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Guest-Interview with award-winning author Kathe Koja (1 Viewer)


Retired Chief Media Manager

We are thrilled to have Kathe Koja, author of many books including the Bram Stoker and Locus award-winning classic novel THE CIPHER, back in print this month after almost 30 years. Kathe Koja writes novels and short fiction, and creates and produces immersive fiction performances, both solo and with a rotating ensemble of artists. Her work crosses and combines genres, and her books have won awards, been multiply translated, and optioned for film and performance. She is based in Detroit and thinks globally. She can be found at kathekoja.com. We spoke to her about writing, the return of the funhole and what's next! There is also a cool giveaway at the end of this post.

Tell us about your inspiration for The Cipher. When was the seed first planted and how did it grow?

The Cipher started, as all my work starts, with a character. But Nicholas was in a different novel, until I realized that that novel wasn’t going where it needed to go (or anywhere; it was never finished). So I freed him from that narrative, took another look—and he became the center of a new novel. Then Nakota appeared, and the storage room and the Funhole, and The Cipher was on its way.

Art and artists and the artistic process seem to play a big role in some of your work, what drives that?

The main drive, and preoccupation—occupation—in my own life is my work: writing novels and short fiction, creating immersive events. My work is the way I engage with and understand life.

All creation is essentially a mystery: its origin and the task of its making, and how that making might affect the world. And mystery is always fascinating.

Are any of the characters in Cipher modeled after real people?

No. The only work of mine that uses a real person for its inspiration is Christopher Wild, a novel of poet and playwright Christopher Marlowe—there’s a stunning new audio edition, just out from Crossroad Press. Really beautiful, thoughtful, funny, energized work by Saxon Audio (who not so incidentally did the audio for Cipher too).

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

From the time I could read. Four, five years old. I started writing fulltime when I was 25 and I’ve never stopped.

What led you to writing in the dark/weird/horror genres?

Genre is never something I consider when I’m writing—I make whatever it is, then find out afterward where it might belong. It’s how I wrote Cipher, how I wrote my first YA, straydog, and my historical fiction trilogy Under the Poppy—I just go, then figure it out afterward.

But I do have an affinity for work that’s both fearless and curious: the writing of Shirley Jackson and Maryse Meijer, the fashion of Lee Alexander McQueen, the visual art of Remedias Varo, the music of Perfume Genius . . . All visionaries who were and are totally at home in dark places, strange places, curious places.

What has been your favorite story to write? Least favorite?

If I really don’t like them, I can’t write them. And the favorite is always what’s being written now, so that would be Dark Factory.

If you could tell your younger self anything, what would it be?

If I could talk to the young writer I was, I would tell her, Waste no time.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

The difficult is a challenge and challenge helps good work grow, and keeps us from getting too comfortable, from stagnation. Better to fall climbing a mountain than sleep at the bottom . . .

How long on average does it take you to write a novel?

It depends on how much research is necessary. For some projects, like the Under the Poppy trilogy that centered on late Victorian puppetry and performance, I’ll need to do a ton of research reading; sometimes interviews are involved, too, or site visits, like my YA novel Headlong that took place in a private school. Or Christopher Wild—I read every Marlowe biography out there, and a great deal of critical writing about his work. Once the research is done, the writing generally takes about a year. Unless it doesn’t; Dark Factory is two years and counting.

What do you like most about writing adult fiction? YA fiction?

I find YA audiences to be more demanding, so that’s always a spur and a thrill. Writing YA made me a more economical writer in my adult fiction, I think.

What are you reading right now that you would recommend?

I’m loving Maryse Meijer’s The Seventh Mansion, just out from FSG Originals. Two beautiful outsiders find each other in a time of loss and darkness, our time, when climate is stretched to its breaking point. And I’m about to start Daniel Kraus’ The Living Dead, his labor-of-love completion of George Romero’s last work.

What’s coming next?

Dark Factory is my newest project: it’s immersive fiction, a novel that uses narrative, visuals, sound, all from amazing artists, to help create the world of Dark Factory. The story follows two young men, Ari the party guru and Max the underground artist, who cross paths at a reality-bending dance club called Dark Factory, and find their own realities begin to morph and change, too.

Dark Factory’s on Patreon https://www.patreon.com/kathekoja and I’m thankful and so pleased that this project’s found such loyal support!

Is there anything we didn’t ask that you’d like to share?

I’d love to share details of the Cipher fan art contest sponsored by Meerkat Press. The prizes were signed bookplates, gift cards, and a gorgeous custom “Cipher” necklace created by artist Sofia Ajram, for three winners—and I had to pick them. An incredibly difficult task given the quality of the entries, the varied media used, the imagination on display . . . You can see all the entries and winners here https://www.meerkatpress.com/the-cipher-fan-art-contest/

thecipher-contest (6).jpg

It was amazing, seeing what these readers had created with the Cipher characters, the setting, and of course the Funhole. I’ll definitely be offering readers a way to play a creative part in Dark Factory, too.


THE CIPHER by Kathe Koja

GENRE: Horror / Dark Fantasy



Winner of the Bram Stoker Award and Locus Awards, finalist for the Philip K. Dick Award, and named one of io9.com's "Top 10 Debut Science Fiction Novels That Took the World By Storm." With a new afterword by Maryse Meijer, author of Heartbreaker and Rag.

"Black. Pure black and the sense of pulsation, especially when you look at it too closely, the sense of something not living but alive." When a strange hole materializes in a storage room, would-be poet Nicholas and his feral lover Nakota allow their curiosity to lead them into the depths of terror. "Wouldn't it be wild to go down there?" says Nakota. Nicholas says, "We're not." But no one is in control, and their experiments lead to obsession, violence, and a very final transformation for everyone who gets too close to the Funhole.

BUY LINKS: Meerkat Press | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kathe Koja writes novels and short fiction, and creates and produces immersive fiction performances, both solo and with a rotating ensemble of artists. Her work crosses and combines genres, and her books have won awards, been multiply translated, and optioned for film and performance. She is based in Detroit and thinks globally. She can be found at kathekoja.com.

AUTHOR LINKS: Website | Twitter

GIVEAWAY: $50 Book Shopping Spree!

: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/7f291bd823/?