CAT Magazine

CAT Magazine

VBTC Pit Stop - A Friend of the Family by David Kubicek

Today we are pleased to bring you a new author on the touring circuit, David Kubicek, with A Friend of the Family. Welcome David!

WI: Tell us a little bit about yourself...

I was born and grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska. I’ve been an avid reader since I was in high school. My college thesis, Ray Bradbury: Space Age Visionary, was never published but is in Special Collections at Love Library at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I ran a publishing company for a few years, wrote a Cliffs Notes on Willa Cather’s My Antonia, and was a stringer for the Midlands Business Journal for nine years. My wife Cheryl is my number one beta reader. I can always count on her to give me her honest opinion; sometimes I’m not happy with it, but she helps make my stories better. My son Sean is 16 and learning how to drive. We have two large dogs and a cat, who doesn’t have much use for the dogs, but he tolerates them because they’re family.

WI: How many books have you written?

I’ve written several books that I chose not to inflict on an unsuspecting reading public. But my published books are: 1 full length novel (In Human Form), 1 short novel (A Friend of the Family), 1 short story collection (The Moaning Rocks and Other Stories), 1 Cliffs Notes (on Willa Cather’s My Antonia), and I was a ghost writer for 2 books (1 fiction, 1 nonfiction). In addition, I edited two anthologies (The Pelican in the Desert and Other Stories of the Family Farm and October Dreams: A Harvest of Horror). One of the ghost written books should not have been published (but that wasn’t up to me), but the other one was pretty good and was picked up by Ballantine Books and published as a mass market paperback.

WI: When did you first consider yourself a writer?

When I sat down to write my first story when I was about 10. It wasn’t very good, and its premise was not believable, but I didn’t know that back then. So I continued to write and to learn about writing and to experience life until I became good—and through all of that I continued to consider myself a writer. I think it’s important to consider yourself a writer from the moment you decide to write a story and put your first words on paper. Your goal is to eventually write well enough so others will want to read your stories, and that takes time and lots of practice.

WI: Have you had any classes or hold a degree that aids you in your writing? What developed your creative side?

While I was at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I took two fiction writing classes. The first was taught by a professor who was a good teacher but didn’t have much if any fiction writing experience. That class didn’t help at all. The second class was a writing workshop that consisted of writing stories and critiquing one another’s stories. That workshop helped immensely. In fact, one of the stories I wrote that summer was “Clinical Evaluation,” which was later published in an anthology called The New Surrealists. I have a B.A. in English, but other than that writing workshop my degree hasn’t helped a lot with my development as a writer. My college years, however, did nurture a voracious appetite for books—fiction and nonfiction—over a broad range of genres and subjects.

WI: What, in your opinion, is the first most important step to marketing a book?

First, write a good book. Next, find your audience—people who like to read the types of stories you write. Your goal is to develop good word-of-mouth. You want people saying to other people: “You’ve got to read this!” Word-of-mouth is a mysterious creature; you never know what’s going to set it off. A most obscure book can reach a tipping point and for a completely unexpected reason suddenly start selling like crazy. Building a following through social networking on the web and an opt-in mailing list are probably the best ways to develop name recognition.

WI: Do you prefer to publish in paperback or e-book format?

E-book, definitely. They are easy to publish and market, and they’re instantly available, which I think is a plus for many readers. Paperbacks are harder to market and distribute. I have paperback editions of my books for readers who don’t have e-readers or who prefer physical books, but my e-book editions sell much better.

WI: Tell us what it's like for you when you sit down to write...Do you need complete silence, do you create a playlist?

My ideal is complete silence, but rarely am I able to achieve that in a house with a wife, a teenage son, two large dogs, and a cat. Well, the cat leaves me alone except when wants something; then he walks across my keyboard. My office is in the basement because that removes me as much as possible from distractions. As for the writing itself, I still get cold feet when I sit down at the keyboard, even though I’ve been writing for decades. I write at a regular time every day. First I check my email and do other busywork to procrastinate. The internet makes procrastination easy. Before the internet I had to get creative in my search for ways to “legitimately” avoid writing. I indulge myself for 10 or 15 minutes, then I stop the procrastination; it’s time to actually get something done. I try to plan upcoming scenes away from the keyboard. When I sit down to write, I want to put words on paper and not be thinking about what happens next. My idea of a productive writing session is when I feel invigorated after I finish and don’t discard the scenes I just wrote the next day.

WI: How long did it take you to write this particular book/novel?

I wrote the original story quickly. I knew what I wanted to do in the story, how it would begin, and how it would end. Then I sat down to type whenever I had spare time. I did the first draft in about two weeks, revised and polished it and had it submission-ready in another two weeks. When I wrote the new opening and revised other parts of the story for its current release, it took about a month.

