Dan Krokos Interview and Caption Contest!

I’d like to introduce you to the judge of today’s Caption Contest, Dan Krokos.

Dan shot to urban legend status when his query letter won over on Query Shark.

On the first try.

Then the Query Shark, literary agent Janet Reid, did an interview with BBC Radio about query letters. After the host read Dan’s letter on the air she gave the following response:

“That’s essentially a perfect query letter. And in fact…Dan Krokos wrote that and I signed him as a client about twenty-five seconds after I read the novel.”

Yeah, that made us writers still licking the condensation from the outside of the writing pool just to keep our parched dreams alive sit up and take notice.  

So, without further ado, here’s Dan…

******************************************************************

Tell us about Dan Krokos 

I’m 25, living in a suburb of Cleveland(for now), and writing full time. Before that, I worked at a gas station for NINE YEARS. I went to school part time, toying with Law Enforcement, then English. During that time, I plowed through many manuscripts and read agent blogs feverishly and ruined several relationships. Once my book sold, I quit the gas station, and decided school was for losers. I’m hoping that decision doesn’t bite me in the ass one day, but chasing my dream isn’t a bad way to live.

What is one piece of advice you have for writers trying to break into the business? 

Put writing first.

I wrote casually for six months, then went for a two week stretch where I didn’t write anything. It was scary. I asked myself if this was what I really wanted to do, all the way, no looking back. It was. So I put writing first. I worked 54 hours a week and went to school part time, but I put myself on the pace to write three manuscripts a year. I was getting better with each one—I could see it—so I thought eventually I HAD to become publishable.

I skipped many social engagements in my early twenties. I skipped seeing my family. I alienated people. Because I had to succeed. Having a terrible job helped. But really, swallow all that self-doubt and just sit down and write something. It’s going to suck. Put it in a drawer. Don’t become attached to stuff. Keep moving forward. If your momentum is high you can outrun that doubt.

Wow, this is turning into like seventeen pieces of advice.

But I guess the main idea is, Put writing first.

Twitter—a valuable networking tool or an unbelievable time suck? 

Time suck. Here’s another piece of advice. Shut your mouth. Stop talking about writing and write. You don’t need to network. If you get an agent and maybe want to make some author friends on twitter, fine. Otherwise shut up about writing and write. Read agent blogs, not authors’ shitty, self-absorbed timelines. Unless you don’t have a job, time management is key, and every free moment should be spent learning your craft. I sometimes wish I never got on twitter, even though I’ve met some great real life friends there.

What are your thoughts on the recent rise in authors, both established and new, going the self-publishing route? 

I don’t like it. We need gatekeepers. We need agents and editors to make us shine. Here’s a cool thing: without my agent and editor, I would not be publishable. Unless someone reads my stuff and gives me notes, it’s just a first draft, or a second draft, or a third. It’s not final. There will always be problems I can’t see on my own, especially the closer I am to the manuscript. And I’m not the only one. Some writers turn in real train wrecks and expect everyone to make it better.

The point is, unless these self-published works are going through the same hurdles as published works, I don’t want to have anything to do with them. I like knowing that when I pick up a book, the author didn’t just have their mom proofread it before slapping it up on Amazon. If your book doesn’t snag an agent, write another one. It’ll be better, anyway.

What was your absolute last thought before you pushed “send” on your query letter for Query Shark? 

Probably a combination of “I got this” and “Oh, shit.” I knew it would be okay because I spent months on it, while writing the first draft. I spent time reading agent blogs and knew what to do, and what not to do. And I tweaked each sentence and reordered things until I didn’t even want to look at it anymore. If you aren’t reading about queries when you’re not writing, you’re hamstringing yourself. Study it. It’s just a few paragraphs.

What was your absolute first thought when you heard you’d “won” over at Query Shark? 

Maybe I’m good enough to do this after all. And at the very least, a professional in the industry has given me a nod of approval.

What do you visualize yourself doing one second after you hold your ARC for the first time? 

Maybe rubbing it all over my face. Probably taking it around town to show my friends and family that, yes, this is really happening. 

Who gets the first copy of your debut novel? 

Me.

Is your agent, Janet Reid, every bit as amazing as she comes across on her blog? 

And more. Some writers need their agent to hold their hand, to tell them everything will be okay. To sugarcoat things. Janet doesn’t feed me BS, and she doesn’t take any from me. But she also knows when to give a confidence boost. 

Not to mention her line edits make my sentences sing. She cut two thousand superfluous words from my latest novel without batting an eye or spilling her scotch. 

Tell us more about your upcoming novel* so we’ll know what we’re buying when we all converge on Amazon the day pre-orders become available. 

(*False Memory, the first in a trilogy, coming from Disney•Hyperion in 2012.)

