Friday, October 16, 2009

Jason Kahn - The Killer Within

Jason Kahn is the author of the short story The Killer Within, a paranormal cop thriller published by Damnation Books. He has written several fantasy short stories and he's currently producing a serial called The Dark InSpectre.

He's a family man, a renaissance man and a gracious gentleman when someone misspells his last name. Yeah, I once made the mistake of spelling it Khan instead of Kahn. Sorry, Jason.

Interview with Jason Kahn

Lily: What was your inspiration for The Killer Within?

Jason: I was sitting in a cab in midtown Manhattan, listening to the news on the radio. There was a report about some random killing, and I thought to myself: What if the killer didn’t have a choice? What if he was compelled somehow, by some outside force, maybe hypnosis? Maybe a drug? The drug idea stuck with me, and then the idea followed about how the police would possibly try and combat something like that. I liked the idea of no one knowing who the next killer would be, and the nervous tension that could create. Overall I really wanted to tell a hard-boiled crime thriller.

Lily: Tell me all about The Dark InSpectre. Every time I see that title I hear the Inspector Gadget theme song in my head and I'm quite sure I have it all wrong.

Jason: That's very funny, you are the second person who has told me that, the first one being the editor of Abandoned Towers magazine, which is publishing the series. I was aware of that show growing up, but never really watched it, and so was oblivious to the natural connection that I'm sure is obvious to everyone but me. Ah well...

The inspiration for the series came from a dream I had, which turned into the first scene of the story. It involved the psychic ghost of a dead girl leading the main character, a telepathic cop (me in my dream), into a room with four prisoners (brothers) encased in blocks of semi-translucent material. Yes, I know, very strange dream. But more important than the actual scene was the mood. It was futuristic and very dark and brooding. I mulled over my dream for about a month as I wound a story around it. I saw it as a cross between L.A. Confidential and the psi-core of Babylon 5. And at heart it was another hardboiled crime thriller.

The Dark InSpectre was originally a single-piece story. But it was a funny length, about 13,000 words, and I had real trouble finding someone to publish a short story of that size until the editor at Abandoned Towers magazine said she likes to serialize these sorts of things. She was very instrumental in achieving the final form of the story, too. I had already finished The Killer Within, and submitted The Dark InSpectre. The editor of AT said it really came off as "soft-boiled," and suggested I read some real crime fiction and give it a re-write. So I did, I read some Raymond Chandler, Peter Lovesey, and then I read James Ellroy. He wrote The Black Dahlia, L.A. Confidential (remember me mentioning that?), and many more. He absolutely blew my mind. After reading a few of his books, I did my revisions. So if you compare them, The Killer Within and The Dark InSpectre are both hardboiled crime thrillers, but The Dark InSpectre is much darker, with much more of the supernatural angle. And they are both immensely fun to write.

Lily: Your serial and the story The Killer Within are heavily focused on crime fiction and you've written fantasy stories. Are those your main interest or is there another subject you'd like to explore with fiction writing?

Jason: Honestly, I write whatever story idea pops into my head an appeals to me. I've also written dark humor and hard sci-fi. I would say my most comfortable area is probably fantasy, since I spent most of my adolescence and early adulthood reading books of that genre -- authors like Raymond Feist, Steven Brust, Ursula K. Le Guin, Anne Bishop, etc.

Lily: What kind of research is involved with writing a paranormal cop thriller?

Jason: Well, for The Killer Within, I'm embarrassed to say, I did practically no research, just all of the police procedurals/dramas I've watched on TV, CSI, NYPD Blue, etc. As I said, for The Dark InSpectre, I read a lot of crime novels. The details are clearly important in stories like these, but just as important is the tone, which is something I had in my head from early on. It's the sort of cynical worldview that dominates. Every character is working an angle, or up to something, you're just not sure what.

Lily: In your opinion, who was the best criminal in history?

Jason: I'm sure my view is colored because it's so recent, but I'd say the best known criminal would be Bernie Madoff. He bilked people for sums of money that are stratospheric, the kind of money that can erase national debts. But the very best criminal in history would be someone we've never heard of, because they haven't been caught.

Lily: Do you have any interest in novel writing or do you prefer sticking with short stories?

Jason: I certainly have an interest in novel writing. I wrote a few novels, but stopped about seven or eight years ago to concentrate on short stories since I wanted to explore that kind of storytelling. But every once in a while I go back to the novels and revise, revise, revise.

Thank you, Jason, for taking the time to chat with us. Good luck with The Dark InSpectre and your future writing!

Jason Kahn's Website:
The Killer Within:
The Dark InSpectre:
Abandoned Towers Magazine:

Join us next week for an interview with Kim Richards, co-founder of Damnation Books!

Be sure to visit this blog on Oct 31 for an all day party and to read a never before seen excerpt of Bleeding Apple.


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