Saturday, October 3, 2015

THE GAL'S 31 DAYS OF HORROR: AMONG THE STACKS: Kurt Schuett


The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Hi, Kurt.  Welcome to The Gal.  It's great having you here today.  Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Kurt Schuett:
I'm a high school English teacher, and I live in the suburbs of Chicago (Libertyville, specifically).

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are five things most people don't know about you?

Kurt Schuett:
I used to teach German.
I have multiple tattoos.
My 8 lb, poodle is named Clementine.
I spent an entire summer in Southeast Asia.
I'm scared of heights.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is the first book you remember reading?

Kurt Schuett:
Tom Swift and His Submarine Boat.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are you reading now?

Kurt Schuett:
The Girl on the Train
The Martian
Big Sur

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What made you decide you want to write?  When did you begin writing?

Kurt Schuett:
Like so many others, I had a crazy hippie creative writing teacher in high school named Glen Brown.  He got me started with poetry, and I seemed to have a slight knack for it.  After getting a few poems published and winning a couple of awards, I eventually ventured into short stories during college.  I didn't even attempt a novel until college, and guess what?  Nobody wanted it.  That caused me to take a break and work on some smalls, where it was a little hit or miss until I eventually went back to the drawing board and crafted a thriller-horror that garnished some attention right away.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have a special place you like to write?

Kurt Schuett:
I like to write in your laundry room.  Just kidding.  Honestly, I crank some decent stuff out sitting inside my classroom after school lets out for the day sometimes, or else I find myself on the oversized dining room table inside my home (it has a nice window overlooking some green space out back).

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Is there anything about writing that you find most challenging?

Kurt Schuett:
Writing 3rd POV is difficult, but you have to do it depending on the type of story you're putting together.  I knew with my novel Insurgency it HAD to be 3rd person, primarily due to all the intricacies per the book's setting, plot, and multiple characters.  I enjoy the heck out of writing 1st POV, but it just isn't a good fit for all books.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What books have most inspired you?  Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Kurt Schuett:
Anything Steinbeck and Hemingway.  I deeply respect how simple and succinct their writing is.  In addition, both authors offer realistic and often raw depictions of the harshness of life.  I'm a sucker for the unhappy ending because bad things can and often do happen to good people.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you think makes a good story?

Kurt Schuett:
A story is only as good as its setting and primary conflict.  A great setting and interesting primary conflict can even weather poor characterization.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What does it take for you to love a character?  How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Kurt Schuett:
It takes personalization; if I cannot connect to a character on a deeply personal level, it's all fluff and chance circumstance.  I need to step into a character's shoes, wear his or her mask, and feel the pain, excitement, or whatever the character is feeling at any given moment.  If the aforesaid doesn't happen, it's all too hallow for me.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Kurt Schuett:
None of them, thank God, but if I had to pick one, it'd have to be Alan.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Are you turned off by a bad cover?  To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Kurt Schuett:
Of course.  The book jacket is the first thing that catches a reader's eye, so it's of paramount importance.  My publishers have always taken control of my book and short story covers, but I was able to volley and lob a few ideas at them from time to time.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What have you learned creating your books?

Kurt Schuett:
Never, ever rush the process.  Honestly, the process is as important as the end result, as far as I'm concerned.  Writing a book or a short story or a poem is a work of frickin' art; sometimes, people forget that, and works of art take TIME, accuracy, and precision.  After I thought my novel Insurgency was complete, I read it eighty-five times, eventually cutting out 100 pages worth of gratuitous literary fat.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What has been the hardest scene for you to write?

Kurt Schuett:
Without a doubt the "Nursery Scene" in Insurgency.  It takes place at Northwestern Hospital in downtown Chicago after the Red Phase has swept through and infected the north loop.  I've had so many mothers write, email, tweet, and message me concerning this scene, saying it was one of the most heart-wrenching episodes of reading they've ever had to endure.  Each and every mother applauded me on the mastery of the scene, but the vivid imagery and sensory details being abnormally warped caused many of them to shed a tear or two.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes your books different than others out there in this genre?

Kurt Schuett:
Most of my writing is speculative in nature, but I don't embrace much in the way of Sci-Fi.  For me, it's a blend of the suspense, horror, and thriller genres with hints of dark humor.  Plus, I really try to bring in actual and detailed geographical places, places people can say, "Oh, I know that place!  I've been there!"

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
How iimportant is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

Kurt Schuett:
For me, my title was tough because I had to distinguish myself from typical tales of Middle Eastern insurgency and from the YA dystopian Insurgent.  That's where the book jacket played a pivotal role, showing readers a wrecked modern day Chicago skyline wit ha red, white, and blue noose; hence, readers can easily discern the political underpinnings that are undoubtedly associated with this read.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or a short story?

