I was contacted by the author via Goodreads to review his book, MOMO. It was free on Lulu.com. I thoroughly enjoyed it. My review can be found here. My enjoyment encouraged me to consider interviewing Kevin as I wanted to see what makes this author tick to have written such an engrossing novel that educates, encourages your faith and trust in God and that relationships can be healed by Yahweh Ropheka (The Lord who heals), specifically in this case the father/son relationship.
A father and son, on a weekend jaunt to the family cabin in the Missouri woodland, find themselves in a fight for survival a single night against a savage creature straight from the annals of cryptozoology…with courage, faith and a single cabin door as their only defence.
With dawn so far away, their generator running out of power and no means of calling for help, will these things be enough to allow even one of them to see another day?
Soon to be a major motion picture!
This is Kevin's first interview and he certainly has a lot of encouraging things to say and he has encouraged me greatly. Looks like it is not just his novel, MOMO, that has impacted on my faith and myself!
So grab a coffee, get comfortable and let Kevin M. Kraft entertain and encourage you in his passion for writing and giving Glory to God in the process.
Well, besides being a writer, I’m a singer-songwriter and guitarist, an award-winning screenwriter, a movie maker and social commentator. I’m the CEO of T E K Productions here in Kansas City, Missouri, where, most importantly, I’m a husband and father of a family of six. My “real” job is as a youth care worker at a psychiatric hospital.
What inspired you to become an author and has it always been a desire of yours to write?
Well, the first thing to inspire me to write was being told stories, either through my parents and teachers reading to me or through television and movies. I always loved to be told great stories and I loved great storytellers. As I began to learn to read, I would get the books I had been read and associated the words and letters and realised, “Hey, someone wrote these things!” And I wanted to do the same—write stories that enthralled both others and even myself. So from the moment I knew how to piece together a coherent sentence, I wanted to write.
What tools have you found most successful in advertising/marketing yourself and your books?
You know, to tell you the truth, I am really not that good at marketing myself. I’m a Johnny-Come-Lately to those tools and practices. I’ve been writing for years and self-published my first novel a couple years ago, but I have a meager (albeit loyal) readership. I’m...trying to increase that. And to that end, my first strategy is to try and burn up the book review blogs with my latest book and thereby bring attention to my past novels. I’m taking a lesson from author Amanda Hocking, who gained much success this way.
What has surprised you the most about becoming an author?
The most surprising thing to me is the discovery, through the response of others, that I’m an effective writer. It may sound pompous to say, “I know I’m a good writer,” but I think I am—at least that’s what I’m told—and I know how to do it. It’s a talent or gift that I exhibited in the first grade, with students and teachers and family alike responding very emotionally and enthusiastically to my stories. But I’ll also admit that I’m my own worst critic who is very rarely ever satisfied with his own work. The real test for me is how my own work affects ME. If I can reread a novel or a screenplay I’ve penned, and not get tired of it and still be moved emotionally by it, I know I have something extraordinary. My biggest challenge is knowing when to stop revising and just leave it alone. Like George Lucas, I think said about his films, they are never finished, they’re just released. I feel the same about my writing.
How has writing and being an author impacted further on your relationship with Jesus Christ?
I express myself best through the written word. To craft a sentence or a sentiment or an idea in just the right way that it gets into a person’s thoughts or soul and stay there and grows and perhaps enlightens or enthrals is invaluable to me. And to be able to summon word pictures to convey truth can’t be over-appreciated. My walk with Christ has been influenced by such things. Great writers are big readers, and I’m inspired to write effectively when I read effective writing. God frequently uses stories to show me things I might otherwise miss—spiritual truths that define me and mature me. I listen to my favourite songs again and again to try and figure out why. Same with books. I’ve read James Byron Huggin’s novel, Leviathan repeatedly, because it moves me. It’s one of the most incredible novels I have ever read, so much so that I’ve read it to all of my children, as well as read it for myself. I want to write novels that do that for someone else. The idea of communicating truth so effectively—I keep using that word, I know!—is something I want to manifest.
Obviously becoming an author has been a huge accomplishment for you, but can you tell us what a major goal of yours is outside of the world of writing?
Uh-oh! Now you’ve done it. I’m an aspiring filmmaker. I, in fact, have felt the Lord leading me into the industry, and film has, as much as reading and writing, shaped my perception and understanding. So...yes, movie making is my passion right next to writing. And the two have, of course, merged together. In fact, this interview comes in conjunction with the impending release of my inspirational thriller, MOMO, which is a novelization of my award-winning screenplay of the same name. My hope is that MOMO the book will become popular and lead to interest in MOMO the movie, and that people will support our efforts when we eventually crowdfund it on Indiegogo or Kickstarter or whatever funding platform we decide to use. Movie making comes as “naturally” or as easily as writing does. But…it takes money I don’t have.