It’s about a girl who loses all her memories, and has to rediscover her old life and the people in it. Turns out she’s a weapon of mass destruction, along with her friends, intended to be sold as ready-made super soldiers to foreign nations. The more she discovers about herself, the better armed she is to fight back against the people who created her. It is safe to say there will be some false memories. 

Think of Jason Bourne, with teens, and a few heavy splashes of futurism. Most of all, it’s a thriller.

Writers Everywhere Want to Know…

If you could occupy the world described in a novel, which would you choose? 

This is insanely difficult and hinges on too many conditions. If I was just going to be ME, I’d say (and this counts, because there are a ton of novels in this universe) Buffy. I’d want to fight evil with the gang. But instead of being a dumbass like Xander, I’d actually train so I wasn’t getting beat down all the time.

Now if I could be like the characters in a world, that changes things. Being a wizard in Harry Potter sounds fun. 

If you could have one superpower, what would it be? 

Flight. I think it’s best to fight crime with. Super strength and invincibility could still lead to my containment. Super speed would be good, but who doesn’t want to fly? 

If you were to perform in the circus, what would you do? 

Something with tigers. I love tigers. Real hard.

If you could have one current writer write your biography, who would you pick? 

Josh Bazell, just because he’s my favorite, and maybe he’d interview me and we could hang out and be best buds. Or Charlie Huston for all the same reasons. 

And now, to the eternal question. The one everyone wants to know…

Plotter or Pantster? 

Both. I don’t sit down with NO IDEA of what happens next. I outline maybe 10-30, sometimes 50 pages in advance. It’s really just basic stuff like “Miranda goes here, does this.” Maybe a snippet of dialogue. Writing that down gives me a few days to work out any kinks, and it allows me to sit down and be productive. I think that’s called the headlight method. It works. Try it. 

There’s nothing worse (besides rabies, maybe) than sitting down and not knowing where to go. Because when that happens, I check twitter. Or io9.com, or funny cat pictures. Or do anything but write. 

Keeping the outline sparse means I can still experience that wonderful discovery only writers can have. When you’re in the middle of a scene and genius strikes. And I don’t even always follow the outline. I’ve found the more I write, the easier it is to let go. The outline is a safety net. If I remind myself to stay loose, I have a lot more fun. 

It also helps to have a vague idea of the ending, just so you know what you’re building towards. Right now I’m “plotting” the third False Memory book. I know how it ends, and how it begins, and once I have a few more ideas on the middle, I’ll sit down and start drafting.

******************************************************************

Thanks to Dan for an informative, fun interview!

Now, on to the Caption Contest!

Entrants shall write a caption for the following picture…

(Yes, this is a pig. Yes, it’s in my yard. A story for another day :D)

Enter your caption in the comments section of this post.

Humor is appreciated, but not required.

Entry deadline is Saturday, July 2nd at 11:59pm (Pacific Standard Time)

Winner and runner-up will be announced when Dan completes judging.   

Winner receives the book, The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler. (Thanks to Dan for offering up such a great prize!)

Runner-up receives a prize pack of writing goodies from me.

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14 thoughts on “Dan Krokos Interview and Caption Contest!

  1. 1. This is one of the best author interviews I’ve ever read. Anywhere. And I’m not just saying that because I love Dan. (But his comments here are pretty indicative of just why I love him. ❤ Seriously, dude. You rock.)

    2. I want want want that book, but I'm so so so bad at captions! I'll think it over and come back later.

    Thank you both for this! 😀

  2. Lydia,

    Thank you so much! Dan was so generous with his answers that this interview turned out really fun and at the same time informative.

    A giant pig (it didn’t show well in the picture, but its head reached my waist and it weighed an estimated 400 pounds) in a residential neighborhood? I’m thinking your creative brain can come up with something great.

    Or, have your little boy come up with something. Kids are always good for a laugh 🙂

    Christi

  3. Hi Dan and Christie!

    Congratulations, Dan! Your tenacity and indomitable spirit are pure proof that one’s goal is not just reachable but definitely obtainable.

    Wonderful interview. Dan you are a candid man! And that’s a good thing. I totally saw myself when you described your writing process.

    I really appreciate your view on having someone else look over written material, too. I have never trusted my eyes alone to pick up every mistake.

    I’ll soon be ready to send out queries and am nervous. Although as you’ve stated, I, too, am reading blogs and anything else to do with queries regardng the do’s and dont’s. It’s like applying for a job – your cover letter is supposed to create enough interest for the reader to turn the page.

    Caption for Photo: This little piggie came home – he didn’t like what he saw going on in the market.

  4. Hello Dan! Nice to ‘meet’ you 🙂 Congratulations on your forthcoming book and thank you so much for the interview.

    I’m glad that you feel so strongly about putting writing first when trying to break into the business. As someone who’s still trying, it can be difficult when outsiders ask/suggest that I focus only on, say, one novel I’ve written and stop ‘cluttering my efforts to be successful’ by continuing to write on new projects.

