Q&A With Nicholas Kaufmann (and a Giveaway!)

First, a quick housekeeping note. I’m over at Rainy Day Ramblings today, taking part in the “Something Wicked” event and talking about five things that scare me the most….and undead pirates and elves didn’t make the list! I’m also giving away a book of choice to a commenter, so head on over. [The post hadn’t gone up when I wrote this, but it should soon. Check back if you head over and it isn’t there.]

Today, please help me welcome author Nicholas Kaufmann to Preternatura. His most recent release is an urban fantasy called Dying Is My Business, published Oct. 8 by St. Martin’s Griffin. I seriously can’t wait to read this one–it’s already on the Mt. Everest known as my TBR pile (well, actually it has become a TBR Room).

Nicholas Kaufmann has had his work nominated for the Bram Stoker Award, the Shirley Jackson Award, and the International Thriller Writers Award. He is the critically acclaimed author of Walk in Shadows, General Slocum’s Gold, Chasing the Dragon, and Still Life: Nine Stories. His short fiction has appeared in Cemetery Dance, The Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica 3, City Slab, The Best American Erotica 2007, Zombies vs. Robots: This Means War!, Dark Fusions: Where Monsters Lurk, and others. He used to write the “Dead Air” column for The Internet Review of Science Fiction. He lives in Brooklyn, and you can learn more about him by visiting his website, or by following him on twitter. 
ABOUT DYING IS MY BUSINESS:  Given his line of work in the employ of a psychotic Brooklyn crime boss, Trent finds himself on the wrong end of too many bullets. Yet each time he’s killed, he wakes a few minutes later completely healed of his wounds but with no memory of his past identity. What’s worse, each time he cheats death, someone else dies in his place. Sent to steal an antique box from some squatters in an abandoned warehouse near the West Side Highway, Trent soon finds himself stumbling into an age-old struggle between the forces of good and evil, revealing a secret world where dangerous magic turns people into inhuman monstrosities, where impossible creatures hide in plain sight, and where the line between the living and the dead is never quite clear. And when the mysterious box is opened, he discovers he has only twenty-four hours to save New York City from certain destruction.
 Sounds very cool, yes? And now, let’s hear from Nicholas…
Give us the “elevator pitch” for your book.
DYING IS MY BUSINESS is a hardboiled urban fantasy-noir about Trent, a thief for a Brooklyn crime syndicate who can’t stay dead. When his boss sends him on a mission to steal a mysterious box, his eyes are opened to a secret world of magic, monsters, and danger.
Describe your favorite scene from the new book–and why is it your favorite? 
Oh gosh, it’s hard to choose just one. I have quite a few scenes I consider favorites! But gun to my head and forced to choose, I’m going to say my favorite scene is when our heroes, in their Ford Explorer, are chased down Seventh Avenue in Manhattan by the Black Knight on his armored steed. Something about the idea of a car chase down one of New York City’s busiest avenues where one of the cars is actually a knight on horseback tickles me. It was so much fun to write, and a few readers have pointed it out as their favorite scene, too.
What was the hardest scene to write?
Believe it or not, in a novel where the protagonist dies numerous times, the hardest scene for me to write was a death scene. One of my favorite characters doesn’t make it all the way through the novel. And unlike Trent, this character can’t come back from the dead. It was emotionally difficult for me to write, because I like this character so much (and the readers seem to as well). I tried to think of ways to save him, but in the end I realized there was nothing I could do. Some characters are just doomed from the start.
What’s on your nightstand or top of your TBR pile?
I’m currently reading Ian Rogers’s highly enjoyable collection of horror stories, Every House Is Haunted. I love Ian’s work, and these stories showcase a lot of talent coupled with a vibrant imagination.
Favorite book when you were a child.
I didn’t have a particular favorite book as a child, but I did have a favorite book series: Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain. I couldn’t get enough of them. I read them in every spare moment I had. My memories of the events and characters have faded over time—well, except maybe for Gurgi—but the feeling it left me with has never faded. The awe, the mystery, the satisfaction of good characters inhabiting a story well told. The Chronicles of Prydain did a lot to make me a lifelong reader, and to shape my interest in the fantastic. And in the macabre, too. Remember the Horned King in the first book, The Book of Three? That was creepy, scary stuff!
Book you’ve faked reading (Moby Dick is leading the votes on this question!):
Oh man, I hope none of my old college professors are reading this interview, because I faked reading a lotof books in college! Anna Karenina, The Brothers Karamazov, Down and Out in Paris and London… The list is too long and too embarrassing to continue!
Book you’re an evangelist for:
Almost anything by Peter Straub. He’s probably my favorite author, but so many readers only know him as the co-author of The Talisman with Stephen King. I tell people to check out Ghost Story, which is a million times better than the movie they made of it back in 1981 with Fred Astaire and John Houseman. Another book I’m an evangelist for is Tananarive Due’s The Between. That book rocked my world. She’s such an amazing writer. Such an incredible imagination.
Book you’ve bought for the cover:
I must have been 13 or 14 when I walked into a bookstore one day and saw the cover for Piers Anthony’s A Spell for Chameleon. It’s not a great book—I don’t really understand the longevity of the Xanth series, but different strokes for different folks, I guess—but the cover art caught my eye. It showed a man having a conversation with a big, red, winged manticore. I thought that image was really interesting, so I bought the book and read it. There were other books I bought because the covers looked cool—I can’t even remember their titles anymore, but they tended to be fantasy or science fiction novels with cool or weird-looking creatures on them—but mostly those were the books I never got around to reading and eventually just donated to the local library to make room on my bookshelves. I don’t buy books solely because of the cover art anymore, and haven’t in a long time. I suppose I learned my lesson with all those books I bought and never read.
Book that changed your life:
Without a doubt, Clive Barker’s Books of Blood. I read it back in the late 1980s/early ’90s in the three-volume version that Berkley put out with the Halloween masks on the covers. Barker’s fiction was like nothing I’d read before. It was visceral and physical and could be extraordinarily erotic or gory or both, but it also transcended beyond that to something sublime. I got my start in horror, not fantasy, and for a long time Barker was my favorite horror writer. He showed me what horror was capable of at a time when the genre was becoming synonymous with rush-job slasher movies and churned out paperbacks about giant bugs.
Favorite line from a book:
“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” – from H.P. Lovecraft’s Supernatural Horror in Literature
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Clive Barker’s Books of Blood! I’d love to have that moment of epiphany again, that revelation of what fiction is capable of.
Most horrifying moment while reading a book:
The horrifying moment that springs to mind immediately is the climax of Marc Brandel’s The Lizard’s Tail, when poor Martin Trask opens the white cardboard box that was left for him by his unseen antagonist. When Brandel describes what’s inside, I remember nearly dropping the book! (No spoilers here. The book is long out of print, but you should be able to find it on the secondary market with a little digging. Sometimes it’s published under the much blander title The Hand. It’s worth seeking out! Go read it!)
Favorite book about books or writing:
I found Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing to be enormously helpful to me. His advice about not censoring yourself while writing your first draft is invaluable. It’s also a very interesting exploration of how the subconscious mind plays into the creative process. Every writer should check it out, but especially writers who find themselves grappling with writer’s block a lot.
Thanks, Nicholas! 
Leave a comment to be entered for your chance to win a copy of Dying Is My Business. And here’s a thought on which you might chew…If you could save yourself by having another die in your place, would you? What if the one who’d die in your place was a very bad, evil person? I hate it when I ask questions I can’t answer myself…my first answer was no, I wouldn’t let someone die in my place. When you throw in the evil factor though….I’m going to have to think about that one a while.

