Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Novel Road Interview: Dan Krokos

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Cleveland
       Who do you root for? Anyone? Has life so inundated you that you’ve stopped wishing the best for someone you don’t actually know?

   New authors have an Everest-like climb ahead of them. They write with passion and heart. Then comes the time to see if their work will stand the many tests in the publishing process, and their days become times to hope and bleed with every e-mail in the inbox.
   Finding someone, anyone, to believe in them enough to devote time and money to further their writing careers is both humbling and daunting. So what can separate a new author from the many?
   Talent? Definitely the #1 way to get noticed. But what if an agent has five talented new authors and the resources to choose only one? What makes the one chosen different?
   My guest today on The Novel Road is debut author Dan Krokos. He’s different.
   He gained a bit of fame for a query he submitted to a powerful literary agent that blew her away. Query # 124 landed “The Shark”. Yet Dan will tell you that kind of fame is fleeting. There has to be a book. A REALLY, REALLY good book when the dust settles. There is. I’ll let you wait till the “two sentence Hook” question in the interview to find out about it
   Here is where a debut author can add something to the mix. To do that, you have to be someone that others cheer on. People in the industry that want the author to succeed.
   Dan Krokos earned respect with his talent, and friends by being funny, intelligent, reliable and a great guy. The interview that follows plays a bit on his friendships found, but don’t think for a minute that this is all there is to this truly unique and gifted debut author.
   First, just a short bit about him…   

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One of Dan's
heros
   Dan grew up in a suburb of Cleveland. He went to school to become a police officer until he discovered his love of writing. He worked at the same gas station for nine years. Dan used his work shifts to come up with ideas, then went home to write them after fifteen hour workdays.
   He read voraciously as a kid, but stopped when he discovered things like Xbox and Warcraft. Then one day, a friend handed him Dragons of Autumn Twilight. It reignited his passion for reading. And the rest is history.
 
I’m pleased to welcome Dan Krokos to The Novel Road…

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Dan Krokos

Me:  Breaking News! Dan Krokos has told me he is the actual author of the brilliant novel “Numb” and the incredible Avery Cates novel series. Sean Ferrell and Jeff Somers are actually pseudonyms he borrowed from his gardener and plumber. Care to tell us more Dan?
Dan: When I first signed with Janet, she recommended I develop different facets of my personality. That way I could release books in many different genres. We decided “Jeff” would be the lovable but gruff author, a throwback in some ways to the pulp novelists of yore. People would debate if he was homeless or not. He would refuse to learn how twitter works, and routinely bomb people’s timelines. It’s been working great so far.
 “Sean” would be the crazy literary type. People would wonder if he saved his urine in jars, that kind of thing. Sean and Jeff would argue publicly, but no one would physically see them together. The arguing came easy, as my personalities attempted to mesh.
 They’re both equally popular, so I’m thinking about killing one off in the near future.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty [VHS]
Sort looks like Dan...
with hair

 Me: Your office/hall closet features a movie poster, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”, cleverly scotch taped to the ceiling. You’re a Danny Kay fan?
 Dan: I’m a fan of anyone with the same initials. Donkey Kong, Donna Karan, DMX, Denzel Washington.
 Actually the poster is there because my father’s name was Walter. He had a secret life. I’ve never seen the movie.

Me: Tell us about the Dan Krokos Foundation. Why have you made it your life’s work to ban Scotch Whiskey?
Dan:  You’ve got that wrong. The Dan Krokos Foundation works to ban Scotch-Brite. My dog ate a couple cleaning pads when I was a kid, and it died. Thanks for bringing it up.

