David Kubicek Interview
He slipped off his right shoe and held it like a mallet. One quick slap, and the beetle was a grease spot on the shining metal. He put his shoe on and looked away.
The numbers continued to increase, painfully slow. After the eleventh floor bell jinged, the elevator shuddered, jerked, then clanked. His stomach seemed to be in free fall. An empty, drawn-out clattering deep in the elevator shaft.
“Oh, no…” he whispered. Then louder: “No!”
All movement had stopped. Outside his tiny enclosure something creaked. Every time he rode the elevator he had this nightmare. Now it was real—he was stuck between floors.
He dropped his briefcase and hammered on the door.
Silence, crushing him.
The above is an excerpt from David Kubicek’s ELEVATOR
David’s writing finds it’s way into the gut of fear in his short story ELEVATOR. In his book THE MOANING ROCKS, one story makes any parent cringe and run to make sure their children are still watching cartoons. However, take a trip to his web site and find a family story “Runt of the Litter.”
David’s diverse writing style echoes in his career. Nominated in 1989 for the Pushcart Prize Best of the Small Press, hundreds of freelance articles, and work as writer and photographer for MJB enterprises business journals make a small dent in his resume. Add Kubicek and Associates he has published and edited trade paperbacks including his latest Novel IN HUMAN FORM.
Q. David, I am a huge fan of the thriller, horror genre. I’ve found myself relating to the fears come to life for your introspective characters. Then I read a warm family story ‘Runt of the Litter’ on your web site. I enjoyed it just as much. Give me a peek inside the vivid mind of David Kubicek. How do you decide on a premise?
A. My family and friends might say that peeking inside my mind would be scary. I don’t so much decide on a premise as the premise decides on me. Usually the ideas just come to me as the result of something I read or saw on TV or witnessed first hand or heard about from someone else; my short story collection The Moaning Rocks and Other Stories contains 14 of my stories with commentary on how each came to be written. Because of my lifelong interest in science fiction and horror, my mind tends to gravitate toward the offbeat, but my writing--like my reading--covers a broad range of genres, styles, and moods. My main writing mentors are Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, and John Steinbeck, so my writing style and the subjects I write about are similar to those guys (but especially to Bradbury).
Q. You told me recently that you have a new story coming out ‘A Friend of the Family.’ Can you give us a quick look into the story? Please!
A. “A Friend of the Family” is a novelette, a dystopian story set in a society--long after World War III has destroyed much of civilization--in which Doctors have been outlawed and replaced by Healers who use all of the tried and true witch doctor methods such as bleeding patients and chanting incantations over them. The story focuses on a doctor named Hank who is afraid to give up the practice of medicine entirely (so he can treat his family) but is also afraid to join the Underground, a loose network of medical people, that tries to help people who have lost faith in the Healers. As is usual with my fiction, I focus on the characters rather than the society as a whole. The story revolves around Hank, who risks his freedom and the comfortable life he and his wife have managed to eek out in this bleak society, when he is pressured into treating the brother of a Healer. If the man--who is Head of the Family--recovers, Hank has nothing to fear. But the fellow is very sick, and if he dies, his sister the Healer will be Head of the Family, and Hank and his wife will lose their savings, their home, and their freedom. “A Friend of the Family” was originally published in 1987 in Space and Time magazine. I’ve started the story earlier, revised and polished it (I’m a much better craftsman than I was in 1986, when the story was written). It will come out as an e-book in February 2012 and as a paperback about the same time. The original, published version of “A Friend of the Family” appears in my collection The Moaning Rocks and Other Stories.
Q. You own a publishing business, Kubicek and Associates. Please give us an overview of your business. What makes it work?
A. Kubicek & Associates was the first incarnation of my business, from 1987 to 1990. I published five trade paperback books, two of which I edited: The Pelican in the Desert and Other Stories of the Family Farm (1988), and October Dreams: A Harvest of Horror (which I edited with Jeff Mason) (1989). Two stories from Pelican were nominated for the Pushcart Prize (my own “Ball of Fire” and Marjorie Saiser’s “Settling In”), and a story from October Dreams (“Mr. Sandman,” by Scott D. Yost) was reprinted in Karl Edward Wagner’s anthology The Year’s Best Horror Stories XVIII (DAW Books, 1990). I liked publishing a little bit too much and spent so much time working on the business that I neglected my own writing. During those four years I completed only one short story, “Ball of Fire,” because I needed one of my own stories for Pelican. I shut down the company in 1990 to focus on my own writing. Today I publish only my own work and try to strike a balance between the writing and the business end.
