Joe: Tell us a bit (or a lot) more about your childhood. Primary school, high school, etc. How do you think your experiences benefited or influenced your career?
TK: As I grow older and reflect on my youth, I believe I was destined to do something in the horror genre. My mom read a lot of King and Koontz, and she watched a lot of horror films, so you could say I grew up in an environment that was accepting of such things. We rented Maximum Overdrive and Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn at my request so many times that Mom eventually had a friend record them onto a VHS tape for me. To this day, I can quote both films almost verbatim.
I was the weird kid who loved R.L. Stine and John Bellairs and read the library’s entire series of Time-Life’s Mysteries of the Unknown. Growing up, my heroes were monsters. While most kids wanted to go to Disneyland, I wanted to save the world from demons by replacing my hand with a chainsaw. Not much has changed, except these days I’d rather use a pen instead of a chainsaw.
Joe: Can you recall a moment where you had to choose between being an author/artist and another career? A decisive moment where you decided to go all out?
TK: Once upon a time, I wanted to go to college and study graphic design, but that changed during my senior year of high school. I’d written a screenplay for a film class the year before, and for reasons that escape me, I decided to adapt it into a short story. That short story eventually grew into my first novel. I took the manuscript to school and proceeded to terrify my teachers with it. Their reactions drove me to reconsider my future, and the following year I began my journey toward a four-year English degree. The rest is history.
Joe: How did you respond to your very first success as an author? Was it just rewarding, or did it motivate you even more? Or, did it perhaps feel underwhelmed, which motivated you to even greater heights?
TK: It was weird and wonderful and vindicating all at the same time. That book I mentioned earlier, the one I wrote in high school, won second place in my university’s writing contest the following year. I earned $200 for that prize. It was the first time I’d ever been paid for anything I’d written. That moment was confirmation that I’d made the right choice. As a friend later told me, “I guess this means you’ll be doing this for the rest of your life.” He was right.
Joe: How has your career as an author affected relationships with friends and family?
TK: Honestly, it’s caused some strain in a few relationships. I’ve lost friends over it, and it’s put me at odds with some of my family due to the subject matter I choose to write about. At the same time, though, my career has put me in touch with fellow writers who are now like family to me. They know who they are.
Joe: Which author most influenced your early career? And who still does?
TK: That’s an easy one, and probably the most predictable: Stephen King. I’m not a fan of everything he’s written, and I don’t think he’s infallible like a lot of his fans want to believe, but I have to give credit where it’s due. Night Shift, Salem’s Lot, and The Dark Half were huge influences on my writing. To this day, I still go back to those books when I need inspiration, or to simply see “how it’s done.”
Joe: Instead of just focusing on your most successful work, which story are you the proudest of, a story that managed to capture a piece of who you are?
TK: I’d have to say my novelette, “Saving Granny from the Devil,” which appears in my forthcoming collection, Ugly Little Things: Volume One. The story is partially based on true events, focusing on the relationship I had with my great-grandmother. I wrote it to honor her memory, and to deal with some personal demons. The result is one of the most personal stories I’ve ever written.
Joe: How do you feel when you don’t make your target words for the day?
TK: I don’t feel too upset. If I miss my target, it’s usually for a good reason, and I try to cover lost ground the next day.
Joe: What’s the most difficult topic for you to write?
TK: Anything extremely personal to me. For the sake of example, that story I mentioned before, “Saving Granny from the Devil,” was one of the most difficult stories I’ve ever written solely because of its personal nature. It’s easy to make things up; telling the truth is the hardest thing of all.
Joe: What do you do to distract you enough to actually relax a bit? Or do you always think about writing?
TK: I’m always thinking about writing, especially if I’m stuck with a troubling plot point. In times like that, I usually step away and decompress with a good book, movie, or album. I also like to turn off my brain for a few hours with a good video game. My friend Nikki calls it “replenishing the well,” and I think that’s a good way to put it.
Joe: Outside of the actual craft, what is the most useful skill you learnt from being an author?
TK: Probably the ability to take feedback and learn. It’s a useful skill that can be applied anywhere in daily life, and being an author affords me lots of practice.
Joe: How did being author change you as a person?
TK: I don’t think it has. I’m still me, still flawed, still anxious, still terrified of my reflection, and still horrible at marketing my own work.
Joe: Which response/comment from a reader has touched you the most throughout your career?
TK: A few years ago, I received an email from a reader about my first novel, A Life Transparent. He said a lot of things about it in that email, but the one thing that touched me most was this simple line: “Your book saved my life.” If I never do anything else in my career, I’ll still be satisfied because of that.
Joe: What is your life-long goal as an author?
TK: Probably the same as most authors, I think. To be able to quit my day job and write full time. To support my family with my writing.
Joe: What legacy do you want to leave behind?
TK: That’s a great question. I think I’d like to have a positive impact on the horror genre in some way, or maybe on literature in general. Or both, at the same time. When I was in high school, one of my teachers asked me if I wanted to be the next Stephen King. “No,” I told him, “I want to be the first Todd Keisling.” Insert microphone drop here.