Monday, 29 August 2016

Men in Horror: JEFFREY KOSH

Jeffrey Kosh

1.     When did you start writing horror?

Let’s start from the beginning.
My first short story wasn’t horror. It was science fiction, of the space opera genre. I wrote it for a contest at school in 1979. It was roughly inspired by Star Wars, but with giant, Japanese-style robots. The schoolteacher liked it.
I wrote my first horror story the following year. I literally scribbled it down on three thick notepads – the one we used at school for math, exactly – then, as I was crazy for scary art long before I went to art school, I designed a cover and my grandpa had it printed. It was a stupid story, inconsistent, and unedited, but my family loved it. I don’t have it anymore; can’t even remember its title.
After that, life got in. The stormy teen years dragged me full into parties, socializing, and getting the girl of my dreams. And art school. Yes, I loved drawing, especially horrible things. My mother was always worried about my drawings, but then she had to accept that her boy had a dark side that he funneled down into his art. With good results.
I roped the girl of my dreams after finishing my studies and we married five years later. I was busy building up a family and creating a life, so there was not much time to put on paper all the crazy stories that populated my mind. The only place where I could express my creativity was role-playing. I became a Game Master (those role-playing games referees that conduct game sessions, create adventures for the players, and, generally, act as gods in their game-world) for different rpg systems. Dungeons & Dragons, Vampire: The Masquerade, Call of Cthulhu, and many more. I did this for more than twenty years, as an hobby, obviously, yet, it took me a lot of my spare time every day to create my own stories. And I wrote them. All of them. But I never published them. They are still with me, in my memory, and they resurface in my published work. Character names, places (Prosperity Glades, the town I detailed so much in my first novel – Feeding the Urge – I created for a Vampire campaign; that’s why I know all its nooks and crannies), and events from those never published stories become part of those I write now.
Officially, I started writing horror in 2012. I self-published the first edition of Feeding when I was living in Thailand, then, it was reprinted by Alexandria Publishing Group.
Oh, and I parted ways with the ‘girl of my dreams’ when my dreams turned into nightmares. Now I have another ‘girl of dreams’. She is a writer and understands me better.

2.   Have you written in any other genre?

I have. I wrote two erotica tales; a novelette and a short story. And they are my biggest success too! Home Invasion brings in the money every month, followed close by Thrill of the Hunt. Honestly, I’m not a fan of the genre, and the first one I wrote was just an exercise at naughtiness, but I don’t regret it. I’m proud of the quality of the stories and the fact that they are well-structured and with interesting twists. Erotica is where the leprechaun’s gold pot is. I should write more of them, but my passion is horror. I can’t change that.

3.  What makes you uncomfortable?

Lack of courtesy and bad manners. I absolutely hate that. If I’m gentle with you I expect the same level of courtesy back. I can’t stand people attacking others out of the blue. Especially online, on their blogs, or on networks. Unjustified attacks to gender, race (is there a race?), or beliefs just drive me mad. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but this opinion must be respectful of others. 

4.  Does your family read your work?

No. They will never do. They can’t read English, and even the one I translated to Italian they will not read for different reasons. My father used to like horror (he was the one who initiated me at it) but doesn’t like eBooks. My mother … well, my mother is easily scared; she avoids horror like the plague. She is frightened by most of the covers I create. I think the only one who has read one of my stories is my niece, Francesca. She translated Road Off to Italian.
Oh, and my partner has read all of my stories. She was a fan before we met, now … I don’t know. I’m joking.

5.  Does your writing make you uneasy?

Honestly? Only my erotica. It embarrassed me writing some scenes and descriptions, even if I had already written a spicy scene in my first novel. Horror never makes me uneasy. On the contrary, it’s my natural habitat: there, it’s the only place I breathe and move freely.

6.  Who would you say you write like?

Hard question. I would say that my style of writing is similar to H.P. Lovecraft, with a lot of adjectives and ‘dead’ words. But it’s others that must judge me. I have already been labeled as ‘pretentious and arrogant’ (in a good way) by a famous writer, so, far from me to say I write like the great man from Providence. It just happens that we have a similar voice.

7.  Who are your favourite authors?

Mary Shelley, Michael Slade, Edgar Allan Poe, Thomas Harris, Michael Crichton, David Brin, Stephen King, and … Franklin E. Wales. What? No Lovecraft? Yes, I like his style and cosmos, but I’m not a fan of his stories. Weird, isn’t it?

