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WesternSFA
A Chat with Gini Koch
by Catherine Book
October 23, 2012
Gini is probably THE most extroverted writer I’ve ever met.  I wondered how that came about.  Astonishingly enough, Gini maintains that she is truly a shy person.  Back when she was just about twenty, she went to a party where the host had invited a truly diverse group – who didn’t know each other.  And when the host departed for ice leaving Gini to hostess – it was time for her to ‘man up.’  She circled the room introducing herself and pulling people with her to meet other people and in every instance she remembers a look of relief and gratitude on their faces that someone was talking to them.  And what she figured out was that everyone is afraid of rejection and everyone wants someone to talk to them.  She still has to confront that shyness from time to time but it’s easier now.  She knows how to get past it and it helps that Gini genuinely likes people – they’re fun, they’re interesting.  She also recognizes how rare a truly extroverted writer is so she tries to be the ‘fun girl’ for her fans so their experience is more fun.  Gini knows she isn’t at the level of ‘big-name’ writers and she wants to be a writer that people remember fondly, read her books and, hopefully, buy her books. 

She gets a lot of comments when a reader recognizes something in a character that seems like Gini.  Well, of course, she says – all of the characters are her – all the heroes and all the villains.  Maybe particularly the villains, she chuckled.  And just in case you don’t know this:  Gini writes under a plethora of pen names.  J.C. Koch writes horror, Jemma Chase writes dark fantasy, G.J. Koch just wrote a wonderfully funny space opera story that kinda combines Star Trek and Firefly but waaay funnier, Anita Ensal writes fantasy, A.E. Stanton writes westerns or post-apocalyptic westerns and Gini Koch writes wildly funny science fiction/romance.  Funny, she says, is very hard to write.  And she thinks that to be able to write funny, one should be funny in real-life.  After all, if she isn’t funny in real-life why should someone meeting her want to pick her humorous books?  And Gini is Funny; she laughs easily, makes gentle humor easily, but doesn’t hog the stage.  When she doesn’t feel funny then she’ll write as J.C. Koch and kill people in horrific not-so-funny ways.  Cathartic? I asked her.  Oh yes, she laughed evilly as she described the joy of finishing a funny book and then get to make people die, die, die… No happy endings!!

But why all the pseudonyms?  Identification is important, she thinks.  If the reader picks up a Gini Koch story, they are assured of a funny story with snarky, kick-ass people doing fun things while saving the world.  Anita Ensal also writes fantasy but her voice is different; a little more thoughtful, a little more whimsical.  Jemma Chase doesn’t write as much humor in her paranormal; Jemma is more Gini’s goth side.  Stanton has no sense of humor, she related.  Or none that he’s aware of.

In these days of self-promotion, it so important to put oneself ‘out there.’  Ah, but it’s rather a double-edged sword, she cautioned.  The writer has to determine the right level of promotion and the right kind of promotion.  It isn’t only saying ‘Buy my book, buy my book’, in this crowded market, it’s important to be human.  Tell your readers what you’re doing, what you’re up to and be relatable.  Does she have enough fans?  Oh, I don’t think so, she responded, J.K. Rowling probably doesn’t think she has enough fans.

Is self-promotion her key to success?  Partially, but she gives great credit to Penguin who gave her world-wide distribution, and DAW who gave her a fabulous cover artist in Daniel Dos Santos.  She can’t stress enough how important distribution can be.  Availability isn’t enough; the books have to be on the shelves for readers to pick them up.  And it didn’t hurt that she wrote a book that a lot of people enjoy.  Not everyone, of course.  Nobody can write a book that everyone likes – impossible.  But, as she said wryly, you don’t need everybody, you just need enough.