    To me, every single thing I write improves my writing, so no matter what else I’ve got going on querying/submitting wise, I’m always continuing to write.

    I’m also thrilled to hear that you think twitter is a time suck. I’ve got a blog/twitter/facebook, and I’ve met some great people/learned some great things, but it’s good to know that you don’t have to have some sort of huge social platform to be ‘marketable’.

    Again, thanks Dan for taking time out to visit Christi’s blog, and thank you Christi for putting the time in to set it up!

    I’ll be back later for the caption contest 🙂

  5. Christi, thanks for a great post and for introducing me to yet another hard-working author.

    Hello Dan, I loved your interview and your candid responses. I also read your interview on The Novel Road. You have a great attitude and I love your work ethic 🙂 I look forward to reading your debut novel.

    A pig in your yard, Christi? Sounds like Miss Piggy on steroids 🙂 Okay …her goes:

    “If I can make it around the corner of the yard, I can hide in Corbett’s garage until Luigi gives up and buys a side of beef for Sunday’s barbeque.”

  6. First, my contest entry:
    “This isn’t the market,” thought Terrance, unsure if he was relieved or disappointed.

    Now on to an actual comment, yes?
    Brilliant interview, both the questions and Dan’s responses. I can especially relate to the advice about putting writing first. I blew off my sister’s (semi-informal)bachelorette just so I could work on my editing. Which I should be doing now so I can send it off for other opinions while I write and/or research my next project(s).
    (Not blowing off her wedding, though. Just bringing my work with me.)

  7. Christi and Dan,

    Thank you so much for doing this interview. Though Dan thinks Twitter is a time suck, it’s where I first discovered him and anything about False Memory to begin with, so I am glad he has stayed attached to what is deemed a time suck. =P

    I already knew he’d be interesting after reading some of his tweets, but this interview has definitely fleshed him out more as a writer, and I’ve found a lot of the things he’s said to be insightful, valuable, and encouraging.

    I think I’m at the point where I’ve sort of burned a lot of social bridges by putting my writing first because there is nothing I want to be more than a writer (He’s right about having a crappy job as motivation too). I’ve also missed out on my early 20’s, and have kind of snubbed a lot of friends to stay home and work on the manuscript I’ve rewritten about a dozen time. I never know if the sacrifice is actually worth it, but I guess in Dan’s case it really was, and that’s encouraging to hear.

    I completely agree with his view on self-publishing too. I believe writers owe it to their readers to have their work polished until it shines with the glory of a thousand suns. We need agents and editors combing over every detail to make sure we can offer the best story possible to those who are willing to take time and read it.

    Now for my caption –

    Hollywood has not been kind to Babe. Piglet stars, child stars, they are one in the same, once the cameras stop rolling. After an unsuccessful stint in the swine porn industry, he became severely addicted to alcohol, and now he wanders aimlessly from yard to yard, searching trash cans, hoping to find dregs inside of empty cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon, his preferred beer.

  8. Christi and Dan, I really enjoyed this interview. Thanks for sharing. Dan, I appreciate your view on twitter as being a time-suck. Myself, I think it’s a bit of a necessary evil for writers trying to build a platform (especially, non-fiction ones), but I also think that there’s a difference between spending the 15 mins a day social networking to maintain a presence, and getting sucked into twitterland for hours.
    I found your comments interesting and inspiring. Thanks again.

    As for a caption? I don’t think I can beat Penny’s from above (made me LOL), but here’s an effort.

    “Where’s that Wolf? If he tries to Huff and Puff all over my house again, I’ll hog-tie his furry ass.”

  9. Wow, what an excellent author interview! The story about the agent signing you on 25 seconds after she finished your book–all because of a great query letter– gives us all hope. Your sense of humor is something to aspire to and your book sounds intriguing. Can’t wait to read it and know the effort that went into it.

    My attempt at a caption:
    The ‘mail-order pork’ business sounded great on paper. Unfortunately, their emphasis on “fresh meat” went too far and the bacon was prone to wander.

  10. Pingback: Writing Quote Friday « Christi Corbett's Blog

  11. I’m laughing so hard at all the captions! Here’s my attempt:

    ‘Mrs. Gandersnoot’s pink flamingo obsession had always caused a stir at the neighborhood association’s monthly meetings, but such benign things as cheaply made plastic birds paled in comparison to Mr. Gottawad’s new attack hog – something which, according to Mr. Gottawad, who traveled often, was all the rage in Paris.’

  12. Hey guys! Thanks so much for the kind comments! I’m glad my interview was useful. I was worried I was going to come off as too blunt, but I’m glad you all were able to appreciate that.

  13. Pingback: Interviews | Dan Krokos

  14. Pingback: Caption Contest Winners! « Christi Corbett's Blog

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