Since that time Steven has enjoyed further success, including the creation of a Kindle World based on the characters and story line from The Perseid Collapse.
If you’re unfamiliar with Kindle Worlds, it’s basically the modern-day version of the old “fan fiction” concept, where in writers create new stories based on an established stories and characters.
We’ve seen this a lot over the years with sci-fi classics such as Star Wars and Star Trek.
Now Kindle has launched The Perseid World, based on the story and characters from Steven’s book, The Perseid Collapse.
I find the Kindle World concept interesting, not just because it generates many different takes on an established story, but also because it offers authors who can effectively write in a particular world a ready-made audience starving for more. It’s a great way to launch a writing career, by piggybacking on an established brand.
Steven talks about how The Perseid World came to be, how it offers opportunities to other writers, and how you, too, can become an author in the growing number of Kindle Worlds that include romance, sci-fi, westerns, young adult, and many, many more.
Here then is my interview with Steven Konkoly, creator of the Kindle Perseid World, on today’s Interviewing Authors.
Steven Konkoly Interview
Scroll down for a complete transcript of the interview or click the Play button below to listen to the interview now. And don’t forget to leave a comment to let us know what you thought of this interview!
Steven Konkoly Transcript
Tim Knox: Steven, welcome back to the program.
Steven Konkoly: Hey, it’s great to be back.
Tim Knox: Well, great having you back. You were one of my very first guests, gosh, over a year now and since that time man, you’ve gone off and done all kinds of great things and moved and just having a good time.
But the reason I’m having you back is you now have your own Kindle Worlds and so I want to talk to you about that and how that got started around your book The Perseid Collapse and we will go from there.
Before we do though, give folks a quick background on you.
Steven Konkoly: Sure. So I don’t want to go back too far. But I graduated from the United States Naval Academy with a Bachelor of Science in Literature if you can believe that. I spent eight years on active duty. I worked with a lot of different groups, some special operations, mostly regular sailors and marines.
Once I got out, I did a – I had a very boring job in the pharmaceutical industry and decided to start writing one day and that’s when I wrote The Jakarta Pandemic, my first book, which was released in October of 2010 and much to my surprise, I had no idea what to expect. It took off and did well and I kept writing to the point where I could quit my day job and do this for a living.
So I have 10 books out now with more in the works. Like you said, this Kindle Worlds with 18 novellas written by different authors. It has just kind of gone crazy and haywire on me.
Tim Knox: Wow. Now we do have your – the previous interview that we did is posted on the site. So folks can go over there and get more background on how you went from where you were to where you are. But let’s talk specifically about the books.
Now the first one was The Jakarta Pandemic. Tell me about that book because that really kind of started this ball rolling, didn’t it?
Steven Konkoly: Right, right. It did. I’ve always loved the idea of viruses. I’ve ready all – everything that you can read about Ebola and this idea just really hit me one day. I thought, “I could write a pretty good story about this.” But I want to do it differently. I wrote it from the perspective of just like a father, kind of a husband with a family in the suburbs. I didn’t do the CDC virologist racing all over the world and jumping out of aircraft and parachutes and solving the problem.
It was really kind of a gritty middle-class setting. It showed exactly what I envision happening when you do prepare and the human factor and everything just conspires against you and you have to make some very difficult choices.
So it resonated with people. It kind of it – there had been some prepping, kind of prepper-related, that kind of post-apocalyptic-themed books out before. But this was one of the first – I would say first to kind of be captured by the indie self-publishing revolution, if you want to call it that.
Tim Knox: Now, were you a prepper before you wrote this book?
Steven Konkoly: Not at all, no, no. I mean I’m too busy for that really. My kids are older now. Too busy or maybe too lazy honestly. But things have changed over time. I wrote the one book and then I started The Perseid Collapse series a few years later. I actually took a break to write some covert ops, kind of Clancy-like novels. But it’s kind of hard to write this stuff and really kind of – and ignore prepping or at least taking some steps for too long.