How long has she been writing?  Fifteen years easy, she answered.  Her first published novel wasn’t until 2010 though.  It seems longer because she’s so prolific.  Her contract with DAW right now is for two books a year; she’s currently contracted through 2014.  That’s a lot of books to keep up with.  What was she doing before she published, a day job?  She was working for IBM in Direct Marketing when she got her agent in 2007 and her first contract in 2008.  She had become a victim of ‘let’s send jobs to India’ in 2009 which turned out to be okay.  She misses the paycheck and the people but she had quit enjoying going to work.  She found the only reason to get up in the morning was to get her work done so she could write.  But eventually she had to decide if she was going to get another job.  Fortunately for her, she had a very supportive husband who encouraged her keep with her writing.  For all those out there who complain their SO isn’t as supportive, she says one thing:  you’re probably not giving them any reason to support you.  Her husband initially thought it was a great little hobby of hers that allowed him to get sleep at night as opposed to her talking for hours because she would still be full of energy.

The first thing she ever submitted was a humorous short to the New Yorker.  She got a rejection slip.  And she announced to her family that she was in the ranks of Woody Allen, Steve Martin, Robert Benchley, and David Sedaris who were all rejected by the New Yorker at one time in their careers.  She then sent it out again to the next market on her list.  That moment, she recalls, is when her family’s attitude changed.  They could see that she could take a rejection and still continue.  And, again, to all those who complain their family doesn’t support them – nine times out of ten, it’s probably because you talk a lot about writing but you don’t write, you don’t finish, you don’t submit, you can’t take a rejection like a champ, and you don’t send it out again.  Until you can do those things, it’s doubtful anything will change.  So to all you, Gini says:  Stop dicking around.  Finish the book or short story.  Send it out.  Take the rejection you WILL get.  Fix anything that needs fixing and SEND - IT - OUT - AGAIN.

Who influenced her writing?  Terry Pratchett left her lips before I quit speaking.  And Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  But that leaves out tons and tons of all the authors and work that she’s read, heard, or experienced.  Everything influences a writer.

How does the magic actually happen?  Does she write every day?  She tries to write every day but the truth is, she’s a free spirit and structure doesn’t appeal.  She doesn’t work for anyone but herself now so she’ll write when she damn well feels like it.  Her work day, back when she had a real one, left her writing time from 2pm to 6pm and she still tends to work within those hours.  Structure? she asked.  I get out of bed in the morning to feed the cats and dogs.  The husband can take care of himself.  That’s it for structure.

Does she need a particular environment in which to write?  Chaos, she replied.  She writes amid chaos.  Music must be blaring and it must be rock-n-roll.  The right song can make the words fly.  And when she finds the right song for a work, she’ll listen to it until her husband whimpers.  Once when the music was just right she finished a novel in three weeks.

So what’s more important?  Plot, character, setting?  She’s definitely character and plot-driven.  And since she loves mysteries all of her stories have a mystery in there somewhere.  She’s actually not very interested with details so she has to go back over her stories and add the relevant detail after she does the action and dialogue.  Do her stories need research?  Well, yes, she answered.  She might need to research a location so she has the streets going the right way and just recently she had to exhaustively research poison.  (We’ll have to wait to see where that is going.)  She’s not writing hard science.  Her Alexander Outland story is set 1000 years in the future but don’t tell her those things can’t happen.  You don’t know what the universe will be like in a 1000 years.  And since her Alien stories use alien technology, you can’t tell her that isn’t possible.  Y O U   D O N ‘ T  K N O W.  Oh yeah… writing is fun.

And who’s her audience?  She says she’s got hard science readers who like her, romance readers, people who read for the humor, there’s no way to categorize them.  Your audience really cannot be too large, she cautioned me soberly.

Does she have a favorite story or character?  Two ultimate favorites – the characters who started her writing.  They are in her first (still unpublished) novel so we’ll have to wait a while, and, of course, Kitty.  She wouldn’t have a career without Kitty.  Which one makes her most proud?  Everything she writes makes her proud.  And if it doesn’t, her readers will never see it.

And don’t be afraid to write, she said.  Don’t let someone tell you there’s only one right way.  Don’t let someone tell you that you have no talent.  You’ll know when you find the way that is right for you. 

What’s in her future?  She was very positive when she told me she wants nothing less than Total World Book Domination.  She wants her books on every shelf and on every e-reader.  But she knows it’s not up to her.  It’s up to the readers.  But if she can give them what they want to read, then eventually….

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