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05 August 2011

Welcome special guest: author Gini Koch (@GiniKoch)

Today we have author, Gini Koch, visiting. Gini lives in Hell’s Orientation Area (aka Phoenix, AZ), works her butt off (sadly, not literally) by day, and writes by night with the rest of the beautiful people. She writes the fast, fresh and funny Alien/Katherine “Kitty” Katt series for DAW Books, listens to rock music 24/7, and is a proud comics geek-girl willing to discuss at any time why Wolverine is the best superhero ever (even if Deadpool does get all the best lines). She also speaks frequently on what it takes to become a successful author and other aspects of writing and the publishing business. In addition, she writes under a variety of pen names, including: Anita Ensal & J.C. Koch

* So, Gini, what inspired you to become a writer?
The voices in my head. Seriously. I couldn’t get them to shut up, and there was a set that were particularly loud and demanding, and I finally gave in and wrote down their story.
At first I just wrote because it shut up the voices and was kind of fun. Then I realized I was avoiding going to movies, over to friends’ houses, to parties, because I wanted to write instead. Somewhere around then I decided this wasn’t a hobby -- this was my “one thing”, the thing you’d do even if no one paid you, if no one else cared, you’d still do it. From that point on, my goal was to be published and turn writing into my career.
* When did you attempt your first story? What length was it? What's become of it?
I actually started writing much later than I started getting story ideas, because I believed a teacher who said that the only way anyone could write was to outline. I’m an extreme linear writer, so I’d try to outline, get discouraged because after hours of effort I had essentially nothing, and stop. When I finally started just writing, there was no stopping me (though people tried, LOL).
My first novel was written, now, about a dozen years ago. It was far, FAR too long. LOL And I wrote four of them like that, until I realized that they were not only too long, but nowhere near to ready. What’s become of that first novel, though, is that I essentially learned to write on it. I rewrote it many, many times (version 9.2.2 is what my agent’s shopping, and yes, I number the versions like software releases…yep, that’s a LOT of rewriting).
I worked on a variety of other things while getting that first novel into a publishable form, in part because I’m also not a “finish it before you start anything else” kind of writer. Which is good, because if I was, I wouldn’t be published.

* How many stories did you complete before you sold your first?
*cough* A lot. Over a dozen novels, over two dozen short stories. Well over a hundred submissions, all of which were rejected, before I sold my first short humor piece. And then I wrote a lot more. Before I sold my next humor piece. And so on. It’s a SLOW business and “not for us” really sometimes just means “not for us” and sometimes it means “your writing’s not good enough.”
You also learn, as you move along in the business, that having an agent doesn’t mean you instantly sell. Having a good agent means you get to be rejected at a higher level. :-D But I wouldn’t trade my agent for anything.

* What genre(s) do you write in? What drew you to write in it/them? What’s your favorite genre of all to write in?
I write in every genre out there, even literary fiction (though only short stories). I write in all lengths, as well.  My favorite genre is whatever I’m writing right now, though I do really love SF/F/H for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that you can do anything you want, anything you can imagine.
I don’t consciously think about genre when I start writing. I just write the story, and then worry about what genre it fits when I’m done. Genre matters greatly for sales and marketing but, to me, it matters not at all for creativity.

* What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you ever received?
Hands down the worst was that wheeze about only being able to write if you outline. Any time someone hands you an absolute -- as in, this is the ONLY way to do this or that in a creative endeavor -- you should ignore them, because there are no absolutes when it comes to creativity. What someone means when they say, “This is the only way,” is, “This is the way *I* do it and I want you to do it my way only.” To which I say, get down with your own bad selves and create however it works best for YOU.
I’ve received a lot of good advice. It’s difficult to pick what I’d say was the best, because most of it I got from successful published authors and all their advice was golden. And we don’t have room here for all that advice.
However, if I look at my career, the BEST advice I ever got was from my friend Dixie, who kept bugging me to “write funny” for at least 2-3 years before I broke down and did what she suggested. Once I actually started writing funny, my career took off. We would not have Kitty, Martini, Christopher or anyone else in this series’ universe if not for Dixie’s constant, gentle nagging, and I probably wouldn’t have a writing career.