So we know you like to write, but can you divulge to your fans out there what’s something that you like to do in your downtime, when you're not writing?
Well, my family is always most important to me. I have a wife and four kids. They’re a continual adventure and a true source of joy. But if you’re talking about hobbies and things like that, I am a cigar box guitar guru. In fact, I founded the annual Kansas City Cigar Box Guitar Festival—a legacy I’m proud of. I love to build and play them and due exhibitions about the history and application the instrument. There are few things more inspiring than creating music on something you built with your own hands.
Do you think there is anything significantly different about Christian fiction, as opposed to secular fiction?
That’s difficult to answer in that I find myself wanting to reply with something more than the obvious, which is “the Message.” At the same time, secular fiction can sometimes say things better than Christian fiction. Same with movies. Christian artists in particular tend to more concerned with thrusting the MESSAGE they are trying to convey and forget to tell an original or compelling or GOOD story. I know that may sound awful or judgemental. But...I think you might know what I mean.
I notice that you are in a band. Tell us a bit about this.
Oh! Yeah! Thanks for asking about this. Going back to what I said about the cigar box guitar. I infrequently do concerts. But when I do, I now sing with my two eldest kids and a friend of mine. We are collectively known as Kevin M. Kraft & the Home school. We do both original songs and some covers, and eclectic mix. My kids have really emerged, much to my delight, as capable singers and I LOVE performing with them. Not only is this frustrated rock star getting to periodically play onstage, my kids—MY KIDS sing with me. How many people can boast about that?
How did MOMO come about? You mentioned in a message to me that it is very special among your writings? What does MOMO stand for?
A few years ago, after several frustrating years of trying to get my film making career off the ground, we—meaning my wife and my associates—decided we needed to break in with an easily-made, low-budget movie, to just get something good made that would open the door to other film projects. And as I considered what that first film might be, I knew that I’d always wanted to write, as I termed it as a boy, “a really good and scary Bigfoot movie.” A creature feature. A thriller. And effective thriller. I was really influenced by two movies as a kid: The Thing From Another World and Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot. I made a vow, when I was around 13, whenever Sasquatch came out, to make a movie when I could. Wasn’t sure how. I know, as I studied film even back then, that it was an expensive enterprise. Fortunately, digital technology makes it possible for the everyman to make movies now. Anyway, it had to be simple to stay low-budget, so I came up with two people, a father and son in a cabin-in-the-woods thriller. I live in Missouri and, having a love for cryptology, I discovered the legendary MOMO...which stands for “Missouri Monster”, which, in turn, refers to a cryptid, a sort of Sasquatch-like creature that was reported to terrorize the town of Louisiana, Missouri for two weeks in the 1970s, to secure itself in the annals of cryptozoology and unexplained phenomenon. Perfect, I thought, because MOMO is singular and distinctive from the generally-known Sasquatch/Bigfoot/Yeti cryptids. Why, just the name—“Momo—is a great hook!
Well, to make a long story as short as I can, I wrote the script, it won an award, got some accolades, but we were unsuccessful in acquiring funding for it. So last year, my wife suggested wisely that I write the novel to the screenplay and get that out there. Actually, I had thought about it even a year before that but didn’t do it, concentrating on the script. But I finally wrote the MOMO novella, understanding that most movies begin as books. Since the script is an effective thriller, I thought I should have been able to write an effective novel from it. It’s the first time I ever wrote a novel from a script! The rest is history...or will be. Originally, being a guerrilla filmmaker at-heart, I wrote the screenplay with the intention of me and my oldest son playing the leads and doing it on a very limited budget—just to show I could. But since that didn’t lead to funding success, I’ve since cast professional actors in the lead roles...although some have suggested I go back to the original intent. Anyway, MOMO is special to me because of all that and because I identify with both the father and son in the story. I love a story that moves me emotionally, and when I read what these two characters experience...it’s really special. I’m moved.
What kind of reaction are you hoping to receive from readers of MOMO?
In researching the story, the screenplay in particular, I watch every Bigfoot/Yeti movie I could find. And I was surprised to find that most of them, except for maybe one or two, were horrible, abysmal either in content or quality. The two exceptions were arguably okay and weren’t outstanding; they were just better than the rest. And I watched all of these films asking myself why? What worked and what didn’t work in these films? And I took notes and I studied each film intently—sometimes making myself sick...sitting through some of these—anyway, I came up with a formula for success that I plugged into the script and therefore the book. And without giving too much of my secrets away, I will say that one thing was emotional payload. So, to answer your question, I hope that readers will be moved by the emotional payload of the characters, the father and son in the novella. And that readers will be moved in such a way that they will want to reread MOMO again and again to re-experience the thrills they found the first time they read it. And, of course, I hope they will check out my other novels, which are, undoubtedly, the best novels they’ve perhaps never read. Is that...is that pompous? LOL!
