Interview with KJ Kabza

Published 2023-05-28.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
At age 4, I demanded of my mother, "Teach me to read." I was an avid consumer of Sesame Street, and my mother had watched me sound out letters and words, so she said, "You already know how to read." I didn't believe her, so we sat down with a book and she helped me (slowly) read it aloud to her. The book was called, "Ann Likes Red." The impact was tremendous. I ran around the house screaming.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I used to "make books" when I was very little by drawing a sequence of pictures, sometimes with some words, and stapling them together. I started doing this when I was 4 or 5. One of the earliest "books" I can remember making featured a hungry shark who ate so many fish that he exploded, replete with an illustration of a cartoony BOOM 50 feet under the ocean. Obviously, I was a little fuzzy on the physics.
When did you first start writing?
You mean seriously? At age 14. I wrote my first novel at the household computer in WordPerfect 5.0. (Ah, the romance of that desolate blue screen! I can still see the little clover-pattern of the "hard return" symbol when I close my eyes.) I fell in love as I wrote, and thought, "This is what I want to be."
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
My dad was in the US military and we moved around a lot. As a consequence, I never had (and don't have) a sense of being rooted anywhere within the states. This has influenced my writing enormously. In being bonded with nowhere, I'm curious about everywhere, and the diversity of genres, lengths, styles, voices, and worlds that I've written reflects that. But while I don't feel rooted within any place inside America, I do feel rooted in America in general, and that's reflected in my fiction, too. I'm more likely to write a classically western "person wants a thing, person struggles and overcomes obstacles, person gets the thing" type of story than, say, a slice-of-life vignette, a story about community cohesion, or a story wherein what changes is wholly inside the protagonist.
Describe your desk.
I write on a small, creaky, lovely old wooden dining table that, even with the leaf in, only seats four. I bought it off of Craigslist in 2013 from a woman with financial troubles who extremely didn't want to sell it because it used to be her grandmother's, and she told me several times that she was anxious that it go to a good home. As I am a tidy person who rooms with no pets, children, or other destructive forces, and who tends to get sentimental about objects, I will probably keep and protect this table until I die. So you have nothing to worry about, ma'am.
What is your writing process?
Whenever I sit down to work, I open a can of something carbonated, raise it up in a toast, close my eyes, and focus on my gratitude—how happy I am to be able to make art—and I whisper, "Thank you." Then I take a sip. Then I make some art.

I guess maybe that wasn't quite what you meant by the question.
How do you approach cover design?
I find empty landscapes and still life displays very evocative—of a tone, mood, theme, or setting—and I use these. The common wisdom is that covers with pictures of people sell more books, but since my photography and Photoshop skills (not to mention my "recruit models for photo shoots" skills) are only so-so, I'd rather work with stock images that don't contain humans. My inborn sense of aesthetics keeps me away from any truly awful artistic decisions, and my inborn sense of "if you get totally lost, maybe try mimicking what other people do" allows me to look at other book covers and go, "Hey, that looks nice; maybe I'll try that on mine."
What do you read for pleasure?
Although I write mostly short fiction, I somehow end up reading very little of it. I gravitate toward (non-epic) fantasy, soft or near-future science fiction, YA/middle grade fantasy, literary fiction, narrative poetry, (auto)biography, manga/graphic novels, and miscellaneous nonfiction. But I'll still read stuff that isn't on that list. I don't consider myself a fan of military SF, romance, mysteries, or horror, for example, but I've still read (and enjoyed) books in those genres.
Is there anything that you hate-read?
Sometimes my husband shows me a tweet that he's saved and he goes, "Get this," and then we read that tweet (and all the other tweets in the inevitably following thread) and then marvel at the ill-informed opinions of other people. But that's the closest I come these days. If I don't have enough time to regular-read, then I super don't have enough time to waste on hate-reading.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Oh, sure, just ask me the hardest f***ing question in the world, why dontcha.
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Books by This Author

Heart of Brass and Other Fantasies
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 24,250. Language: English. Published: March 11, 2023. Categories: Fiction » Erotica » BDSM, Fiction » Erotica » Fantasy
Naughty Goldilocks is punished by three strong bears, a submissive yields to a full transformation, angels explore pleasures of the flesh, dragon riders reveal the secret of bonding with their mounts, and an inventor of sex machines must service the most forbidden client of his career. These fantastical fantasies from KJ Kabza will put the fire in your dragon as they take you out of this world.
Through Spaces
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 101,610. Language: English. Published: January 16, 2023. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories, Fiction » Fantasy » Short stories
All spaces—from gaps in assumptions to voids between afterlives—can be dangerous to cross, and KJ Kabza's third omnibus fiction collection is here to guide you through them all. From haunted bone flutes to hacked bio-nanites, the stories in THROUGH SPACES are "Heartwrenching perfection" (Apex Magazine), "Darkly delightful" (B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog), and a bridge to someplace new.
Under Stars
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 102,410. Language: English. Published: October 27, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Short stories, Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories
(4.50 from 2 reviews)
KJ Kabza is back with a second, bigger round of short fiction that's "Incredible" (Tangent), "Fascinating" (SFRevu), and "Worthy of Edgar Allan Poe" (SFcrowsnest). Featuring his freshest work from the top science fiction and fantasy venues of today, including F&SF, Nature, Daily Science Fiction, and more, UNDER STARS showcases wonders from worlds both here and beyond.
Fantasy Scroll Magazine Issue #1
Series: Fantasy Scroll Magazine, Book 1. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 38,590. Language: English. Published: April 16, 2014 by Fantasy Scroll Press. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » General, Fiction » Science fiction » General
Fantasy Scroll Magazine is an online, quarterly publication featuring science fiction, fantasy, horror, and paranormal short-fiction. The magazine’s mission is to publish high-quality, entertaining, and thought-provoking speculative fiction. With a mixture of short stories, flash fiction, and micro-fiction, Fantasy Scroll Magazine aims to appeal to a wide audience.
In Pieces
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 69,910. Language: English. Published: June 18, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Anthologies » Short stories - single author
(5.00 from 2 reviews)
From a mechanical forest that constructs itself to the streets of Kyoto 8,000 years hence, the sometimes whimsical, sometimes cutting short fiction of KJ Kabza has been dubbed "Delightful" (Locus Online) and "Very clever, indeed" (SFRevu). Collecting all of his previously published, early works (plus five new stories), IN PIECES offers glimpses into other worlds—some not unlike your own.