Tim Knox: Yeah. Well, I think your book was one of the first – I mean it really kind of happened in your backyard. You know what I mean? It wasn’t a book where the – like you said, the CDC was running all over the country. This was about how this affected a family and a neighborhood and those around them and how they dealt with it.
So it was – yeah, I remember when I read it, after you and I talked last. I’m like, “You know, this is a little different. This isn’t Brad Pitt running all over the world fighting zombies. This is a regular guy fighting this pandemic.”
Steven Konkoly: Right, right. It was a pretty pessimistic look. I mean I …
Tim Knox: Aren’t they all? Are there really any positive apocalyptic end-of-days books?
Steven Konkoly: They don’t sell well.
Tim Knox: No, not really. I think the Satanists love them, but that’s a very narrow niche to write in.
Steven Konkoly: Maybe that’s a new genre, like some kind of – the opposite of dystopia. I don’t know what that would be.
Tim Knox: I’m going to see if Amazon will create that niche for me just so I can bitch and moan about how bad it is. So after The Jakarta Pandemic, you took off a couple of years. Well, you didn’t really take off. You wrote in another genre.
Then you came back around to The Perseid Collapse. Tell us about that book.
Steven Konkoly: Right. So I had a lot of requests. I kind of – I wrote this pretty popular post-apocalyptic pandemic book and then I switched over for black ops, kind of really gritty hardcore espionage novels and all the readers – my readers from Jakarta were like, “Are you going to come back to this? Are you going to bring the characters back?”
People really enjoyed the Fletchers, Alex and Kate, and I really had no intention whatsoever of doing that. But the more I thought about it, I was really interested in getting back in the genre and I thought instead of creating something totally different – I was able to envision a way to bring them back that didn’t feel like a John McClane from Die Hard. You know, wrong place at the wrong time over and over again although you could – you might be able to argue that with this.
But I thought if I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it right and have just this insane scenario, as realistic as I could get it, which will incorporate a lot of different aspects. International conspiracy and obviously just that close-up family, Alex Fletcher protecting his people and his wife doing the same and the kids stepping up and it’s just this – it gets pretty crazy.
Tim Knox: Yeah. Everybody in the family really has to step up in this book. Tell the audience if they haven’t read the book exactly what happens, the setup of the book.
Steven Konkoly: So I don’t want to – without giving too much away, basically Alex Fletcher six years after the Jakarta pandemic is on a vacation on an island off of the coast of Portland Maine. It’s an island I’ve been on. We have a sailboat. We’ve sailed this island. I’ve anchored in that same cove. So I started there. They’re having a wonderful trip. Their son has just gone off to college. So they’re missing him.
They wake up in the morning and Alex discovers that nothing seems right. Like his – the electronics on the boat don’t start and there was a flash of light before and that woke him up. But he had no idea what it was and he gradually pieces it together that – or he suspects that an EMP blast has gone off.
That’s followed by a very large blast of wind, which he puts quickly – he puts together that it – some kind of a wave, tsunami will probably follow. That shortly hits out right after that.
So they have to make their way back to Portland and essentially on a rescue operation to recover their son or to rescue him from Boston. So you have half the family going to Boston and their friends and then the other half going to this location that they have secured over the years because of their experience with the Jakarta pandemic.
So the family split off and meet up later in the series and all kinds of – you can imagine all hell breaks loose in between.
Tim Knox: So when this event happens, this flash of light, this EMP, it really starts to deal with how these normal people start to live in an abnormal world. The thing they face along the way are humanity kind of splits into nice people and not-so-nice people.
Steven Konkoly: Right.
Tim Knox: I mean to put it mildly, right?
Steven Konkoly: Right. Alex has a penchant for running into the not-so-nice people.
Tim Knox: He’s like Rick from The Walking Dead. Everybody he meets is out to get him. But let’s talk about what has happened since then, because when you wrote that book, it did well. But how did you get involved in the Kindle Worlds? First of all explain to folks what the Kindle World is.
