He absolutely blew away the audience at his reading at Horror Realm in Pittsburgh and definitely held his own during the question and answer session. He is articulate, good-looking, talented beyond his years, and just beginning his career. I suspect he will one day be a superstar author.
Rhiannon: You're a very young writer. How old are you?
Kody: I was born in April 1992. That makes me seventeen.
Rhiannon: What age were you when you started to write seriously?
Kody: I was fourteen when I looked at myself and what I was doing. After a while, I said, 'I'm going to do this.' Six months later, my first short story was published.
Rhiannon: Were you encouraged by a teacher or parent?
Kody: Teachers, mostly. I had a teacher in the fourth or fifth grade that assigned an object-specific creative writing assignment that I absolutely loved. I lost that 'tick' for a while until about sixth grade, when I started pushing myself into my writing again. An Idaho History/English teacher encouraged me to continue writing when I was bumped into the second level of English and learned that I was into writing.
Rhiannon: Where do you gain your inspiration?
Kody: I try to pull inspiration out of wherever I can. Sometimes I'll play with words in my head and they'll inspire stories. Other times, I'll see an image or a flash of something and a whole story will start to revolve around it. Although I'm more of a read-it-off-the-page learner, visuals do a lot to inspire what I write. I'll see fields of poppies and the transgendered children that run through them and skeletons hanging in closets and think, 'That's really something.' So, yes--I pull inspiration from wherever I can.
Rhiannon: Since you are so young, do you struggle with any particular aspect of your writing?
Kody: I've always had a confidence issue, which was, sadly, caused by the often traumatic abuse that childhood could give you. I was mercilessly bullied up until I left traditional high school at fifteen. Any name in the book you can think of I was called. So, naturally, I was (and still am) a rather inward person. My writing, while the strongest point and talent I have, often falls under my perfectionist scrutiny. I'm easily frustrated and can get really emotionally about the thing I'm the best at, so I'll doubt myself and my work a lot. Oftentimes though, it's just me beating myself up too much. I've had stories that I've had doubts about be accepted with much praise by the editors and publishers who take them.
Rhiannon: Did you gain all the writing skills you needed from school or have you self-taught yourself?
Kody: General education did nothing to further my talent. It's sad to say that in this day and age, schools (and the people who run them) aren't allowed to be as free with the extracurricular activities they allow their students, but that never stopped me from pushing myself to be the best I can be. Except for the few critique groups and general feedback I've received from fellow writers and editors, I'm entirely self-taught. I don't consider this a bad thing though. I think that, believe I've been able to go through the school of hard knocks, I've been able to develop a style that isn't hindered by any particular rules or set guidelines. I see my lack of guidance as a blessing more than a curse.
Rhiannon: Your mastery of the written word is amazing. At your reading at Horror Realm in Pittsburgh, people were in awe. Did this come to you naturally?
Kody: I'd be lying if I said my talent was anything other than natural. As I've said, other than the few critique groups and general feedback I've received, I'm entirely self-taught. Persistence and hard work has been what's allowed me to get as far as I have. I've had my highs and lows, and I've thought about giving up due to stress and personal issues, but I've never been one to back down from a challenge. Who's going to help me if not myself? No one. So, since I have nothing better to do for the time being, I write. Better to busy myself typing away at a keyboard than sitting around and eating Bon-Bons all day.
(Rhiannon's Note: I see nothing wrong with eating Bon-Bons all day and sitting around all day.)
Rhiannon: Which writers inspire you?
Kody: Stephen King and his vivid imagination, Poppy Z. Brite for her no-holds-barred style, the late Tristan Egolf for his eccentric and flavorful style, and Jennifer Haigh and her mastership of the family psyche, just to name a few. I could go on and on about which writers and what books have inspired me, but I doubt you want an essay.
(Rhiannon's Note: Again, I don't make the list. I gotta step it up!)
Rhiannon: Do you think you will remain a genre writer?
Kody: At this point, nothing's holding me back from moving outside the realm of a particular genre or genres. I write what I enjoy. For the most part, that's horror and dark (or darker-themed) fiction. I'm happy with what I'm doing right now--I don't see why I'd move out of it. 10. Which genres do you enjoy? Horror, dark fantasy, mystery, thriller, some science fiction (though I can't read hard sci-fi; it makes my head spin,) and contemporary fiction. I'm not picky--if something's interesting and well written, I'll read it.
