Sunday, August 28, 2011

Karl Kronlage, St. Peter Killed God



I'm truly lucky to have the wonderful Karl Kronlage on my blog today. You might know him as the winner of Slushpile Reader's first publishing contract. Congratulations, Karl! And not only is he a talented author, he's a heck of a nice guy, and I'm excited to give you guys a glimpse into his world...

JLD: Welcome, Karl!

KK: Thanks for having me!

JLD: So Karl, What inspired you to write your book?

KK: The first short story I wrote in 1989 won an award. It was about a little kid who cried all the time. A couple of people told me how they really liked it but I thought I could do better. So I started writing about a pathetic child who got picked on by his brother and sister, his friends, and teacher and cried all the time only this time I felt it was much better than that story I wrote in college. Then I started thinking, hmmm, how what would this kid be like as an adult? I started molding Father Peter after I had written all this background and eventually I used the scenes I was writing as part of the sermons he preached. But it really all began by trying to write a novel about a child. That and poems about what it was like working in a psychiatric hospital. I sort of fused the two stories together and added a third element.

JLD: How long did it take you to write it?

KK: Well as you can imagine, having two stories and trying to create a third and making them all related was sort of like having a gig saw puzzle. Some elements didn’t fit and had to be thrown out. Others created. Poetry turned into prose. That was 2000-2001 and I went part-time to complete it and I liked the way things turned out only no one else did. I tried to query agents and got no bites. So I hired a writing coach who published a novel and taught creative writing for masters of fiction degrees in California. He sent a twenty page email outlining everything that was wrong with it and suggested reading about 25 books. Some were about writing. Some were fiction related to my book in some way. I guess I’m a little slow and not naturally a very good writer. I had to learn it the hard way. I’m envious of those who do it so effortlessly. Any way, it finally clicked and I went part-time again in 2007-2008 doing several drafts. Shortly
thereafter, I put it on Authonomy and made the editors desk in less than a year. Then I put it on Slush Pile Reader. I year later they agreed to publish it and we did a little editing.

Sorry for rambling. But it’s a hard question. It took ten years to finish it, but I didn’t spend ten years writing it. I’d take years off before going back to it. I guess I’m a little slower than other writers and hopefully next time I decide to write a novel it won’t take as long.

JLD: What message are you trying to convey?

KK: I believe that different readers will get something different out of it. First and for most, I want people to be entertained. If it’s not entertaining, who cares what the message is – it’s bad writing and no one would want to read it. Second, I try to undermine arguments and let the reading feel comfortable choosing to believe what they want. I mean I really try to present a need for religion, a problem with religion, and no easy fix to make religion modern. Some readers might find Father Peter simply insane. Others have told me they’d walk out of church with Father Peter. I’m not even that bold. If I attend a mass and the priest walked out of church, I’d feel embarrassed for the priest but I don’t think I’d walk out of church in protest with him. Poor Father Peter was too deluded to realize that.

JLD: What is your intended audience?

KK: Readers. Anyone and everyone. I’d like people who are religious to read it as well as those who aren’t. I love talking to atheists, Muslims, Jews, and Christians alike about their beliefs. I hope they would find the book interesting as well.

JLD: Who are you?

KK: I’m Karl Joseph Kronlage but I go by KJ Kron. No idea why. I thought that if I went by my name, friends I knew growing up might see my name and say, “Hey, Karl’s book is out.” On the other hand, most people who have read the book on Authonomy and Slush Pile Reader simply know me as KJ Kron. I was on those websites for a couple of years and more than 1,000 people read a bit of it.

JLD: Where did you grow up?

KK: In a suburb of Washington DC on the Virginia side. Catholic family. My parents had four children. Wow, I just can’t imagine having four children. I have one and we’d like one more, but four? I don’t know how people do it. I’m such a wimp; I know I can’t do what my parents did.

JLD: What do you do now?

KK: I just finished my 15th year as an English teacher. Two of those years I went part-time twice to write Saint Peter Killed God. I used to think that having the summers off would give me enough free time to write novels, but it didn’t pan out. I have tried a couple of things that have worked. My advice to writers: work overnight. There are plenty of jobs that need overnight workers. Half-way houses. Psych hospitals. Jails. Most of those places have downtimes where you can actually bring in a laptop and write. I know; I did it for four years. It’s a great idea.

JLD: Any projects forthcoming?

