A title is more than a name

July 25th, 2014

It’s a face, it’s an invitation, it’s a door opened into a world … A book’s title is amazingly potent, and important. And sometimes the writer’s choice isn’t the best.

My new collection of short fiction – 17 stories, two never before published – is in process, but still needs a title.

Koja bookshelf

Update: the collection has its title!


If you can make it here . . .

July 16th, 2014

Nerve’s rehearsal neighborhood, Corktown, found itself part of a cover story of the New York Times Magazine.

nerve "Rabbithole" rehearsal

As a native Detroiter, I get asked – a lot – what it’s “like” here, especially now when Detroit’s a topic of national and international conversation, its grief and its grit examined and discussed.

I’m not an urbanologist or city planner, and I don’t think like one. What I appreciate about this city – and why it makes a perfect incubator for art – is its work ethic, the ability to take and make with what comes to hand, the dry humor inherent in that ethic of assemblage: if you can make stuff here, you can definitely make it anywhere.

And everywhere.

D Lewinski photo koja

Making the folly

brothel interior 15

[Photos courtesy Marisa Dluge/AL<E, David Lewinski/FAUSTUS, KK/The Tower Project and UNDER THE POPPY locations.]




“I WANTED to PUNCH him in the FACE.”

July 15th, 2014

Bookshelves of Doom reviewed GOING UNDER:

“It’s been a while since I’ve hated a character as much as I hated Ivan. He made me so angry that I WANTED to PUNCH him in the FACE. Even during the chapters he narrated. ESPECIALLY during the chapters he narrated.”

The Library Police reviewed THE CIPHER:

“It’s raw, and vicious, and toxic, and riveting, and completely impossible to describe other than as an experience.”

Goodreads readers review SKIN:

“If you really want to find a writer who provokes extreme reactions in people you can’t go past Kathe Koja.”

“I didn’t like any of the main characters but I came to care for them and dreaded the inevitable horror awaiting them at the story’s end.”

A passionate reaction from a reader … Bliss.



Two ways to see the story

July 4th, 2014


When I write, I have images, always, in my mind: of the characters, or a character, first. Then the world, their world, accretes around them, and the story grows.

The book’s cover art comes much later in the process, when the writing is done. And while my books have had some fine cover art, as well as some pretty questionable images (naming no names and posting no JPEGs), when Rick Lieder‘s the artist, I’m thrilled, and relieved – I know that my words could have no better face to show the world than what Rick will devise.


THE BLUE MIRROR and TALK are two excellent examples: the rainy shadows of Maggy’s illustrated landscape, dominated by the shadow that is Cole; and the backstage scrawl and script of Kit Webster’s theatrical world. Behind-the-scenes note: the BLUE MIRROR photograph was taken on a very busy avenue from a moving car; don’t try this at home! And TALK’s “script” page is one of the actual pages from the manuscript in process.

And if you’d like a copy of either, or both, signed by both author and artist, they’re available now. (One of us will walk upstairs to sign it, and the other will cross the room.)

We all take a book, a story, and make it real through that interior process of emotion and visualization called reading, that happy mystery. Seeing Rick’s covers is, for me, the first chance to watch how a particular book might come to life for its eventual readers, for you.

At home with the mysteries

June 29th, 2014

Puppet Alice relaxes at Rena's

This is a picture of Puppet Alice, relaxing at the home of her maker, artist Rena Hopkins. Many discussions and brainstorms and hilarities preceded her gestation, and now here she sits, a creature in the world, with a book for a heart and nooses for feet, and her own individual – most very individual – point of view. (It helps to have mirrors for eyes.)

And she’s a mystery of the best kind: concrete enough to touch and handle, which we very much hope the patrons of ALI<E will choose to do, but created to cross the borders of fact and fiction, art and darkness, being one with them all, but exclusively of none. If you were of a metaphysical mind, you might call her existence a kind of transubstantiation, when a thing, without ceasing to be itself, becomes wholly and more deeply something else. Or you might call her a performing object, which means the same thing. Or a piece of fiction, ditto.

Or you might think of her as one of us, because when art does its job, we become those creatures crossing back and forth between worlds – in a book, film, performance, painting, photograph, video –  so seamlessly that the tangent realities are equally real at the very same time. Which is deep play, and what play is for. And a lot – a lot – of fun.

A very bad book

June 23rd, 2014

Words in books are our constant friends: they show us who we are, and what the world is, whether it’s the contemporary world we can see from our windows, or another, further in time or distance but no less real. They cheer us, amuse us; and in their highest functioning, save us from what may seek to circumscribe us, keep us smaller than our true growth allows.

But what if the words in the book, and the book itself, are not guides and helpers; are actively unfriendly; are worse than unfriendly?

THE MEDUSA DIARY – a book I’m writing now – asks that question of  a smart, tough girl named Arden, and every day at the desk she goes deeper into the book, into the dark.

And I keep following.


meduseCaravaggio’s “Medusa”