* How do you celebrate/deal with acceptance/rejection letters?
My first rejection ever was from “The New Yorker”. I believe adamantly at starting at the top and working down. So, I got it, turned to my family and said, “Now I’m in the same category as Robert Benchley, Steve Martin, Woody Allen, Dorothy Parker, and David Sedaris.” (All of whom, at one time or another, have been rejected by “The New Yorker”.) Then I sent the piece out to the next market on my list.
I save all my rejections. I plan to wallpaper a bathroom with them some day. And, as mentioned earlier, I have a LOT of rejections to use. But I learned earlier in life that the no’s only matter if you let them matter.
The main thing I did and still do every time I get a rejection? I write another book, novella or short story. Every single time. My answer to everything -- rejection, acceptance, good days, bad days, in between days -- is always the same: write another book.

* In regard to the book you’re promoting, which actor and actress do you envision playing the roles of your hero and heroine? If there’s a villain or other characters who are pertinent to the story, who would play those parts?
I kind of hate this question, because I really want the readers to see the characters as THEY see them, as they create them in their heads, versus comparing them to actors or actresses. For about half of what I write I do use actors or actresses for models, so I describe the characters correctly. But for the Alien/Katherine “Kitty” Katt series, I don’t. The characters look, in my mind, like themselves, not like someone else.
That said, I know people love to know, so I put it this way -- these are the actors who I think could play the parts well. They do NOT (except where noted) look all that much like the characters to me, but they could play them well in movies or TV. (This also varies depending on who I’ve seen in what recently, LOL.)
Kitty Katt -- Drew Barrymore, Alicia Silverstone, or Isla Fischer
Jeff Martini -- Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (with Patrick Dempsey’s hair)
Christopher White -- Chris Pine
James Reader -- Matt Bomer (who would, frankly, be perfect casting)
Tim Crawford -- Joseph Gordon-Levitt (again, perfect casting)
Lorraine -- Scarlett Johannson
Claudia -- Jessica Alba
Richard White -- Timothy Dalton (since Kitty describes him this way, perfect casting)
My villain is essentially a giant monster, so he’d be played by CGI. ;-D
* The book you’re promoting, is it a stand-alone story or part of a series? If it’s part of a series, please list the order the books need to be read in for maximum reading enjoyment.
Alien in the Family is the third book in the Alien/Katherine “Kitty” Katt series. Touched by an Alien (1) released April 2010, Alien Tango (2) released December 2010, Alien Proliferation (4) is coming December 2011, Alien Diplomacy (5) is coming April 2012, and Alien vs. Alien (6) is coming December 2012. Yes, I have more books in the series planned, too.
While each book stands alone, I’d suggest starting with Touched by an Alien and going in order from there, because there are a variety of “in jokes” you’ll miss if you don’t start from #1.
As for what sparked the story, it was a dream. I had a dark, scary, noir-ish dream, and I planned to write a dark, noir-ish, short horror story. Within three pages, however, it was clear this was going to be neither horror nor short, and the character’s voice wasn’t coming off as dark so much as quirky, and there was a lot of funny in there. Then Martini breezed onto the scene, charmed Kitty and me, and the book took off.
However, all of Chapter 1 of Touched by an Alien is the dream, filtered through Kitty.

*** Now for some fun info… ***
* Would you/have you own(ed) a snake or some other exotic pet?
Like Kitty, I’m pathologically afraid of snakes. I’m not into exotic pets. The cute ones my cats (aka The Killer Kitties) and dogs (aka The Canine Death Squad)
would eat, and most of the others freak me out just a little.
* Which do you prefer: rain or sun & warm weather or cold weather?
I live willingly in Phoenix, Arizona. I LOVE the heat, baby! And sunshine all the way.
* Are you a morning person or night owl?
Night Owl in the extreme. I have a 12 hour flipped body clock and can go fully nocturnal in three days or less. My husband is, of course, more of a lark.

*** About Gini’s book and series… ***
Tagline: Series ~ Saving the day with hairspray and rock ‘n’ roll.
Tagline: Alien in the Family ~ New conspiracies. New enemies. Same Kitty.

