I read and adored Julie Kazimer’s murder mystery Dope Sick: A Love Story (link to my review here). What impressed me the most was that she did something I could never do: created a true murder mystery that for me at least was really hard to solve. I love that. I love to be kept guessing in a book. Now, I find that she has written many other books, all of which look very interesting. Please, to find links to all of the Kazimer books mentioned here, go to her Amazon page here. Also, here is her website and blog: http://www.jakazimer.com J.A. Kazimer Blog – More than a Little F***ed Up
Wow, my interest in you is from reading and loving your murder mystery Dope Sick, A Love story. However, though, when preparing for this interview I saw that you are quite prolific. I’m not sure if I even have a complete list of all the books that you have published or are about to publish. Is this accurate: The Junkie Tales, The Body Dwellers, CURSES! A F***ed-Up Fairy Tale, Sex With a Shooting Star, New Never News, Stolen Kidneys, Dead Hookers, and Other Nursery Crimes, Holy Socks & Dirtier Demons, Dope Sick: A Love Story, Shank, FROGGY STYLE as well as the forthcoming romance, The Assassin’s Heart, and the upcoming mystery series, Deadly Ever After? Or, am I missing something?
Looks like you hit the highlights. Some of those are short story collections like The Junkie Tales and Stolen Kidneys, Dead Hookers & Other Nursery Crimes. New Never News is more like Onion headlines for my fairy tale world, and then the rest are novels ranging from mysteries like Dope Sick: A Love Story to noirish fairy tales with plenty of bad puns like CURSES! and Froggy Style.
How many years of writing does all this represent?
Do I have to admit this? I started writing in 2001. I didn’t publish my first novel (which was my fifth manuscript) until 2010.
These books seem to encompass many genres other than crime and murder mystery. How would you describe the books? I mean, what is FROGGY STYLE all about? What are nursery crimes? What are junkie tales?
Oh, that’s a damn good question. All my writing has a mystery/crime element. It’s just my thing, a place I’m comfortable in. Froggy Style is about the Frog Prince (who’s a jaded womanizer) and his quest to find the woman who can save him from his froggy fate. The Stolen Kidneys collection is a bunch of shorts featuring crime as the theme, as well as cheaters and liars. And then The Junkie Tales…That was my first collection, and very close to my heart. It was written as I was working on Dope Sick: A Love Story. It’s a collection of short stories featuring junkies, and the things that people will do in the pursuit of a high.
You describe The Assassin’s Heart as a romantic suspense. What is that genre, exactly?
It’s a romance novel with edge, I guess. Violence, sex, love, and girls with guns.
Sounds like my kind of book. Could you give a brief description of the plot and the characters?
Here’s the back cover blurb, mostly because I’m lazy:
When CIA assassin Hannah Winslow mistakenly kills the wrong man, she vows never to take another life. Unfortunately Hannah’s superiors believe the killing was intentional. Now Hannah is the target. Hannah always knew it might come to this. Surprising her colleagues, she manages to disappear completely into a new, screamingly dull life, assuming a fake identity, shacking up with an overweight cat, and starting a new career as an ad executive.
Hannah’s past finally catches up with her at a company retreat in Hawaii, where her former partner Benjamin Miller has tracked her down. Is it a coincidence that assassination attempts on her life are now as common as rum, suntan lotion, and tiny umbrella drinks? What is the real reason for Ben’s presence? Will he be her savior or her assassin?
Cool, I like cats. I like Hawaii. The book is coming out from Camel Press, right?.
It’s an imprint of Coffeetown Press which is a press in Seattle with a sort of new age flavor. Lots of non-fiction stuff. They branched out into fiction (romance, mystery, etc) and formed Camel Press.
Why is your pen name J.A. instead of Julie? Does it have anything to do with making it less clear that you are a woman? If so, why?
Yep. Most of my novels are written in first person, and that person is male. As much as I hope it’s changing, publishing is a sexist industry. Readers too have certain expectations of genders. Early on, right or wrong, I felt like readers wouldn’t ‘hear’ past my gender, and fully believe my male character’s narration. Plus, it’s nice to step out of being me sometimes, and into being J.A.
So, do you think it is hard to break into crime writing as a woman?
Honestly, my gender seems like the least of my problems with breaking in. Perhaps that’s the J.A. thing or maybe because I feel like I’m battling bigger issues like not quite fitting in the typical crime genre. I love using humor. I am a huge believer in every story ever written being a love story of sorts. And I like writing whatever the hell I want, not what a specific genre dictates, which results in sometimes confusing and annoying my readers.
How do you know? Do you get feedback from readers saying they are confused and annoyed?