Q. From the biography you sent me, I can tell you are a devoted family man. I want David Kubicek to reveal his deep sense of family to my readers. Please take all the room you wish.
A. My wife and I will celebrate our 21st wedding anniversary this year. We met at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. Cheryl worked as a custodian and I was a temp employee trying to make a little extra cash. I was teamed up with her to ensure the extra work was completed. She was very good at her job and made me feel at ease almost immediately. As we continued to work together we got to know each other, and it didn't take long before I realized that I couldn't wait to get to work to see her. She had an infectious laugh and liked to pull pranks on the other co-workers whenever she could. But mostly what I liked was that we could talk about anything. Within a couple of months we started dating, and one year later we were married. Then in 1994 Cheryl became pregnant with our only child, Sean. When he was born my life changed completely. Every day while they were in the hospital I went to see them as soon as I got up, and every day I arrived earlier than the day before. Although family has always been important to me--which I think comes across in my writing dating back into the 1970s--my marriage and having a child deepened my family bonds. Before Cheryl and Sean, everything I wrote was for a generic audience that was “out there somewhere.” After Cheryl and Sean, everything I wrote was for them. With few exceptions, Cheryl has lots of influence over when I consider a story finished or whether I publish it at all. I cut two stories from The Moaning Rocks because she didn’t like them, and I postponed a short collection of horror fiction because of problems she found with two of the stories. Sometimes after Cheryl reads one of my manuscripts, she says four words that are at the same time encouraging and a thumbs down for the story: “You can do better.” But it’s only a temporary thumbs down, because she expects me to go back to work on the story and “do better.” Sean also was thrilled when I dedicated The Moaning Rocks to him and Cheryl. I dedicated my novel In Human Form to Cheryl because she has always been enthusiastic about it and rescued it when I was going to chuck it into file thirteen, never again to be seen by human eyes. Sean even did a book report on In Human Form for his English class. Today our family also includes an 8-year-old blue-eyed Tom cat named Whiskers (who thinks he owns the place). We have a 12-year-old black Lab mix named Kabella (who is top dog and knows it), and the baby, 4-year-old Scooter, half Lab and half hound dog and subject of my blog post Runt of the Litter (and who is certainly not a runt anymore).
Q. This question is for your wife Cheryl. My husband is often baffled by my attachment to the computer and what comes out of it. How does David’s work, including his business, affect you as a wife, mother, and woman?
A. David is a perfectionist when it comes to his writing. He checks the details to ensure they are precise to give the reader the best read possible. Because we come from different backgrounds, he will ask me to read his stories and give feedback. The feedback can be little things to improve on or suggestions to the characters that can make them more likeable or undesirable. As a wife and a woman, I read all of David's stories. There have been a few occasions when he has asked me to read the entire story several times as he has changed some of the dialog. I have given him the look of "really, again?" As a mother I encourage our son to look to his dad when it comes to finding a book to read. Sean is a sophomore in high school and is required to read one book per quarter and write a book report. David has such a vast knowledge of books that it is easy for him to find one that will pique Sean's interest. Sean is currently reading a series of books that David introduced to him.
Q. David you have one last chance to speak to others writers or people interested in writing. What is the most important characteristic you feel an author needs?
A. Persistence. There’s only one way to fail at anything, and that is to give up. Whether you are self-publishing or seeking an agent and publisher, learn your craft, and never stop learning. I still learn from every book I read, and I’ve been writing for more than 40 years. Never stop trying to find your audience. When marketing your writing, if something isn’t working, try a different approach, and if that doesn’t work, try something else. Thomas Edison tried 10,000 different procedures before he succeeded in inventing the electric light bulb. A reporter once asked him how it felt to fail 9,999 times. He drew himself up in his chair, eyed the reporter with irritation and said: “Young man, I did not fail 9,999 times. I successfully found 9,999 ways that do not work.”
As I read through David’s answers to the questions I posed, I was surprised at how tame he seemingly is as a family man. Sometimes, as David stated, a story or character decides on the author. The Kubicek family seems to have adopted a support system around David’s writing that I believe to be very rare. David is the author, but Cheryl’s critiques, and his son’s involvement as student must make a well-bonded family. I look forward to reading more of David Kubicek’s stories. His upcoming release A FRIEND OF THE FAMILY promises to be intriguing indeed. Who but David Kubicek could make the Physician we seem to hero worship into a post apocalyptic outlaw? If you haven’t yet read David’s work, I suggest moving quickly to Smashwords.com and buying THE MOANING ROCKS, IN HUMAN FORM, and/or ELEVATOR. I have read David’s work and enjoyed each story as it built to a climax and some sort of resolution.