Monday, April 5, 2010

Introducing Gini Koch – Debut Author of TOUCHED BY AN ALIEN

[Pssst...Heather here. I'm hijacking Agent Z.'s interview to announce that Gini Koch is giving away a personalized, signed copy of TOUCHED BY AN ALIEN to one lucky passenger to help celebrate her new release! Details to follow the interview.]

Touched By An AlienHowdy, dear passengers of the Galaxy Express. I recently met with debut author, Gini Koch, and over an Intergalactic Gargleblaster (or seven) we bantered about writing, reading, drinking and being touched by aliens.

Agent Z.: Hi, Gini! I have to say that you knock back a Gargleblaster like a pro. Tell me – do you write: A) when completely sloshed, B) slightly tipsy, or C) stone cold sober?

Gini: Girl, drink is an author’s friend. I actually write during B and C, and also D) while asleep. (I am not making mention of anything to do with A, on advice of my legal counsel.) I do find that drinking (or whatever else makes you actually relax and shut up your internal editor) speeds the flow. And, strangely enough, what I write when I’ve had a drink, am tired, or feeling forced rarely feels less “good” when I read it back the next day than what I write cold stone sober and in the zone.

Agent Z.: Speaking as someone who has been touched by a variety of aliens, I have to ask – how do you feel about tentacles?

Gini: I had to censor my first several replies, because I’ve been on the internet since it started (well, since after Al Gore allowed it to be shared), and research takes you to some interesting places, to say the least, so I’ve seen a lot of tentacle-related things, most of which I’m sure my editor would prefer I not mention here.

Tentacles are great. I think you can do a lot with tentacles, some of it even printable in family magazines. The majority of aliens in “Touched by an Alien” are gorgeous, though. ‘Cause it’s my universe, and that’s the way I like it.

Agent Z.: In the opening to your debut novel, ‘Touched By An Alien,’ your heroine has to kill a super-being with a very expensive writing implement. This reminded me of the time I had to fight off a horde of evil aliens, using nothing but a crumpled-up candy wrapper and a box of Tampax. What other items of everyday life do you feel are under-utilized as weapons?

Gini: I like how you think in a crisis. And funny you mention the crumpled up candy wrapper. In “Alien Tango”, Book Two of my Alien series, Kitty (my heroine) holds off an alligator with balled up paper. I see you and I are on the same great wavelength. I knew I liked you. (Even before the third Gargleblaster. Or is this the fourth?)

Kitty uses hairspray, Everclear, and rock and roll, via her iPod, to fight off various threats. I think the common, everyday things are the most fun. I mean, isn’t it more fun to think you can reach into your purse and pull out something (Look! An ancient piece of gum!) that will save the day? Most of us don’t go equipped like James Bond, and I like my characters to be resourceful. Real life and fiction tip: In a pinch, a stiletto heel is a girl’s best friend.

Agent Z.: I know a lot about the business of inter-galactic spying, but very little about the publishing business. Tell me – how many people did you have to sleep with, betray or murder to get a publishing deal?

Gini KockGini: OMG, if I could have slept with someone to get an agent and a publishing contract, believe me, I would have. After a while, the hubs would have probably okayed it, too. Sadly, I had no one to betray, and I didn’t think I could get OJ’s legal team in place, so murder was out.

It’s a thing everyone hates to hear, but the answer really is -- write a book an agent and editor can’t put down. Which, as we all know, is the hardest thing to do until you learn how to do it. Then it’s easy.

Ahahahahahahahahaha! Sorry, sorry. It’s hard to use the word “easy” in relation to the publishing business. It’s working at it, day in and day out, on your writing, yes, absolutely, but also on your promotion and networking skills. I didn’t get representation based on a query letter -- I got it based on a lot of research and networking and then ensuring I was in the right place at the right time.

My real secret, if you will, was that I went to a lot of writer-focused conferences and met as many authors, agents and editors as I could. I met my fabulous agent at a conference, she got me a two-book deal with DAW, the rest is history, so to speak.