Sales tell me more of this than readers do. For me, I read crossovers from authors, but statistically, that is untrue for most readers. They like sticking in a genre. Sometimes I see it in reviews. It’s probably my own paranoia too. No one ever said I was sane.
I know some people claim they can tell if a woman is writing as a man. Sometimes I think I can too (especially when the women author has the male character sounding a little too concerned about how his sexual behavior might affect a female sexual partner’s life), but I’m not sure if it is really possible. What do you think?
Okay, I’m going to admit it. I am a sad representation of women in general. Most readers are surprised to find out I’m a woman. That being said, I think we’ve all read books where it’s apparent the author is male or female, just like we ‘know’ if they are virgins just by reading the opening chapter of a science fiction/fantasy (kidding, no nasty emails about me to Mike). I hope I write well enough that whoever I am as the author is lost to who my narrator is.
When did you know you wanted to write?
September 12, 2001. The day before had crushed me so much I had no other way to understand what had happened. So I started writing, explaining to myself, which turned into short stories about things I’d seen and done in the past, and then to completely make believe fairy tale worlds. Nothing better than escaping into the page. Of course my mental health really is questionable at best so I wouldn’t advise anyone to follow the same path.
Tell me more about how September 11, 2001 affected you? You had never considered writing until then?
Never thought about it. I read a ton, and loved books, but I never thought of writing. I started writing down facts about 9/11, like how much steel, how many people died, who they were, just so in my mind I could understand (not that I or anyone else ever can), and that moved into stories about those people had they had a chance to live, what would have happened to them the next day? Somehow, from there, I started writing Dope Sick: A Love Story.
What kinds of books did you read growing up?
Again with the having to admit bad stuff. As a kid I had horrible dyslexia, and couldn’t read very well at all. So I didn’t.
So when did you start reading and what did you read?
I started at 18, romance novels, truth be told. I quickly moved into other genres, and found crime fiction/mysteries, which is my first love. My first favorite book was To Kill a Mockingbird. I read it at least once a year.
What books/writers have influenced you as an adult writer? Who are some of your favorites?
My favorite authors are Christopher Moore, Harper Lee, Jerry Stahl, Luke Davies, Julie Garwood, Tim Dorsey, Joe Clifford, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Harlan Coben, Robert Crais, John Sanford, Linh Dinh, Lisa Birman …I could go on and on, but let’s leave it at, I read a lot, and I love a lot of authors, books and genres (except nature poetry, that is hell on reading Earth). If I told you all of the authors I love, your blog readers would likely hang themselves from boredom, so to save you readers, I’ll stop now.
What about me? What about me? What about me?
And Mike Monson, his novella, The New Scent of Death, is freaking amazing. How’s that?
Not bad, thanks. I think you have mentioned on Facebook that you are unemployed? Is this still the case? How is that going? What kind of day job are you apt to look for?
Yes, I am officially under employed, in that, my writing life doesn’t support my drug habit (prescription drugs, no fun ones for me anymore). I was laid off from my ‘real’ job over a year ago, and haven’t found another one yet. Since I’m going to give my writing career a real shot, I expect to be poor for the next few years, working part time, probably in an administrative capacity, even though I’m leaning toward washing puppies as a second career. How could you have a bad day doing that?
I don’t know, it sounds like a lot of work to me. Anyway, describe how you have published your various books? Big houses? Indies? Self? Combination? Is this all part of any strategy?
All of the above. I self-published The Junkie Tales first in 2010, and then I got my first book deal with Kensington for CURSES! And Froggy Style, but they didn’t get published until 2012/2013. After that deal, my agent immediately sold the books we’d been shopping for years to two small presses (The Body Dwellers to Solstice Publishing, published 2011 and Holy Socks & Dirtier Demons to Champagne Books, published 2012), so I had sold four books to three different publishers in five months. Then Brian Lindenmuth at Snubnose Press, who’d been a great supporter since he’d read The Junkie Tales, asked about Dope Sick. That was my first book I’d ever written. It received over 300 rejections before I threw it in a desk drawer and figured no one would ever read it. When Brian picked it up, I was on top of the world. The follow up to that book is Shank, which I e-published myself. Then I got my rights back to The Body Dwellers, and now I have that e-published too.
Is this all part of any strategy?
Strategy. That’s a joke, right? I’ve never had one in my life, and I still don’t, which is probably why I am under employed and broke. But honestly, if you’re a writer in this age, you can’t go with just one publishing source. Use them all. Some books aren’t right for the Big 6, so try an indie, where you get real love. Or if you want total control, self-publish. But don’t limit yourself or your work.
With all these books out, are you making any money?