Steven Konkoly: So Kindle Worlds is – I mean it’s essentially a fan fiction program sponsored by Amazon. It’s different in that – it’s more formal. I mean you get paid royalties and you sign an agreement. So it’s essentially like publishing but through their program.
They have a wide selection of different genres and storylines, everything from GI Joe, which they’ve licensed, to some indie publishers to some more traditional publishers. I mean they have a Kurt Vonnegut world.
So yeah, it’s pretty simple. You write your story. You submit it. You create a cover, either your own or through the system and it gets published and then you can promote it and make money off it. I mean it’s really kind of a sweet system.
I got involved with it. Basically I wanted to write in Blake Crouch’s Wayward Pines world. I had known him for a while and a couple of different people had asked me. They thought I would be perfect to write in it. But I just needed the time to do it and a break and I found the time. I wrote one novella and loved it and ended up writing three.
Tim Knox: Typically how long is a novella?
Steven Konkoly: There’s a lot of debate. If you go into Kindle boards, you could have people try to argue with you depending on what you say. But I would say anything between 10,000 to 15,000 and maybe 30,000 words as a novella, so maybe 100, 150 pages.
So I would say like a third, maybe a third of a novel. That’s how I kind of look at it.
Tim Knox: So the Kindle Worlds is – like you said, it’s like the old fan fiction. Remember when everybody was writing Star Wars stories. So basically there’s this world and if you are an author, you can write within that world and within that world, what it means with your book with The Perseid Collapse – what does that mean? What is the Kindle world – what are the boundaries? If I wanted to write in your world, what do I do? I have to use that event somehow and then I create a story based on what went on afterwards or exactly how does it work?
Steven Konkoly: Right, right, yeah. You kind of hit on it. I mean it’s pretty flexible. Some of the worlds have some restrictions, a little more so, but I haven’t come across any that are really tightly restrictive.
So for The Perseid Collapse world, you can either take the characters that I’ve created and expand on their adventures. You can have them on side adventures. You could fill in the gaps, something I didn’t really explain. You could take side characters that I just briefly bring in and you could give them their whole – you know, a novella or you could just create an all – you know, brand new characters and kind of put them in the scenario.
The one – the very flexible part and interesting part of The Perseid Collapse world is you can just take – anyone in the United States can just – you could be in North Dakota and just say, “I want to tell the story of a guy there who’s with his father in the dialysis unit and everything dies out and he has to travel 30 miles with his father to get home.”
It’s very like a broad world where some are very confined with very – it’s like a – just one kind of scenario or setting. Mine can be set anywhere honestly, internationally. It doesn’t matter. There’s international intrigue involved and there’s a number of novellas written about the conspiracy aspect of the collapse. So you can write just about anything you want.
Tim Knox: Russell Blake wrote a great one. The title is escaping me but I really enjoyed the book. So did Kindle or did Amazon come to you and propose this world or how did that work?
Steven Konkoly: Just to throw Russell Blake’s way, his novella is called Deadly Calm and it’s based on a character in Mexico who discovers that this has happened and all hell breaks loose down there and he makes his way to the States. Great novella. Anyway, free advertising for Russell, not that he needs it.
Tim Knox: Yeah. Like Russell needs us to plug him, doesn’t he? Poor Russell.
Steven Konkoly: We always help each other out.
Tim Knox: Yeah, great book though.
Steven Konkoly: So yeah, they – I mean actually it was kind of – one of both ways. I had written the three novellas for Blake Crouch’s world and I was contacted by them to take those three and compact them or put them into an omnibus or a compilation and then kind of rebrand it as a – as a novel basically that they could sell for – at a higher price point and it would be a completed story when you put the three together.
I wrote it so that it’s the same size as any of Blake Crouch’s novels and it’s a great complement to the series. So I went along with that. That was – and through that, I got to know the Kindle Worlds folks a lot better, learned how things work there and I very casually – looking at all the different worlds, I noticed they definitely didn’t have a – like modern or modern day kind of gritty post-apocalyptic world and I just casually said, “Hey, have you guys ever considered some kind of world like this?” and I jokingly said, “I know one if you’re looking for one.”
