Early September, Sadie Hartmann sat down with Daniel Kraus and they had the following conversation...
Night Worms: Hi Daniel, I'm here in Google Hangouts whenever you're ready
Daniel Kraus: I'm here!
NW: Hey there! Thanks so much for joining me today
DK: No problem.
NW: Just out of curiosity, what do your Mondays generally consist of?
DK: All my days are the same. Get up as early as possible, start writing, and go until I run out of gas. I basically run a one-person writing factory.
NW: And is there another job-like obligation that you need to go to each day besides your employment at this writing factory? Or is this your full-time gig
DK: It is a full-time gig.
NW: That's awesome! I did peek around online and you're SO busy! What did you write on this morning?
DK: I'm working on Book 2 of a trilogy that hasn't been announced yet. It's being announced in October.
But mostly today has been phone calls.
NW: So the details of the full trilogy will be announced in October? Is it a YA offering?
DK: It is not YA. That's all I'm going to tell you!
NW: Boo, Daniel! Hahaha. Understood. Are you also still working on the George Romero novel?
DK: It's finished, aside from copyediting. I've never had more fun writing a book before, but I'm glad it's done. It was a lot of work.
NW: For Night Worms, George Romero left an unfinished novel about Zombies and you were chosen by his estate to finish it, yes?
DK: That is correct!
NW: And how much of it was finished and how much of it is totally your own addition?
DK: It's a much harder question to answer than you'd think! It's not sequential; in other words, it's not like he wrote the first part and I wrote the second part. George's writing is present all throughout, from the first sentence to the last. My best estimate is he wrote 1/3 of the book, but that's not including the notes and other material where he plotted out where some of the book was headed.
NW: I'm so intrigued by this story, you have no idea
DK: I have some idea!
NW: I'm also calling it right now: This will get the movie treatment, I have no doubt because everything you do gets that movie ticket
DK: There are a lot of movie things happening now. Of course, I can't talk about any of it.
NW: Again I say, BOO
DK: But I'd also be remiss not to add my usual caveat: Movie deals truly have no bearing on the quality of a book. Crappy books get made into movies all the time.
NW: That is so true
DK: I've always been uncomfortable with the idea that a movie deal is some sort of prize a novel should be hoping to win. In my eyes, novels are the superior art form.
NW: Right, right. And The Shape of Water was even the reverse as it was an idea of yours that was turned into a movie and then became a book!
DK: It was always planned that way, but yes.
NW: I was on IMDB looking up all the awards that movie won and it’s staggering actually. How do you feel about its success?
DK: I love the movie, so I feel great about it! I never thought such a crazy idea would be embraced by so many.
NW: How fleshed out was your idea? Was it in manuscript form?
DK: No, not at all. It was just the basic concept of the Creature from the Black Lagoon-type creature and the woman who breaks it out and puts it in her tub.
NW: And you wanted them to fall in love?
DK: I wanted there to *be* love between them, but it was probably Guillermo who made it a romantic love.
NW: I loved it. I walked out of the theater totally filled up with the magic of it all. It's like a Beauty and the Beast story for weirdos
DK: Ha! Yes, exactly.
NW: Hey, so your newest release is Blood Sugar, yeah?
DK: Right, it comes out in a few weeks.
NW: How does a Hard Case Crime novel get written? Do they ask you or did you have an idea and you submitted it to them?
DK: I actually had a finished book, and then wondered if it might be a good fit for Hard Case Crime.
NW: I love the concept/synopsis of it so much, can you tell us where the idea came from?
DK: My best guess is that it comes from that queasy feeling I got -- and that so many of us got -- when watching a parent sift through Halloween candy as a child. I vividly remember my mom doing that. It's the first time I remember thinking, "Wait. Does that mean someone in our neighborhood wants to kill me?" It's pretty heavy, actually.
NW: My parents totally did that. And homemade shit like popcorn balls were thrown out immediately
DK: Right. I remember a brownie with suspicious white material on it getting chucked.
NW: Hahaha, right. And apples were probably injected with crack or acid
DK: One of my interests is seeing how far human sympathy can stretch -- where's the line, exactly -- so I started to wonder why someone might poison candy, and if we could ever possibly feel for that person. It's the same way I went about writing ROTTERS -- is it possible to make readers sympathize with people who rob graves, an abhorrent activity?
NW: Ooooo I like this vein of thought so much. A true aspect of horror and the sympathetic villain or antagonist. Just read a novella about a woman who becomes obsessed with vultures and eating raw meat--rotting meat...so, yep, I get that.
