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Interview with Keith Blenman

Not all fiction is easily categorized. While most writers focus on a certain genre or archetype, there are some who swim against established norms to create something both familiar and fresh. Indie author Keith Blenman’s fiction bends genre to the point of breaking. His writing is whimsical, visceral, epic in scope, and intimate. Sometimes all at once. 

His love stories are action-packed. His tales of horror are hilarious. He comes to us from Detroit, Michigan, where he’s currently writing two series. One, is a meditation on life and religion in a fantasy world, The Vecris. The other, campy horror stories are ripe with social commentary, is Roadside Attraction.

Q.1 Tell us something about yourself that not many people know?
Well, as long as this interview is going out to the entire Internet, I should take the opportunity to point out that I’m single. Not many people seem to notice that about me. Especially when I’m out in the world, eating alone. Or not holding hands with someone at the park. It could be you, the Internet. You wouldn’t even have to try hard.

Q.2 What inspired you to write The Vecris series?
I barely remember. It’s been so long. I wrote the original outline twenty-three years ago. The Vecris started as a single fantasy novel about a small band discovering an evil king’s plot to usurp their god. I was nineteen so I’m sure some of the inspiration was from Final Fantasy games and 90s anime. 

I never finished the book but the world kept growing. Now, once finished, it’s going to be a series of ten to twelve books. Each tale is a stand-alone adventure. The stories are interlinked by the ages and lore of their world, plus little hints and mysteries leading to the overall villain’s secret plot.

Q. 3 Are we going to read more from you in the near future? Any new project you’re working on?
I’ve recently started releasing new Vecris books a chapter at a time on Kindle Vella. There are two stories, Reaper and Dark Days in Kalska Gray that sort of play off each other. Some of the characters overlap. Plot threads in one book add substance to the events in the other one. So I’m writing them together. 

I also started a comedy series set in the same world, Tales of Lythia. While most of the Vecris books are grimdark or have fantasy-horror elements, Tales of Lythia is inspired by twisted comedy series like Aqua Teen Hunger Force or Sealab 2021. Odd, twisted humor in bite-sized doses. It’s the day-to-day life of a castle guard in a small, strange kingdom.

Q.4 What is the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
I used to have this issue where all the female characters would only say the line, “I have a vagina.” No matter what the scene called for. A dragon attacks the city. “I have a vagina.” The serial killer is discovered to be Old Mister Bunton from the mill. “I have a vagina.” The missing war hero returns home to find his wife pregnant. He demands to know how this happened. “I have a vagina.”

Really, any time you develop a character from a different walk of life, the responsibility is to write with authenticity. To write better characters of the opposite sex or another race, I recommend two things. 

First, read works by people who represent what you’re trying to create. Second, make sure your pool of beta readers includes those who can speak for that walk of life. If your protagonist is a black gay woman, your beta readers shouldn’t exclusively be white cis men. You want to surround yourself with readers you can learn from.

Q.5 Do you plan out your books before you start writing, or do you just write and see where it takes you?
I’ve always been more of a plotter. Before I start writing, I like to have a good sense of where the story is headed and why. I’ll write little essays about the themes and imagery I want to explore, then build the characters and plot around those ideas. If I’m going to kill a character, I like to have a sense of when it happens and how it pushes the narrative forward.

Q.6 How long on average does it takes you to write a book?
Too long! A few years. My books are usually quick reads too. I just don’t have a lot of time to write. I recently quit one of my jobs to make more time for my fiction, so hopefully, I’ll be able to publish more often.

Q.7 What’s your writing schedule while working?
I usually try to do a bit of writing in the morning before work, which amounts to a paragraph or two with my coffee. Then I typically get a few good hours on the weekend.

Q.8 How many books have you written? Which one is your favorite?
I have two novels in The Vecris Series, Necromantica and The Girl Drank Poison. There’s also a side story, Whisper, which takes place a couple of years before Necromantica. I’m releasing the next few books in the series a chapter at a time on Kindle Vella. Tales of Lythia and Reaper have a few chapters up. The next book, Dark Days in Kalska Gray will have a few chapters posted in the near future.