The guy I worked with at Kindle Worlds is awesome. He kind of brushed it off and I thought maybe – oh, well. Then about a month later, he’s like, “Yeah. Hey, about the world, your world, yeah, we would love to move forward with it.”
I’m like, “All right. I only mentioned it once but sounds good to me.” Yeah. So yeah, move forward from there and I mean it has just taken on a life of its own. It has been incredible.
Tim Knox: Let’s talk a little bit about if someone is going to write in this world and they’re going to use the characters that you have already established. What are the guidelines that you enforce?
So I would assume you don’t want them killing off a main character or a main character doing something that he wouldn’t do in one of your books. Are there specific guidelines that you issue that authors have to go by if they’re going to use your characters?
Steven Konkoly: Oddly enough, I really didn’t put any guidelines like that. I know the Kindle Worlds – I gave them a lot of background information on the characters and what they’ve done and their general characteristics and just generally how they act.
But I would imagine if someone wrote something that was really funky, turning one of the characters into something that is really out of character, that they might – like not approve it or let it go into the system. But I have no idea.
I mean I think most authors wouldn’t test that boundary. I mean it’s – I mean frankly a lot of people – I mean I haven’t seen a novella yet where they’ve taken a key character and explored them.
I don’t know if it’s a little – I see in other worlds where they do that. But everyone I’ve talked to, they kind of didn’t want to – not that they don’t want to step on those characters, but it’s kind of a daunting task to take something – I’ve written almost 1800 pages of these characters and I wonder if that – if some of the – a lot of the authors don’t want to take that on.
Tim Knox: Yeah. Well, they’re not going to turn the main character into a chain smoker or something even silly like that. So how does the process work? So if I want to write a novella based in your world, do I have to submit something to you or to Amazon or what is the vetting process?
Steven Konkoly: So there’s a site, a Kindle Worlds site, and it’s a submission site essentially. You can shop there. You can get information. I have a couple of links. If you click on The Perseid Collapse link where you can get documents that will help you with the world, synopsis, character, kind of character descriptions. But it’s really – I mean you can just start writing it.
Most of the authors have contacted me beforehand and we’ve talked about it. But I really don’t want to – I’m there to help them. If they want guidance and they want some world – they want world description stuff, I mean it’s a lot of pages and a lot of things to remember and I don’t – I wouldn’t expect anyone to get it all down.
I’ve helped out a lot of people just with general questions like, “Would this happen in the world?” or “What do you think about this? What would happen in this part of the country?”
But now I mean I really – people can just submit and I’ve had one submitted and I didn’t even know it was – it just popped up and I got in touch with the author and thanked him and that was kind of it.
So you can have as much or as little involvement as you want and I will help. So if anyone is interested, they can reach out and I will be glad to guide them the entire way.
Tim Knox: I would assume that they should read The Perseid Collapse first.
Steven Konkoly: Right. I think so. It would definitely make sense having to read the entire series. Once again, that’s a lot. That’s a lot to ask for in my mind. That’s why I came up with a pretty defined and descriptive synopsis and settings. I wanted to give people as much help as possible. But I would imagine.
I mean most readers that reached out, they’ve read them all. Some of the authors have read most of them and have completed them by now. But they got started. They read two and like, hey, I want to do this and – but I hadn’t read the last two. I’m like, “Any questions you have, I will answer if anything crazy goes on.”
Tim Knox: How many are there now?
Steven Konkoly: There are 18 right now and as long as an EMP doesn’t hit or something really drastic. I mean they’re – I’m thinking there’s going to be 38 or 40 by mid and the end of May.
Tim Knox: Wow. That must make you feel good, does it not, that you’ve got these folks writing in your world? Here’s this idea that you came up with and now there are 18, 20 books written by other authors. That’s going to make you feel pretty good.
