Here’s my promised interview with Kian Kaul, author of stockholm. You can also read an excerpt from stockholm.
Bryce:Tell me three things about yourself that everyone should know, and one thing about yourself that almost nobody knows.
Kian: The first thing everyone figures out about me is that self-describing is a struggle, it’s where I would always stumble in job interviews. Once, in my late teens, I literally froze after being asked something like this and had to just get up and leave. I’m better now, though, however don’t expect a prepared talking point.
Even more helpful is understanding my tone – I tend to make satirical jokes and observations that can be taken too seriously, if you’re the self-serious type. So be adamant about watching for micro-expressions my face and hands.
I’m also quite tall. I only bring this up because A) people love to talk about it B) no one ever expects it and tends to spend a lot of time talking about it C) is a dead-end conversation. Build a conversation around my fantastic hair, instead.
I spent several years as a “secret painter”, converting an area in my apartment into a makeshift studio. It wasn’t intended to be a secret, but referring to it that way makes it sound semi-scandalous and sexy and that’s what you need for an exclusive. I knew I was done living in quiet perspiration when I decided to throw all my paintings out to make room for a couch. I’m like that.
Bryce: I’m so glad you said something. I was afraid to bring it up. How do you keep your hair so fantastic?
Kian: Well, I say fantastic but in truth it only photographs well. It’s also impressive up to five or six feet away, but everything else about it is incredibly disappointing.
Bryce: Okay, so when you threw out the paintings, was it at least for a nice couch?
Kian: I really enjoyed the couch and was confused and a little taken aback when some people described it as something “you’d find in a doctor’s office”. Doctors are impressive, right? So…
Bryce: When you’re not writing, how do you prefer to spend your time?
Kian: Hunched over a desk is unfortunately where most people find themselves five days a week, with a modest break for lunch, but for writers it’s that much worse. I’ve gotten good at persuading myself to socialize, outmaneuvering most of my best arguments to stay in and immerse myself in YouTube. Lately, I’ve been exploring hidden and lesser-known areas around Los Angeles. Or at least lesser-known to me. It’s a massive city with secrets everywhere. It’s a wonder so few people have written stories set here.
Bryce: So what’s an example of a lesser-known place in LA you think everyone should visit?
Kian: Believe it or not, but downtown is probably the greatest area I’ve spent time in this city and yet it’s still less trafficked than the more obvious neighborhoods. Gallery Row is probably my favorite stretch and I suggest everyone spend an afternoon walking around, enjoying the slightly-imposing buildings, the unpredictable occurrences and odd characters, the surprisingly interesting restaurants and coffee shops and the incredibly friendly yet hip people. It’s by far the friendliest district in Los Angeles. Only a few blocks away is Little Tokyo and that’s certainly worth a look too.
Bryce: Where did the idea for Stockholm come from?
Kian: Stockholm has a checkered past unlike most other books – originally it was a sitcom pilot script, with a different name, which is still more or less the first “episode” of the story, the first 30 pages. Once I realized I couldn’t afford to produce it myself, it faded away quietly while I worked on other things, only to suddenly reemerge as the seed of a novel. I hesitated at first, but oddly enough it was the story structure of one of the “Grand Theft Auto” games that convinced me I could do it. What happened next, no one could have predicted.
Bryce: What is your writing process? Do you outline, or do you just sit down and start writing to see where it takes you?
Kian: That’s a great question and one that’s difficult to answer neatly in this case. The original sitcom version was outlined and rewritten many times, so I was able to develop the initial group of characters thinking they were the entire story. When I started the actual novel I had the two Word docs side by side for the first 30 pages, adapting the script. After that I was on my own and honestly I only wrote when I had ideas. I don’t believe in “writer’s block”, at least in my experience I either have ideas or I don’t. Sometimes it was a quick dialogue interchange, sometimes it was a vital story arc, but as you said, I just let it “happen”.
Bryce: What’s your favorite part of the whole process? First draft, editing, seeing it all come together?
Kian: When I’m experiencing the story, it no longer feels like writing or working. I’m a primarily visual thinker and when it was great, working on the book, it was like moving through my own film and watching it unfold, without knowing what would happen next. There was the thrill of discovery and the genuine emotion reaction that can only truly happen once. When it wasn’t good it was excruciating manual labor, only without the sense of accomplishment. Being inside the story as it unfolds, that’s the attraction for me.
Bryce: Where can people find you in the internet and buy your book?
Kian: Stockholm and myself are indivisible to begin with – we’re both in residence on stockholmbook.com – through there you can travel to Amazon to procure the book, you can follow me on Twitter and try to enjoy my topical humor, or you can just stay where you’re probably situated right now and look up Stockholm on Facebook. A Google search would probably yield even more surprising results…
Bryce: What’s next for you?
Kian: I’m working on a sort of adaptation of “Stockholm” – it’ll involve actors but it’s not a tv pilot or anything similar. I don’t know when this will get moving, but it’s a completely different take on the story and it’ll be very exciting to do. The pleasure really is in the doing.
Bryce: What should I have asked you, if only I knew you well enough to ask?
Kian: I’m curious why I tend to use humor to deflect personal questions about myself, but if you had asked me about this I likely wouldn’t have given you a satisfying answer. It’s like an ouroboros of interpersonal defense mechanisms. How’s that for a last line?