You have had some beta readers give you positive reviews and you have two published reviews so far that are also positive, have you been surprised it has been received so well?
Yes and no. I’ll say that I’m very, very pleased, even overwhelmed by the response to MOMO. But I have to say, I knew, with the screenplay, that I’d written an effective thriller. I mean...I entered it into the ZedFest Lo/No-Budget Screenplay Contest and knew it would win, which it did. I just knew it would. It was a great script, an effective thriller scientifically engineered to succeed. What I’m pleased about is that the novel is, seemingly, just as effective and thrilling. I was really worried that I wouldn’t be able to adequately adapt the script into a novel. But I’m pleased to know that I apparently succeeded. I collect comments and reviews from my test readers and include them in my promotional materials and in the book itself, so others can see what reader just like them have already said about MOMO.
Why did you make this a novella instead of a full length novel? I would have liked it to be longer, you could then add more scary scenes with MOMO and have more scenes where Mark and Evan's faith is tested and also explore more about their fractured/estranged relationship and the healing power of God.
After carefully considering the possibilities of the novel, I decided that it was simply long enough. I knew that if I tried to make it longer for the sake of making it longer, I would have simply diluted it and made an effective thriller less-effective. The story centres on two people with the majority of the action taking place in one location. There are just so many things that can happen under those circumstances, right? Also, I wanted the book and the script to be pretty close. It’s a movie tie-in, so one needed to compliment the other. Except the opening. The opening is different in the script. Besides, novellas are a sort of forgotten art that has its own virtues. And I typically don’t do things the easy way. But...yeah, MOMO was just as long as it needed to be. But I thank you for wishing for more! That’s flattering.
You mentioned that MOMO needs to be made into a movie, what is the next stage in this development? I agree, it would make a great movie.
Thank you! And I hope I get lots of readers who will agree and tell lots of other readers and moviegoers the same!!! The next step for me is to build my readership by burning up the blogosphere, letting the world know that this fantastic novella could become a motion picture within the year with their support. So I’m doing anything I can to make it happen. And I appreciate what you’ve done to assist me in that. The cast and crew of MOMO, at least as it exists now, are standing by. We lack only funding to make it.
When will MOMO be released in print form and e-book form?
January 31st is the target date! I’m so excited!!!! People can visit my website to keep tabs on that or look my up on Facebook or, of course, my Author’s Spotlight at Lulu.
Can you tell us a little about how your previous novel, S: A Contemporary Religious Fantasy came about? I can foresee that this could be quite a controversial topic seeing that Jesus died for the human race only and that Hell was created initially for the satan and fallen angels.
Controversy? Downright vitriol in some cases! Not many, but...some. S came about one day when my youngest daughter said, “Daddy, you know how the Bible says we’re supposed to love our enemies?” I said yeah. “Does that mean were supposed to love Satan too?” Just like me, her imagination is rich with why’s and what-ifs. The conversation grew from there. We discussed whether it was possible for the Devil to repent and how the Devil is a person and a personality and imagine what kind of personality he might have to do what he did and would God forgive him if he repented and should we pray for Satan’s repentance. We discussed the fact that Satan was an angel, one of the sons of God, and didn’t that imply that God loved them all as their Father and what about the angels who fell with Satan. We also talked about role and nature of sin and why do Christians STILL sin? Jesus died not just to save us from the curse of sin but the YOKE of sin. Why would we be instructed against sin, if it wasn’t possibly for us to avoid it? And we discussed if is there ever a time when a believer has no choice but to sin...and couldn’t come up with any examples in the affirmative. We sin because we choose to go against our nature—our new nature—willingly and what does that make us? Also, what is the depth of God’s grace? How vast is it?
Anyway, all these questions are addressed in S: A Contemporary Religious Fantasy. And while many might take exception to making Satan a sympathetic character, I would remind them that this is a fantasy, hence the subtitle. I’ve actually been amazed that, with only a couple exceptions, most people responded very, very, very enthusiastically and positively to S and re-examined their own lives accordingly. Odd as it may sound, it is surprisingly light, was fun to write and is probably my most profound work to-date.
What is the W-3 Crew series about? That sounds like a Young Adult orientated series?
The W-3 Crew was born out of my frustration with the popularity of the Harry Potter novels among Christians in the mid-90s. In fact, I got tired of the whole witchcraft craze and wanted to write some stories that would offer something, oh…less-dark, less-Satanic! As with MOMO, I had this idea for an adventure series about three upstate New York kids who encounter strange phenomenon, which was probably inspired by my love of SCOOBY-DOO and THE NIGHT STALKER TV series I loved in the 70s. So I started writing these really short stories with these characters and decided, after several of them, that I needed to write a novel explaining how these three unlikely friend met. Hence The W-3 Crew. My eldest daughter absolutely loved the first book, which was really fun to write, and a second, even bigger novel, a sequel, followed. At nineteen, my daughter still wants me to complete the trilogy! And I am pleased to say I plan to begin work on the third novel very soon. Better late than never. I look forward to catching up with Michael, Tanya and Justin again.