As I mentioned, I am broke. I don’t make enough to live on, yet. But I do make enough each month to pay some bills, mostly off my indie stuff since I get money monthly. Then comes the good months of May and November, when my royalty check from Kensington comes in, and I can pay rent too. Not many writers I know can make a living off their writing. So they teach or have a day job. This is NOT a business you are in to make money. This is a business you are in because you’re not quite right in the head.
Who is your agent?
Sharon Belcastro. She gave me my first shot after over 500 agent rejections (for 3 prior manuscripts) in 2008 with the book, Holy Socks & Dirtier Demons. That being said, I don’t think you need an agent in today’s publishing, but if you don’t have one, you sure as hell better have a literary lawyer to look at your contracts. You’d be amazed at the horror stories I’ve seen, publishers folding, rights issues, and even total scams made to look like real publishing ventures.
What is your educational background?
I have a Masters in Forensic Psychology and a Bachelors in Applied Psychology.
Where are you from? Where have you lived?
I was born in Cleveland, OH. I live in Denver, CO. Those are the only two places I’ve lived.
Denver has a great writer’s scene. Lots of smart people and writerly groups to join.
All I can ever think about when I think of Denver is Neal Cassady and the time I was there for 90 minutes switching planes at the airport and my former now deceased brother-in-law got angry at my former mother-in-law and said to her, “Cool your jets, Mom.” What is your employment background?
My first ‘real’ job was as a bartender at a total dive bar. I worked there for 6 years, and I learned a lot of stuff I shouldn’t know. Then I became a PI for 2 years. I always wanted to be one, except, I didn’t know how lame the job really was. Most of it was calling people and lying, which I’m not morally cool with, or stalking cheaters to bedbug infested motels. I had to stop or I would’ve run down the next dirtbag skipping out on his child support. Later I got into the educational field, working at universities doing admin stuff, as a way to get a degree or support my writing habit.
What are your goals as a writer?
For people to like me. Really, like me. Stalk me if possible. That would mean I’ve finally made it, right? (Kidding, please don’t stalk me. I’m not that interesting and I have a gun).
What kind of gun do you have?
Oh how I wish I could say something cool like a .357. But alas, I have a measly .22, it will put a hole in you, but you’ll be pretty pissed when it does.
Do you have a specific writing technique/process? What is it?
Not a damn thing. I’m a terrible example of what to do as a writer. I’m a seat of the pants writer who doesn’t outline, and who only writes when I feel like it, which is rarely. However, this last month, I promised to write every day, and you know what? I wrote over 45k words in a month. I think I’ll make the same commitment next month. Gotta grow up sometime.
How important is ‘place’ to you as a novelist?
Really? Is that a conscious decision?
No. I try and avoid conscious decisions whenever possible.
Have gotten any interest from Hollywood in your books?
I’ve gotten interest three times. The first time, Tobey MacGuire’s Production company was interested in CURSES!, but that ultimately fell through, as did the next two times Hollywood came knocking. I hear that’s pretty standard. Even if you get a movie deal, it’s no guarantee you’ll ever see the big screen. One of my favorite authors, Tim Dorsey, has had numerous options on his books, but no movies. A shame too. His stuff would make for great crime capers.
What were the other two times? Do you get calls from producers? Development executives? Agents? Is it all lies? How come no one ever calls me?
My agent usually fields the calls/emails. I had an email exchange with an assistant once…But no one ever calls me either. I only hear about it after the fact. I wish it was a bigger deal, but by this point, I don’t hold much hope for that movie deal or fame and fortune.
Sounds like you agents has been pretty helpful. Selling books, fielding calls.
Do you have any interest in writing for TV or Movies? Doing ‘tie-in’ novelizations?
I’d love to write for some sitcoms or do a fairy tale noir TV series, like Once Upon a Time, but less Disney, and more bad ass.
What is your favorite TV show?
I can’t think of one right now. I lean toward crime and comedy though. Shocker, right?
Are you part of a writing community either in person or online? What is that like? Does it help?
In person, I belong to Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, Pikes Peak Writers, and Mystery Writers of America. Mostly for the social part. I’m at a point where I’m not seeking to learn craft (though I learn stuff every day) but needing more marketing and promotional input. Though I am a total hermit, I can’t help but long for interactions with writers and readers. It’s hard to talk books with my dogs. Seriously. They like Twilight. But I forgive them because they have pea-sized brains.
How do you use social media to promote your work?
I don’t. Yes, my work gets promoted on social media, but I don’t believe in using social media to promote. I use it to meet new people, and to make friends with other writers like Mike. I don’t try to sell people my stuff. I just say it’s available if they are interested. At least that’s what I hope I do. If I’m annoying with BUY MY BOOK, please tell me.