Friday, 8 September 2017

Interview with Gus Kenney

As promised yesterday, Gus Kenney has joined me to answer some questions about his writing, and himself.

Hi Gus, welcome to Just Books.
Would you like to kick off by telling us a little about yourself?
Never much to tell. I live in Western New York with my wonderful and talented wife and our 3 dogs. I spend much of my time trying to fix locomotives and the rest of it trying to fix our old farm house. Anything left is spent writing.

When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
I realized it in about seventh or eighth grade or at least that is when I decided I wanted to do that over all other dreams I had. So far it was the right call as I'm too oblivious to be a detective, too out of shape to be a pro wrestler, and too bad at confrontation to be a director.

What are the hardest and easiest parts of being a writer?
The easiest part of being a writer is coming up with ideas. I have more ideas than I could possibly ever have time to write books for. I sometimes wish I could shut the factory, from which they spring, down as when multiple ideas for one story keep coming up that drastically change the plot, it becomes difficult to pick and choose.
The hardest part for me is having to put myself out there. Technically, it is my book out there but in a sense that is part of me, so it feels like I'm the one sitting on the Amazon website recommending 'hey, others who bought those plaid beanbags also bought me.'

Describe what your ideal writing space looks like.
Basically what I have now, only cleaner. A simple desk, a computer, headphones on my head, a cold can of NOZ, a stuffed turtle I named Tonberry, and a skeleton wearing a Hawaiian shirt sitting with a clay figurine of my old therapist. Yeah, that's how I get it done!
Complications of Being Lucy is a YA fantasy. What draws you to fantasy? Would you write other genres?
I have always been drawn to fantasy. I think it started with watching movies about King Arthur and Red Sonja and then I saw a book cover that looked kinda the same. After that, it became the only thing I really cared to read. I got stuck at one point, entirely by accident, reading only books that had Sword somewhere in the title. I think it provides a level of escape not found in other genres. The author either creates entire worlds and myths to fall into or makes magic possible in this world.

I would like to dabble in Sci-Fi as that is my next favorite genre to read, but that requires a level of commitment I'm not ready for.

What inspired the series...?
It started with the name Lucy Bison which I'm still convinced I saw somewhere else but have found no proof of beyond a zoo down south. After that, a short walk and a song (I'll say it was something by Emilie Autumn because I love her music over who I was actually listening to) made several stray threads of other story ideas come together. It was a lot of turning creatures typically despised and neglected into the heroes and then the Complications of Being Lucy was born into what it now is.

And do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just to see where an idea takes you?
I work to a general outline first. My sister in law hooked me up with this thing with 3x5 cards and I start with what they provide, but once I get into it and the natural, and I hate to use this word, organic behavior of the characters takes over, the plot can change a little. I usually will follow the unexpected thread for awhile and if I feel it still presents the best possible story I keep it. If not it gets scrapped.
Traitor's Niece was a fine example of this. I deleted about a third of the book throughout the entire process of writing it. Pages upon pages were created and ultimately wiped from existence. Somewhere, in some parallel Lucy-verse, Commander Bothery is still picking on Frankie, but not in the world the rest of the world knows.

Do you develop characters from your personal experiences or draw from that of others?
Both. Lucy is predominantly made up of my wife's attributes and experiences, and her actions follow what she might do in a particular situation. Most of the supporting characters come from my life and my experiences. The family especially so, but as I have reassured her several times, none of them are based on my mom.

Give us some insight into Lucy. What makes her special?
What makes Lucy special is something I can't reveal yet as it is something that will be revealed in time, or already figured out by a few clever readers. What I can say is she is someone who you would want on your side, because despite how much she protests and keeps people at a distance, she is loyal to those that have earned her trust. She has a big heart but keeps it guarded. She is also independent and, I feel this is the best thing about her, a smart ass.

Can you tell us about the covers and how they came about?
The covers came about from a jumble of half formed ideas in my head that my wife expended her talents to bring to reality. I've been told The Changeling and the Cupboard is boring, but that just goes to prove the old can't judge a book by its cover.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
That is a tough one. I know when I was a kid and running over the backwoods and hills of home (sounds like the start of a country song) and playing at the adventures me and my best friend came up with, I was reading a lot of David Eddings and Fred Saberhagen. 
The Malloreon was the first fantasy series I read and that probably broke me in the sense that any idea I come up with for a book eventually evolves into more than one book and ultimately a series. Saberhagen's Dracula and Swords books were also highly influential on me at that age. 
I eventually stumbled across Terry Pratchett and he concluded my education in the ways of fantasy. Three great authors that I will never be able to thank.

