DON'T GET CAUGHT with Kurt Dinan

Annnnnd we're back! It's been difficult to keep up with the blog as of late, but I have some plans to keep it going, beginning with a series of interviews of some friends and colleagues with books coming out this spring. We're kicking things off with KURT DINAN and his YA debut novel, DON'T GET CAUGHT, which hits the stands on April 1st - tomorrow! Nice marketing trick for a book about pranks, eh? Well played, SourceBooks.

Kurt Dinan

You may recall Kurt giving me the third degree on his blog a few months ago. Here I return the favor, though I gotta tell you - it's tough when a book is so great. Yes, Kurt is a fantastic writer and a good friend of mine, so I'm biased...BUT prior to cracking DON'T GET CAUGHT I hadn't read much (if any) YA and just a few of Kurt's short stories, so I felt pretty good going in blind. Kurt kills it in his debut. You should grab this book because it's a ton of fun, but also for Kurt's use of voice, handling of an ensemble/team and tight plotting. Early reviews are excellent (especially over on Goodreads, where the book has been on fire for months.) But enough of this sweet praise. Read on!

Don't Get Caught

Chris: YA fans are over-the-moon for DON'T GET CAUGHT. What's going on here? Give a quick pitch and sell the rest of us on this big debut.

Kurt: The quick pitch: DON'T GET CAUGHT is a fast-paced, funny, and prank-filled caper novel about a group of outcasts out for revenge.  Or if you want the Hollywood elevator pitch, it's Ocean's 11 meets The Breakfast Club, but with a lot more dick jokes.  At least that was my intention when I wrote it.

Chris: Mmmmm, I smell a movie. Speaking of which, the voice of the narrator, Max Cobb, (my favorite aspect of the book) screamed film voice-over in the best way, taking me back to movies like The Sandlot and Stand By Me, among others. How did you go about developing it? Balancing the innocence and teenager hijinx. Did it naturally roll off onto the page?

Kurt: Oh man, I'm glad to hear that because I struggle with voice so much.  I honestly don't think it was until the 4th or 5th draft where I finally heard his voice and could write it.  If I remember correctly, I think it was writing, "This is a terrible idea.  It's stupid, irresponsible, and borderline suicidal.  But I'm going anyway"  as my opening lines where everything clicked.  Now, those lines don't start the novel in the final draft, but something in there made Max come to life.  After that, I had to go rewrite the whole novel to fit that voice, but it was fun work because I finally had it.

Chris: That's some serious persistence! Was fine tuning the voice part of the process of finding your footing writing YA fiction? What was it like moving from Horror to YA? Or were you always writing both?

Kurt: The move from horror to YA was easy because if I'm being honest, horror wasn't a good fit for me.  Like a lot of people I know, I spent my high school years reading Stephen King.  So when I started writing I wrote what I knew best.  I had some success with a few horror stories, yeah, but I learned that I'm not really that dark of a guy by nature, and it's hard for me to get myself in the right place to write that way.  YA though?  Writing smart-assed, euphemism-slinging, antiauthoritarian teenagers?  That's much more natural for me.

Chris: Speaking of smart-assed, euphemism-slinging, antiauthoritarian teenagers - you feature quite a few pranks in this book. What was the process like inventing them? Any you had to scrap during the editorial process?

Kurt: I did a lot of research on pranks, and then steroided them out to make them bigger and better.  The fun part was figuring out how to make a team pull the prank off, and then write it in such a way that the reader doesn't know exactly what's being done until the very end of the chapter.  I like to think of myself as a problem solver, so it was a fun exercise with each prank, thinking, "Okay, how exactly would you make such and such happen?"  I did scrap one prank from an early draft in which the Chaos Club had turned around the first ten rows of seats in the auditorium so that everyone faced each other like in a subway car.  I ditched that scene just to get the novel moving faster.  And at one point Wheeler had a different prank than the one he pulls in the novel, but for the life of me I can't remember what it was.  I do know that I wrote the prank he pulls on the football practice field on the writers' retreat where you and I met.  My only goal that weekend was to write that chapter, and I was worried I wouldn't get it finished.  I was in such a prank planning mode though that I knocked it out in a few hours, a first for me.

Chris: That was a great writers' retreat! I'm glad to hear you got some serious work done...unlike myself. It's all about the social interaction though, right? I'll keep telling myself that. Any retreats/conventions/tours lined up for this year? I saw you hit the big time at the American Bookseller Association's Winter Institute in Denver back in January.

