everything. I get some great ideas from newspapers and magazines. I just discovered and am now devouring Mad Money Wall Street guru, Jim Cramer’s books. I try and read as much classic horror like Robert Bloch, M.R. James, Fritz Leiber, H.P. Lovecraft, Richard Matheson, Edgar Allan Poe and J.N. Williamson as possible. I also try to keep up with who’s publishing today beyond Bestsellersaurus Rexes Stephen King and Dean Koontz. I’m a huge fan of Edward Lee, Neil Gaiman, Joe Hill, Joe R. Landsdale, Jonathan Maberry, Elizabeth Massie, Yvonne Navarro, Weston Ochse, Monica O’Rourke, John Skipp and Andrew Vachss.

I rarely find time to re-read anything unless I’m researching a specific writing technique, like how Jonathan Maberry handled the fight scenes in his Pine Deep trilogy or how Dean Koontz ramped up to the reveal of the cockroaches in Whispers.

Q: Where did the idea for Die,You Bastard! Die! come from? Do you have a surefire way of sparking inspiration? And is that an awesome title or what?!

The idea for Die, You Bastard! Die! came out of a lovely dinner Ravenous Shadows publisher Lori Perkins and I had during the 2011 Northeast Writer’s Conference, known as NECON. Lori mentioned she was looking for a story about an adult child coming home to take care of her abusive parent and it matched up with a story I had been kicking around for years about a survivor of childhood sexual abuse coming home to deal with her past. After the conference I got home, wrote up the proposal, Skipp green-lighted it and we took off from there. I realize that’s not the way most writers get a book deal but it goes to prove that if you consistently put the hard work in, you WILL find yourself at the right place, at the right time with the right story.

Writing inspiration and story/character/plot ideas are everywhere if you’re open to them…and my motivation for being open to them usually is based on my memories of being paid $5 an hour to be projectile vomited on as an EMT or waitressing at Friendly’s for .60 below minimum wage.

John Skipp raves about this book:

Die, You Bastard! Die! is one hard-as-nails crime story indeed, with a crime at its core so heinous it boggles both mind and soul. That said, it is also a horror story, a mystery, and an insanely taut suspense thriller. Categories are funny like that.

But human monsters don’t get more humanly monstrous than Big Daddy. And it don’t get much rougher and tougher than Jan Kozlowski’s violently matter-of-fact, emotionally ass-kicking, downright incendiary son of a bitch.
I love this book, and stand behind it 100%. Hope it blows you away, as it did me. And has you coming back for more.

Drop by Jan’s blog or website and follow her on Twitter. Find her on Facebook and check out her Amazon author page. Thanks, Jan!

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