Opening Lines – A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps by Nick Kolakowski

Head & Shoulders used to tell us that, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” That’s true for wearing dark shirts, and it’s especially true for books. Sometimes the characters will hook the reader, sometimes the premise, sometimes it’s just knowing the author — but nothing beats a great opening for getting a reader to commit. This is one of the better openings I’ve read recently. Would it make you commit? How can you not?

Listen.

At some point, a poor sap will look at you and say, “This is the worst day of my life.”

But as long as you have breath in your lungs to say those words, you’re not having your worst day. You haven’t even hit rock bottom, much less started to dig. You can still come back from a car wreck, or that terrifying shadow on your lung X-ray, or finding your wife in bed with the well-hung quarterback from the local high school. Sometimes all you need to solve your supposedly world-ending problems is time and care, or some cash, or a shovel and a couple of garbage bags.

If you see me coming, on the other hand, I guarantee you’re having your worst day. Not to mention your last.

Let me show you how bad it can get. How deep the hole goes. And the next time your idiot friend says something about worst days, as the two of you stand there watching his house burn down with his pets and one-of-a-kind porn collection inside, you can tell him this story. It might even shut him up.

Let me tell you about Bill, my last client.

from A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps by Nick Kolakowski

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A Few Quick Questions With…Nick Kolakowski

Little backstory to this Q&A, in my never-ceasing attempts to get organized, I’ve started noting when a book post is due, what I’m doing associated with it, etc on my reading log (nothing special, just an up-to-current date Excel spreadsheet, with a couple of blank lines and then a list of upcoming reads). I’d put a note on with Boise Longpig Hunting Club with the release date and a note “read early for Q&A.” Before I sent my list of Questions, I looked over my correspondence with Kolakowski and realized we hadn’t actually discussed it — thankfully, he was gracious enough to answer my questions (beer’s on me next time you’re in town) — and here they are.

Could you tell us a little about your “path to publication”? What got you into writing and what did you do to take it from an aspiration to a reality?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. My love of crime fiction also started at a very young age, when my Dad gave me his yellowed copy of Chandler’s “Trouble Is My Business.” I’d written crime fiction since I was a teenager but I only got serious about producing a novel in my late 20s. I wrote three “trunk novels” before “A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps,” which was picked up by Shotgun Honey and published in 2017. Other novels followed.

I suspect my process mirrors that of other folks: you write a lot, query agents, send manuscripts around, and generally struggle in a very crowded market. And when you finally begin publishing books, that kicks off a whole new game: marketing, publicity, trying to get the word out. The grind never stops. Good thing it’s fun.

Why Boise, of all places? In the Acknowledgements you mention the time you’ve spent in Idaho — other than just soaking up the culture, what kind of research did you do? (I’ve got to say, as someone who’s lived most of his life in the Boise-area, you do a really good job of capturing the feel, the geography, etc. Just hopefully not the crime)
My wife was born and raised in Boise, and so I started going there with her, sometimes a couple times a year. She has friends and family all over the state, and so we spend a lot of time driving around. That’s the bulk of the research I did for the novel—with the exception of the book’s final act, which is set in a wilderness of my own invention, I don’t think there’s a location that isn’t grounded in reality. I’m sometimes startled by the changes when I come back every eight months or so—the money pouring into the state is producing seismic changes, especially in the Boise area.

I chose Boise because it’s not a place usually covered by crime fiction; I’m a little tired of novels always being set in New York, or Los Angeles, or Chicago. And for years, I’d wanted to write a thriller set in someplace more isolated and rural—which Idaho definitely provides, along with a unique texture all its own.

What’s the one (or two) book/movie/show in the last 5 years that made you say, “I wish I’d written that.”?
“Breaking Bad.” I can say that without putting too much thought into it. It’s a masterpiece.
(I might have to retire that question — between the answer, and the way you put it, I don’t know if that can be topped.)

I’ve often heard that writers (or artists in general) will forget hundreds of positive reviews but always remember the negative — what’s the worst thing that someone’s said about one of your books, and has it altered your approach to future books?

Ooof, that’s a tough one. My sense of humor is rather bleak, and at one point, an Amazon reviewer suggested that they “didn’t appreciate the crudeness and [my] choice of words at times.” And when I read that, I thought, “Well, okay, but you should have seen the first draft. That was even worse.” I do try to restrain myself a little bit more, at moments, because I realize that some readers might not appreciate when I go deliriously over-the-top.

The same goes with violence; I’m trying to be a little bit more judicious in my moments of kinetic action. If you structure it right, you can pack a lot of emotional and thematic “oomph” into just a single gunshot.

What’s next for Nick Kolakowski? (Bonus points if it involves anyone who survives Boise Longpig Hunting Club)
I’m actually writing the sequel to “Boise Longpig” right now! It’s called “Voodoo Potato,” and it’s set in New Orleans. It deals heavily with the privatization of public security, and the dangers that stem from that. When we were in New Orleans last, someone casually mentioned to us that it takes 20 minutes for the cops to arrive if you call 911, and that some local millionaire had set up a private security force in the French Quarter that can respond more quickly. Sounds like a potential Pandora’s Box to me.
Oh, that sounds great (the book, not the terrifying reality behind it).

Thanks for taking the time to answer these, and I hope that Boise Longpig Hunting Club finds all sorts of success!