Kurt Schuett:
I love writing both.  Honestly, I write some of my best shorts when I need a break from novel writing.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Kurt Schuett:
Insurgency is book one fo the Red Hand Brotherhood Series (I've been contracted for two more, and I'm closing in on finishing book two as we speak).  My target audience stems from YA to Adult, and readers of thriller, political thriller, urban suspense, horror, and dystopian genres will enjoy my writing.  I've embedded so many symbols and allusions into my writing, and my hope is readers won't simply enjoy the pieces for entertianment sake, but come away with some of the strong thematic threads I've constructed.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Kurt Schuett:
I worked with several editors and readers per the publishing company, but my primary editor was a gun aficionado.  She said some of my firearm terminology was "too weak" for her, so we cut some out and reconstructed some new stuff.  She wanted to go bigger and bolder, and I was fine with that.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is in your 'trunk'?  (Everyone has a book or project, which doesn't necessarily have to be book related, that they have put aside for a 'rainy day' or for when they have extra time.  Do you have one?)

Kurt Schuett:
I have a coming of age book I've written called Sorry Charlie; I wrote it straight out of college, almost 20 years ago, and nobody wanted it.  It's my swan song to Catcher in the Rye, so maybe Charlie will rear his troubled mug at a later date.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What can we expect from you in the future?

Kurt Schuett:

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Well, Kurt.  Thanks for stopping by today, and for being part of The Gal's 31 Days of Horror.  Before you go, do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you'd like to say that we didn't get to cover in this interview?

Kurt Schuett:
Beware of the Red Hand Brotherhood because it's here to stay.



About the author:
Upon graduating from high school, Kurt Schuett won the Gwendolyn Brooks Award for Poetry in 1993; this honor, coupled with professional publicaiton in The American Goat literary anthology in 1993 with "The First Time," and Harmony literary magazine, where he won the esteemed Guy Cooper Poetry award for "Tree House Blues," all fueled the realization that Kurt could and should write, dabbling in everything from poetry and short works of fiction to professional essays and lengthier works of fiction during and after his college years.  He completed his undergraduate in English at Culver-Stockton College before tackling a Masters of Education at Graceland University.  Currently, he is entering his eighteenth year as an educator, formerly as a German instructor and presently as a high school English teacher, working in the suburbs of Chicago.  He lives in the northern suburb of Libertyville, Illinois.
            Kurt recently published a Southern Gothic ghost story called "Calamity James" in the Belle Reve Literary Journal, a work that was nominated for the Pushcart Prize.  In addition, two of his poems, "A Response to Charles Bukowski: Yes I'm Drinking Today" and "The Bohemian Waitress" were featured in the 69th edition of the Burningword Literary Journal.  Kurt's short story "The Lasat Supper Redux" (also published in Sanitarium #19) will be the top-slot in an upcoming anthology launching this fall, highlighting local Chicago horror writers.  His short piece of flash fiction "Dibs" was a top-slot choice at Burial Day Books in 2014, and finally "Tall Boy," a short work of contemporary horror, headlined in Sirens Call Publications in December of 2013.
            Insurgency is Kurt Schuett's debut novel, a speculative work of fiction that encompasses elements of urban suspense, thriller, and horror.  This novel was released by Bad Day Books, an imprint of Assent Publishing, on August 2, 2014, in print and all e-book platforms.

About the book:
Insurgency
Genre: Horror, Political Thriller
Publisher: Bad Day Books
Publication date: 1.1.2014
Pages: 296

Alan, a Gen-Xer with obsessive-compulsive disorder, is randomly targeted at a local dive bar outside Chicago with a synthetic drug called Red Phase.  This particular narcotic, with an effect similar to the common street drug "bath salts," prompts its users into manic and ultra-aggressive behavior, spanning a half-life of 1-2 weeks.  After leaving his part-time job as a standardized test scorer, Alan meets a friend at a local dive bar for a beer.  This is where a group of college students randomly "roof" Alan's drink with Red Phase, causing Alan to perform an atrocious series of murders he doesn't even realize he's committed until the discovery of alarming physical evidence in his home the next morning.  Upon Alan's aforementioned realization, he contacts a former undergraduate classmate and friend, George, who is a defense attorney in Chicago.  After a quick phone conversation, George commutes to Alan's house and convinces him it best to turn himself in, but under the umbrella of his counsel and protection.  While Alan is sitting in lockup, sleeplessly wrestling with his OCD, The Hand, an underground black bloc group of military-skilled insurgents, liberates him from confinement.  After Alan is transported to their underground compound nestled in the recessed boroughs of "Old Chicago," he meets the leader of the domestic terror cell and discovers it's responsible for the creation of Red Phrase.  Consequently, this brotherhood plans to mass-distribute the synthetic drug during the height of the G20 Summit in Chicago, hoping to throw the city into a chaos of apocalyptic proportions.

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