DK: My inclination is always to try to find beauty in the last places you'd expect. I'm a big believer of beauty in horror.
NW: Is that why you write a lot of YA horror fiction? Do you find that the beauty in horror themes go well with a younger target audience?
DK: No, I don't think that has anything to do with it. I don't really think too much of my books being Adult or YA. I just sort of write them, and then let the agents and editors figure out what to do with them.
NW: Yeah, I'm learning a lot about the industry actually, the labeling of genre and audience is primarily in their hands
DK: It's just labels. It's a way to effectively market and sell the book.
NW: Like Bent Heavens, your book coming out in 2020--has this YA label but I have read about 20 pages and I'm in love with it
DK: I've been lucky to work with YA editors who aren't afraid of anything.
NW: Not that adults can't enjoy YA but I think adults think it's not "for" them
DK: It depends on the books, right? Some YA is definitely written in a style and tone that sort of shouts out "this is for a younger reader." Other stuff, including mine, could be published for either audience.
NW: Yeah and then there are those break out books that transcend like Harry Potter and Zebulan Finch. Anyone and everyone loves those books
DK: Well, that's probably too kind.
NW: No. So I always ask authors what Netflix shows they’re currently enjoying--or if they are just too busy for TV but people like to hear what horror authors are enjoying on the screen--movies or TV actually
DK: Honestly, I don't watch much Netflix! But I watch a lot of Criterion Channel and Shudder!
NW: Oh yeah, Shudder. I'm too much of a chicken for that. What do you like on Shudder?
DK: You shouldn't be afraid. They have all kinds of horror, not only extreme stuff.
NW: I can read the most messed up and disturbing things but turn those things into a cinematic experience and I'm the world's worst scaredy-cat
DK: After decades of meaning to, I finally watched Slumber Party Massacre I and II, which are both really fun movies. I also saw Next of Kin on Shudder, a fantastic 1982 slasher that I'd never even heard of. There's a Russian film on there called Viy, which is like a 1960s fairy tale meets The Evil Dead?
NW: Oh that sounds fun! So slashers seem to be a thing you enjoy? ha
DK: Slashers actually aren't my favorite, but there are a few that blow my mind. Angst is one, which I think Shudder also has.
NW: Have you ever considered writing a Slasher?
DK: I'd have to come up with an angle that meant something to me. I was offered something not long ago -- it was an idea a production company had that they wanted to be turned into a novel -- and I turned it down because I just couldn't figure out its reason for existing. There are plenty of skilled filmmakers who can chase you with a knife. But if I'm going to write 100,000 words on it, I need to feel it more deeply, figure out why the world might have a use for it, understand the metaphors, all that.
NW: I think it’s cool that you said "Its reason for existing" that's a powerful criteria
DK: There's nothing wrong with pure entertainment. The aesthetics can be everything. Like, what is MANDY saying that's so original? But it's an amazing fucking film that just makes you *feel*, purely through its artistic choices. It just comes down to appetite. Some people really love a certain thing. They could read a certain kind of mystery novel one after another, or only watch Lifetime movies, and that is totally cool -- you have to love what you love. But for me, I want constant change and challenge.
NW: I 100% agree. Hey, I have to ask you. I saw this Tweet of yours the other day about IT chapter 1 and that you weren't the biggest fan, want to expand on that? I was just curious and Twitter has that word count so I didn't ask...
DK: Man, do I love that IT exists. I don't think there's been a horror movie with that big of a budget that's been anywhere near as successful. (Though I think people slept on A Cure for Wellness, which was a big, giant horror movie that's really great.)
NW: (I need to see that)
DK: But it's not really for me, I guess? My tastes tend to fall on the odder, smaller, more dramatically focused side. But IT has spectacular moments.
NW: Like THE ENDLESS. Did you see that?
DK: I did! Yeah, I tend to like things with rougher edges.
If you made it in your basement, I'm probably going to love it.
NW: Nice. I think a lot of people would agree. Real quick before I let you go,
You have Blood Sugar in October
Bent Heavens in Feb
and the Romero zombie book is summertime?
DK: The Living Dead in June
The first book of the mystery trilogy in October 2020
And then another secret project in 2020 to be revealed soon.
NW: Jeeze, it's a great time to be a Daniel Kraus fan! How exciting
DK: It's a weird confluence of books that are so different from one another that they can all come out in close proximity.
NW: And it just speaks to your wide range of talent! A man of different voices, genres and stories
DK: I'll take the compliment!
NW: Thanks so much for letting me have this hour with you
DK: Of course, anytime!