Kurt: I just found out my book release party is on April 6th here in Cincinnati, so I'm looking forward to that.  I'm also a guest at the Ohioana Book Festival in April, and the Pickerington Teen Book Festival in June.  There are a couple of others in Ohio I'm hoping to attend as well.  But yeah, the ABA Winter Institute was big time, and I spent most of my time looking over my shoulder worried that the book police were going to arrest me for slumming.  I know you're supposed to "act like you've been there" and all of that, but putting me in a signing room with Richard Russo and Kwame Alexander is a bit ridiculous.

Chris: Getting back to the kids for a moment - I was on a panel the other day at Boskone and we were discussing the idea that every character in a story is a hero, that they have their own story where they are they hero, even if it isn't the main narrative. I think this idea applies to DON'T GET CAUGHT in how you really developed the whole cast. They have their own struggles, problems at school/home in addition to the group's goal/conflict throughout the book. How did you go about developing each story? Do you have a favorite?

Kurt: It's funny you brought this up because I gave each of the five characters an arc thinking I had to.  It wasn't until I got into revising that my agent and editor both told me I didn't have to go to that length.  But I love ensemble casts and used The Breakfast Club as a template.  By the end of that film you know a good amount of each of those characters.  I wanted each member of the Water Tower 5, the kids looking for revenge in the novel, to each have his/her motivation for doing what they do.  Of those five, I think I like Wheeler's arc the most.  I like the idea of the classic screw-up deciding to turn things around while still not changing who he is at his core.  Like Wheeler says, he upgrades who he is, but doesn't do a new install.  So he can be more responsible without being completely responsible, which no one would like.

Chris: I love that line about upgrading versus a new install.

It wasn't until I got into revising that my agent and editor both told me I didn't have to go to that length.

I find this statement fascinating as it reads to me like they said the book was good enough as is and that you didn't need to go the extra mile. Could this be attributed to the YA market/readership? Can you expand on this a little? Terrible plans, eh? Keeping them in high school? Do you envision ever taking these characters post high school?

Kurt: In an early revision note, I'd been asked to make Stranko, the vice principal, and sort-of-antagonist in the novel, a little less moustache-twirly.  I humanized him some, and then wondered if I needed to do the same with the other four characters in Max's crew.  I'd given them all arcs on purpose, but wasn't sure if I'd gone far enough.  I was told, yep, you're fine.  Actually, giving those characters arcs is what helped me figure out the pranks.  Adleta, the lacrosse player with the terrible father, had to have a sports-related prank, and Malone, with her sexting scandal, had to get revenge on the girl who sent her picture around.  It really was pretty helpful.

Keeping anyone in high school is torture, for sure, but as much as I dig these characters, I'm not planning to write about their post-high school lives.  I would at least like to mess around with them during the senior year though.

Chris: You know every interview is going to bring up the sequel(s). Anything outlined/planned out? What's next?

Kurt: I have the basic idea for a sequel, and know a few of the pranks that will be pulled and why.  I've started an outline and even some of the writing, which is a fun task because I like these characters so much.  Hopefully I get approached to write a sequel soon because I have terrible plans for all of these characters.  I mean, there have to be repercussions for the pranks they pulled, right?  Do any of us really ever truly get away with anything?

Chris: Do any of us really ever truly get away with anything? - now that's a hell of tag line for a sequel. I'll let you have the final word!

Kurt: The last word?  Okay, I can do that.  Look, reader of Chris' blog, I get it, you read a lot of crime, and, like Chris, maybe you don't read a lot of YA.  But here's the thing, I read a lot of crime, too.  In fact, I pretty much bow at the altar of Donald Westlake, the master of the comic caper novel.  DON'T GET CAUGHT is in that vain, just with high school kids and a lot more dick jokes.  If you happen to read the novel and not like it, Chris promises he'll refund your money.  What a good guy he is!

Get your copies of DON'T GET CAUGHT

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Post a review of SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE and be entered to win a copy of BURN CARDS!

sitv-header Happy Wednesday, folks.

As you all know, reviews are a difference maker when it comes to visibility for books, doubly so for small press and lesser known authors.

In an effort to drum up some reviews, 280 Steps has put together a little promotion:

Post a review of SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE on Amazon or Goodreads by 3/31 and be entered for a chance to win one of five copies of BURN CARDS.

***AND paperback copies of SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE are currently 34% off on Amazon***

It's madness, I tell you!

Check out the details HERE - good luck and thanks as always for your support.

Back to work!

December Giveaway! aka Got Reviews?

IMG_8762 I love small press. I can't say enough good things about 280 Steps and their support for SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE over the past few months. It's been a lot of fun and I hope some of the momentum carries over into 2016 and beyond.

