Kieran Shea: Five Things I Learned Writing Koko Takes A Holiday

Five hundred years from now, ex-corporate mercenary Koko Martstellar is swaggering through an early retirement as a brothel owner on The Sixty Islands, a manufactured tropical resort archipelago known for hedonistic indulgences and simulated violence. Surrounded by slang-drooling boywhores and synthetic komodo dragons, the most challenging part of Koko’s day is deciding on her next drink. That is, until her old comrade Portia Delacompte sends a squad of security personnel to murder her.

* * *

1. Save

Save. Save everything. Your notes, the sauce-stained napkins on which you wrote down dialogue at 2 in the morning in the back of a cab, your early drafts, and so on until the ARC or the final published book is in your sweaty, blissed-out hands. Trust me, you do not want to know what twenty-seven thousand words obliterated by a crashed hard drive feels like so get organized. Lock it down, back it up, and be a grownup for Pete’s sake. Don’t wait until you’re at 2,500 feet in 115 mph free fall to check your chute.

2. Enjoy Yourself

There are vast, the-end-of-Raisers-of-the-Lost-Ark warehouses crammed with books that will never see the light of day. Despite whatever honors you’ve achieved or whatever others may think of your talents, your novel might end up being one of those books. To paraphrase Saint Ben and Saint Jerry…if you’re not having any fun writing then why write it at all? Writing is lonely, isolated work with long-odd payoffs. Get comfortable with masochism and learn to enjoy it.

3. Please Say Something Impressive

Remember that book you dragged your eyeballs through several years back? Yeah, the one that didn’t say sweet jack-all about anything relative to the human experience? Don’t do that.

You have a bone to pick? Pick it. You can’t stand a particular injustice or bigotry? Get it off your chest. Wrap up your issues in metaphor and verbal pyrotechnics and take those bastards to the woodshed. You might only get one shot at this, so don’t forget to go for the kill shot. Drive your message straight through their still beating hearts.

4. Trust Your Reader

Reading requires some level of functional intelligence so have faith in your reader. If the story makes sense to you then guess what? In all likelihood it should make sense to them.

Unless, of course, you’re insane and then all bets are off.

5. Fear Is Your Friend

Don’t take the easy way out. Be brave and write in ways you think are beyond you. Push yourself until the words break and then push yourself some more.

To put it another way, the dancehall is on fire and the doors are locked. You can either die screaming in a full-on panic or you can grab the pretty girl by the hand and kick out the door.


Bricoleur, ex-professional chef, and former ad man, Kieran Shea’s fiction has appeared in dozens of venues including Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Dogmatika, Word Riot, Plots with Guns…as well as in several notable anthologies. He’s been nominated for the Story South’s Million Writers Award twice and divides his time between Annapolis, Maryland and Cape May County, New Jersey. 

Kieran Shea: Website | Twitter

Koko Takes A Holiday: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

9 responses to “Kieran Shea: Five Things I Learned Writing Koko Takes A Holiday”

  1. Oooh, I’m liking this advice! Makes me feel all fired up and “Hell yeah!”

    I am also loving the cover – and the premise of the story. Is the former another Joey Hifi masterpiece, by any chance?

  2. Drive your message straight through their still beating hearts.

    I am totally in favor of this. I try to make even my creepy stroke-books give the reader something to think about. (Besides that.)

    However, I would urge the person contemplating loading up their book-zooka with a self-forging, armor piercing depleted-uranium round of message to think about making sure that it is tightly wrapped inside the Fullerene Sabot of Story. (Yes I am taking this metaphor WAY TOO FAR.) Don’t screech at me. Don’t preach at me. Try not to beseech at me. When you fire that message-cannon, that outer shell of “YOU NEED TO READ THIS STORY BECAUSE IT IS A GOOD FUCKING STORY AND YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO STOP ONCE YOU START is what makes me want to listen when that story-sabot peels away.

    If you want your message to be more than an Internet blog-post rant with made-up names in it, make me invest in those characters. When the injustice is visited upon them, make me outraged not just in the name of the Categorical Imperative, but because they are hoopy froods and the small-minded dipshit who is visiting said injustice needs a smack upside the head with the Five-Iron of Justice. And don’t use “this person is a bigot/homophobe/sexist/racist/prude” as shorthand for “this person is evil.” First make them evil, and then show me that their evil ways are all of a piece.

    • Oh, forgot:

      1) That book looks seriously cool and I think I will acquire it. 🙂

      2) I don’t think for one second that the author of the post was saying anything in opposition to what I put above, nor advocating the Screech, Preach, and Beseech approach to writing. But this is a pretty hot topic in certain circles right now. I thought it deserved expanding.

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