Thursday, January 12, 2012

Six Questions for John Kenyon, Editor, Grift Magazine

Grift Magazine will appear in print three times yearly, and will feature a mix of short crime fiction, interviews, essays/features and reviews. In addition, will feature a weekly flash fiction story, as well as occasional reviews, interviews and news. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

JK: I started Grift for a couple of reasons. First, I edit publications for a living and I love crime fiction, so it is me bringing skills I have to a project that satisfies my interests. Second, what I hope to offer is a bit different from everything else out there. There are many fine publications that I love to read that each offer elements that we will feature, but none do exactly what we will do. Filling that niche with a high-quality publication is the goal.

SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a story and why?

JK: Strong characters, tight writing and an enticing narrative voice. Somewhere threaded in among those three things is plot, of course, but without those three, a plot might as well be an outline. You need strong characters that the reader can connect with immediately, people who feel real and whose actions mean something to the reader. You need tight writing because crime fiction stories have gotta move – they need a forward trajectory that keeps the reader invested. And an enticing narrative voice is the vehicle that carries the story. You want the reader to spend their time with your work, so you should tell it in a way that keeps them hooked and wanting more. They don't need to like the people in your story, but they should like the story.

SQF: What are the top three reasons a story is rejected, other than not fitting into your answers to the above question and why?

JK: I'm just wading through the batch of submissions for the first issue now, but thus far I can say that it is writing that doesn't connect all the dots: thin characterization, flabby sentences, plot points that don't make sense… it all comes down to lazy writing. I don't mean to suggest that anyone who finishes and submits a story is lazy; far from it. But if I need to work to figure out what is going on, if I need to provide the links to make the story work, then it wasn't ready for submission, and it's certainly not ready for the printed page.

I suppose that's just one reason, huh? Another is not following the guidelines in terms of manuscript presentation or length.

SQF: What is it about the characters that make them jump off the page?

JK: They need to feel real. I might not want to meet these people, ever. They may do cartoonishly impossible things. They may not even be human… but they must feel real. I must believe, within the boundaries of this story, that they exist and are capable of the things they are being made by the author to do. I want to get inside of them to learn why they do what they do, and the less overtly this is done, the better. 

SQF: Will you publish a story an author posted on a personal blog?

JK: I would rather not, but it would depend on the story. If I expect people to pay for this magazine, I think they should expect to get all new content in exchange for their money. That stance may change for the right story, and I may hear from readers that the benefit of having a story printed and bound between covers is enough payback for their money. If so, I'll then fall back on my guiding principle when selecting what to run: the best story wins.

SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?

JK: The tendency in crime fiction seems to be toward violent acts and gore. How will Grift compare?

Look, I love the visceral rush of well-written psycho-noir or whatever it's being called these days. If Allan Guthrie puts pen to paper, I'm there, no matter the cringe-worthy acts he depicts. But he does it well. Very well. Some writers seem to mask developing talents with extreme acts of violence. In the right hands, these kinds of stories offer a vicarious, escapist thrill. But I think it is much more thrilling to read about things more grounded in our everyday experiences. The bad choice or wrong turn that leads to unintended consequences. Sure, that can mean torture at the hands of a drooling nut job eluding dozens of cops. But it's more likely to bring you face-to-face with one desperate guy just trying to make it to the next day. Those stories, ones that engage the mind as much as the gut, are what I'm looking for. As I say in the submission guidelines, "it’s not the size of the gun, it’s what you do with it," and "think clever, not cleaver."

Thank you, John. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

NEXT POST: 1/16--Six Questions for Alec Cizak, Pulp Modern

1 comment:

  1. Cool interview, John. Looks like Grift will be smashing.