WI: Most authors despise the editing process. What is this process like for you?

I don’t like writing first drafts. I look at the first draft as a necessary evil, so I’ll have a story with which to work. Staring at a blank computer screen and putting words on it that make sense is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. I get tremendous satisfaction when a scene goes well, but I do lots of agonizing over it before anything gets written. I love the revision process because the first draft has been written, and I can take it and do anything I want with it, mold it like clay. But I get impatient with the final editing process. By the time I get to that point I’ve gone over the manuscript so many times that I start to get tired of it.

WI: Do you like the traditional publishing route, or do you prefer self-publishing?

Both have their advantages and disadvantages. A traditional publisher does most of the work to prepare a book for publication. Self-publishers have to find an artist to do the cover or do it themselves, they have to find editors, and they have to format the book. All of this takes away from writing time. But traditional publishers still rely on the authors to do most of the marketing (unless the author’s name is Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, who at this point in their careers probably don’t need much marketing).

Self-publishing is seriously cool because it’s faster than traditional publishing, authors get a larger royalty (usually much larger), and they are paid more quickly. The down-side is that self-publishing is stigmatized. There is this widespread belief that writers cannot be their own publishers, that they need an editor in an established publishing house to validate their work. But as John Locke (the self-published author, not the philosopher) points out, if you wanted to start a restaurant, you wouldn’t seek approval from the food service industry; you’d open your doors and let the dining public decide.

WI: What do you hope readers will take away from your books?
I tend to write lots of dark stories that feature sinister people treating other people badly, but I am an optimist. My main characters are good people (or in the case of In Human Form, Wendy is a good android) who end up in situations where they are mistreated by the sinister people. My main characters are courageous. They have an inner strength that helps them triumph, usually. So the key thing I hope readers take away from my books is that although life often is unfair, the goodness in people will win out.

WI: What can we expect from you in the future?

The two big projects I’m working on now are my young adult dystopian novel Empath and the sequel to In Human Form, the working title of which is Transition (the title probably will be changed). I have a couple more short novels in the works, both of which probably will be published before either of the full length novels.

WI: Please let readers know where they can connect with you and purchase your books...

One lucky commenter from the entire A Friend of the Family book tour will receive a $25 Amazon Gift card.

Thank you so much for chatting with us today.
The Writing Innovations Team 

In a desolate future, long after the nuclear war that nearly destroyed Earth’s civilization, practicing medicine is illegal. Health care is provided by Healers who treat patients using primitive methods like chanting and bleeding. Hank is a doctor who practices medicine only for himself and his family. His fear of being sent to prison has estranged him from the Underground, the loose network of physicians that tries to help people who have lost faith in the Healers.

Late one evening a 16-year-old girl named Gina knocks on his door. She is a telepath, a byproduct of the long-ago war. She not only knows that Hank is a doctor, but also that he keeps his medical equipment and supplies in a cellar under the bedroom. She threatens to bring the police unless he accompanies her and makes her father well.

When Hank arrives at the family’s drafty basement flat he finds that for the past week Vic has been under the treatment of his sister, Gina’s Aunt Rose, who is a Healer. But despite Aunt Rose’s potions and spells, Vic has gotten steadily weaker. As a last resort he has agreed to try a Medicine Man. Much to Hank’s relief, Aunt Rose is out tending patients, but Vic’s wife, Maud, is terrified that Hank might hurt her husband. She draws Hank aside and touches her robe.

I have a knife in here,” she says. “My child doesn’t think I’d use it, but I would.”

Gina considers her mother too weak to be head of the family if her father dies. Gina is too young, and her two brothers are dead--both of them died while under the treatment of Aunt Rose, who is positioned to become head of the family. 

When Aunt Rose returns unexpectedly, Hank is confused that she doesn’t order him out or go for the police. Gina tells him telepathically that Aunt Rose believes Vic will die, and she wants Hank there to take the blame.

Tensions between family members and Hank rise and fall as Hank works through the night and into the morning to save Vic’s life, but Vic becomes steadily weaker. At one point, Gina asks Hank why he came with her that night, and if he won’t use his knowledge to help others, why does he still practice medicine? He becomes irritated because he can’t answer her.

Just before dawn, Vic stops breathing, and Hank’s frantic effort to resuscitate him fails.

Aunt Rose then makes her move to take control of the family, but Gina attacks her. Aunt Rose fends her off and finally slaps her so hard across the face that the girl crashes into the wall and slips to the floor stunned. Like a lioness coming to the defense of her cub, Maud pulls her knife and pushes Aunt Rose away from her child.

Aunt Rose reaches for the knife, and Maud slashes her hand. Aunt Rose is shocked and confused by the turn of events, and like most bullies, she backs down; suddenly Maud has become the dominant person in the room.