Planning any wedding is hard enough, but Katherine “Kitty” Katt and Jeff Martini have a lot more to worry about than seating arrangements, because multiple interstellar invasions, Alpha Team in mortal peril, and inter-alien conspiracies are all on the guest list -- and the gifts they’ve brought explode.
   Kitty and Martini should be happily finalizing their wedding plans. Kitty’s biggest worries should be about winning over Martini’s mother, finding the right dress, and lining up her bridesmaids. But protecting the Earth from assorted alien threats seems to keep getting in the way.
   The discovery that Martini is actually a member of the Alpha Centaurion Royal Family carries additional news -- emissaries are on their way to see if Kitty’s royal bride material. And they’re not the only things coming from the Alpha Centaurion system.
   Amazonian assassins, spies, alien beasties, shape-shifters, and representatives from the Planetary Council, combined with a tabloid reporter who’s a little too on the mark, create a deadly situation for Kitty and the rest of Alpha Team. When the assassins strike far too close to home for anyone’s comfort, Kitty realizes it’s going to come down to more than flowers -- she’s going to have to face an entire planetary consciousness and dethrone a monarch in order to make it to the church on time.

I’m published by DAW Books/Penguin so all my books can be found pretty much wherever books are sold. I’m in mass market paperback, available at most/any bookstore, as well as via online ordering like Amazon, B&, etc. To my knowledge, the books are also available in all ereader formats like Kindle, Nook, etc.
Much of the action in Alien in the Family takes place in Las Vegas, where I’ve been many times, so that didn’t require as much research as it could have. (Not that I ever object to a trip to Vegas, mind you. I love Vegas -- it’s my kind of town.)
I did have to find a set of mountain ranges that would fit the book’s opening sequences, which took me a long time, because it’s not that easy to find something in nature that will correspond to something you made up in the prior book. But I managed, thank you Arizona and New Mexico topography!
My interesting book tidbit probably relates to the wedding clothes. I spent more time researching and choosing the clothing for this book than I did for my own wedding. The dress that Daniel Dos Santos (my cover artist) drew for the cover isn’t actually how I see Kitty’s dress, though I think, as with every cover he does, he did an awesome job. I describe the clothing pretty much exactly as I saw it when I finally found the right dresses and tuxedos. Sadly, I didn’t print out the pictures from the web when I found them -- they’re now out of date as far as the designers are concerned, so I can’t actually point to anything and say “They look like this!” anymore. So hopefully I did a good enough job for readers to really know how the characters are dressed.
The mountain ranges and Las Vegas, however, are still there. So two out of three ain’t bad.

***Find Gini here***
Twitter: @GiniKoch
Facebook Fan Page: Hairspray and Rock 'n Roll: Kicking Evil Alien Butt since 2010 GINI KOCH (yes, this is the longest page name in history; the chicklet created the page for me, way back when, at 2am, and she and her bestie LOVE this title, so, it stays)
Official Fan Site: Alien Collective Virtual HQ
Readers who want to get all the news first, access to exclusive contests, and more, should sign up for my Hook Me Up! subscribers list (which is free). Send an email to with “Hook Me Up!” in the subject line.

Gini’s happy to give away a personalized, signed copy of “Touched by an Alien” or “Alien Tango” in mass market paperback format to one commenter on this blog, chosen at random by C.R. Moss, the blog host. Please leave your name and email in the comment so if you win you can be contacted by Gini. (If you don't wish to leave your email in the comment, send it to Contest runs through August 12, 2011; winner will be announced in the week of August 15th. Contest is international.

Thank you for joining us here today, Gini! It was a pleasure getting to know you and your work.


Novel Opinion said...

Gini ROCKS and this series has become a big favorite with me. I recommend this to ANY genre reader! I am thrilled to hear you have many more planned Gini!!! I'm a sucker for Martini!

RebeLovesBooks said...

I agree with Novel Opinion - Gini does rock! I love how original this series is!


Gini Koch said...

Thanks you guys! So glad you're enjoying the series! (And Martini thanks you for your support. :-D)

Shannan Albright said...

Loved the interview! What a great and talented author. Fantastic sense of humor too.

Siobhan Muir / Meg Palevich said...

It sounds like a great series and the cover art has me giggling each time I see it. I'm very interested in reading Touch by an Alien and I wish you the greatest of successes in your series!


Gini Koch said...

Thanks, Shannan!

Meg, thanks, and hope you enjoy the books!

Denise Z said...