Rhiannon: There are so many options open to writers today. I know you have been published in small presses, but you have talked about independently publishing as well. How do you decide what path is right for your individual projects?
Kody: It depends on what the project is, how personal it is to me, and how marketable it might be to a publisher. Normally, I'm gung-ho to submit to a publisher, but sometimes I have to hold back and reconsider just what I want to do with my work. I can't specifically delve into the process of how I decide on what to do with a work, because each project is different in several ways.
Rhiannon: Do you tell the publishers your age or just let your work stand for itself?
Kody: Back when I was first starting, I used to tell publishers (if only because I wanted them to be aware that I was underaged should I need to sign a contract,) but I kept getting responses such as, 'We won't give you leeway just because you're younger' or no response at all. Nowadays, I let my work stand for itself and make the publisher aware that I'm underaged if I do happen to be accepted into something they're publishing.
Rhiannon: You are openly gay and write about both gay and straight characters. Have you found any resistance from publishers about including LGBT characters?
Kody: Not particularly. I've had nobodies that hide behind screen names and computer screens lash out at me for my work, but other than that, I've found no resistance or criticism for those looking to put out the best work they can.
Rhiannon: Your first full-length novel had some sharp criticism against it. A lot of people seemed bother about gay characters in a zombie novel. I read all the Amazon. com reviews of Sunrise, but I felt Patrick Dorazio's review echoed my sentiments about the book. He wrote:
"Knowing that this story was written by a teenager and that some of the
characters, including the main character, are gay before I started reading
Sunrise provided me with the chance to look at this story a little bit
differently than I might have if I knew nothing about the author or characters
in advance of reading the first page. Kody writes with a enthusiasm and perhaps
writes this tale more as an idealist than a realist in many ways. The romance is
idealistic, his hope for a world, despite the fact that it is torn apart by
apocalypse, is idealistic, and the relationship in these pages not only between
the two main characters but all the key characters is probably idealistic. Is
that in any way wrong? Not by my reckoning. I have read quite a wide array of
zombie stories over the past few years and I certainly feel there is room on my
shelf for a book written by someone whose is perhaps writing with a less jaded
How do you feel about his review?
Kody: The idealism in my older writing is more than evident, particularly because, up until recently, I never had any experience intimately or romantically. I think the review keys into the main flaw in Sunrise, but does it in a polite and dignified manner. I really appreciate Mr. Dorazio's thought out approach to the novel.
Rhiannon: By your request, Sunrise was pulled from circulation. Will we see it again?
Kody: Yes, Sunrise will see the light of day, but probably not for a while. As it stands, I have two projects I can work on writing-wise after I finish my dark fantasy novel--the rewrite of Sunrise, a bizarro novel called The World is a Happy Place, or a more traditional teenage love story called Breathe Air. I'm not sure where I'm going yet. In the long run, my heart will tell me what's next.
Rhiannon: You have a new book coming out. Can you tell us a little about it?
Kody: An Amorous Thing, which will be published by Lame Goat Press early next year, is a short story collection revolving around the theme of affection. It will feature fifteen stories that revolve around love/compassion and how it affects us, whether it be good or bad. The stories range in theme from magical, malevolent bells to more contemporary manners like gays in the military.
Rhiannon: What lessons did you learn from Sunrise?
Kody: I learned one really important thing from Sunrise--if someone wants you to know what they think about your work, they'll reach out to you. There's no point in putting yourself on an emotional rollercoaster of ups and downs if you don't have to.
Rhiannon: What are your goals for your writing career?
Kody: My biggest short-term goal is to try and get an agent when I turn twenty-one. My writing seems to work in sevens. I learned how to write when I was at least seven, my first story was published when I was fourteen, my first novel was published when I was seventeen; you can pretty much see the pattern there. For now, I just want to keep pushing forward and hopefully make writing a full-time thing. I'd like to be able to support myself and my future significant other with what I'm doing, but even then, that's idealistic. There's thousands of writers out there trying to make it big. I got a head start because I'm so young--I plan on making the most of it while I can.
Rhiannon: Any advice to new writers about submitting their material to publications?
Kody: Other than making sure your work is as perfect as possible, I don't have any other suggestions. Read the guidelines, proof your work, send it off and wait for the best--that's all I can offer.
Rhiannon: What is the most important lesson you have learned during your short writing career?
Kody: You're never one step ahead--you're always one step behind.