Steven Konkoly: Yeah, yeah, I do. The stories are cool. I mean it’s very humbling to see other people’s takes on the situation. I mean it’s – I can tell you. Everyone has enjoyed themselves. I know – I can tell by the stories that they’ve enjoyed it. Some of the authors have started one and just like I did with Blake Crouch’s. They just got into it and a couple of them like Tom Abrahams, Ian Graham. I know I’m missing other names. Sean Smith. They’re doing one, two, three. They’re just going to continue writing in it. They’re doing kind of the same thing I did in the beginning. So I think everyone is having a great time.
Tim Knox: It seems like this would be a really clever way to establish yourself as an author, writing fan fiction in a Kindle world where there’s always already a lot of traction. It’s almost like you’ve got a built-in – a backlist. They’re not your books but there are other books in the genre. So it seems like it would be a great way to actually get started writing.
Steven Konkoly: Right. There are a couple of authors that have written in it and that has been part of their – definitely part of their thought process. A lot of them are already writing in the genre. Some haven’t – like Russell Blake doesn’t really write in the genre but I mean he could – I mean he has written – I mean he can write anything. The guy is unbelievable.
But there are some others who – I’ve had talks with before where they’re like, “I really love the genre and when I finish up the next book in the espionage series or whatever I’m doing, I want to write in that.” They’ve taken – they’re using this exactly as kind of a jumping off point and from what I’ve read, I mean these guys are going to do well.
Tim Knox: Well, how does it work financially? I would assume that they get a royalty. You get a royalty of course. Kindle is going to get their chunk. What exactly is the financial setup there? You don’t have to give me exact splits. But who gets what?
Steven Konkoly: Right. So once each author has paid me $10,000, I release them from my basement dungeon. They have internet.
Tim Knox: Oh my god. I’m on the phone with James Patterson here.
Steven Konkoly: That’s right. No, it’s – so it’s basically – you can see this, right? You can go on the Kindle Worlds’ page and see it. So it’s no secret. Thirty percent goes to Amazon and then the 30 percent goes to me and whatever is left goes to the author. So it’s like a third, third, third split.
Tim Knox: Right. But again, if you are – are just starting out as an author and you’re – I mean you’re diving into a very active pool instead of just writing something that’s a standalone and will never go anywhere. Again, I just think this is a great way for an author to start a writing career if you can write in this world and do it effectively. Don’t do it just because you think you’re going to kick off your author career here.
I mean it does have a lot of built-in positives that I can see a lot of people jumping into. What are you working on? Are you still working in the world yourself?
Steven Konkoly: So I finished book four of The Perseid series. It’s called Dispatches and I launched that about a month ago, a little over. That is an – I’m intending that to be the last book in that series. So I am definitely working on a new series right now. I’m working on a couple of things, one that I will announce shortly.
It’s funny you mentioned James Patterson. It’s kind of a co-write James Patterson situation with one of the Kindle Worlds’ authors. So that’s kind of a revelation you’re getting here first. More details on that to come.
Tim Knox: You’re just begging for a third interview, aren’t you?
Steven Konkoly: Basically, yeah.
Tim Knox: You’re there. No worries, man.
Steven Konkoly: But the next series that I have planned that I’m writing exclusively will be based in California in the year 2035 and it’s a – I’m taking the situation that’s unfolding right now with the drought and I’m giving my vision of what I think it will be like in about 20 years essentially.
So it’s a very dystopic – I mean it’s a very recognizable California but a very Big-Brother-ish – I mean people call it California Socialist now. They haven’t seen anything until they’ve read this book.
Tim Knox: Is Jerry Brown still around?
Steven Konkoly: No, no. But it’s definitely – you have – it’s basically a secession novel. So we have – California has taken a number of steps to get ahead of this crisis even though it’s really just steamrolling them, but those steps are – have led a lot of people to believe that California could economically break from the United States to some degree and stand on their own, which is interesting. It plays on – you look at like the gross domestic product, if you want to call it, for the State of California. I mean it’s lopsided compared to all the other states. So there are a million different political things in there. I’m pulling a lot of strings.
