Bio: Ken was born in the small town of Moose Jaw, Canada, but he figured things out quickly and hauled his family west at the age of 9. Since then, he’s lived in Vancouver, where the winter snow falls as rain. Endless, endless rain…..
Being raised on a steady diet of science fiction and disaster movies, it just seems right that his first published novel be about the zombie apocalypse. In his spare time, Ken tries to paint like Bob Ross and play poker like Doyle Brunson, but results suggest he might have got it all backwards.
Today I talk with post-apocalyptic horror author Ken Stark. What do you do when you’re not writing?
I like to paint, and of course I read a lot. And I’ll take every chance I can to commune with nature, but only if the weather cooperates.
Do you have a fun fact about yourself you would like to share?
I worked as a movie and TV extra for a few years back in the 80s, so if you happen to catch an old episode of MacGyver, 21 Jump Street or Wise Guy, you might just see a younger version of me bumbling his way through the background.
Can you tell me about your writing process?
I can only really write at my desk. I happen to type at the exact same speed as the words come to me, so my computer is my writing partner. I don’t have any rituals, per se, but I’m at my best late in the day. I usually start writing as the world grows dark and quiet, and I keep going until I can no longer keep my eyes open.
Which is your favourite part of the process?
Of course, the actual writing comes first, but I like editing, too. I know, I know… editing is supposed to suck, but I find that I can be just as creative in editing a piece as in writing it. Now if you want to know what really sucks, let’s talk marketing…
Do you have a first reader?
No, I don’t. Unless that person is an expert in the field, the best a first reader can do is offer an opinion. Writing is an art form like any other, and in the same way that a dozen different people can look at the same painting and give a dozen different opinions, what one reader dislikes about a book might be precisely what another reader loves the most.
What would your advice to new writers be?
First and foremost, just write. It doesn’t matter what, it doesn’t matter where, and it doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad. Just like any other activity, we get better at a thing by doing it over and over and over again. So, write! Write what you want, when you want, and how you want. Stop listening to advice about plotting and tenses and character development, and just write. Write the story that’s in your head, and write it exactly how you want it to be. Maybe it will go nowhere at all, but maybe that ridiculous story you’re certain no one would ever want to read is just what the world has been waiting for. And either way, the effort won’t be lost. Every time you string words together, you’re building up those writing muscles for your next shot at the title.
What was the first book you published?
My first book, Stage 3, was published in 2016 by the fine folks at Severed Press. I actually wrote a book prior to Stage 3 which I thought was revolutionary, but a few rejection letters forced me to look at it again with a more critical eye. It wasn’t easy, but I finally had to admit that it simply wasn’t good enough. So I started again from scratch, and a year later, that brand new book was picked up by the first publisher I sent it to. So it’s absolutely true what they say. If at first you don’t succeed….
And your latest book?
My latest book is Stage 3: Bravo, the third book in the Stage 3 series, which was released on December 1, 2018. The Stage 3 series is my take on the Zombie Apocalypse. Those books are a lot of fun to write, and I’m thrilled with how well they’ve been received. For those who aren’t zombie fans, I also have Arcadia Falls, about a town with a deadly secret, and Jitters, which tells the story of one man’s battle against his greatest fear.
Why do you write horror?
Whether it was a book or a TV show or a movie, the stories I remember most are the ones that scared me. After all, fear is a very primal emotion. It’s been with us since the beginning and it will be with us at the end. I could even argue that a healthy sense of fear is what kept us alive as a species. So if I can tap into that primal fear and spin a tale that shakes a reader right down to their bones, I know that my story will resonate for years to come. Nightmares would be great, but if something I wrote sends a shiver down someone’s spine in that brief moment between entering a dark room and clicking on the light, I’ll take that as a win.
What was the biggest writing challenge?
Commitment is such a simple word, but it implies so very much. Even at my best, it might take me a year to complete a book, and there is always a moment where I wonder if committing a year of my life to this project or that is such a brilliant idea. But when the story actually starts to come together and I know I’m onto something good, there’s no better feeling in the world.
What was the biggest editing challenge?
I do love editing, but editing often requires deletion, and that always makes me feel like I’m ripping out my own heart. I might have spent a week or more honing a passage and making it sing, only to be forced to delete the whole thing during the editing process. But here’s a tip for every writer who has a difficult time hitting that Delete key. Instead of simple deleting the words, open a new document and paste that wonderfully written but entirely unnecessary passage to a new page. Your manuscript will get the editing it needs, and you can take solace in knowing that your hard work isn’t gone forever.
How are your books published?
My first two books were published traditionally, but I’ve since fallen in love with the Indie world. Nothing beats having total control of every detail of a project from beginning to end. There are certainly challenges with self-publishing, and I’ve had to seek help along the way with things like cover design and formatting, but I can honestly say that it would take the deal of the century to get me back to traditional publishing.
You mentioned the fun of marketing, how do you market your books?
I simply try to make as many people aware of my books as I possibly can. Whether it’s book signings, or networking with libraries and book stores, or promotional giveaways, it’s all about exposure. It’s not an easy thing for an introvert to do, but it’s going very well so far.
How has social media helped you to build your author platform?
Social media is absolutely vital for a writer. Every post has the potential to reach thousands of readers, and it’s impossible to overstate the benefits of networking with other writers at every level of the game. I’ve learned a lot on social media, and I’ve made some truly cherished friends along the way.
Do you have a blog?
Yes, my blog is called Stark Reality where I offer a few writing and publishing tips amidst my ramblings. I also guest blog whenever possible, and I occasionally pop up on podcasts to discuss books and writing in general. I’m also very active on social media. There are so many incredibly talented people out there, and I wish I could tell the whole world about each and every one of them. I welcome everyone to drop by my website and have a look around. Besides a poorly-maintained blog and excerpts from all of my books, there are also a few short stories that you can download for free and share around. There’s no newsletter to sign up for, and I try to post a new short story every few weeks, so come on by and have a look.
How do you measure your success?
It’s easy to watch numbers rise and fall, but I don’t measure success in my Amazon ranking or how many books were sold this week or this month or this year. Success on any given day might be a good review, or hearing from a new reader who enjoyed one of my books, or being asked to do an interview by such an esteemed author as GJ Stevens. It means that out of an infinity of things I might be doing wrong, I’m also doing something right, and that ain’t bad.
Thank you Ken for talking with me today. I wish you well with the continued success of the Stage 3 books and the rest of your writing. You can check out Ken’s website at www.kenstark.ca, follow him on Twitter and Facebook and all his books are available via his Amazon Author Page.
If you like nightmarish settings, reluctant heroes, and action-packed adventures, then you’ll love my spine-chilling novel, In The End which is also available from Amazon!