As most of you know, I’m guest signing at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore at 7pm on Friday night. As I’m sharing the event with fellow mystery author, Andrew E Kaufman, I figured I should know something about him. What I learned is impressive:
Andrew E. Kaufman is an award winning author living in Southern California, along with his Labrador Retrievers, a horse, and a very bossy Jack Russell Terrier (who, incidentally, thinks she owns the place). His new novel, While the Savage Sleeps, a forensic paranormal mystery, broke out onto four of Amazon’s bestsellers lists, taking the number one spot on two of them and third place on their Movers and Shakers list. It is currently available on Kindle, trade paperback, and other e-book formats. He’s also written stories for the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, the most recent of which is due out later this year.
After receiving his journalism and political science degrees at San Diego State University, Andrew began his writing career as an Emmy-nominated writer/producer, working in San Diego, then in Los Angeles. For more than ten years, he produced special series and covered many nationally known cases, including the O.J. Simpson Trial.
JEN: You worked for many years as a broadcast journalist, but your path took a very sudden shift. What made you leave, and why did you decide to write fiction?
AK: Yes, it’s true. in my “other life” I was in television news, and while I enjoyed the work, I felt my creative needs weren’t being met. I’ve never been one to color inside the lines, and that sort of atmosphere is as rigid as it gets. Writing 10-15 second news blurbs just wasn’t cutting it for me anymore–especially with a mind as wildly imaginative (read: twisted) as mine. There, it’s just the straight facts and nothing else. But I remember writing news stories and thinking: “Wouldn’t it be great if he …” or “What if instead of ….” you get the idea.
Of course, life is, in fact, stranger than fiction, and I did get the chance to see it all. But that only fueled my craving. I still wanted to write, but I seemed to be struggling with my inner voice–it was telling me to move on and try something else. Fiction seems to work for me. Now, the story can be whatever I want it to be. I get to have fun, make stuff up—something that would have never been tolerated in news. I get to write on my own terms–not someone else’s. It’s a very freeing feeling.
Jen: What kind of research did you do for While he Savage Sleeps?
AK: I did a lot of it. Of course, the thing that always gets people’s attention was my trip to the autopsy room. I wanted those chapters to feel real for the reader. It’s the subtle nuances that often bring you into a story and make you feel as if you’re right there. That’s what I wanted–not the sanitized version you often see on TV. Of course, I realized that simply Googling “autopsy” wasn’t going to do the trick–that’s the journalist in me, I suppose. I still like to go out in the field and experience what I’m writing about. That, and I feel it’s my duty as an author to be as genuine in my story telling as I can. The readers deserve that, and anything less would be short-changing them. Besides, mystery fans these days are savvy. They know a lot about forensics and can spot a phony when they see it.
Of course, everyone wants to know what it was like, and my answer is that it was thoroughly nauseating. I mean, I was standing over a corpse and staring at all the inner plumbing. Not pretty–especially with the medical examiner handing me each organ as he removed it. Although that didn’t particularly please me–to say the least–I have to admit that as a writer, it was one of the most valuable experiences of my career. I mean, lets face it: as a suspense writer, one never knows when they may need to throw a disembodied organ into the story– a liver her, a kidney there; it’s all grist for the mill, as they say. But kidding aside, I don’t think those scenes would have felt as real as they did had I not gone through the experience.
Jen: How important are your characters to you and how do you allow them to develop?
AK: My characters are the most important part of the story–they own it. It’s their world, not mine. I see my role as the medium or conduit, the one who gets it all onto paper. I try to leave my personal feelings and emotions out of it–they only interfere and confuse things. It’s the characters that matter and I find that the more I stay out of their way, the more spontaneous and real the story becomes. Strong, self-evolved characters are the glue that holds a novel together–without that, things will fall apart in a hurry. So to answer your question (in far fewer words), I try to get into the characters heads to drive the story forward using their individual perspectives. I build an emotional bridge to them and then let them take it from there. The comment I get most often from my readers is that the characters seem to stay with them longer after they’ve finished the book. To me, that’s one of the best compliments I can get–it tells me that I did my job right.
Jen: Because of the success you had with While the Savage Sleeps, do you feel pressure to do a sequel?
AK: Yes and no. I get a lot of emails from people asking when the next part of “the series” will be out, and I sort of cringe because there isn’t one. After I finished the book, I moved right on to my next, a stand-alone novel that was in fact very different. I still plan to release it later next year, but I’ve toyed with the idea to alternate my stand alone novels with a Savage Series. This way, at least I won’t feel boxed in as much. Ideas have been coming to me, so I think there’s plenty of material to keep it going. It just may take a bit.
Jen: Which kind of writer do you consider yourself: Structured or Intuitive?
