Author Snapshot: Nick Kolakowski Talks About The Best and Worst Things About Writing and His New Book, Slaughterhouse Blues

Fun Fact:

Nick once got drunk with Morgan Freeman while interviewing him for a magazine cover story. Morgan Freeman threatened to break Nick’s kneecaps.


SR: What’s your new book/work in progress about? What inspired you to write it?

SH18-SB-KOLAKOWSKI-FRONTCOVER-v3-2NK: “Slaughterhouse Blues” is the sequel to “A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps.” It follows Bill and Fiona, a hustler and a killer (respectively) as they try to flee their former employer, a criminal crew known as the Rockaway Mob. In their escape to freedom, which goes from New York City to Oklahoma to Cuba and back, they run into all sorts of oddball characters, including a freaky assassin in an Elvis costume and a foulmouthed octogenarian with a deep, dark secret.

SR: Do you relate more to Sherlock Holmes or Professor Moriarty? Why?

NK: I feel like Professor Moriarty was always misunderstood. When the British government used cannons and ships to loot the world, people called it ‘expansion’ and ‘empire.’ When Moriarty tried to make some money through his criminal wiles, they called it ‘insane’ and ‘demented.’ But he’s no different than any other powerful man of his period; people just can’t see that.

SR: What’s one thing that you and your protagonist have in common?

NK: I am ambitious like Bill, and I have Fiona’s temper, which I fortunately manage to restrain 99.9999 percent of the time.

SR: How do you think your protagonist would respond if aliens landed in the center of town on page 57?

NK: I think Bill would shriek, grab his wallet, and run as fast as he could in the other direction. I think Fiona would grab the biggest-caliber weapon she could find and try to shoot the nearest extraterrestrial in whatever passed for its head. That’s what I like about them; Fiona is all steel, the kind of person you want beside you in a moment of high crisis; and Bill, well, Bill is… um… he’s funny. He’s got that going for him.

SR: Practice pitching: tell us what your book is about in 30 words or less.

NK: Bill and Fiona make Bonnie and Clyde look like a pair of weak punks.

SR: What’s your personal life motto?

NK: Might as Well Do Your Best.

SR: Tell us something about you that isn’t common knowledge.

NK: I’m double-jointed.

SR: You have to flee the country. Where are you headed to and why that location?

NK: I’d probably head to some country without extradition, where you can make any transaction in cash, and settle in some town with one road so you could see anyone coming for you.

SR: If you were in an arm wrestle with your protagonist who would win? What is your protagonist better at than you? What are you better than your protagonist at?

NK: If I had to arm-wrestle Bill, I’d probably win; he’s physically soft, but he’s better than me at card-counting and smooth-talking. Fiona would probably win hard enough to break my arm; she’s better at me than shooting, but I have a bit more finesse when it comes to talking to folks.

SR: What conspiracy theory is your protagonist most likely to believe in? Roswell? JFK? Princess Diana? What about you? Any conspiracy theories that you think might have some truth to them?

NK: Fiona and Bill definitely believe there was a second shooter on the Grassy Knoll. Fiona has put enough bodies in the ground to know how these things work.

SR: If you have to live in a potential natural disaster zone, would you pick blizzards, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes or volcanic eruptions? Why? If you had to describe your protagonist as a weather system, what would they be?

NK: Fiona and Bill are earthquakes: they arrive unexpectedly, shake everything the hell up, and leave a trail of destruction in their wake. Plus, these books are short. Not as short as an earthquake (hopefully), but I accelerated the pace as much as possible: bam, bam, bam.

SR: It’s the zombie apocalypse. You have to pick a weapon from what’s currently within 10 feet of your present location. What will you defend yourself with?

NK: Either I can go for blunt force trauma with my laptop, or I’m attempting to stab with one of the many pens in a jar beside said laptop. Neither would prove very effective against a horde of ravenous, rotting brain-eaters, alas. I don’t think I’d survive as long as Fiona and Bill under such adverse circumstances, although maybe I’d surprise myself—I am surprisingly quick when startled.

SR: What’s the first book you remember reading that had a huge impact on you? How did that story affect you? How do you think it shaped your desire to be a writer?

NK: Chandler’s “Trouble is My Business” is the book that made me want to become a writer. It’s a wonderful collection that I haven’t read in too many years, but I feel it’s Chandler at his best: smoothly paced, with character descriptions that can’t be beat, and with an elegiac heart.

SR: What’s the best thing about writing?

NK: Creating a world.

SR: What’s the worst thing about writing?

NK: Creating a world that’s convincing!

SR: What detail in your writing do you obsess over the most? Character names? Locations? Description? Dialogue? Research?

NK: I get obsessed with process. If a character can pick a lock, I’m going to try my hand at picking a lock, just so I can describe it with greater accuracy. If a character shoots a particular type of gun, I do my best to shoot that type of gun, as well. My background as a journalist comes in handy during the research phase; I enjoy poring through books and talking to people. The great thing about crime-fiction readers is they won’t hesitate call out when some detail is wrong; I do my best to make sure everything feels accurate.

SR: Did you set yourself a specific writing challenge with this book? What was it, and what was the reason?

NK: Writing a series is the White Whale of crime fiction, and I wanted to take my shot at it (the third book in this series, titled “Main Bad Guy,” is slated for publication in early 2019). I love having the room for a massive, multi-book character arc, although keeping all the characters’ details straight from book to book gets a little bit trying at moments.


Nick Kolakowski’s noir novels include “A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps,” “Slaughterhouse Blues,” and the upcoming “Boise Longpig Hunting Club.” His crime fiction has appeared in Spinetingler, Shotgun Honey, Thuglit, Crime Syndicate Magazine, and various anthologies.

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