Letting The Characters Take Over: Author Keith Knapp Talks to Kendall Reviews.

Keith Knapp is the best-selling author of the novels “Coda,” “Moonlight” and numerous short stories including “Battalion” and “The Cat on Alpine Road.” Between the day he discovered writing and now, he has played the drums in more bands than he can remember, went to film school in Chicago and has taken up residence in Hawai’i, Missouri, California and Illinois. He loves cats, and if there isn’t always one around he starts to go a little crazy.

KR: Coffee?

KR: Could you tell me a little about yourself please?

I grew up an avid reader thanks to my parents, and that hobby continues to this day. They also installed a love of music and all art in me. I’ve ended up with huge book, music and movie collections. And I still have a ton of comic books. I just can’t bring myself to throw any of that stuff away, or sell it, or donate it. Man, why would you want to? What I don’t have in front of me in my home is in a storage shed for the day that I get a bigger home. Or die, in which case then I guess it gets given away.

KR: What do you like to do when not writing?

My previous answer kind of sheds some light on this answer. I’m a huge movie buff; I even went to film school. So I watch a lot of movies. Then there’s music, which is my second love (after the written word). I play the drums (although not as well as I like to think I used to) and will always have some form of music on somewhere in the house, except when I’m writing. I need complete silence there. If I had a drum set around, I’d be hitting that when not hitting the keyboard.

KR: What is your favourite childhood book?

I started reading Stephen King at a young age; probably too young. I remember devouring Cujo and Pet Sematary when I was a kid, which is weird to look back on since I have a huge love of animals. Maybe those two books instigated that love. I don’t recall reading many “children’s books.” My parents had shelves and shelves of novels, and I went from comic books to whatever looked interesting on their shelf. King is fairly easy to digest and understand, which is probably why I started there. Do those old “Choose Your Own Adventure” books count? I loved those things!

KR: What is your favourite album, and does music play any role in your writing?

Music plays a huge role in my writing, whether I’m conscious of it or not. It’s a little more apparent in my recent novel, Coda, which utilizes a couple of musical motifs in its structure (and title). As I said earlier, I play the drums and tend to air drum when I’m stuck on a sentence. So I’m a great air drummer. My favorite album changes over time, but Metallica is my favorite band; they really get my heart pounding and James Hetfield’s lyrics usually strike a chord with me. I’ve been listening a lot to their most recent album, Hardwired…to Self-Destruct, and that gets constant play on my many devices.

KR: Do you have a favourite horror movie/director?

It’s more of a horror-comedy, but my favorite horror movie would have to be, hands down, Re-Animator. It’s actually in my top five movies of all time. Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness are close, but Re-Animator takes the cake.

As for directors, Sam Raimi is brilliant. At least in his older stuff, he just moved that camera around and whipped it wherever; this was before CGI could take the camera anywhere, which I find really annoying. If a camera can’t physically be there, I don’t want to see it. Kubrick is, of course, a master. The Shining drips with tension from the first frame to the last. It’s the Taxi Driver of horror movies, and although I prefer the novel (and the script for the ABC mini-series), there’s an almost tactile feeling of dread in Kubrick’s version.

KR: What are you reading now?

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson and Jaco: The Extraordinary and Tragic Life of Jaco Pastorius, “The World’s Greatest Bass Player” by Bill Milkowski. I try to have to very different books going on at once (so I don’t get confused).

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KR: What was the last great book you read?

I absolutely adored Stephen King’s 11/22/63. It was like if King wrote an episode of Quantum Leap, one of my all-time favorite shows. And I felt the Hulu mini-series did it justice. I wasn’t sure about James Franco in the lead, but he hit it outta the park.

KR: E-Book, Paperback or Hardback?

Is it okay to say I love them all? Because I love them all. You can take an eBook with you anywhere; you can take thousands of them with you anywhere. And as I get older, I find I really, really like the fact I can make the font bigger. But physical copies will, I guess, always have the upper hand. There’s a sense of a physical connection with the story, characters and author that you just can’t get on an eReader, no matter how good it is. And I love seeing shelves filled with books. Hardbacks are nice because they’re like something special, and I’ll usually end up picking up a nice version of a hardback I really love just to have it. And with hardbacks, you can plop them open on a table and not have to hold them, which is nice for longer books.

KR: Who were the authors that inspired you to write?

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If it’s not clear by now, Stephen King is my biggest influence. I also love Dean Koontz, H.P. Lovecraft, Issac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, and a slew of comic book authors such as John Byrne and Chris Claremont. They all inspired me in one way or another to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard.

KR: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?