8.  Who influences you as a writer?

The poetry of Poe, the language of Lovecraft, and the twisted mind of Michael Slade. I would really like to write a thriller, with no supernatural elements, but it’s hard for me. Every time I try to start one, dark spirits and strange things creep inside it. The problem is, I’m not the master of my stories, I’m their scribe; they dictate to me what I must put into them.
However, I try to write my stories in the style of the era they are set in. For example, a story set in the Victorian age I will write in an epistolary format or in journal entries, and the language would be very similar (I research the slang of the times) to the penny dreadful. If I write a story set in the roaring twenties, the style – and the language – will be similar to that of Lovecraft. When I wrote Dead Men Tell No Tales – The Full Tale, my second novel, I wrote it in the style of science fiction writers of the nineties, keeping the dialogue in a cinematic ‘piratey’ style. Though it’s a horror-fantasy story, for my narrative I used the kind of voice you expect in stuff like Star Trek, Babylon 5, or Firefly. Those are all space opera TV shows, but the narrative, being adventurous, is clearly based on the format of the cliffhangers of the forties-fifties; something that was revamped by the nineties’ screenwriters.

9. Do you remember what your first horror book was that you read?

Does Little Red Riding Hood count as a horror story? I was afraid of the Big Bad Wolf when I was a kid. The fact that he was killed by the Hunter, then he came back from the dead in the Three Little Pigs …
No, seriously, my first ‘horror’ book was Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus. But I don’t consider it horror, I consider it a Tragedy. Straight horror for me was Dracula. Yes, I think that was my first horror book. I read Jaws before it, but that is adventure to me.

10.  How old were you?

I have read Frankenstein when I was fourteen. In Italian, then, I reread it in English, years later. Dracula I read at fifteen, again in Italian. My first English language book was Ghoul by Michael Slade.

11.  Is there any subject you will not touch as an author?

I don’t know. Clearly, there are things that upset me, but I think a writer should never stray away from the things he doesn’t like. A writer is like a movie director and an actor rolled into one: you act out characters, that doesn’t mean you are like them.

12.  What was the best advice you were given as a writer?

Stop acting like a dork. Seriously. That came from my writing mentor, Franklin E. Wales.
I was, and still am, a very humble guy. I don’t consider myself a writer, I consider myself a storyteller. I like to put out my stories; if people like them, good, otherwise, no problem.
When I started interacting with other writers I used to feel like I didn’t belong among them. So, I was humble to the point of being … fastidious. My mentor called me and yelled at me to stop acting like I was the waiter at a writer’s party and to be proud of my accomplishments. They were my peers, not my masters.
Frank still kicks my behind from time to time, but I kick back.

13.  If you had to start all over again, what would you do different?

I would submit all my work from the start. I was new to the publishing world and I didn’t know the ins and outs of it. I regret self-publishing REVENANT. That is one of my best stories, for the language used in it, and it deserved more exposure. Alas, you can’t go back in time and it’s hard to sell reprints. For the rest, no regrets.

14.  How many books do you read a year?

It depends. I used to read as much as fifty-sixty books per year. Now, my maximum is five-six. Still, I’m always reading. Sometimes it’s a novel, sometimes a short story collection. Newspapers, articles, comics, books for research.

15.  Do you write every day?

I would like that. But it’s not possible. I have a full-time business (connected with books, so, yay!) My graphic art keeps me busy most of the day. Clients can be very demanding, and sometimes, I have to amend a graphic jig even three or four times per day. I have to check my email constantly for possible queries and commissions. My custom-made book covers are very detailed and the search for every single element is lengthy and difficult. I have gained a reputation for delivering my finished product in one day. When I start a graphic project I do my best to create the cover my commissioning writer dreams as fast as possible. I stay in contact with the client all day.
Then, there’s life. Lately, I have settled my roots back in my home city, Rome. Still, Lorraine (my partner) and I move from time to time to go to England and France. So, it’s a busy, but pleasant life.
Last, inspiration. My personal advice: don’t write when you don’t feel it. If you force it because you have set a schedule every day you’re bound to write bad stuff. Let the fire blaze inside you. When you feel that fire, write. Your most beautiful sentences will surely come out.

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