AK: I’m a fly-by-the-seat- of-my-pants sort of writer, all the way, absolutely. Outlines seem to dampen my creative process. I’ve never been a structured thinker– I’m all over the place, all the time. So really, why would my books be any different? Like I mentioned earlier, I allow my characters to write the stories. Being structured would completely undermine that process. For me, a novel should be multi-dimensional, unexpected, and fresh. Being too structured, simply by it’s nature gets in the way of that. Besides, in the past when I’ve tried using an outline, it’s proved futile because the story changes too quickly.
Jen: Can you tells us what makes While the Savage Sleeps unique?
AK: It’s different in that it mixes two sort of odd bedfellows: forensic science and the paranormal. You don’t often the two elements in a crime-solving team, but somehow it, seemed to work. Cameron Dawson is the down to earth, play-it-by- the-book detective, and Kyle Bancroft is his polar opposite. The two characters seem to compliment one another, and the end result is a novel that goes a different route than many others. Also, people who read the book tell me it tugs at just about every emotion: It’s scary, funny, suspenseful, romantic, and packed with powerful emotion. Something for everyone, I guess.
Excerpt From While the Savage Sleeps:
Slowly, Kyle eased her way out of bed, gun at her side, padding softly toward the door. Using her other hand, she turned the knob just enough to disengage it from the jamb, then pulled it open a crack so she could peer through.
The hallway was empty.
She moved on to the foyer, treading lightly, concentrating on every step, her senses heightened, her mind on high alert.
Suddenly, Kyle heard commotion coming from the living room downstairs and froze. She walked to the edge of the staircase, looked down, and drew a steadying breath.
When she reached the bottom of the steps, she immediately felt the air turn frigid. She’d wandered into a patch of ice-cold air so chilly that it turned her breath to steam as it left her mouth. A wave of goose bumps wriggled up her arms; still, she moved on.
But not quickly or easily. Along with the chill, a commanding resistance penetrated the air — something thick, soupy — and the harder she pushed against it, the stronger it seemed to become, like trying to defy a powerful water current. Laboring with each step, she struggled her way through it.
Kyle had experienced this phenomenon before but never to such an extreme. Cold spots, she remembered, an indication of energy from a lingering, paranormal presence.
Slowly, she lowered the gun down by her side, knowing it would do her no good — you can’t shoot the dead. She put the weapon away in a drawer and headed toward the living room.
Turning the corner, Kyle had the uneasy feeling that someone was standing directly behind her. She spun around, but saw nothing. Still, she couldn’t shake the intense impression of another’s presence.
A loud crash interrupted the thought, but it wasn’t coming from anywhere near her; it was coming from up near her bedroom.
Kyle looked toward the top of the staircase, then back down and across the living room. Noises were coming from all over the house. First upstairs, then downstairs, now upstairs again. She was chasing ghosts, chasing her fears, and getting nowhere.
Anger replaced fear as Kyle turned to climb the steps again, but upon reaching the top, her emotions quickly changed. She stared with disbelief at her bedroom door.
Closed. She knew she’d left it open.
But that wasn’t all — the doorknob was cold to the touch, icier than a tombstone in the dead of winter. Before Kyle could turn it, the door swung out violently, slamming against the wall and producing a thundering crash. Startled but determined, she stepped forward, peered into her bedroom.
And saw nothing.
But she felt something: a hard slap across her face. She screamed, then heard more noise off in the distance, the sound of bells, hundreds of them. The sounds quickly graduated until finally reaching ear-shattering intensity.
Kyle finally gave in to her panic. Things were moving too fast. She didn’t know where to look or what to do next.
All of a sudden, the bells cut out at the same time, and there was complete silence.
Before she could gather her thoughts, she heard a child screaming, followed by a cold, tingling sensation that felt like icy water on her spine. Something, or someone, had just passed through her body. She had an idea who it was.
Kyle swung her head toward the window; it was wide open, although she knew she’d closed it earlier, and even though the wind was blowing in, the curtains were blowing out.
Just then, a powerful gale picked up speed and barreled toward her, lifting furniture inches from the floor, then slamming it down forcefully and violently. Things were falling off shelves; others did worse, flying across the room, one book missing her by inches as she dropped to the floor.
A brutal storm was raging inside her bedroom, inside her house. Determined to get to the window, Kyle picked herself up and pushed forward, struggling against the wind, the noise. When she finally got there, she caught the curtains with her hands and pulled them inside; as soon as she did, all the commotion instantly came to an abrupt halt. The air was as calm as could be.
Kyle stood silent, gazing out at the bottomless night, wondering what she’d just experienced, and why. She closed the window and the drapes.
Then she crawled back into bed, burrowing beneath the covers and closing her eyes. But only for a few seconds. She jumped when she felt her toe pressing against slimy, cold flesh.
Someone was in her bed with her.
She screamed, swung her head to the right, and found a pair of flat, listless eyes staring back, only inches from hers.
The small child lay right beside her, on her back, head turned toward Kyle, stringy, filthy hair clinging to her skin like wet, muddy grass. Kyle was peering into the eyes of a corpse.
She jumped from the bed and screamed, “What do you want?”
The girl gave her the answer, coldly, impassively, and with only two words: “Help me.”