Agent Z.: If you were to be touched by an alien from page, stage or screen – which one would it be? (And no, you can’t choose Zaphod Beeblebrox. With two heads and three hands, that boy is mine-all-mine.)

Gini: Is it wrong to say Jeff Martini or Christopher White from “Touched by an Alien”? I mean, I know how hot and awesome they both are (that’s the fun of being The God, which every writer is), and if I didn’t like them, they wouldn’t be on the pages.

If it is wrong, I guess I have to go with Han Solo (he’d be an alien if he were in our galaxy, baby), ‘cause Han A) is the MAN, and B) shot first, George Lucas you traitor to my youth, he shot FIRST!

If we’re demanding an alien who’s shown up on Earth (yeah, I can really draw this one out, can’t I? Well, you headed it towards the gutter, not me…) I’m going with Frank N. Furter from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” because no one has ever looked better in fishnets and a teddy than Tim Curry.

Frank N. Furter

Agent Z.: I know you writer types like to read a lot. What is your favorite romance novel? Sci-fi novel? And could you recommend a self-help book for a hard-drinking spaceslut who would love to get in touch with her inner lady? It’s for, um, a good friend.

Gini: Oh, urgh, the hard questions. I hate the “favorites” question because I always blank and have to run through every book I’ve ever read to come up with the right answer, and the moment it’s in stone, I realize I forgot that other favorite…

But, giving it a pathetic go, for romance novel, my favorite would probably be “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” by D.H. Lawrence and “Bloodsucking Fiends, a love story” by Christopher Moore. (I’m happy to argue whether or not these are romances with all comers. They’re romances to me. Besides, I have a lot of friends who write romance, and you’re not going to catch me with the old picking one of theirs over the others’ ploy, sister. I didn’t fall out of the airlock yesterday, you know.)

For science fiction, probably “Dune” by Frank Herbert and “City” by Clifford D. Simak. And everything by Robert Silverberg (aka My Idol).

Thanks for the “favorite child” question. Now every other book and author I’ve ever loved are whining at me. I’ll get you for this. And all the fantasy, horror, and mystery novels are whining at me that it’s unfair they were left out.

I got nothing for you on the ‘inner lady’ thing, other than to suggest you read the collected works of “Miss Manners”, aka Judith Martin. Not only is she a great authority on how real ladies and gentlemen behave, she’s also hilarious, and the best place to turn if you need a really nice scathing insult. I truly believe that the world would be a far better place if Miss Manners were our World Dictator, even though I like to wear white shoes after Labor Day (hey, I live in the freaking desert -- it’s summer here nine months out of the year). If you can’t find a book by Miss Manners handy, try “Modern Manners” by P.J. O’Rourke. I think the advice he gives will do you right. (And I’d like the video rights if you put his advice into action, too.)

Or, your spaceslut “friend” could just read “Touched by an Alien” to get some tips. Of course, they’d be tips on how to kick evil alien butt, so perhaps that’s not helping, either.

Agent Z.: If ‘Touched By An Alien’ were to be made into a movie, what five songs would definitely be on the soundtrack?

Gini: This is easy, so you are forgiven for the hard question prior. In fact, the hard part is limiting the answer to five.

“Born to Raise Hell” by Motorhead, “Cold” by Tears for Fears, “Keepin’ it Gangsta” by Ludacriss, “Fight for Your Right” by the Beastie Boys, and every song ever done by Aerosmith (but, if forced to only pick one, “Back in the Saddle”).

Can I have five more? I can? Cool. “Love in a Elevator” by Aerosmith, “Sharp Dressed Man” by ZZ Top, “Enter Sandman” by Metallica, “Give it Away” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and “Whole Lotta Love” by Smashmouth.

Agent Z.: I found your website entertaining and easy to navigate. How important is it for writers to have websites/blogs/internet presence these days?

Gini: Thanks for the compliment! We put a lot of work and thought into it over here at Team Gini, so it’s nice to know people are enjoying it and finding stuff easily.

Per my agent, my editor, every other agent I know, every other editor I know, and my publishing PR person -- websites, blogs and all forms of social media are vital.

