AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Keffy R.M. Kehrli

For those folks not familiar with your work, what’s your background as a writer? How long have you been writing, and where have some of your publications appeared?

I’ve been writing short stories since about 2008. I don’t really have an exciting background as a writer as I’m more or less just getting started. I have had short stories in Apex Magazine, Escape Pod, and Fantasy Magazine, to name a few.

Since your story inspired (and titled!) HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!! and Other Improbable Kickstarters, your story existed first, independently of the book–so what inspired you to try writing a story using the conventions of a Kickstarter pitch?

I really wanted to poke at Kickstarter projects a bit. Most of my social group consists of other creators, so I used to long for the day when major crowdfunding drives would end because I would get tired of seeing the pitches on Twitter every day. I think I eventually just got used to it.

As to inspiration for this story: the idea made me laugh, and then I wanted to see if I could actually make a story of it.

What are your thoughts about crowdfunding generally? Do you back a lot of Kickstarters, or at least find a lot of interesting projects because of crowdfunding?

I have very mixed feelings about crowdfunding. I’ve helped fund more than 20 projects, but I tend to only go in on projects where one of the lower reward tiers gives me something I want. I’ve only been burned once or twice, but it helps that I mostly stick to anthology projects. There are some interesting projects that get off the ground due to crowdfunding that probably would never have made it through the traditional publishing route.

I think that crowdfunding works best if you have a product that people actually want and/or you already have a large fanbase that’s willing to give you money and advertise your campaign to their friends for you. Personally, I tend to treat crowdfunding projects like an elaborate pre-order system. Sell me a book or album at a reasonable price, and I’m there. Sometimes I see projects where all the funding options cost more than the book will when it comes out, and then I don’t have a strong reason to pre-order.

How do you think Kickstarter and self-publishing platforms (like Amazon’s KDP, etc.) are changing publishing?

I’m not sure. There are challenges to making a successful creative project no matter how you decide to get it funded. Every new method of publishing (or self-publishing) that comes out tends to get a lot of breathless blog posts about how it’s going to “revolutionize” everything. In reality, a very few people will get a ton of money, a few people will occasionally get enough to fund a project or two, and a lot of people will fail.

I think it’s absolutely essential to realize that there are more options available to creators, and not every option is ideal for every project. Nothing is ever a sure thing.

The biggest winners in the self-publishing and crowdfunding explosions of the past few years are really not the creators, it’s Amazon, who’s working hard to get an automatic slice of every pie, no matter how small. But… that’s how it goes.

What are you working on now and/or what do you have coming out next?

“This is a Ghost Story” is coming out in the November 2013 issue of Apex Magazine. Other than that, I’ve got some stuff on submission… and I’m working on a novel. I know… so is everybody.

 

BONUS ROUND! Here are some questions about his story that Keffy answered for us over at Lightspeed. The above interview was conducted by me; these following questions were asked by my assistant editor at Lightspeed, Robyn Lupo.

What can you tell us about how “HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!!” began?

I am a terrible person who enjoys schadenfreude pie more than almost anyone else I know. People say that the internet runs on cats or porn, but I feel this is inaccurate. Beneath the layers of pornography, cats, and pornographic cats, the internet really runs on schadenfreude. This story came from reading the now-defunct Regretsy site and browsing spectacular crowdfunding failures for far too many hours. I also felt like crowdfunding has been ubiquitous for the past three years and wanted to poke at it a little bit.

At what point did the story gain momentum—like, at what point, did it turn into a story?

I had a “finished” draft of the story about a year ago, but I don’t think that it actually turned into a story until thirty minutes before my reading at Norwescon this year. I had been planning to read from my novel, but realized that I wasn’t happy with the excerpt I’d chosen. I decided that it’d be easier to fill twenty to twenty-five minutes with a few stories in the 500-1500 word range than cut a coherent 4000 words out of the novel draft. When I was giving the story a quick re-read, I realized that the ending sucked, so I added a couple more updates. Prior to that, it wasn’t really a story because it had no narrative arc. I kind of shoved the readers off a cliff at the end. One of the nice things about reading to an audience before sending this out for publication was that I had a good idea of which punch lines actually played well, and which ones needed tweaking.

What sort of evil geniuses inspired your Evil Genius Narrator?

I’m not sure. The only mad scientist that comes to mind when I think about “things that might have actually inspired me” is Dr. Frederick Frankenstein from Young Frankenstein. I don’t remember watching it much as a kid, but my parents used to hum the violin theme at me when I was a baby because it would make me cry, which was hilarious. That’s probably over-analyzing it, though. I suspect I just decided it was my turn to dip into that particular mossy, slug-lined well of tropes.

Why use this format?

It made me laugh!

What are you working on now and/or what do you have coming out next?

Well, I’m still working on a novel (just like everybody), and I have a couple of novellas that are currently mid-draft. I just sold a short story to Three-Lobed Burning Eye, so I’m looking forward to that coming out either this fall or early next year.

For the summer, I’m also doing the Clarion UCSD Write-a-Thon ( http://clarionwriteathon.org ). People who sponsor me for $10 or more can check out a password protected blog where I’m posting excerpts of my works in progress and writing about my work. I wrote more about my goals on my own website, here: http://www.keffy.com/the-2014-clarion-ucsd-blog-post-of-doom/