INTERVIEW WITH GARY KURZ
AUTHOR OF COLD NOSES AT THE PEARLY GATES
Current Publisher/Agent: Gary Kurz
- Cold Noses at the Pearly Gates ISBN 09666117-0-5, Paperback, 116 pages,
- Cold Noses II, Examining More Evidence ISBN 09666117-1-3, Paperback,
205 pages, non-fiction
- Naval Proceedings, Official Magazine of the U. S.
Naval Institute, Article entitled "The Future of the Coast Guard", 3 pages
How did you get started writing professionally?
I have always had a penchant for writing smooth, easy to understand documents. During my 32 year military career, I was called upon the develop macro letters for use Coast Guard-wide and to rewrite Law, Maritime Law, Pay and Personnel Manuals, some over 1,000 pages in length. Those manuals remain in use at this writing.
I enjoyed writing for cause (i.e. originating appeals for military members who disagreed with their evaluations or findings of boards of inquiry, recommending changes to policy or procedure, and, as in the case with Proceedings Magazine, forecasting the needs of the service, etc.
I suppose the real catalyst for writing seriously came with the loss of several of my pets during a 10-month period in 1995-96. I was devastated and wondered whether they lived on or if I would ever see them again. Circumstances caused me to look for the answers myself, and the only place I trusted to look for answers was the Bible. With over 14,000 hours of both professional and personal Bible study at that time, I set out to systematically search the Bible for answers.
Simultaneous with that research, I searched many, many library databases and the Library of Congress for any books on this topic. To my surprise, there were none. There were an abundance of books on psychiatry, etc., but nothing of the genre I wanted.
What type of worker are you when you write?
My writing habits vary, depending upon the task. If I am writing an article for a pet loss website (which I do infrequently), I will set aside time to work on it each day until it is completed. If I am writing articles and other features for my own newsletter, I usually can complete that in about an hour, so I do not set aside time. I allow myself a week on my desk calendar to complete this task and, upon reading the reminder, I find the first available time to complete that task. When I write from passion, such as was the case with my previous books and the new one I will be starting soon, I just write until I empty myself of the flood of thoughts and ideas that are within. During the writing of my first book I sometimes stayed up throughout the night. I tried to sleep, but just could not. It is as if you simply must get your thoughts out in order to have relief.
Did you ever take any school or adult education courses in writing?
I have taken English literature courses, and other administrative courses, not with the thought of helping my writing, but rather because they interested me. I have taken unofficial and official courses in writing, as it applies to the military and federal environment, but believe very little was gained from those courses. I have developed curriculum and taught classes on administrative procedures that included writing techniques.
Do you conceive of an entire story or subject line to be covered in your head before starting to write, or do you get just an idea and sit down, outline it and flesh it out?
I believe a little of both is true of my writing approach, with perhaps a leaning toward the former, conceiving the entire story in my head before I write it down. Often, when I write articles or stories, I am asked to write on a specific topic or happen upon one on my own. Immediately, the ideas flood to my mind and before I can even being recording them, my mind is racing ahead and the article is complete.
Infrequently, I find myself jotting down what I call "prompter notes" often just one or two words to remind me of an idea when I eventually get around to developing an outline. However, this is the exception more than the norm. I do a lot of public teaching and speaking, often in churches in front of large audiences, and I have developed the ability to formulate an acceptable outline quickly in my mind.
If you have a deadline for submitting work to a publisher, how did/does that affect you?
I have never had a problem with "writer's block" or anything like that. Some people are able to ramble on and on orally. I do so with my writing. Saying something interesting and hopefully revolutionary is the real test. If I am asked to write within my areas of expertiseobviously pet loss, but also many other areasi.e., karate, real estate, reptiles, remodeling, the military, etc., I have no problems in writing on schedule. In fact, I often finish long before deadline. I enjoy writing.
Tell us how you first got published, and whether it was difficult that first time.
I think this is another topic I should have included in the answer immediately preceding as I have learned so much about publishing and enjoy rehearsing what I have learned. I will try to be brief.
After writing my book, I came face to face with the cold, hard fact that in this industry you almost need to be someone of importance or of scandal to be published. Even a revolutionary topic does not open doors. I, like so many tens of thousands, was very discouraged at the prospects of being published. First, it was doubtful anyone would want to take my manuscript on. Second, if they did, it would probably cost me a lot of money, and I would relinquish control of my book to a publisher, who may or may not give it the attention I thought it deserved. And finally, and worst of all, if that publisher did not want to promote the book, it would sit and there was nothing I could do about it.
