I’d like to introduce you to author Keith R. A. DeCandido. I first met Keith at the Writers Coffeehouse, a monthly get-together for writers in the Philadelphia area that is sponsored by the Philadelphia Liars’ Club, of which he is a member. I’ve also seen him at the Collingswood Book Festival, and each time he has impressed me with his engaging personality, his enthusiasm, and his boundless energy. So, although I offered him the choice of choosing six or seven (or more) of my questions, I wasn’t really surprised that he decided to answer them all!
Have the recent changes in the publishing industry changed how you write?
Not especially—I still write from left to right, just like before.
Is writing still as much fun as when you started writing? Why?
Absolutely. Honestly, I started writing when I was six, and I’ve never really stopped. I did it in high school and college for newspapers and literary magazines, and then I figured out how to get paid for it and eventually making a living at it, but I keep doing it because I love it. I love to compose, to create, to ramble on.
Are you an outliner, or do you like to wing it?
I’m a total outliner. I’ve had to be, as a lot of my fiction has been of the media tie-in variety, where there has to be an outline, and it has to be approved by the property’s owner before you write a single word of prose. Besides, I’ve found that the writing goes much more smoothly and quickly if I know where the plot’s going.
What do you do to market your books?
Anything I can. I have a blog that I try very hard to update on a daily basis (sometimes with silly things, sometimes with ramblings about life in general, sometimes with music, sometimes with stuff about writing), and I’m pretty active on both Facebook and Twitter. I also do lots of personal appearances at science fiction and comics conventions and at bookstore and library events and workshops and things. I also do interviews on other people’s blogs. (Cough cough.)
What hobbies or other activities do you pursue to balance out your life?
I follow baseball in general and the New York Yankees in particular with a frightening fervor (to the chagrin of my non-sports-fan Twitter followers), and I’m also a black belt in karate, which means I spend a great deal of time training and also teaching and helping our chief instructor teach.
Writing books isn’t your only occupation. Tell us something about your editing business, podcasting, and music.
I’ve been a professional editor for longer than I’ve been a professional fiction writer. I started out editing when I worked on my college newspaper as an arts editor, eventually advancing to executive editor, and I found that I absolutely adored it. I got into magazine editing right after graduating college, moving over to book editing in my mid-twenties. I’ve always adored the editorial process, of working with a writer to make the work better. In 1998, I went freelance, as my writing was taking off, but I’ve always kept my hand in editorial, including several anthologies and being in charge of the monthly Star Trek eBook program from 2000-2008. Last year, I started up KRADitorial, through which I provide editorial services to private clients, whether it’s people who need a professional to guide them in improving their as-yet-unpublished novel to prepare it for submission, small-press writers who need an editor that their publisher can’t provide, or folks who want to self-publish and need an editor.
Podcasting and music fall more into the “hobby” range, really, though some of the former helps out with the marketing and such. I’m involved with The Chronic Rift, the flagship of an entire network of pop-culture podcast network that also includes my own twice-monthly podcast Dead Kitchen Radio. We originally did the Rift as a public access show on New York cable from 1990-1994, and the podcast is of a similar bent. DKR is me tooting my own horn, basically. The other podcasts I do are all audio dramas: HG World, Gypsy Cove, and The Dome. I love doing voice acting, and it’s been tremendous fun.
As for music, that’s a great release for me, and my only regret is that I don’t get to perform more often. I’m a percussionist, and I currently am a member of the Boogie Knights, a parody band that mostly plays east-coast science fiction conventions. I was a member of a rock band called the Don’t Quit Your Day Job Players in the 1990s, and I’ve backed up other folks, including the Randy Bandits and singer/songwriter Steve Rosenhaus.
How do you manage to do it all?
I have given up on such outmoded concepts as “sleep.”
What research did you have to do for The Case of the Claw? Do you research before or after your first major draft of a book?
Most of the research I had already done, both as a longtime fan of superhero comic books and as a longtime fan of police procedure. I’ve always been interested in the ins and outs of how police forces work and what cops actually have to go through day to day (in contrast to what fiction thinks they go through), and I’ve been reading superhero comics since I was eight. The Case of the Claw combines those two interests.
As for when I do research generally, it depends—usually it’s before I do the first major draft, unless something comes up in the writing that I wasn’t expecting.
Many authors draw on their own life experience for their books. Did The Case of the Claw grow out of any life experiences for you?
Not as such, since I’ve never been either a cop or a superhero. Having said that, my experiences living in New York City for my entire life certainly shaped how I created Super City.
What was your favorite part of writing this novel? Your least favorite? Why?
I can’t narrow it down to a single part. I just love writing the characters in this universe. Probably my favorites were the scenes with the two Homicide detectives in charge of the Claw case, MacAvoy and Milewski, particularly the ones where they discover “Dimension X” and the one where MacAvoy guesses about Milewski’s “walk of shame” night.
My least favorite was probably the alien invasion, simply because of the difficulty of blocking it and telling it from the perspective of one guy on a rooftop. Not that I dislike the scene, or anything, but it was probably the most difficult to write.
What’s a little-known fact about you that readers might find interesting?
I have 22 different versions of the song “St. James Infirmary” on my iTunes.
As an editor, you read a lot of manuscript drafts. What is the biggest mistake you see new writers making?
Not knowing where the story actually starts. So many novels could easily have the first chapter lopped off with no loss to the world.
Is there a question that you’ve never been asked before but wish you had?
“Who cuts your hair?”
Rocketed to Earth as an infant to avoid the destruction of his homeplanet, Keith R.A. DeCandido fights for truth, justice, and reasonable deadlines, though he rarely encounters any of those things. He is the author of more than 45 novels, as well as short stories, comic books, novellas, and more. A good chunk of his work has been in various media universes, ranging from TV shows (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Doctor Who, Farscape, Star Trek, Supernatural) to games (Command and Conquer, Dungeons and Dragons, StarCraft, World of Warcraft), to movies (Cars, Resident Evil, Serenity). His recent work includes the high fantasy police procedurals Dragon Precinct (2004, re-released in 2011), Unicorn Precinct (2011), and Goblin Precinct (2012), with Tales from Dragon Precinct coming later this year, all from Dark Quest Books; the SCPD novel series about cops in a city filled with superheroes, including The Case of the Claw (2011) and Avenging Amethyst (2012); -30- (in collaboration with Steven Savile), the first part of the four-part series of thriller novellas “Viral“; and Guilt in Innocence, the first of several contributions to the shared-world science fiction series “Tales of the Scattered Earth.” In 2009, Keith was inexplicably granted a Lifetime Achievement Award by the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers, which means he never needs to accomplish anything ever again. He also babbled incoherently on camera for the Biography Channel’s Star Trek special “Captains of the Final Frontier,” and the documentaries Done the Impossible (about Firefly and Serenity) and The Life of Death. Twice a week, he provides the Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com.
In addition to all this, Keith is part of the parody band Boogie Knights, a first-degree black belt in Kenshikai karate, podcaster for both The Chronic Rift and Dead Kitchen Radio: The Keith R.A. DeCandido Podcast. He does voices for the audio dramas Gypsy Cove, The Dome, and the Parsec Award-winning HG World, and is a lifelong fan of the World Champion New York Yankees. He has lived most of his life in the Bronx. Find out less at his mediocre web site at DeCandido.net, read his inane ramblings at kradical.livejournal.com, or follow him on Facebook and/or Twitter under the username “KRADeC.”