But it’s essentially a thriller. A guy stumbles upon a conspiracy by accident with this secessionist group and it goes from there.
Tim Knox: You think you will turn this into another world?
Steven Konkoly: I don’t know. We will see. We will see …
Tim Knox: Man, you could just be spinning out worlds left and right.
Steven Konkoly: If I remain in the good graces.
Tim Knox: Well, I don’t think there’s a problem there. Well, do you have a tentative title for the new book?
Steven Konkoly: I have a couple of different titles but I think it’s – I think the entire series will be called Fractured State. The first one will be Fractured State and then I just have – they’re going to go from California to the second Dust Bowl in Nevada. Those areas there are completely wiped out and almost abandoned and then up into the Pacific Northwest. So it will be an expansive novel and pretty cool.
Tim Knox: Very good. Before we get off the phone here, any advice to authors who are looking to write within your world and maybe other worlds? I was looking through Kindle last night and I mean they’ve got just about every category you can imagine. I’ve got a friend Christine Nolfi who just wrote in a – I think it’s kind of a romance detective world.
So what’s the advice? If I’m an author and I’m thinking about writing within The Perseid Collapse world, what do I need to do?
Steven Konkoly: So the way I looked at it, what I found from my experience was all the – all authors are busy. We’re all – you know how it is. I mean it’s – you interview us day in, day out. No one is sitting around idle and that’s how I felt.
But writing the first novella was just a fantastic break between one novel in my series and the next. I mean I think we all get a little tired and a lot of us write in series.
So I would recommend if anyone was considering it that – to think of it as a great breaking – kind of a breakpoint. It took me two weeks and by the time I was done with the first one, I was ready to go into the next book, the next book in my series.
In terms of bigger or greater advice, I mean obviously the place to start – what I would do is actually contact the author and tell him you’re interested in writing and see what kind of support they’re willing to offer. There’s a variety of – there’s far more successful authors than myself with Kindle Worlds and they’re all pretty enthusiastic about having you write in their worlds even if the world has been out for a while.
So I know I am. If you’re interested in mine, please reach out and we will figure out how I can help you or like I said, most people are just simply helping me with this. This is fantastic.
Tim Knox: It has to kind of drive you on a little bit too. You ever get competitive with these folks? You ever think, “Hey, I got to write another book because everybody in my world is kicking my ass. I got to write another book”?
Steven Konkoly: As I started reading these, I was thinking, oh my gosh, shoot. What would – like the …
Tim Knox: What have I done?
Steven Konkoly: The genre. I mean there are plenty of books in it but I still think even today it’s – my wife would like – if she was here, she would be slapping me in the back of the head like don’t say it’s – there’s room in there. It’s crowded. No one can write in it anymore.
But I think it’s – people are very interested in these dystopic, post-apocalyptic stories and there are a number of authors in there. But I’ve created a list and that list kind of runs out pretty quickly. So yeah, I mean I think it’s a great place to get into if – like you said, if you’re into that kind of thing and you can write in it. If you can’t, it’s kind of hard to get that dark and dreary …
Tim Knox: It does take a certain kind of person.
Steven Konkoly: Yeah, yeah, that’s us.
Tim Knox: Great! That’s us! Steven Konkoly, this has been great. Tell the folks how to learn more about what you’re up to.
Steven Konkoly: Oh, very easy. StevenKonkoly.com. Not as easy to spell though. So Steven with a V and then K-O-N-K-O-L-Y dot com. You can find everything there.
Tim Knox: Very good. That’s almost as much fun as Tim Knox. All right, man. Hey, this has been wonderful. When you do get around to getting the new book ready for promotion, get back on here.
Steven Konkoly: I will. Definitely, Tim. Thanks for having me again.
Tim Knox: All right buddy. Talk to you – and enjoy your world.
Steven Konkoly: I am, I am. I look at it every day, wringing my hands.
Tim Knox: All right, man. Take care.
Steven Konkoly: All right. See you. Bye.