As far as classification goes…young adult, adult, middle reader…as with marketing and self-promotion, I am the worst at writing for anything other than a broad audience. In fact, one of my failures is that I DO NOT do that. The book industry works in demographics and I just do not. I write with families in mind most of the time. Even S is a book (and now a screenplay) that could be enjoyed by a large and wide audience, despite what the subject matter may suggest. I hate being put into a box. I will always describe my audience as “broad”.
All your novels, (S: A Contemporary Religious Fantasy and the W-3 Crew, MOMO) can be classified in the edgy, speculative Christian fiction category. You have started your writing career in a relatively new and evolving, but not very well accepted or understood genre of Christian fiction. How did this come about? Had you considered writing in a safer more mainstream genre of Christian fiction first?
Oooh, “edgy”! I have never been called that…I don’t even know what it means, but it sounds exciting! How this came about is…I’ve always had a vivid imagination, stoked by an interest in the strange and wonderful, always asking why and what-if. I soaked up material on unexplained phenomenon. I was steeped in it. Couple that with my faith and my desire to weave wonderful stories and there you have it. Have I considered writing safer more mainstream genres of Christian fiction first? NEVER! What I write is a reflection or who and what God has made me to be. It has probably made my journey longer than it would have otherwise, but that’s fine. Maybe one of the things I’m to be, as an artist, is DIFFERENT. To open up the field of Christian fiction, if that is, indeed, what I write. Frankly, I sort of resist that label. I write what I write, plain and simple and my worldview and sensibilities come naturally to the surface. People seem to really enjoy what I write BECAUSE it is, by nature, defiant of conventions. To hear someone tell me that is the highest of compliments. In whatever I do, however, rest assured I seek to glorify the Lord, whether in a profound work like S: A Contemporary Religious Fantasy or with a simple fun adventure like The W-3 Crew. It’s how I live. I don’t know the meaning of the word “safe.” I have always just written what I had to write.
Your fans, I’m sure, want to know if there is more to come. Would you mind giving an exclusive glimpse of what is to come?
The completion of the W-3 Crew trilogy (I guess…or so it turns out), a nonfiction book for the layman that examines why Darwinian Evolutionism isn’t just incompatible with Christianity (“theistic evolution” is an oxymoron) but simply the biggest lie ever told to Man based on nothing but a desire to eliminate God…and working on some novels and children’s stories with my wonderful wife. We have some excellent ideas we’re planning on finally penning. Also, some of my kids are writing, so I’ll be helping them with their work!
What message do you want readers to obtain from reading MOMO?
That faith-based fiction can be effective even if it isn’t message-oriented. That sometimes what’s great is to tell a great story and place Christian characters in an incredible situation and see how they react…and this can speak not just to the faithful but to those outside the church as well. I want both readers and writers to see that Christian entertainment, whether, books or films, need not be second-or third-rate nor only consumable by those of us in the Church. We should set the standard for the world when it comes to these things. I hope I’m doing my part to achieve that. It seems petty, but when one considers how popular books and movies are and their influence on our culture, the need for excellent faith-based material, material that dares to color outside the lines established by Christendom, becomes clear.
Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers?
I hope you are entertained and blessed and inspired in some way by my work. Please contact me with your thoughts about it. I welcome that! Please be on the lookout for the MOMO movie campaign. We’ll crowdfund it in the spring and we’ll need your support if you think it’d make a great movie. And keep reading my work. That spurs me on to write more! I love storytelling.
Do you have any words that you’d like to leave us with?
Something I love and thrive on is that fact that the Creator of the universe has placed within His creation, the ability to create. I honestly think, as an expressive artist, that such outlets allow us to, at least a little bit, identify with the Father as the Creator. As a writer, I create people, place them in a world and sometimes in dangerous situations in which they grow to become better people and perhaps teach others about themselves. I encourage everyone to find, if they can, some creative outlet…to experience what it’s like to, well, create. It’s a wonderful feeling that makes you appreciate God the Creator even that much more and perhaps understand Him better. Does that make sense? I feel like I’m rambling a bit. And, of course, the advice that runs through MOMO:
“At the end of your strength is God's. Push yourself there.”
Where can readers find you?
Goodreads: Kevin M. Kraft
Kevin, Thank you for a most entertaining and insightful look into your world and your novels. I look forward to reading the rest of them and I am sure that now readers of this interview will be eager to check these out too and start reading. You are man of many talents and it is very encouraging to see you use these for the Glory of God. I love your passion for your craft and it is going to be great to watch you make the movie version of MOMO and then be blessed watching it!