Me:  Lunch with you and any author (except Sean and Jeff) you choose, from throughout history or today, and why.
Product DetailsDan: My gut reaction on this is Josh Bazell, because he wrote my favorite book of all time, BEAT THE REAPER. It is a masterpiece, I don’t care what Bill Cameron says.
 But I have to say Charlie Huston. He’s inspired me so much I really can’t give him enough credit. I wouldn’t understand style, or voice, or dialogue if I hadn’t read his books. Every writer should. They’re real.
 That’s not why I want to have lunch with him though. It’s because he’s cooler than any writer has a right to be. He’s got these tattoos on his forearms. He writes these blog posts that make you realize you’re an idiot asshole and he’s the coolest dude on the planet. He’s smart. I bet he’d have good stories. He also swears a lot.
 I emailed him a few times, and he always replied right away with some words of encouragement and sage advice.

Me: Tell us about your agent and why the match is perfect?
Dan: This is very simple. Janet is everything a writer needs. She doesn’t coddle me. Writers are very flaky people by design. We live in a fantasy world for most of our waking hours. Janet realizes this, and she doesn’t put up with nonsense. She makes me better. She doesn’t sugarcoat it when I drop the ball. But she also knows when to encourage. With her in my corner, I know I’m safe. I feel like I can do anything.
 She can also line edit a manuscript so well it makes me realize I actually have no idea what I’m doing.
Suzie Townsend
 And then Suzie, who sold my YA on behalf of Janet. Suzie is like Neo in the Matrix. She can read anything and tell you how to fix it . . . and she’s always right. Ask anyone who has gotten an editorial letter from her. It’s scary. My books wouldn’t be the same without her.

Me: Give me a two sentence “Hook” for your novel.
Dan: A girl with no memory discovers she’s a genetically altered weapon of mass destruction and must uncover the truth of her identity in order to save her city. Bourne Identity with teens and sword fights and alarm pheromones and motorcycles and bioengineering.

Me: Publishing is going through an evolution right now. Talk about how this has or will affect you.
Dan: It hasn’t. Or if it has, I don’t know how. I just write books. Maybe that will change when my book comes out, but I don’t know. Oh, and since everyone is talking about ebooks, I’m all for it. Whatever gets people reading.
 I guess social networking has become more important. I don’t really understand the concept. I twitter because I love the people I talk to. There’s a downside to it though. It seems like some people do it to trade favors. The whole thing reminds me of high school a little bit.
 Then again, it’s really cool for the reader. I’m a fan, too, and it’s really cool I can talk to Duane Swierczynski on twitter, or leave a comment on Veronica Roth’s blog. Did I mention it’s really cool? Really cool.

Go to fullsize imageMe: The City of Cleveland just gave you an award. I’ve seen people receive trophies, plaques and keys to the city, but never an award in the form of an ankle bracelet. By the way, why is the little red light on it flashing?
 Dan: My lawyers have advised me to ignore this question.

Me: Give me the subject and overview of a Dan Krokos non-fiction book.
Dan: I hate research, unless it’s something I’m interested in. So it would be a book about burritos or Anna Torv.
 Actually I get really obnoxious if I read non fiction. I have to share the facts I learn with everybody. I read a book about body language and for a week I was like “YOUR FOOT IS POINTING IN THAT DIRECTION BECAUSE YOU SECRETLY WANT ROB TO DIE.”

**These two questions were left on my porch with an empty bottle of Scotch and a pair of pants…
 Me: How did the query process with your agent shape your writing?
Dan: Funny story there. I’ve seen you say you’re against this, but I actually worked on my query while writing the first draft of my novel. I wanted to make it flawless. It also helped me focus on the core of the story. I would come back to it, tweak a line, then return to my ms. It was a weeks long process.
 I sent it to QueryShark when I was sixty pages into the second draft. Janet requested the manuscript, and I wrote as fast as I could. She read it and gave me some notes on the first two chapters. Those notes changed me forever. It was the first professional feedback I’d ever gotten. It showed me mistakes I was making, mistakes I still make if I’m being careless.
 If she hadn’t done that, given me a chance to fix my bad habits, who knows where I’d be.

Me: Can all literature be improved with the inclusion of swords, or only some literature?
Dan:  I’m actually writing a book right now with no swords. It’s terrible. I’m going to release it under the “Sean” persona.
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I'd like to thank Dan Krokos for doing this interview and to tell him he's got another friend in his corner.