I start with a basic outline or premise, but at some point the characters start dictating the story to me and making decisions on thier own. Or they’ll see something in the distance that I don’t, and the story goes off in another direction. Coda started as a novel simply about an earthquake, but after the earthquake hit the characters started seeing an strange red glow on the horizon, and it kind of snowballed from there. They took me to a place I had no idea they’d take me to.

KR: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I like to do as little research as possible, because it’s usually pretty boring. But if I have to, I will. For my first novel Moonlight, I did a lot of research into power grids and how the town it takes place in, my old hometown of Westmont, IL, works. I befriended a fella that worked for the village, and he was kind enough to send me pictures of their buildings and informed me what they might do in my book, which was very helpful since I was living in California at the time. I think I did that for about six months before I got on with the novel, as all of that information was needed for the characters, and me, ’cause I have no idea how a village works with the politics and what-have-you. I’m working on another story involving a travelling circus, and I’ve been doing research on that off and on for about a year. They’re way more complicated than I thought.

KR: How would you describe your writing style?

I try to be as concise and to the point as I can. I don’t really like flowery language; I just like a good story. So I try to get my point across as easily digestible as possible. I don’t like it to “feel” like you’re reading, you know what I mean?

KR: Describe your usual writing day?

I’ll turn on the computer and read the last few paragraphs I’ve written, then write maybe a page and start surfing the web and get distracted. I’ll get hungry at some point, so I’ll eat a quick meal then try to get another page under my belt. Sometimes it works out this way, other times I won’t write a word.

I try to approach it as a day job, but one where I control the hours and breaks. I don’t get weekends and holidays off, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. I actually don’t think I could go a day without writing at least a word or two (hopefully more, but sometimes the words just don’t want to come).

KR: Do you have a favourite story/short that you’ve written (published or not)?

My favorite personal work usually ends up being my most recent. In this case it’s the recently released Coda, but that answer will probably change in a year or two. I feel as though I’m always growing and maturing as a writer, and each piece ends up being better than the last. At least that’s what I hope.

KR: Do you read your book reviews?

Always. Good or bad. I learn a lot from the bad reviews, which tend to point things out I didn’t think of. That’s how we grow. So far, there haven’t been any really mean reviews, as most readers tend to be fairly nice even if they don’t like my books.

KR: How do you think you’ve developed as an author?

I like to think I’ve matured a lot. Most of my early stories really had no plot at all. Just little character pieces that went nowhere and told nothing. I used to fret a lot over what words to use and when to use them, but as I’ve gotten older I realize the important thing is to just tell your story.

KR: What is the best piece of advice you’ve received regarding your writing?

Write every day. One page, one paragraph, one word, just getting something on paper.

KR: What scares you?

The same stuff that I think scares most people: being alone, or homeless, or having no sense of security or support. That feeling that anything can go wrong at any moment. Things can be fine, then someone rips the carpet out from underneath you and you’re in a whole different world. I try to take those fears and shake them up into metaphors for my novels, otherwise I’ll end up with some really weird self-help books that probably wouldn’t help anyone. So I’ll toss a monster in there or something.

KR: Can you tell me about your latest release please?

Coda finds a group of characters, disaster-movie style, surviving an earthquake and ending up in a mysterious place known only as The Town. It’s here that they come up against some of those universal fears I mentioned earlier, but with some monsters and creepiness thrown in. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it doesn’t end well for some of them.

KR: What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on a story that may be a short story or novella (but probably not a full novel) about a man trapped in one location. I thought it’d be a challenge to go from multiple characters and locations to the exact opposite: one man in one location. So far, it’s been a blast. I have no idea if it’s any good or not. I rarely do.

KR: You find yourself on a desert island, which three people would you wish to be deserted with you and why?

You can choose…

a) One fictional character from your writing.

Brett Nickson from Coda. He’s always positive even in the most dire of circumstances and is the kind of fella that wants to be friends with everyone. Not a bad bone in his body.

b) One fictional character from any other book.

Stu Redman from Stephen King’s The Stand. He’s a no-nonsense guy and would probably take charge, which would be good since I’d have no idea what to do.

c) One real-life person that is not a family member or friend.

George Lucas. I’d need to have someone to talk Star Wars with. Actually, he may not want to talk about it all that much, which I understand. Some of the fans really put him through the ringer over the prequels. But I love them because, and here we get back to writing, he told the story he wanted to tell in the way he wanted to tell it.

KR: Thank you very much Keith.

Keith Knapp

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1166321.Keith_Knapp

Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Keith-Knapp/e/B002BMEUE2?



After a devastating earthquake hits Los Angeles, a group of survivors find themselves whisked away to a place known only as The Town. It is there that they will face their inner-most demons and relics of the past as they try to find a way out and back to reality.

But an evil presence awaits them there. It knows their fears, their sins and their lies and will do anything to keep them right where they are.

You can buy Coda from Amazon UK Amazon US

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