KK: I wish I could retire. There are so many things I’d like to do. I’m trying to learn Spanish. I’ve been spending my summers in Spain for six years now and can only handle simple conversations. I need to study about an hour day. I’d like to get back into shape. I like to read. Oh, writing. Yes, yes, I’d love to write novels but there’s only 24 hours in a day. Is there some pill I could take that would make sleeping unnecessary? With a full-time job and a fifteen month old, I just don’t seem to be organized enough to write, other than keeping up with blogs.

JLD: Where can you get a copy of Saint Peter Killed God?





KK: You can get it at Amazon or Barnes and Noble as well as Smashwords. I don’t know how other people are doing, but getting reviews and selling books is hard. Slush Pile Reader is offering gift certificates at Amazon.com that are worth $1,00. Stop by and enter the sweepstakes. We’re still hoping it catches on. Night seems to be growing with experience and I hope everyone there continues to gain recognition.

JLD: You have been a very interesting, exciting guest to have here today. Thanks so much for joining me! And best of luck with your sales!

KK: Thanks, Jess!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Meanderings

I thought I'd go into some background information on Six Weeks, and what inspired me to do it. A lot of people have been wondering...

Six Weeks is really a very powerful story about a young woman who has nothing but difficult choices to make in life. Immy has to take care of her alcoholic, arthritic mother who has all but given up on herself and her children. A fifth of whiskey a day dulls her pain, but causes agony for Immy and her little sister Sadie.

When Immy discovers she's pregnant, the callous nurse-practitioner tells her that she's six weeks along, and that she only has six weeks to make a decision on what to do with the fetus.

What would you do in that circumstance? I have feelings and beliefs about abortion, adoption, and raising children, and I don't really want to foist them on anyone. But the question is there. A lot of people have very black-and-white beliefs regarding the subject of abortion, and I wondered what would happen if those beliefs were challenged.

It's sometimes difficult for someone who feels strongly about one thing or another to step back and reevaluate. But that's my goal for Six Weeks. I'd like to challenge readers to explore their own feelings on the subject and consider what they might do under such desperate circumstances. I think it's important to consider a subject from all sides before making a decision, and Six Weeks is a good tool for people to use to help them consider.

What would you do? Let's say you were in Immy's shoes. Do you abort the child and go on with your life to try to make it better? Do you keep the child and raise it, either in the same house with a worthless alcoholic and a little girl who needs too much? Do you birth the child only to give it away? Those are tough choices for anyone, much less a young woman with the weight of the world on her shoulders.

When I set out to write Six Weeks, I never really intended for the religious themes that are woven througthe the book to be there. But it seemed logical during my research. A lot of the "Pregnant? We can help!" places are run by churches or other religious institutions, and they offer alternatives to abortion. And really, isn't the whole pro-life/pro-choice debate theological? One of the main objections to abortion is the fact that God doesn't approve.

Really, the bottom line is that every person who may find themselves on the fence on the topic of abortion needs to consider plights from every angle. It's very hard to be logical about such an issues. Babies and pregnancy invoke strong feelings. Religion invokes strong feelings. I think, though, that it's important to consider that there is more than 1 side to every story, and unfortunately, there's not a one-size fits all solution for every young pregnant woman. I think it's important to recognize that there may not be a "right" solution; rather, there could be just one that seems less wrong than the others.

I ask that if you do run across someone in Immy's shoes, listen to her story first and judge later. Maybe the young woman won't do what you would do in the same situation, but maybe she's doing the best she can with her limited options.

And ask yourself: what would I do in her shoes?

Jess

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Six Weeks

Without further ado, Six Weeks is on Smashwords! Amazon to follow in a few days. Stay tuned!

I thought I'd share the first chapter of my latest. I hope you enjoy, and I hope you keep reading!

CHAPTER ONE
The nurse-practitioner’s voice seems to echo off the stark white walls of the exam room. I hear her, but as though through a tunnel.
“Yes, you’re about six weeks along now,” she says, removing her surgical gloves with a crisp snap and tossing them into the bright red hazardous-waste bin. She pushes away from the bottom of the table and stands, looking at me with sharp eyes and an impersonal expression.
I am naked from the waist down, an inadequate paper sheet draped over my lap. I shift and the paper crackles. I sit up because I know I should, even though my body is only responding woodenly. I cannot think. I cannot speak. I am numb.

Six weeks.

