Stephen Kozeniewski lives with his wife and two cats in Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the modern zombie. He was born to the soothing strains of "Boogie With Stu" even though The Who are far superior to Zep, for reasons that he doesn't even really want to get into right now.
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. The depiction of addiction in his fiction is strongly informed by the three years he spent working at a substance abuse clinic, an experience which also ensures that he employs strict moderation when enjoying the occasional highball of Old Crow.
He is also a classically trained linguist, which sounds much more impressive than saying his bachelor's degree is in German.
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
I’m an Iraq War vet, I’ve written all my life, this coming May is my tenth wedding anniversary, and my beautiful wife is the only thing in the world I love more than my two cats.
Do you prefer the term Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?
Wow, that’s a loaded question. Well, I prefer “horror,” but I could definitely see how people would classify my debut novel BRAINEATER JONES as something else since it’s more darkly comic than straight up fear-inducing. My sophomore effort, THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO, is straight hardcore horror, though.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
Dostoevsky’s my all-time favorite. (I’m like Bono: I can spell words with or without “u.”) In horror I’m a big fan of Brian Keene, Max Brooks, David Wong, and a young up-and-comer named Bill Braddock.
What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
The last great book I read was FROM HERE TO ETERNITY. The last absolute stinker was TO THE LIGHTHOUSE. It couldn’t have been more than 100 pages and I didn’t understand a single word.
How would you describe your writing style?
Chunky, with a soupçon of wit.
Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?
A lot of the BJ reviews are flattering, and I’m always especially pleased when someone requests a sequel or when a complete stranger comments on my work. One of my favorite statements came from Jacqueline Druga’s review: “I can’t for the life of me think of any reason to give this book less than five stars.”
What’s your favourite food?
A cheesesteak from Jim’s on South Street in Philadelphia.
Who would be on the soundtrack to your life story?
Johnny Cash, The Misfits, and the hardest mother of them all, Neil Diamond.
What’s the most important lesson you have learned about writing?
All writing advice is garbage. All those clever quotes from Faulkner or Hemingway? Garbage. All that stuff your creative writing professor taught you? Garbage. Even this statement, this statement right here calling everything garbage? Total garbage. I’d give some advice like “find your own path” or “write until you know how to write” but you know what that would be? Garbage.
What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?
Descriptions. I’m not much good at painting people, places, and things, unless they’re aliens or something esoteric. I prefer to let word and deed shine through, adjective free.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
My characters make the unexpected choices now. There are at least a few chapters, if not whole books, in my trunk where everything transpired as predictably as a paint-by-numbers kit. Now, though, I try to let my characters take the path less travelled, and I think my work is stronger as a result.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
I met Brian Keene and J.F. Gonzalez at a signing once and they told me not to quit my day job. I was secretly worried they were going to tell me that because I’m a hack, but what they meant, of course, was don’t quit your day job until you have a back catalog, because you need health insurance and a stable income.
Who is your favourite character from your book and why?
Despite being an execrable person, I love the Old Man. I love hammy villains and I love puppets, and although the Old Man is not, strictly speaking, a puppet, he’s still a great outlet for all of my Punch and Judy-type impulses.
How about your least favourite character? What makes them less appealing to you?
I’m going to say Miss Claudia. She’s one of the few characters that exists purely as a plot device, and she’s quite annoying.
Fame, fortune, or respect?
Any of those would be good! I suppose I should say “respect” but that also seems like a low-hanging fruit. Kafka and van Gogh died paupers, didn’t they? Eh, what the heck, I’ll just say respect.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of the Paul Simon joke in the acknowledgements because nobody ever notices it unless I point it out. (Hint: “Art” can mean two things.)
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
BRAINEATER JONES is the story of a zombie who comes back from the dead with amnesia and sets out to solve his own murder in a gritty, 1930s noir urban jungle. THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO, my second book, is a towering nautical adventure about smugglers trying to save the last remnants of humanity after the undead apocalypse.
What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do?
“Are you related to Joseph Conrad?”
Braineater Jones wakes up face down in a swimming pool with no memory of his former life, how he died, or why he’s now a zombie. With a smart-aleck severed head as a partner, Jones descends into the undead ghetto to solve his own murder. But Jones’s investigation is complicated by his crippling addiction to human flesh. Like all walking corpses, he discovers that only a stiff drink can soothe his cravings. Unfortunately, finding liquor during Prohibition is costly and dangerous. From his Mason jar, the cantankerous Old Man rules the only speakeasy in the city that caters to the postmortem crowd. As the booze, blood, and clues coagulate, Jones gets closer to discovering the identity of his killer and the secrets behind the city’s stranglehold on liquid spirits. Death couldn’t stop him, but if the liquor dries up, the entire city will be plunged into an orgy of cannibalism. Cracking this case is a tall order. Braineater Jones won’t get out alive, but if he plays his cards right, he might manage to salvage the last scraps of his humanity.
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