But as writer and proprietor of Broken River Books, J David Osborne, described so honestly in his recent blog post - Money Money Money Money (Cha-Ching) - there's only so much a small press can do. It's also on the author to drive sales and promotion of their work.

So what works? How does one do this effectively? I'm not sure anyone really knows. I'm repeatedly followed, unfollowed, and followed again on Twitter by "best-sellers" with thousands of followers in an attempt to make a quick buck. Then there's the relatively recent trend on Facebook to treat it as an impersonal selling tool as well, becoming 'friends' with as many strangers as possible in hope of increasing one's audience. I'm not sure how successful either of these strategies are, but they are too hard a sell for me. Everyone draws a different line in the sand. On the opposite side of the spectrum you have people who won't market at all and criticize those who do. It's impossible to please everyone, especially when there is no clear answer to the question - what makes books sell?

Reviews help, that's for sure. Online, in print, word of mouth - all drive algorithms and discussion that can only boost a book's signal. With that in mind, I have a deal for you:

Leave an honest review for SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE by 12/13 and be entered to win a copy of WHAT HAPPENED HERE: Year One at Papercuts J.P. - a compilation of exclusive works by authors who visited Papercuts J.P., Boston's newest independent bookstore, in its first year - featuring my story, "The Push," a pseudo-sequel to "Digging a Deep," (from Safe Inside the Violence) as well as work from Paul Tremblay, Jennifer Tseng, Rory Flynn, Catie Disabato, and many more. 300+ pages of pure AWESOME.

Where? On a blog, newspaper, Amazon, Goodreads, the palm of your left hand in permanent marker. Be creative, I don't judge. Tell your people and spread the good word!

On Monday, 12/14 I'll randomly pull a name and announce the winner here.

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Thank you all for your continued support!

Week One Recap

Whew! Made it through a whirlwind of a release week. Thank you all so much for your amazing support, especially to those who came out to the launch party (packed house!) last Friday at Papercuts J.P. I couldn't have wished for a better night. Here are a couple pics from the event (by Jabari Asim)

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and another by Papercuts J.P.

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In other news, SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE received two incredibly kind reviews last week. I'm still pinching myself (and dreading...in a good way, the novel I need to rewrite this winter):

From LitReactor, where the reviewer called the book "a collection everyone should read — particularly if you’ve ever dreamed of writing this kind of fiction."

And MyBookishWays: "In his short story collection, ‘Safe Inside the Violence’, Irvin provides more proof that he may be the best new writer on the crime scene today."

Reviews have started to trickle into Goodreads and Amazon as well (thank you!) It's exciting to see the variety of stories readers report as their favorites, or those that stuck with them. Like all authors, I greatly appreciate the time and effort it takes to leave a review. I'm not sure anyone is certain how they function in the algorithms of these sites, but they certainly give books a boost. Thank you for spreading the word.

Hope to see you Wednesday at Brookline Booksmith!

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Pub Day!

SitV-wraparound It's alive!

SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE is now available through Amazon and your favorite independent bookstores (Give them the title or one of the ISBNs and you should be good to go.)

SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE ISBN-10: 8293326700 ISBN-13: 978-8293326700

Alex Segura interviewed me for his newsletter, Stuff & Nonsense. You can check out the interview HERE, but I also recommend subscribing. His weekly interviews (every Friday) cover a wide range of creatives and are always worth checking out. Do iiittttt.

I also received a bit of local coverage in the JP Gazette.

Here's my updated schedule through the holidays, including new stops in Libertyville, IL (north of Chicago) and Columbus, OH.

11/13 – Launch Party at Papercuts J.P. @ 7pm

11/18 – Reading event with Jason Starr at Brookline Booksmith @ 7pm

11/27 – Black Friday Signing at Dreamland Comics, Libertyville, IL @ 1-3pm

12/3 – Mystery Night signing event at the New England Mobile Book Fair @ 6-7pm

12/21 – Noir at the Bar Columbus at Kafe Kerouac @ 7pm (more details coming soon!)

As always, thank you all so much for your support and spreading the word. The run up to the book's release has been wonderful, and I hope you enjoy the collection. Thoughts/comments/reviews on Amazon and Goodreads are much appreciated!

See you on the road.

Burn Cards Pub Day

My new book, BURN CARDS, is out today. You can buy the paperback from any independent bookstore. Click the image below to find and support your local shop.