17 thoughts on “Q&A With Nicholas Kaufmann (and a Giveaway!)

  1. I don’t think you could answer that until you were in that situation and even then I think your choice would depend partly on who else would have to die. I don’t think too many parents would choose to live if their child had to die.

  2. Depends if you can pick who die in your place then perhaps ( you could pick really bad one or someone already on teh verge of dying) but if it was just someone picked by hasard definitively no because i don’t see why my life would be worth more than one of a quidam

  3. Even though it’s so tempting, I’d have to say no. It’s not up to me to determine who lives or dies especially for me. Thanks for sharing such a great post and congrats to Nicholas on the new release!

  4. I don’t think I could let another person die in my place. I would definitely feel guilty for the rest of my life.

  5. I couldn’t live with myself if I chose someone to die.

    On a lighter note, I remember buying A Spell for Chameleon for the same reason.

    And the premise and setting of Nicholas’ book sound great. *crosses fingers*

  6. I wouldn’t trade places with anyone if I have to die. As for trading places with someone who is just plain mean and evil, that is a tough question. It depends on the situations and the circumstances. I need to make sure I chose the lesser of the two evils.

  7. Hmmm, I’m going to sound horrible I guess, but if the choice was to die or let someone very bad and evil die instead, I’d choose for them to go instead of me. At least that’s my opinion on the spur of the moment, who knows how I’d feel if I were really in that place.

  8. I guess I’m a bad person (or at least just willing to admit it on the internet), but I totally would make that trade with someone evil.