I would give anything to be able to remember how I felt before my diagnosis, before I
received the news that threatened to destroy the fragile equilibrium that has been my existence, but I cannot.
Her voice echoes around the room again as it bounces around in my head, unable to land anywhere to be absorbed. This feels surreal, straight out of a bad dream.
“Do you have any idea what your plans are?” she repeats, dispassion coloring her tone alackluster gray. She has done this more times than she cares to count, and I can hear it in her voice. To her, I am merely one more in a sea of faceless bodies, faceless carriers of more faceless bodies, a link in an unbroken chain of unwed, youthful, pregnant women, breeders of other failed children. I am legion, yet right now, I feel alone.
I simply stare at her, unsure of what she would have me say. How am I supposed to know what my plans are? How can I know?
I had suspected that something was wrong with me only last week. So, I called, made
myself an appointment, and here I was, partially nude, exposed in many ways, expected toanswer a question for which I had no answer.
I shake my head and she frowns a little. She has seen this reaction before from young
women too stupid or careless to protect themselves. She has seen this insipid stare and glassy-eyed shock. She tries another tactic, a sharp slap of reality that leaves my body stinging.
“Well, at this point, you have about six weeks to decide. A fetus can only be aborted within the first twelve weeks of a pregnancy. After that, it is neither advisable nor legal.”
I nod stiffly. She hands me some pamphlets about diet, my changing body, and the
development of the fetus. She presses some prenatal vitamins into my damp, clammy hand and advises me to get dressed and see the receptionist up front to schedule another appointment.
My feet move of their own accord; I have been dismissed. She disappears from the room
before I even pull on my jeans and reach the door.
Six weeks. It can be a long time. It can feel like an eternity, perhaps when one is pining for a distant loved one, stranded on a desert island or locked up in prison. It can be a long time to wait for a much-anticipated vacation or for the end of a school year. But how can anyone expect me to decide the fate of a little being so small that I can’t see it,can’t even feel it, in such a short time?
How can I even begin to wrap my head around that? How do I cope with being pregnant at nineteen, much less decide what I want to do about it? My eyes burn, my head begins to throb. My heart starts pounding in my chest, staccato bursts of movement that make me worry for a moment that I’ll have a heart attack.
I glance at the pamphlets in my hand as I trudge to the reception counter. The marigold yellow one has information on “alternatives” to abortion.
This clinic is a state-sanctioned facility that is authorized to perform abortions. The pink pamphlet says so. It spells out the procedure, the cost (free to low-income women like me), the potential risks and side-effects in cold, clinical language that does more to scare than to soothe.
I reach the receptionist and she glances up from her computer screen. The busy clacking of her fingers on the keyboard stops. She gives me a disapproving stare and says, “Do you need to be seen again?”
“Yes, I need to schedule another appointment.”
“What kind of appointment?”
“Excuse me?” I am perplexed. Does she not know I’m pregnant?
“A pre-natal appointment or an abortion?” Oh.
“I—I don’t know. Can’t I call you after I’ve had some time to think?”
“You don’t have much time, you know,” she says, unmoved by my plea. I’m but a link in
the chain, after all.
“I know. I’ll—I’ll call you later, ok? I need to catch the train.” She shrugs and goes back to
her typing. I am dismissed again.
As quickly as I can, I step out of the office into the bright sunshine of a fragrant May day. The flowers have just come into bloom. The delicious scent of lilac wafts in on the slight breeze. I inhale deeply, as a force of habit, just to sniff the sumptuous fragrance, and to steady myself. This moment is etched into my mind. I will always recall the smell in the air, the feel of the sunshine, warm on my bare arms, the sound of the passing traffic, a siren far off in the distance.
Like those who remember clearly where they were the day the Twin Towers fell, my traumatized subconscious is committing each miniscule detail to memory.
My world has changed. A few little words, carelessly spoken, have altered the course of my existence. They have irreparably changed the fabric of my life.
The walk to the subway does little to calm me. Although I am outwardly placid, my insides are jumping like hot embers in a fireplace. I place one foot in front of the next, trying to match my footsteps with my heartbeat, trying to slow both.
I wonder about the being inside me. There is some controversy about when a fetus becomes a child, when a glob of cells that have no distinct shape and form become human. What is inside me right now? Is it comfortable? Happy? Does it know what turmoil it has caused, simply by being discovered? By merely being?
I near the entrance to the subway, but apparently I am not walking fast enough for the dynamic go-getters on their commutes. One such businessman, a not-quite-thirty-something in a charcoal suit and shiny, tasseled loafers brushes past me rudely, jostling me a bit as he forces his way by. I shrink back, unwilling to subject myself, or the thing growing inside me, to such rude treatment. I allow the intrepid businesspeople to go first and head down into the dark tunnel only when they all have passed.
The turnstile lightly bumps my stomach as I push through it. I wonder if it can feel the pressure, if it is shaken by the force of the metal against my abdomen. Then I push the thought out of my head. I can’t think about it now, but it is all I can think about. I am at war with myself, and I don’t know what to do.
Six weeks.
The subway is crowded today with suits in various shapes and sizes, housewives and maids laden with shopping bags, women with infants strapped to their chests or their backs or with grubby hands clasped tightly to their own.
I watch the women, amazed at how commonplace it is for them to travel with their burdens.
One such woman intrigues me. She looks to be only a few years older than I, but already she is work-worn and weary. No matter how tired she appears, however, she has a gentle smile for her
little offspring, a boy of no more than five who looks up at her with such worship in his eyes it is almost sacrilegious. He smiles at his mother from his perch on the hard plastic bench and says in a little voice, “Are we almost home? I wanna play with my new ball.”
“Yes, honey, almost home. Another few minutes.”
“Ok. Can I have cookies when we get home?”
“No, you’ll spoil your dinner. We can have cookies later.”
He nods to himself, content with her answer, and passes the time until their stop by
thumping his little sneaker-clad feet against the bottom of the bench. An elderly woman looks up from her newspaper with a frown, but smiles when she sees what is causing the vibration on her seat. She must have children, or even grandchildren of her own, the way she’s looking at the little boy.
It’s hard for me to equate the little boy in front of me to the growth inside me. It’s strange to think that something that starts out so small will eventually want cookies and wear sneakers and walk and talk, that it will rely on me for its daily sustenance. Will I provide it? Can I?
I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to handle it, how to handle myself. I cannot digest the news. I cannot react. I cannot change the past, but I can change the future, if I so choose. What should I choose?
The subway lurches to a stop and I blink against the searing sun as I exit and head toward home. Only one thing is for certain in the midst of all this uncertainty: I have six weeks to make a decision.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Just stuff...