Burn Cards_IndieBound

If Amazon is your better option, or e-book more your style, grab a copy HERE. The paperback might be listed as out of stock, but that's most likely incorrect and you'll receive the book without delay. BURN CARDS is also listed on Goodreads.

A huge thank you to everyone for their support throughout the publication process. 280 Steps is nothing but superb (thanks, Kjetil!) and I had a fantastic time at my first event at Papercuts J.P., my (new) local bookstore in Jamaica Plain.* Kate, the owner, and Katie, the event coordinator, did a wonderful job setting up the event, and showed how special a local bookstore can be to a community; the support I've witnessed over the past few months demonstrates the hard work has paid off. That's why I list links to IndieBound first in this post. Unlike FEDERALES, whose distribution is fairly limited to Amazon (and me), 280 Steps is distributed through Ingram, so you should be able to find/order BURN CARDS, and any other of their other titles at brick and mortar stores.

*My partner in crime for the event, Zachary Klein, has done a nice write up of the event on his blog.

Reviews are trickling in - here's a favorite from Angel Luis Colón over at My Bookish Ways.

Upcoming Events

April 26th - Noir at the Bar Boston II: 6-9pm, The Pour House, Boston

May 2nd - Independent Bookstore Day at Papercuts J.P.

BURN CARDS Goodreads Giveaway

280 Steps is kicking off March with a Goodreads Giveaway for BURN CARDS

BurnCards_books**Hot off the Press**

About BURN CARDS:

Mirna Fowler believes she has been cheated in life, growing up in a broken home alone with a drunken and gambling-addicted father. Now she works at a small hair salon in Reno, doing her best to survive while she saves money for school. Hoping to get a degree that will take her places.

But in the wake of her father's death, Mirna inherits his extravagant debt, an amount of money she can never repay. As her fractured world begins to crumble, the search for the truth sets her on a path where life hangs on her every move.

Advance Praise for BURN CARDS:

“With a character you care about and a momentum you can't avoid, BURN CARDS is aces. This fast-moving novella pulses with enough energy to power all the casinos in Nevada.” - Steve Weddle, author of Country Hardball

"the shit-kicking streets of a dead end desert town have never been meaner." — Joe Clifford, author of Lamentation

"This bare-knuckle noir pulses with energy and punches hard." — William Boyle, author of Gravesend

"Irvin illuminates the city of Reno itself, casting the flickering glow of his sharp observations into every dark corner of the city and bringing forth a rogue’s gallery of gamblers, dreamers, and burnouts who are all heading for the same bitter end." — John Mantooth, author of The Year of the Storm

Feeling lucky but still want to pre-order? GOT YOU COVERED

Stay tuned for information on upcoming events & thanks for your support!

Pre-order BURN CARDS

BURNCARDSComing April 14th from 280 Steps in paperback and e-book.

Advance praise for BURN CARDS:

“With a character you care about and a momentum you can't avoid, BURN CARDS is aces. This fast-moving novella pulses with enough energy to power all the casinos in Nevada.” ---Steve Weddle, author of Country Hardball

"the shit-kicking streets of a dead end desert town have never been meaner." --- Joe Clifford, author of Lamentation

"This bare-knuckle noir pulses with energy and punches hard." --- William Boyle, author of Gravesend

"Irvin illuminates the city of Reno itself, casting the flickering glow of his sharp observations into every dark corner of the city and bringing forth a rogue’s gallery of gamblers, dreamers, and burnouts who are all heading for the same bitter end." --- John Mantooth, author of The Year of the Storm

Pre-order is live on Amazon!

FEDERALES Review Round up

"Irvin’s sentences are short and brutal like kidney punches, hitting just where needed to have the most impact."            - LitReactor Bookshots

One week post-release and already have some wonderful reviews to share. A huge thank you to everyone who picked up FEDERALES. The amount of support has been beyond anything I could have expected.

BH Shepherd reviewed FEDERALES for LitReactor Bookshots in one of my favorite reviews to date - LINK

Sam Hawken, fantastic author and professional word machine, did a wonderful write up on his blog. Check it out and his forthcoming Tequila Sunset - LINK

Elizabeth A. White, who edited FEDERALES, did a little spotlight on the book. I've had the pleasure of working with Elizabeth on several projects and I highly recommend her work - LINK

Goodreads snagged a handful of positive reviews - LINK

As well as Amazon - LINK

And even Barnes & Noble - LINK

Interviews

Short, Sharp Interview with Paul Brazill discussing books, television and more - LINK

Interview with Gerald So's Chatterific - LINK

More to come in the weeks ahead. Thank you to everyone who plugged the book and/or took the time to leave a review.