Do you remember the first book you read?
There Are Rocks in my Socks Said the Ox to the Fox by Patricia Thomas, but if you mean like a real book without pictures, the earliest I can think of that weren't choose your own adventure was Bunnicula by Deborah and James. I guess vampires were a theme too growing up.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Spend time with my wife and dogs. Watch cartoons, play video games. Think about the next time I'm going to write and what. It is an exciting life I lead.

Are you an early riser or a night owl?
Both given the day. I have to be up way too early for the 9 to 5 which actually starts at 6 and that happens 4 days out of the week. As that has been going on for over 6 years, it starts to happen naturally on the days off. Even if I wanted to sleep in the dogs insist on maintaining their bathroom schedule and get me up anyway. 
On my days off I strive to stay up to take advantage of every second of freedom I have. This can result, especially on nights I write, in being up till 3, 4, or 5 am. Combined it all equals out to a lot of naps over the weekend.

What foreign country would you most like to visit?
Scotland and Ireland. I've always had an interest in the Celts and their mythology. The land looks beautiful and I'm descended from a big clan over there.

What did you do this summer?
I don't think I ever had to answer that question in school. Spent one fun weekend at the lake with my extended family getting reconnected with them all while having to say goodbye to others. There is a To Do list on the board behind me and it has not dwindled down so I guess the answer would be Not Much but I will be making up for that in the next few weeks.

When was the last time you walked for more than an hour?
5k for the Arkport Summerfest! I actually finished it in under an hour but I walked around town for a little bit because I got there way too early and was feeling anxious. On the plus side I was able to hit a few streets that weren't on the normal route so I could scope the yard sales before the early birds got to them.

What is your favourite holiday?
Halloween of course. Besides the candy and the fact that it is Autumn, the chance to become something else for one night is liberating and entertaining. It is always fun to play dress up and run around like a little kid and no holiday does that better than Halloween. Not to mention seeing the creativity of others as they dress up and make something monstrous come to life is amazing to behold.

So, how did you celebrate last Halloween?
I dressed up as Constantine, jumped a bale fire, ate some candy. The usual.

When did you last cry in front of another person?
Yesterday with my wife. I cut the chain off the tree that our old dog used to be hooked too. Hit me harder than I expected. Still miss the little pup.

Tell us about your pets.
My wife and I are owned by three mutt pups. We were only supposed to have one of this particular batch as they were from her sister's litter, but the guy who I was talking to about taking two of them couldn't make it happen. And after they were lost in the woods for a week when they were only a few weeks old themselves, we couldn't bring ourselves to put them in another strange or frightening place. So we keep them at our strange and frightening place.

You’re stranded on a desert island and you can take three people who would they be and why?
Dave Canterbury, Dick Strawbridge, and John Littlefield.
One of the few reality survival shows I actually watched and enjoyed starred these three men, so I figure I'll either make it out alive or die laughing.

Who is your favourite actor?
Bruce Campbell. I don't think I need to say more. If you don't know who this is, I pity the life you have lead as it has clearly been a sad and unfulfilled one. I would say go out and watch Army of Darkness or Brisco County Jr. but then you would realize that years of your existence have been a bleak shell and you might not forgive yourself or friends and family for depriving you of experiencing the man's talent (and chin). The uneducated venture forth at your own peril. To those in the know, I say simply: Groovy!

Were you ever in a school play?
I was in several in grade school. Catholic school made every grade put on a short presentation for Christmas. I'm fairly sure every grade did the nativity scene, every year. I felt bad for the audience as it must have been boring as hell seeing the same story playing over and over all night to varying degrees of success.
I tried to stick to roles that had no singing or speaking at all. I remember being a wise man a few times which just meant a bathrobe tied with one of my dad's ties and that was it. Just walk in, say what I brought for the kid, and stand there until I was over.

When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
I sing to myself all the time. Usually a twisted version of some well-known song with lyrics about what I am doing or about to do. I can't think of how many times I have sung about feeding the dogs to Sentimental Journey.
As for singing to another that would be a week ago during family game night. There were many songs sung as we were playing Encore. If you don't know what that game is, you should find it and get it immediately. Like Quelf it is one of the funnest board games you will ever play.

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained one quality or ability, what would it be?

The ability to immediately have the images I have in my head appear in clear, creative, written form on the computer screen. Somehow between my brain and my fingers what I want to type gets confused or lost. I'm not just talking the occasional typo like changing and to nad, but it doesn't always play the same on paper as it does in my mind and I would love to fix that. Also, it would be perfectly edited which would also save time.

Thank you for taking time out to visit with us today, Gus.

If you'd like to know more about Gus and his books, all the links are on yesterdays spotlight.


  1. Thank you for this wonderful opportunity!

  2. The fact that Bruce Campbell is your favorite actor tells your fans a lot about you. All good, of course.
    Great interview. I feel like I truly know you!