Q&A With Nick Kolakowski

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Q&A With Nick Kolakowski  

Today’s Q&A is with author Nick Kolakowski. Nick has written crime and horror fiction and I see on his website in his about section that his work has appeared in The Washington Post, McSweeney’s, Thuglit, Shotgun Honey, North American Review, & Carrier Pigeon. 


Q: So Nick when did you realize that you were called to be an author?

A: I’d always wanted to write. When I was a little kid, I wrote and illustrated my own, very short stories—which is a behavior I share with a lot of future writers. 

I got into crime fiction after my Dad handed me a copy of Chandler’s “Trouble Is My Business” when I was about 10 years old. That book changed my life: Chandler’s use of language, the landscape of old Los Angeles… it transported me. I wanted to write something like it.


Q: What fascinates you about writing crime and horror fiction?

A: I feel like crime and horror fiction operate on two levels. The first is the visceral: can you tell a story that grips the reader on an almost subconscious level, making their adrenaline and other juices flow? The second is the metaphysical, or maybe just metaphorical: how can I use this genre to surface broader thematic issues about society, the human spirit, etc.?

I love playing with both those levels. You want to create set-pieces that pull people in and keep them turning the page, but you also want to provide a larger theme or insight that really makes them think about the world around them. It’s an interesting and challenging game.

Q: How does it feel that some of your work has appeared in famous publications like The Washington Post? That’s pretty impressive.

A: I think it’s great, but it’s 100 percent perseverance. Landing an article in The Washington Post or a satirical piece in McSweeney’s or a story in a big literary magazine is entirely a matter of working an idea to absolute death in whatever time you might have available. It’s definitely a validating feeling to see your work in print, because it means folks are reading and responding to it—but I don’t think there’s an arcane secret to landing a byline in a “prestigious” venue, aside from steeling yourself for a ton of rejections before an editor accepts your pitch and/or story.


Q: Are you writing a new novel now? If so can you spoil a little about it?

A: So my next novella is “Madam Tomahawk,” which is the next episode/book in the long-running “A Grifter’s Song” series published by Down & Out Books. It follows a pair of grifters as they try to survive the fallout of a murder in Washington, D.C., and I really enjoyed writing with characters created by other folks. 

That’s coming out in January. Right now I’m writing a classic California detective novel that takes place against the backdrop of severe climate change. I won’t go heavy on the details, but I was inspired by some of the classics of midcentury detective fiction, and I’m doing my best to do them justice—with a bit of a modern twist.


Q: What’s your advice to anyone who struggles with writers block? What’s your advice to anyone who wants to pursue writing as a career?

A: I don’t think anyone who aspires to become a writer (or break through writer’s block) needs to write every day, which is the standard-issue advice that’s often offered. That being said, I think writers need to write consistently in order to hone the craft.

And while writing can be a discouraging path at times, it’s important to remember that even things that feel like dead-ends can turn into something wonderful later on. Keep your fragments and the novels that didn’t quite make it, the weird stuff and the odd ideas that didn’t seem to live for more than a page; you never know when you’ll have another idea a few years from now that’ll allow you to complete whatever you started.


Q: Does Hollywood have the rights to any of your novels?

A: They do not! I’ve been lucky enough to be published a few times in translation, but the selling of film/TV options has dodged me so far… I’m hoping the next agent will change that.