I then found that vanity presses and their new generation "lightning press" cousins were willing to publish for moderate, up-front fees. This was more desirable because the costs were far less than conventional publishing and, more importantly, you retained full control of your book. Additionally, most of these publishers offer an E-book feature, which seems to be gaining popularity on the internet. The downside to this avenue was that success stories seemed to be few and far between.
I decided that I was going to learn the publishing business myself. I went to the local library, bought some self-publishing books off the internet, and began my journey. I must say, while it seemed difficult at first in looking back, it was a lot of fun and not as complicated as I had suspected.
I successfully obtained my own copyright, an ISBN number, established myself as a publisher and began my quest to find a printer who could deliver to me the product I wanted, economically. I found printers a couple of states away, and clear across the country, but finally settled on one just a mile from my home. I have learned so much about printing, promotion and advertising that I am spending perhaps 30% of what I spent the first year for these services.
While self-publishing is probably not the best way to go, it is a very viable alternative to someone who has something to say that others want to hear. While it is true that my modest success is due in large part to my having a targeted audience, not all the credit can go to this one fact. Many of my sales now originate from word of mouth, from readers who found the comfort and hope promised. Not only have they written me over 1200 letters (and e-mails) of appreciation, but also they tell their friends and co-workers about my book.
How do you feel about editors?
I have mixed feelings about editors. I think a good editor is an absolute must. I think unmotivated, unskilled editors are to be avoided. Both of my books were edited by the latter and I regret that. I believe I could have done a better job. That notwithstanding, a good editor is worth his/her weight in gold and I will be enlisting the services of one in the very near future.
How are you publicizing your current work?
As a self-publisher, this is one of the many functions I must perform myself. Listed below are some of the things I have done, or am currently doing. All have been successful, with the exception of the entries that are asterisked.
- Listed in Bowker's "Books in Print"
- Advertise in several national magazines (Best Friends, Cat Fancy, Dog and Kennel, Dog World, etc.)
- Advertise on Amazon.com (leads the category)
- Advertise on Barnes and Noble Online and Borders Online
- Hired a Publicist (who did absolutely nothing but cashed my checks)*
- Listed on BookLocker.com as an E-book
- Developed my own website that receives 500 hits per month
- Submit URL to search engines twice weekly
- Linked to over 100 pet-related websites
- Book is listed or mentioned positively on over 150 pet-related websites
- Ran a Banner Ad campaign online*
- Produce a monthly newsletter on pet loss that goes to thousands of readers
- Serve as "Guest Author" on pet-loss websites
- Radio interviews (1)
- Newspaper articles (2)
- Scheduled to go on local television program in my city soon
- Hired online author helps (that is how I heard from you)
Have you ever been on a tour with one of your books?
No, I am sorry to say.
Can you tell us a bit about a book that you might be working on now or plan to start soon?
Yes. As a matter of fact, I am planning on writing another book, but not of the same series as my first two. Since I provide an e-mail address in my books for free, follow-up counseling and help, many of my readers stay in touch with me. Many of them encouraged me to write my second book. In fact, they chose the topic and I accommodated them. It did very well with them, and I recovered production and printing costs in less than 30 days.
Readers have insisted that my writing style is unique. Most say it brings truths they have seen in the Bible to life so that they can understand them. More say that it is as if I am in the room speaking to them (I so appreciate their generous compliments).
I said all that to say that questions about pets and pet loss have evolved into even more topical questions about things in the Bible and I have been told that my unique slant on Bible stories and accounts should be available for all to read. To that end, I have been collecting the questions and keeping a file with an eye toward writing a book, that, for lack of a better title at the moment, would give inspirational accounts of old Bible stories and take a look at the more difficult topics and verses of the Bible (and there are many).
I have more than enough for a very large book right now, but finding time to indulge myself is the problem. I am eager to start, but I want to be able to dedicate myself to the task. I know that once I get started, it will absorb me and any time I have, so I must ensure I can afford the time.
Could you please give us a synopsis of your current book/work?
Rather than the book I mentioned in the previous response, let me address my two-book series, Cold Noses I and Cold Noses II.
In the first book, I take a non-offensive, non-preachy, uplifting Biblical approach to looking at animals: why they were made; what their purpose was; what life really is; the evidence that animals once talked and will probably do so again; their importance to their creator; and, animal afterlife. It is a solid work meant to bring comfort to the grieving who have lost a precious best friend and to give hope. It is a revolutionary book that provides answers to the questions all pet lovers ask. One woman called it a "masterpiece". It is definitely not a masterpiece. It is simply what people need when they are hurting. I gave it the title "Cold Noses at the Pearly Gates" to capture the essence of what the book was about and the hopes of those seeking answers.
In Cold Noses II, I responded to the questions of many, many readers concerning "ghost pets". Apparently, all of the psychic phenomenon on television is starting to bleed over into even the pet industry.