A short time later when two police officers arrive, Aunt Rose shows them her sliced hand and tries to turn Hank in, but Maud tells them Aunt Rose was bleeding Vic and her knife slipped.

She feels bad ‘bout him dyin’,” Maud says, and sends Aunt Rose into the other room to lie down.

One police officer asks Hank who he is. Gina, who has hidden Hank’s medical bag, is suddenly tongue-tied, but Maud says: “He’s a friend of the family.”

After the police officers leave Hank takes his bag and goes out into the dawn. Although he’s just lost a patient and has come closer to occupying a prison cell than he ever wanted to, he feels more positive than he has in years because he knows now why he practices medicine.


Are you pleased with yourself, Medicine Man?” Aunt Rose said. The rockers rolled on the floor, back and forth, slowly, creaking. Outside the wind buffeted the ancient building. A draft stirred in the musty closeness of the room “He’s going to die. You’re going to see to that, aren’t you, Medicine Man?”
Gina jumped up.
He’s not, you old bag!”
The intensity, the bitterness of the words sent a shock sizzling through Hank’s brain.
Oh, God, he thought. Please don’t let it end now. Not yet. Just a little longer. Please.
You’re the one who’s killing him. You!”
Sit down, you little snip, or I’ll cuff you up the side of your head.”
Piss on you.”
Sit down, Gina, honey.”
Piss on you, too, Ma.”
Vic stirred on the bed. He moaned but didn’t wake up. Gina glanced at him, the animosity draining from her face.
Please,” Hank said, his voice hoarse. “Gina, please. . .”
For a minute, tension was thick. Then Aunt Rose looked away, resumed rocking. Gina was breathing as if she’d run a great distance.
She wants Pa to die, Gina thought at Hank.
Gina sat down cross-legged on the floor beside Hank’s chair. His hand moved slightly, raised, hesitated as if he didn’t know what to do with it. Then he laid his hand lightly on Gina’s shoulder, felt the tight muscles there and the warmth coming from her body.
You can’t mean that. He’s her brother.
Gina laughed a dry laugh which ended in a sob that she tried to choke off. Aunt Rose and Maud looked at her, but she ignored them.
Our family’s dying.
Hank sensed her sadness, her desperation, but most of all, he sensed her confusion about why this had to happen, why to them.
Pa holds us together now. My brothers are dead. If Pa di— If— If he wasn’t here, Max would’ve been head of the family. He was oldest. He was strong and gentle and wise. So was Jake, my other brother. They could’ve handled Aunt Rose, like Pa does now. Aunt Rose is afraid of Pa, even when he’s sick. Now— Now if Pa— Ma’s too weak, and I’m too young. Aunt Rose will be head of the family.
Hank tried not to let her see the random thoughts that skittered through his mind like frightened beetles. Thoughts of getting away from here before it was too late, if it weren’t too late already, because these people were strangers to him, and why did he care? But he crushed the thought and cast it away into that dim part of his consciousness where he stored thoughts and feelings of which he was ashamed. He squeezed Gina’s shoulder, gently.
She’s using you, she thought.
She builds walls in her mind so I can’t see her thinking. She’s better at it than you. She’s had more practice. But I can see more than she thinks I do. I can glimpse shadows of her thoughts.
Hank took his hand off Gina’s shoulder and sat up straighter in his chair. He cleared his throat as if about to speak, but he didn’t say anything.
What’s this you’re telling me?
You wondered why she didn’t act the way you thought she would before, when she came home and found you here. Look at her sitting over there waiting. Like a vulture. See how calm she is? She thinks Pa’s dying. She wants you here if he dies.
Hank was sweating under his jacket. A bead of perspiration rolled down the back of his neck.
What good will that do?
I told you, Gina thought impatiently, as if he were a child slow to understand. Both my brothers died. Both of them within a couple of years. Who do you think was treating them?

David Kubicek received a B.A. in English from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. He has published several short stories (his story “Ball of Fire” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses in 1989), hundreds of articles, a Cliffs Notes on Willa Cather’s My Antonia, and a Hollywood producer has optioned one of his screenplays. For nine years he wrote for MBJ Publications, publishers of the Midlands Business Journal, the Lincoln Business Journal, and the Mountain Plains Business Journal. As President of Kubicek & Associates, he published five trade paperback books, including two he edited—The Pelican In The Desert: and Other Stories of the Family Farm and October Dreams: A Harvest of Horror (with Jeff Mason). He lives with his wife, Cheryl, and their son, Sean, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

1 Response to "VBTC Pit Stop - A Friend of the Family by David Kubicek"

David Kubicek said...

Thanks so much for the interview. It looks great!