Hello!
I hope you enjoyed the author interviews featured here over the last two weeks. I'm busy rounding up more, and I'll get them posted as soon as I can. The support for these authors has been overwhelming, and I thank you all for your encouragement and praise. I thought I'd give you some updates on my books and other stuff since we have a lull in the interviews, so here goes.

Decisions is slowly picking up steam, and it currently has 2 reviews on Amazon. If anyone out there has read it, I'd love to hear from you! Let me know what you think. And thanks to those who have picked it up. Hopefully you can't put it down!



I received a flurry of communication from Diane, my wonderful publisher at Pfoxmoor/Pfoxchase Publishing regarding Six Weeks. We have selected some breathtaking images for the cover, and I cannot wait to see a mock-up. Very excited for you guys to see it too! I also went through and did another edit on Six Weeks, as we are anticipating a release for this month. If that is the case, get your tissues ready...

Hooking Up continues to do amazingly well on the Kindle Charts. I'm pleased to say that I hit my lowest amazon rank ever this past week. 150! So, all I can say is THANK YOU! Thank you all for your support and recommendations. And if it's not too much to ask, keep them coming? And due to the overwhelming response to Hooking Up, I'm pleased to announce that I'm right in the middle of a sequel! I don't want to give any details away, but there are some more changes and struggles coming for Catie, as well as an entrance, and exit, and some unexpected support.

Supermarket is also trucking right along, and I couldn't be happier. I have a soft spot for that novel because it was my first.

The Storm Within, my sexy fireman novel, is undergoing a facelift. I haven't received an answer yet from my submission July 1, so I'm busying myself polishing up the manuscript and getting it ready, should the contract come through.

I've been asked in the past how I come up with ideas for my books and how I do my research. Well, I do a lot of online research, but sometimes I have to do some field work. This picture explains...



Needless to say, I love being a writer!

I currently have another blog set up on a great site called speak without interruption. I've decided to use that blog for some random musings that may not have much to do with my books, but just life and writing in general. I'd love for you to pop over there and check it out. There are posts from amazing writers from all over the world and the range of topics is mind-boggling! The posts here will still be all about me and my author buddies. Sound good?

Hubby and I went to a Phillies game for hubby's birthday last weekend. We had a great time, although the heat was so unbearable I think we may have had a minor touch of heatstroke by the time the game was over. Whew! It was a hot one, but very, very worth it to make him happy.

I guess that's all for now. I'm mid-manuscript x 2 right now and editing another. My goal is to have at least one more book done by the end of this year. Not sure if it's doable, but it's a goal.

Have a wonderful day, and make sure to spend time with your loved ones!




Hugs,
Jess