Cold Noses II is not as gentle a book as my first. It takes a very strong stand on Biblical teachings concerning this topic. In addition, I discuss many revolutionary ideas and concepts that have generated a lot of "thank you" letters. Finally, I discuss the apparent relationship between animals and angels not that I do not claim they are the same but that they do serve similar functions.
Tell us how you go about doing research for your work?
I have probably answered this question in part in other questions, but for convenience sake, let me address it in total here. My first step in research was to explore the internet, internet libraries, the local library and query the Library of Congress to see what works already existed on this subject of animal afterlife. Aside from some brief articles and some very old short writings, there was nothing available.
I then turned my attention to some very reliable Bible commentaries, some modern and some quite old. There was no consolidated work done on this topic, only some fleeting writings, almost afterthoughts by people educated in religion.
I then explored the Bible. I took my personal knowledge of the Bible, my training, experience and expertise and focused on finding every verse that spoke about animals, both Old Testament and New. Despite my extensive knowledge of scripture, I was surprised to find that the word "animal" never appears in the Bible. My first task then, was to discover all the ways animals were mentioned. This included "creatures", "beasts", "all that have breath", "every creeping thing", etc.
Upon developing a list of scripture verses, I then applied the rules of exegesis to each. I asked:
- who is speaking
- to who is he/she speaking
- what was the reason for saying what they said
- what words were used and what are their meanings
- what other circumstances existed that might reflect on the situation being discussed
- what was said prior to these passages that might have
led into what was said
I think you get the idea there are unlimited questions you can ask to try to get a clear picture of what was said. My second surprise was the simplicity of what was being said. There was no room for confusion. The teachings were quite clear. Nevertheless, I compared what I had developed with some of the greatest Bible scholars' writings. I found that often they did not address the topic of animals, but when they did, we matched every time. Final validation came in the form of a letter from Dr. Jack Van Impe, TV Evangelist, who endorses all that I wrote.
Any stories about the hazards of trying to make your way as a writer, particularly when starting out?
I cannot add much to the dissertation I gave you about publishing above, but let me say something about self-publishing. With conventional publishing, your chance of ever seeing your work being read and appreciated, of doing any good or providing any service, is very, very low. That is not to say conventional publishing is not good. Quite the contrary. If you can interest a publisher in your work and they seem excited, that is wonderful and probably the best way to go.
However, if you are like most writers, that is a "pie in the sky" dream. As a self-publisher, the chances of being read and having an impact increase tremendously. You can choose the course you follow and stand at the helm of your own ship as it sails (or sinks). Going this route means that you are going to have to do all the work yourself: the editing, seeking copyright, doing the printing, promoting, advertising, stocking, shipping and handling, etc. But you also get the benefits: 100% of the profits, the decision-making hat, etc.
The hazards to self-publishing are many. I made more mistakes than probably were necessary. One of my earliest (and worst) decisions was to allow a bulk mailer (now called spammer) to advertise my book. He promised me it was legal and that I was not hurting anyone. I paid him $600 and watched my e-mail for all the sales. In they came 1, 2, 3 and that was it. Well, almost. Then came 5, 10, 15, 20 COMPLAINTS!!!! Who did I think I was, spamming and bothering people? Yikes! I was embarrassed. But it wasn't over yet. I was contacted by a rather irate gentleman who said my spammer had bounced my ad off of his server and crashed his entire network. He told me if it happened again, he was getting a lawyer. I told him he would not need to I was out of that business, but fast. He was so angry, and he had every right to be I had not done my homework I had trusted someone else. YOU HAVE TO DO YOUR HOMEWORK IF YOU ARE GOING TO BE A SUCCESS.
Any advice to aspiring writers on finding an agent or contacting publishers?
No. I could not give advice on something I was a failure at.
Are you a reader?
I am a reader. I read a lot but I have so much to read that I have developed the bad habit of "skim" reading. I get 50 e-mails a day most from grieving pet owners I read all their mail and respond to it and no one knows how to be short-winded. I think all my readers are aspiring writers! They also send me internet items and books in the mail to read. I stay quite busy reading. However, I have no specific interests in literature.
What other types of things do you enjoy doing, besides writing?
I enjoy sports. I am 52 now, so I do not move as quickly as I used to, but I still play basketball and I love sparring (I won the all Hawaii Karate Championship in 1974 I am from Hawaii). I enjoy hiking, reptiles, surfing, building things. And I love the heat give me summer every day.80 degrees on Christmas Day is heaven.
Anything else you would like us to know?
I am very thorough. I think I have probably talked your ear off enough already. Thank you for your interest. I hope I provided what you wanted.