Friday, February 28, 2014

An Interview with K.M. Zahrt, author of Odd Man Outlaw

I always hear that you should "write something that you would want to read". I'm feeling that, as I get further into this novel, this is gradually becoming more true of what I'm writing. I would totally sit down and read this thing. The tricky part is making sure that what interests me will also interest others. Time will certainly tell.
I am also really psyched to already be able to bring you my next interview. I really hope that others are finding these conversations as helpful as I am. Today, I spoke with K.M. Zahrt, author of the newly released Odd Man Outlaw.

-Hi Kenneth! Thanks for chatting with us today. You just released your first novel, Odd Man Outlaw. This past fall, you put out Thanksgiving with Pop-Pop, a book of short stories. How does it feel to be out there and having people reading your words.
K.M.: It’s a crazy bag of mixed emotions. As a young writer, you work so hard to produce something of quality – really just to see if you can produce something worth reading – but when it comes time to publish it and make it public, and many of your friends and family members and acquaintances are going to read it and think of you by it, you hesitate. You worry. It’s crazy, but it’s good. It is rewarding.
-Has it always been a plan of yours to try and become a published author or is this something new?
K.M.: Yes, mostly. I’ve known I’m a writer for about ten years now. It’s something I discovered in college, but I wasn’t cut out for it at first. I started college in developmental writing courses, and I struggled. I took a storytelling class my sophomore year and barely passed. It wasn’t until my junior year that I learned what writing meant. Somehow I got inspired to write a satirical play about the Christmas story. I labored over it, and a professor encouraged me to submit it to a writing contest in the English Department. I took first prize and received a medal and $50. That’s when I learned why I struggled with writing early on: good writing is hard work. I wasn’t willing to put in the effort when I was a freshman and a sophomore, but after I got that award, I had a taste of the fruits of writing labor, and I’ve been pursuing it ever since.
-Specifically considering your novel, can you describe the path you took to getting published? From the time that you typed the first words of the book, how long did it take before you saw Odd Man Outlaw in print?
K.M.: I didn’t come to fiction right away. I was a communications major focusing on film production, but after I wrote that play, I shifted my focus to screenwriting. I begged an advisor to allow me write a screenplay for my thesis project. She was hesitant because students who tried that before never finished an entire script. I told her I would write two full scripts to prove her wrong, and I did - a comedy and a novel adaptation. But I was frustrated with the screenwriting-to-screen process. Too many people change your writing before a film is finished. That’s why I turned to the novel form. I typed the first word of Odd Man Outlaw on August 30, 2007 - about four months after I graduated from college. I handwrote the entire first draft in two composition notebooks because I was in China and didn’t have a computer. I dated my progress. The first sentence I wrote was: “Eddie turned the nob to high and felt the cool air breeze between his fingers.” There’s a version of that sentence on p.59 in the print edition. At the time, I never would have fathomed that little sentence would be published.I completed the first draft while I was in China teaching ESL for a year for my first job. Then I went to graduate school to study literature, and I didn’t even look at the manuscript for two years. I picked it up again in 2011, and I thought I finished it for the first time in February of 2012. But initial reader feedback said it wasn’t finished. That feedback was hard to digest, so I took another six months off from it. At last, I finished the book in its current form in October of 2013. It was quite a journey. Took me just shy of six years.
-Do you have any other books on the way and would you do anything differently in publishing a second novel?
K.M.: I’m in the middle of drafting another novel and adapting a short story into a novella. The novel is the first in a planned series of four books. I’m about 50% through the story arc on the first book, and it’s already almost as long as Odd Man Outlaw, so it’s going to be a larger work.
-Ok. I'm writing my first book. I am a young Luke to your Obi Wan. Can you give me some pointers so that I can get this thing published and avoid the dark side of the force?
K.M.: Truly finish the book first. I thought this book was finished twice before it was truly finished. Each time, I saved copies of it everywhere before I started hacking it apart, just in case I wanted to go back to the previous version. In both instances, I never looked back. So finish it - all the way to the end. If you write works that are fully finished, fully refined, and works that you’re proud of, many readers – including a publisher - will appreciate what you’ve done. Then it’s simply a matter of knocking on enough doors until you find that publisher.
-Are we what we eat? Do you read what you write, and vice versa?
K.M.: Yes, I think so. I’m a chronic reader. I try to write works that I would want to read. So, yes, I read my writing. Every time I peek into Odd Man Outlaw, just to take a quick glance, I find myself reading entire sections. It’s a book I enjoy reading.
-If you could have a sit down lunch with any author (living or dead) who would it be, what one question would you ask,  and what would you both be eating? Better yet, would you be cool if he/she double-dipped off of your plate?
K.M.: I’d like to say Mark Twain, because he’s one of my favorite writers, and I’d like to think we’d get along great. But the truth is, he’d probably have little interest in talking to me, and I’d get nervous, and it’d be awkward and terrible. And no, I wouldn’t let that tobacco-mouthed scoundrel double dip from my plate.
-Have you ever been to Funky Town? Be honest.
K.M.: Yes, I have, and my wife knows about it. She was there too.
-Favorite 80's hair band?
K.M.:Solo Ozzy Osbourne, especially the Randy Rhoads albums.
-Choose wisely, here. Tom Brady or Peyton Manning?
K.M.: Peyton Manning. I’m from Michigan, but I have no allegiances to Brady. I wrote about Manning leading up to this past Super Bowl on Michiganders Post, here: For better or worse, I stand by my choice.
-Incorrect. An acceptable response might have been "Tom Brady" or "Durrr, Tom Brady" or "Come on man, that's too easy... Tom Brady, of course." or "Not the Papa John's Guy". Anything else you want us to know about your book?  Why should we go out and buy it?
K.M.: I think Odd Man Outlaw is a reader’s book; it rewards the reader for continuing to read. It asks the reader to participate in the narrative, to respond to it. So I think most readers will be satisfied with their reading experience.
Brief teaser from Odd Man Outlaw:
When security guard Edward Waters is arrested for aiding and abetting a known fugitive, former college roommate, Citizen "Cid" Goodman, is shocked. The ‘Eddie’ he knew was ambitious, studious and straight-laced - the kind of guy you could depend on with your life, your money or your girlfriend. But what really pricks Cid’s conscience is how quick the local media and the public are to label Eddie as a criminal, trying him in the court of public opinion where he is guilty until proven innocent. Cid sets about the task of reconstructing Eddie’s story, from his time as a dedicated college student to the moment he is arrested, in an attempt to alter public perception. But as the case unfolds, and fantasy intersects with reality, the line between guilt and innocence blurs.
Where Can I Buy It?:
Odd Man Outlaw is readily available from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and hopefully an independent bookstore near you (if not, tell them to order it in).
Thanks K.M!!!
Keep checking back, much more to come!!!
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