Interview with Craig R Key, author of “A Sight Unseen”

A common misconception entwined with authors is that they are socially inept, how true is that?

It is absolutely true. I have a rather dry, sarcastic, and dark sense of humor, and most people don’t pick up on that when they first meet me. It’s actually funny how uncomfortable I make some people.

Do all authors have to be grammar Nazis?

Nein, I mean, no. Not at all. Sure, I have those certain rules I am very strict on, but sometimes the rules have to be bent in order to tell the story right.

How important is research to you when writing a book?

Very important! Extremely important! You can’t expect to tell a believable story if you know nothing about the things involved with the story. Even when I wrote A Sight Unseen, a fantasy, there were certain details I had to look up. Little details that no one else would think was that important, but small details come together to make a huge impact in your story. Nowadays, not doing research is looked upon as lazy, and it should be. We have an infinite amount of information at our fingertips. We can literally reach into our pockets and look up anything. Anything! Use it, and don’t be lazy.

When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?

In school, I always loved when the assignment was a narrative. In middle-school, I really got into embellishing a plot. The teacher would say the minimum amount of pages would be 2, and I would turn in 10 or more pages. The teacher who really encouraged me was Ms. Gotcher. She would tell me and my parents that I had a real talent. And when I got to high school, I had a teacher, Mr. Wilson, who challenged me and taught me to look further into the story. Read between the lines to see the story within the story, if you will. Even still, I wasn’t sure I wanted to write books. I was still trying to be a screenwriter. But I took a creative writing class led by a woman named Ms. Kinsey at my local community college. She published one of my short stories in a collection of prose and poetry that the school put out that year. Praise showered over me, and I thought, “what the hell, I’m gonna try to accomplish writing a whole book.” And so I did. People seemed to like it, so I keep going.

What inspires you to write?

Life. Sometimes it’s things I’ve experienced, or just the emotions I pour on the pages. Often I’ll just be sitting around thinking, “What if this happened?” A lot of those “what if” moments are forgotten or thrown out, especially the ones I thought of while inebriated, but a few of them grow into some cool stories. I rarely work on one story at a time. In fact, since my last book, I’ve been working on 4 others. This way, I can switch between them when a good idea comes up.

Writers are often associated with loner tendencies; is there any truth to that?

There is truth to the perception others have. My friends don’t understand when I tell them that I can’t go out because I need to write. They don’t get why I can’t just skip it, and come back to it later. But when the inspiration hits, you have to use it.

Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?

I set a beginning and an end, but I just let the events unfold in between those two points as I write it.

Do you proofread and edit your work on your own or pay someone to do it for you?

I get people to do it for me. If I were to do it, there would be way too many mistakes. I know what I wanted to say, so when I read it again, it makes sense to me, but maybe not to the other readers.

Have you ever left any of your books stew for months on end or even a year?

Yes. Sometimes, ideas are going to seem stale, so you need to take a break. Some breaks are longer than others, but it’s better to come back to a story with fresh ideas.

What is the most important thing about a book in your opinion?

The characters. A story can be simple, but if the characters are realistically complicated and/or relatable, you will have an audience.

What is your take on the importance of a good cover and title?

Personally, I like to keep the title and covers simple. The story will speak for itself.

Have you ever designed your own book cover?

Yes, both Counting Losses and A Sight Unseen were covers I designed. I had an artist working on the cover for A Sight Unseen, but she flaked, so I learned photoshop, and did it myself. Then I did the same for Counting Losses.

Do you believe a book cover plays an important role in the selling process?

Sure, but that doesn’t mean you should make a loud cover. A cover should only make people think, “What the hell is that?” Tweak curiosity.

Do you read and reply to the reviews and comments of your readers?

Yes, more than I like to admit. I try to be humble, but I always end up on google, trying to see if anyone is talking about me. I was psyched the first time I saw someone I didn’t know using a quote from A Sight Unseen on their twitter. Sometimes, if someone has a theory on something from one of my books, I’ll let them know if they’re onto something or way off base.

Does a bad review affect your writing?

I haven’t gotten a bad review yet, so I guess we’ll see. I know it’s coming because you can’t please everyone.

Any advice you would like to give to aspiring writers?

Get off your ass and write. Stop stalling or waiting for the perfect moment. It won’t come. You must make it happen. Take a creative writing class, but remember that you can’t learn talent. You can only learn how to focus your talent.

Which book inspired you to begin writing?

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. It was so deep, darkly funny, and written in such a unique way, I fell in love with it. I highly recommend it.

Do you read any of your own work?

Yes, but I really shouldn’t. I always find something I don’t like about it. But you have to let it go, and move on. I’m my own worst critic.

Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?

Counting Losses, my second book, actually has a lot of things that have happened to me. Not everything, but quite a bit. I’ll let you be the judge of which is which.

How realistic are your books?

Well, obviously A Sight Unseen has taken some liberties with its realism, but Counting Losses is much more in the real world. And as I’ve said quite a bit happened to me.

Is there anything you are currently working on that may intrigue the interest of your readers?

I’m working on a sequel to A Sight Unseen. It will be a new set of characters with ties to the first book.

Another misconception is that all writers are independently wealthy, how true is that?

It all depends on how many books are sold. Starting out, it certainly isn’t true. So…ya know…buy my books, please.

Is it true that anyone can be a writer?

It is not true at all. It takes talent, ambition, dedication, and an eye for detail. It’s not easy, and some people just are not cut out for it.

People believe that being a published author is glamorous, is that true?

If by glamorous they mean not much changes for you, then yes, super glamorous.

Do you like traveling or do you prefer staying indoors?

I am practically a hermit. Every once and a while I take a trip to visit a friend, but other than that, I’m inside binge watching Netflix and/or writing.

How does it feel when you don’t get the recognition you deserve?

It sucks, but you can’t write for recognition alone. You do it because you have to. Because you have something to say. A story to tell. Recognition will come later.

Have you ever taken any help from other writers?

Absolutely! Jerry Hart is a good pal of mine, and he has written way more than I have. He has helped edit both Counting Losses and A Sight Unseen.

How are your relations with your family? Do you like to stay in touch?

I’m very close with my family. They’re very supportive. Especially my mother, sister, and brother in law.

Have you received any awards for your literary works?

A Sight Unseen received the seal of approval, 5 out of 5 stars, from Readersfavorite.com.

Did you ever change sentences more than five times just because it didn’t hit the right notes?

Constantly. There are times I spend an entire day on one paragraph.

It is often said that in order to write something, you must believe in what you are writing. Do you agree with that?

Yes. It’s clear when an author doesn’t believe what he/she is trying to convey. Be honest with your audience. Even if it isn’t a popular opinion.

How big of a part does music play in creating your “zone”?

It plays a huge part in the writing process. I have to find a playlist that matches the tone of each scene. For example, the Skyrim soundtrack played a big part in helping me write A Sight Unseen.

Does any of your family members make occasional cameos in your books?

I take bits and pieces of people I know for characters. However, the mammoth boar in A Sight Unseen named Porter was based on my sister’s dog of the same name.

Is there a particular kind of attire you like to write in?

Only the most fashionable gym shorts or pajamas, of course. Just another example of the glamorous writer lifestyle.

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