This week I've got a quick Q&A with Snubnose Press author JA Kazimer, whose novel Dope Sick: A Love Story was recently released.
Brian Lindenmuth: Dope Sick has been around for awhile hasn't it? What's the story behind it and its publication?
JA Kazimer: Awhile doesn’t begin to cover it. I wrote the first draft around 10 years ago. It was bad. Really bad. I had no clue as to how to actually write a book, let along how to punctuate one . But there was something about the story, something that spoke to me, that I couldn’t let go.
I began learning the craft, and joined an online critique group site called Urbis. There, other writers, read the novel, and no matter how badly they reacted to my horrible use of adverbs and comma-obsession, they also saw something in the story.
After a good twenty revisions, and many, many years of rejections from agents and publishers, over 400, I nearly gave up on both writing and publishing this book. Then in 2007, as a last straw, I entered a writer’s contest. Dope Sick, then called Dope. Sick. Love., took third place, and I took another shot at it. Revision 25. Still nothing. By this point I knew this was a good book, if not even a great one. I told my friends, my critique group, and other writers, this manuscript will be a book. It would get published.
Of course that took another 3 years. I’d stopped shopping the book in 2008, putting it away while I focused on the other works. Once my other books took off, and I started gaining publishing contracts, I asked my agent to shop Dope Sick. She did. We had some interest, but I never felt like it had found a home. Too many publishers wanted changes I didn’t. Changes that would ruin that something I loved.
Until, one day, I was lucky enough to get an email from Brian asking for a peek. He explained he was launching a new press, a press for crime fiction, a press perfect for that special something. I sent him the manuscript immediately, sweating it out until he emailed back. Dope Sick: A Love Story had found a home.
Dope Sick is really a love story isn't it?
It is. But don’t let the words ‘love story’ fool you. This isn’t a harlequin romance.
Love for the main character, Colin, isn’t easy; it’s dark, dangerous, and deadly. He has a deep and binding love for his addiction, even after two years clean. A twisted sick love for his murdered wife, a woman who betrayed him time and again. And finally, the prospect of new love, if he can stay alive long enough to fall.
How does Dope Sick tie in to The Junkie Tales?
I wrote most of those stories as I was writing Dope Sick. It was a great way to include tales that couldn’t or didn’t fit into the story. I’ve always appreciated addiction fiction, and with so many stories, characters, and experiences, I needed a place for the words to go, hence The Junkie Tales. It’s also my first and only stab at something less genre and more literary, at least I thought it was.
Ian Wilde is a supporting character in Dope Sick. Now he has his own novel, Shank. Did you fall in love with this character and want to tell more stories with him. Will we see further Ian Wilde stories?
Honestly Ian just had to tell his own story. I do love him as a character, but I had no notion that the next book I’d write would be his. I just sat down to write, and his story, which I see as my ode to the hard drinking, bad-ass, smart-ass girl friday’s and thugs with hearts of gold crime fiction that I love.
I always felt like there is one more Wilde story in me. Not sure if it would be Ian, but I’m sure both Colin and Ian would make an appearance.
Fairy tales?! What's that all about?
Fairy tales, even the Disney ones, and crime fiction are two peas in a pod. Both are filled with fucked up stuff. Take Sleeping Beauty for example, her Prince Charming finds a dead chick in the middle of a forest, and he instantly thinks, I need some of that. Take away the tiara the horse Charming rides in on, and that’s totally a crime fiction tale waiting to be told.
Plus I get to steal a bunch of fairy tale characters, so I don’t really have to work, and planted them into this urban the F***ed Up Fairy Tale series. Plagiarism really is an author’s best friend.
So far in my writing career I’ve been lucky and able to write whatever I want, from junkie stories to fucked up fairy tales. I plan to continue to do that, unless someone offers me tons of cash. I’m totally willing to sell out and start writing middle-aged women’s bondage books.
Read any good fiction, crime or otherwise, recently?
I was lucky enough to read a not-yet published (but out soon) novel by fellow Snubnose author of Choice Cuts and Wake the Undertaker, Joe Clifford. The book’s title is Junkie Love, and it’s so damn good. Heartbreakingly good. I also just finished Robert Crais’ latest book, as well one of my favorite author’s, Tim Dorsey’s, newest book. I could go on for pages about books, but you’d probably stop reading, and go watch something more interesting like porn.
What's the best piece of advice you've been given?
A friend once said, “No one is remembered for the things they don’t do.” Of course, at that moment, the thing I was debating doing was illegal in most states and required a lot of bendy parts. After a brief hospital stay, I took the advice to heart, also accepting the other side, which is, “You will be remembered for those stupid things you do too.” Since I really didn’t want to end up as a lesson in Darwin’s theory, I aim for the line between complete boredom and shooting up Liquid Drain-O on a dare.
What's next for you? What are you working on?
Right now my agent is shopping a romantic suspense novel. Hey, don’t judge me. I need the money.
As far as writing, I’m working on the third book in the Fucked Up Fairy Tale series. I’m about 20k from being done with the first draft. Then I have a novel called Bent I’ve worked on and off for the last 7 years. If you’ve read The Junkie Tales, maybe you remember the story, "Slut. Bitch. Whore."? If not, it’s about a junkie con man willing to do anything to fuel his addiction for both heroin and a porn star named Geraldine. Bent is his story.
Why should the person reading this interview buy Dope Sick and Shank?
Easy. Sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll.
Plus, really, $2.99 for hours of entertainment, how can you go wrong?
Here's the synopsis for Dope Sick: A Love Story
Here's the synopsis for Dope Sick: A Love Story
Once a famous rock star, Colin Wilde nearly dies on a dirty bathroom floor, a lethal dose of heroin in his veins and the name of his murdered wife, Lisa, on his lips. Two years later, finally clean and on the verge of a major comeback, he meets Zoe, a beautiful strung-out dancer. With her help, Colin maneuvers through the seedy world of sex, drugs, and record deals in search of a killer.
"I sat down at about midnight planning to read a hundred pages or so and did not put this tale of murder, sex, drugs, and even a little rock and roll down until it was done." Todd Morr, Captain Cooker
"A hard-hitting rock ’n’ roll mystery. Kazimer’s debut novel has it all: sex, drugs, murder, perversion, and more twists and turns than a Keith Richards trip to rehab. Trying to find his wife’s killer while clinging to the last shreds of sobriety, Colin Wilde navigates a musical minefield populated with shady promoters, crooked producers, scorned police and vengeful critics. His only salvation? The one woman he knows better than to trust. Dope Sick Love is a thrilling pop culture junkie fix." -- Joe Clifford, author of Choice Cuts and Wake the Undertaker