The Mark Twain of Horror: Keith Schulz
by Michael McCarty
Keith Schulz’s debut novel Keepers of the River (Quixote Press) made it to the preliminary Bram Stoker Award ballot in 2002. Ed Gorman compared him to Mark Twain and Garrett Peck called his first book, “the kind of fat, involving read mainstream publishers are fond of.”
The book is now available on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble….
MICHAEL McCARTY: Although the book didn’t win, was it still thrilling to have your first book Keepers of the River appear on the preliminary ballot?
McCARTY: Keepers of the River has garnered great reviews. Did that help with the sales?
SCHULZ: The book was on the best sellers list at B. Dalton (Booksellers) here in Burlington (Iowa) for seven months.
McCARTY: Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get into writing?
SCHULZ: I was born along the Mississippi River in Burlington, Iowa. My parents operated a corner grocery store where I worked while attending public schools. I went to the University of Iowa, attended the Graduate Washington University and was accepted to the University of Iowa Law School, where I graduated cum laude.
I worked for Borg-Warner Corporation in Chicago for twenty years, serving as vice president and general counsel. While at the law firm, I wrote several professional articles, which have been published in a variety of journals including the Harvard Business Review.
At that point, I said to myself, “where do I go from here? I’d like to try something else.”
The “something else” was writing. I started taking courses in fiction writing at the Summer Festival of Iowa Writing Workshop. This experienced fueled my enthusiasm for fiction to the point where I ceased practicing law full-time in order to write.
Writing fiction is a heck of a lot more fun than practicing law.
My wife, Emily Roane, and I then purchased a 150-year-old home overlooking the Mississippi River, in my hometown of Burlington. I then converted a story into a writing room.
McCARTY: Keepers of the River is set in Bruders Landing. What is the inspiration for this fictional town nestled among the towering bluffs of the Upper Mississippi?
SCHULZ: There are so many islands in the Mississippi in Burlington. I don’t think people really think of islands when they think of the Mississippi River. There is this one island twelve miles long just south of Burlington. The bluffs in Burlington are creepy, too – brooding with river mists. I incorporated both those elements into my book – they are great settings for a scary story.
McCARTY: How did you come up with the name “Bruders Landing”?
SCHULZ: I was riding my bike by the river and came across a place called Meekers Landing. There is a coffee shop in Burlington called Bruders.
McCARTY: The book involves a time span of about a hundred years. What kind of research did you have to do?
SCHULZ: I read a lot of books about steamboats, how they handle and how they navigated, and books about the Mississippi River including Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi, which is about both.
McCARTY: Is there a sequel in the works?
SCHULZ: In fact, there are two sequels in the works. Now I have to decide which to finish. Unfortunately, participation in community organizations has seriously intruded on my writing time. When I did the first novel, I was new in town and didn’t have these distractions. Seclusion is important to the writing process, and I miss it.
McCARTY: Last question: Any advice for the first-time novelist?
SCHULZ: First-time novelists should stay focused on their writing. Deal with family and not much else. Then lower your expectations about getting published. Unless you have some national profile, your ability to be published by a noted publisher is extremely small. Even if you are so lucky, it’s doubtful that you’ll be the beneficiary of a significant marketing budget. Self-publishing is a legitimate option. Many talented and successful authors started this way, e.g. John Grisham and Samuel Clemens.
If you liked this interview please check out MODERN MYTHMAKERS: 35 INTERVIEWS WITH HORROR AND SCIENCE FICTION WRITERS AND FILMMAKERS. The links are at:
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