From an author’s perspective, though, this stuff takes work, because it all requires content, and all that content takes you away from what you want to do, which is write on your novels or short stories.

Facebook and Twitter are both time suckers. But they’re as important as a blog these days. And that blog is a beast that needs regular feeding. And a website is a blog to the nth degree. It’s a fine, stressful dance you do as an author to keep up with all the many mouths that need your time, attention, and words.

My advice, in case anyone cares, is to save the website for when you have a publishing contract. Because they take time and they take money, but blogs take less time and they’re free. The first thing my editor asked when she told my agent “yes” was “Does she have a website or blog?” To which I replied, “Going up shortly!”

The thing is, it took two years from contract to publication, so I had plenty of time to get both going before the book was even a twinkle in the cover artist’s eye, so to speak. I spent the time in between contract signing and release date creating the site (with many thanks to ArtichokeHead Creative and Lisa Dovichi, without whom there would be only black space with my name on it) and getting lots and lots of content up there.

Now, as my regular web visitors can attest, I’m more sporadic because there’s a lot more going on. But there’s stuff there, and more comes on at least a semi-regular basis.

In terms of blogging and all social media, if you’re out there, you should sound like you (and by ‘you’ I mean ‘your writing voice’) and support your writing. No one, not even your mother, cares about that weird dream you had last night that has no point, but oh, wow, Ben Affleck was there while you were delivering a space alien… I mean it, no one cares. Now, if you turn that into a nifty science fiction piece and either blog about that or get it published, well, then they’ll care.

Agent Z.: And now for the most important questions: where do you stand on heroes on covers – hairy-chested or shaven? Heroines on covers – headless torso or torsoless head?

Gini: I am a chest-hair girl, myself. To me, a furry chest is a sign of virility. Fur in general is a sign of virility. It makes a hot guy hotter (waves to the hubs), an okay guy hot, and an ugly guy worth taking at least a passing interest in. However, I realize that the majority of women, for reasons I cannot comprehend, like them without chest fur. So, I try to make sure I have some of both in everything I write.


I’ve given up the hope of seeing a man with chest fur on a cover any more, unless it’s Wolverine (and I love Wolverine) on the cover of “Women’s Comics Pictorial Monthly” (no, it doesn’t exist, but I’d have a lifetime subscription if it did). My perfect man cover would have a man with Tom Selleck’s chest furs (and that man was the GOD of furry chests, and undoubtedly still is) with at least three days worth of stubble on his face. I realize this is a dream that shall never be. I’d settle for Ryan Reynolds and/or Chris Evans with their natural, non-shaven chests and that three-day stubble going on. I should think someone out there, besides “Entertainment Weekly” and “Details” magazines (God love them), would be willing to put Ryan or Chris on the cover essentially naked. I’d buy that book regardless of author or content.

As for heroines, I seriously wanted a headless Kitty on the “Touched by an Alien” cover. Thankfully, Daniel Dos Santos, who is the beyond awesome artist who did my cover, didn’t have to listen to me. He totally captured the entire essence of the book in the cover, and I couldn’t be more pleased. I think it depends on the artist, when you get down to it, for what’s really going to work and work well.

I’m not much for the floating head look unless it’s the evil being or similar. So, I go headless heroine, versus torsoless, in that debate.

Agent Z.: Gini, it’s been a pleasure chatting with you. I’m not quite sure how you’re still alive after so many Gargleblasters, but I’m damn impressed.

Passengers, you can read an excerpt from ‘Touched By An Alien’ here. Book Mom, Pearls Cast Before a McPig, Genre Go Round, and Diana Tixier Herald at Good Reads all featured a recent review of the book. You can check in on Gini’s news on her website here.

Good luck, Gini! And thanks for taking the time to board The Galaxy Express.

Be seeing ya!
Agent Z.

Now for the giveaway! For a chance to win a personalized, signed copy of Gini Koch's TOUCHED BY AN ALIEN, all you have to do is leave a comment for this post (contest limited to U.S. residents). If you have a juicy alien encounter tale of your own, please don't hesitate to share. The contest will run until 9 p.m. EST on Saturday, April 10, 2010.