Ken Stark Interview

Ken was born in the Canadian prairies, but has called Vancouver home for most of his life. He was raised on a steady diet of science fiction and disaster movies, so it seems right that his first published novel be about the zombie apocalypse. In his spare time, Ken tries to paint like Bob Ross and play poker like Doyle Brunson, but results suggest that he might have got it all backwards.

What inspired you to write?
I wish I could come up with a specific moment, but I don't remember a time when I wasn't making up stories in my head or jotting them down on paper. The 60s were a golden age of weirdness, what with guys like Serling, Kubrick and Hitchcock running the show. Throw in a nightly dose of mayhem from Vietnam, a bit of good old-fashioned societal upheaval and little gem called Mutual Assured Destruction, and somewhere out of that mix, an overactive imagination was born.

Was your inspiration sudden, or did it take time?
The inspiration was always there, but the talent was severely lacking, at least in my younger years. It didn't take too many rejection slips from publishers to leave a bad taste in my mouth, so for the next 30-plus years, I wrote only for myself. Then the time came when I finally felt confident enough to try it again, and what do you know, success! but I'm glad I waited. When I reread what I wrote even ten years ago, there's nothing there I'd want anyone to see.

Did you use an outline, or just write your story from start to finish?
I have a clear idea in my mind of the story I want to tell, but I don't write a detailed outline. I find that the story flows far more organically without one, and quite frankly, adhering to a rigid outline makes writing seem too much like work. And after a lifetime of punching a clock, the last thing I want is to make the thing that I enjoy most in life seem like work.

Do you work alone, or get encouragement from family and friends?
I work alone, but I'm not above using my friends and family quite shamelessly. Most often, I'll just slip something into a conversation to see what kind of response it elicits and take it from there, but I have at least one friend who is always anxious to read my latest work and isn't afraid to rip my heart out and stomp it into the ground if it isn't good enough. And honestly, that's the best kind of friend a writer can have.

What was the most difficult part of writing your book?
Editing. Definitely, the editing. We all know that if a passage doesn't advance the story or explain a character's motivation, it has no place in the book, but it's tough to let things go. That passage might represent weeks of labour and fine-tuning, agonizing over every word and every comma. But as heart-rending as it is, if it has to come out, it has to come out.

What was the most enjoyable aspect of writing your book?
I love that moment when a character refuses to say what I want them to say, or do what I want them to do. It means that I've done something right, so yay for me, but it's also the moment when I begin to truly enjoy spending time with that character. From that point on, I can't wait to dispense with reality and get back into that other world.

After the book was published, were you changed?
I wasn't changed as a person, but knowing that someone thought my scribblings were good enough to put their money behind made decades of self-doubt vanish in an instant. Instead of being a guy who liked to write, I could finally call myself a writer.

Have you received any awards for your book(s)?
Not yet, but that is so far down the list of concerns that it doesn't even register. Sure, I'd love the bragging rights, but I can't even begin to imagine anyone thinking that my humble offerings might be the best of their genre. If Stephen King is the literary equivalent to a Big Mac and fries, I'd be quite happy being the day-old McNugget wedged behind the deep fryer.

Are you working on a new book at the moment?
I have a pet project called Arcadia Falls that's been forced to the back burner for far too long, so I'm going to focus on giving it one final polish, then I'll probably jump right back into the Stage 3 world to see what Mack and Mace have been up to.

What strategies do you use to deal with criticism?
I wish I could say that I don't care what anyone thinks of me or my writing, but that would be a lie. Of course, I want everyone to cherish every single word I put to paper. Every writer does. But I know that everything happens on a bell curve, so for everyone who loves my work, there's someone else who'll hate it. I actually had my very first horrible review just recently, and far from being dissuaded, I saw it as a rite of passage. All I could think was that someone was passionate enough about what I wrote to take the time to publicly despise it.

Favorite book?
The Complete Sherlock Holmes. I could probably recite most of it by heart, but it's always nice to spend time with an old friend.

What’s something about you that would surprise us?
I'm quite an avid painter, and far from the ghosts and ghouls and creepy things one might expect, I paint mostly landscapes. Meadows, flowers, ocean waves, sea turtles….. Not a zombie in the bunch! At least not yet….