My other series, Roadside Attraction has two novellas, Siren Night and Tramp Stamp Vamp. Those are more urban fantasy and horror comedies. I also have a few other novelettes available. I also have a few novelettes and sci-fi stories out there. 

I wouldn’t ever pick a favorite. It sort of depends on my mood. I listened to The Girl Drank Poison audiobook recently on a road trip. It’d been a while so it was fun to revisit. I love Shanese Reyes’s reading. She brings the characters to life. Her voice for the deranged, immortal ferret, Griever, is so perfect.

Q.9 Do you try to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I think my originality is sort of an expectation from readers. I play and experiment. I bend genres. I screw around with language. I challenge people. Mostly I’m just in my little corner of the sandbox, sculpting whatever catches my attention at the moment and my readers seem to enjoy that about me.

Q.10 Is it vital to get exposure and target the right readers for your writing, tell us about your marketing campaign?
Yeah, it’s vital. The shotgun blast announcements about your book to nobody specific really aren’t going to get you anywhere. Building and cultivating an audience takes time. You’ll gain more traction by sharing your work with people already interested in your genre. Even then, you need to be diligent in frequently sharing and discussing your work. There are a million other authors and forms of entertainment out there. It’s a full-time job just trying to make your books stand out above everything else.

Q.11 If you could be a member of any fantasy race, which would you choose and why?
Can I be a balrog? I was initially thinking elf would be fun. You know, pointed ears and all. But if I can go with any fantasy race, why not be a huge beast born of shadow and flame? I’d have to take some bridge-crossing lessons but then I’d be unstoppable.

Q.12 If you could invite one character to dinner from your books, who would it be and why?
Horace from The Girl Drank Poison. He lived a fascinating life that I really only touched on in that book. As much as I could for a story that takes place over a single day. In his younger days, he was a pirate and adventurer. He grew to be a family man and shopkeeper. If you caught him on the right day, he’d have a lot of cool stories to tell and plenty to say about life.

Q.13 What three things can a reader expect from your books?
As an author who’s built a reputation for genre-bending and being experimental, hopefully, they’re not expecting anything. Comedic grimdark with epic action sequences and light social commentary? Let’s go with that.

Q.14 Among all the supporting characters in your books, who is dear to you and why?
Every bartender in my books is based on my old college roommate, Nate. He appears in three books so far, always serving drinks. He may not always survive the story, but he’s bound to turn up in another.

Q.15 Who designed your book covers? How do you select them?
I recently updated my book covers using Midjourney, one of the AI art bots. It was a difficult decision. I’d previously used art by friends and local artists. I loved their art but my books weren’t selling. I finally caved and decided to try a refresh. So far so good.

Q.16 How do you select the name of your characters?
There’s usually some meaning layered into the characters’ names. My necromancer, Mornia, has a name that sounds like mourning for death and funerals, but also morning as in “good morning!” I can get a bit punny, but I enjoy names that inform the reader.

Q.17 Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good or bad ones?
I read them. I tend to share the good ones and beat myself up over the bad ones.

Q.18 Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
I’m pretty content enjoying famous people from a distance. I’d rather toss two famous people together and be a fly on the wall for their conversation. For example, what would happen if we sat Chuck Yeager and Gertrude Stein together at the same table? If I were to meet either of them I’d just gush over their careers. If they were to meet each other, they’d be the strangest besties ever.

Q.19 Are there any new books or authors in science fiction or fantasy (or both!) are you excited about? What are you reading right now?
More people need to start reading fiction by Harry Campion. He’s engrossing. He’s phenomenal. I think I’ve read his tale The Heartsmith’s Daughters at least five times. You really need to check him out. As for what I’m reading now, I’m on a bit of a Norse mythology kick so I’m conveniently starting Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman.

Q.20 Share the experience of your writing journey so far?
I think I just did.

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