Gini is the bomb :) I have more fun following her site and she sent me here today, which is really awesome because I found a new fun blog to follow. I have signed up with GFC and FB and look forward to reading more of what you have to say. Thank you for the wonderful interview and giveaway opportunity. I just want to say that horned toads rock and I had one as a pet when I was little, until it got out and unfortunately ended up a stain in the driveway - this made me very sad - so now I must seek the stars and fight for good against evil - okay, okay I'll stop now LOL This is a wonderful series by a wonderful author.


Anne said...

If I win, I'd like Touched by an Alien. I lent out my copy and never got it back!!

Thanks for telling us who you'd cast. I never would have picked The Rock for Jeff, as tasty as he is. I pictured someone more with a swimmer's build to go nicely into those Armani suits. nice time I read the books, I'll be seeing the actors in my mind (like I do the True Blood cast when I reread Charlaine Harris' books.

Anonymous said...

Love your books! The Rock is an interesting choice, love it.



Gini Koch said...

Thanks, Denise! Glad you enjoy hanging out at my site! :-D

Anne, thanks so much for lending the book out. Bummer it's not back, but, hey, you might get lucky, right? :-D

And, to Jerilyn and Anne both -- having now seen Thor, I think I'd also add Chris Hemsworth, with brown hair, as a great choice to play Martini. Martini is a BIG guy. Christopher has the swimmer's build, Martini is much bigger and broader. The size ratio between Hemsworth and Natalie Portman is also what I see as the difference between Martini and Kitty. :-D

But I still think The Rock could do Martini perfectly, too. :-D

Lisabet Sarai said...

Hi, Gini (and C.R.)!

Fabulous interview, wise and funny! And I'm in love with your feline!


janhvi said...

Thanks for the Interview Gini!:)
I'm a huge fan of kitty and martini:)
I think the actors you chose to play the parts of the characters fit perfectly well especially for Reader,matt bomber is PERFECT!

justjanhvi at gmail dot com

Camille said...

I LOVE YOU CREATOR!! (not as much as my clones and not in the same way but still- LOOOVEE)

I love you so much I want to throw an angry bird at you, it's crazy but you know what they say about love and people who express them differently ;P

great interview! and hey I like your suggested actors- though you're right, they never look the same in anyone's head that's why books into movies casting is usually filled with non-committal, overtly outraged or indifferent POVs from the fans lmao

the voices in my head want to hang with the voices in your head, just sayin lol

midnite dot fantasy at gmail dot com

bungluna said...

I came to this series backwards; someone recommended "Alien in the Family" as an antidote to my series ennui and I just devoured it. Then I read my way back to the beginning. I'm thrilled to know there will be more adventures to enjoy.

Merranda said...

What were all those crazy publishers thinking not publishing your earlier books? If they were anything like the TBA, AT or AITF then they missed out big time because those books are awesome. Thanks Gini for not giving up and I am looking forward to # 4. Rock and write on baby. LOL

Gini Koch said...

Lisabet, the gray one is Mr. Fluffykins, aka He Who Rules All. The tuxedo behind us in the pic (yes, she's there) is Dementia Kitty. :-D

Janhvi, I know on Bomer! He still doesn't look exactly like Reader to me, but he's by far the closest of any actor to how I see a character in my head.

Camille, ROFL, you always crack me up (the voices in my head say the voices in your head are cool and they can hang, btw).

Bungluna, thanks for reading, backwards no less! Will you re-read frontwards to prep for "Alien Proliferation"? :-D

Merranda, well, you know, it's a tough business. We all just have to channel Galaxy Quest and never give up and never surrender. :-D

Anonymous said...

:D when you're done with it, i would love to see a picture of that bathroom with all the rejections on the walls^^
most unique bathroom ever!

thanks for everything,
manu <3

Gini Koch said...

LOL, Manu, believe me, I will take pics and post. Won't be for a while -- the hubs, for some reason, doesn't want to do that remodel just yet. But it WILL happen, somewhere down the line. :-D

~evening-green~ said...

thanks for the informative and fun interview! I love the bathroom wallpaper idea and your determination when it comes to writing.
I also like the story about your friend trying to get you to write funny, it's great it worked out like that.

And you're so lucky with your covers, I think it's horrible if authors get stuck with covers that don't really work for their book, but yours are awesome♥

Thank you for the chance to win,

eveningreen AT gmail DOT com

Gini Koch said...

Thanks, EG! I really won the cover artist lottery with getting Daniel Dos Santos, and believe me, I appreciate it. :-D