Kacey Unplugged!


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Meet Kacey Kowars . . .

    Nothing done with passion is a waste of time. That is what I have come to learn over the past twenty years of my life, which as of this writing, is going on forty-eight years. I am the age where I can see the road ahead of me more clearly than I could in the past. 

   That road has always been lined with books. Books everywhere. As a child the road was filled with comic books: Superman, Batman, The Fantastic Four, and the Archie series (all of them; I still remember their names, Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead, Moose).

   Comic books gave way to adventure stories like KON-TIKI, written by Thor Heyerdahl, and books written about other people I admired. I did not know these books had a name, biographies, I only knew I loved reading them.

   Next came high school and college, and I began reading what my teachers and professors told me to read. I read voraciously. I remember discovering Kurt Vonnegut's work while a student at Ohio State University. I remember Vonnegut because he spoke to me through his heart, and I heard what he was saying. 

    I admired the work of all the writers I was told to read, I was just too young to understand them.  At twenty I was unable to understand the genius of Dostoevsky, that came much later, when I was in my forties.

    After college I became a stockbroker, the job I still do today. I read business books after college and spent long hours learning my profession. I also drank a lot, too much. On January 10, 1984 I had my last drink. I began reading again, though this time I got to choose the books.

   One of the first books I read on this new road was THE TIMES ARE NEVER SO BAD by Andre Dubus. I will never forget how I felt after reading this book by Dubus. I was stunned; I felt as though he had followed me around while I was not looking, seeing all of my flaws and insecurities. He also saw my strengths.

    I wrote Dubus a letter, never expecting a reply. I had never done that before. On February 5, 1985 I returned home from work to find a solitary envelope in my mailbox. It was from Andre Dubus, a three-page hand-written letter. This letter changed my life. 

   For the first time I realized the power of the written word; began to understand the art of writing, and the art of reading. The road I was traveling became slightly more in focus and the books began to pile up a bit more than they had in the past.

   In 1986 I met Otto Penzler, the proprietor of The Mysterious Bookshop. His store, located at 129 W. 56th St. in Manhattan, is a Mecca for mystery lovers. I clearly recall the day I climbed the spiral-staircase to the second floor of The Mysterious Bookshop.

   The walls were filled floor-to-ceiling with books, most of them hardcover first editions. Sitting behind the desk was a friendly bearded man who introduced himself as Otto Penzler. Otto introduced me to the work of writers I had never heard of; Ross Macdonald, Ross Thomas, Elmore Leonard and James Crumley, to name a few. 

   Over the years Otto has become my mentor in both mystery fiction and collecting first editions. In recent years he has handed me the first novels of Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly. 

   I remember the day he handed me THE MONKEY'S RAINCOAT by Robert Crais. "Read this," he said. I was surprised that it was a paperback. I bought it and read it. It was wonderful. I believe Otto knows more about mysteries than anyone in the world. He has, and continues to be, a great help to me in developing my show.   

     I stated before that reading is an art. I believe that. Knowing how to read a book takes time, and I am still learning how to read books. I have read thousands of them, yet my understanding of the reading process continues to develop and grow. 

   Much is made of writing in our modern world; everyone wants to write a book. Why not? It is a worthwhile and wonderful thing to do.  I highly recommend that everyone do it. 

   But trying to write a book without learning how to read a book is like trying to make the Olympic swim team after swimming competitively in high school.

   Learning the craft of writing takes a long time. It is an evolutionary process that never ends. Reading is a critical part of learning the craft. Too many writers rush their work into publication, then give up when the rejection letters start filling their mailboxes.

   Getting a book published takes not only talent, it takes time.  I have written three books that were never published. They sit in my drawer gathering dust. A couple of years ago I would have told you that writing these books was a waste of time. I spent countless hours writing and doing research to make these books the best books I could write. I found agents and came close, but none of them were published.

   Then one day I came up with an idea, one that had been lurking in the back of my mind for years. Why not take the skills I had as a reader and use them to interview authors? The road became more visible, the piles of books began growing larger. 

   I decided to use the internet as the initial method of distributing what has become The Kacey Kowars show, www.kaceykowars.com. I found an editor, Chuck Adkins, who is an integral part of what I do. I met a webmaster, Marilyn Knapp Litt, who does Tim O'Brien's website.

   I spent a week at The Sewanee Writer's Conference in July, 2004 doing my initial interviews. The stage was set.

   I knew that I needed a strong line-up to attract listeners. Time is a precious commodity in today's world. My interviews last between thirty to forty-five minutes. I aired my first interview on August 7, 2004. My first guest was Andre Dubus lll, the author of HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG. 

   Andre agreed to be my first guest because of my relationship with his father, and because he saw that I was trying to promote the reading of good literature; in his words, "a holy word". I will be eternally grateful to Andre, and his father, for helping me out when I needed it.

    Tim O'Brien was my second guest. My weekly interviews caught on and the road I was travelling on rolled out in front of me. Forget about the books along the road, they have now taken over one lane of the highway, and I could not be happier that they are there.

    I would also like to thank my parents for encouraging me to read. They always gave me the money to buy comic books, and when I was old enough they got me a library card.



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