Aliens, Lifelong Heroes and Teddy Bears: An Interview with Daniel Kraus

Author Daniel Kraus had notebooks filled to the brim with novel-length stories starting as early as 5th grade. What he never expected was to one day publish the ideas he was writing down.

Kraus grew up in small-town Iowa, pre-internet and pre-networking with other artists. He didn’t know any working artists. In fact, he didn’t know anyone who knew any working artists. No one ever suggested becoming an artist, so he continued to write in his notebooks and put them away when they were complete.

“By high school, I would write these fairly long novels that I loved doing and was proud of and I never once considered showing them to anyone,” he said. “I just would finish them up and feel good about it and put them in a drawer.”

He still had role models, though. He started with Stephen King novels when he was young before stumbling across Clive Barker. He has also spoken openly about his admiration for George A. Romero’s work, but he never thought that he’d end up working with Romero - in one of the most unconventional ways.

When Romero passed away in 2017, his estate uncovered an unfinished zombie novel, The Living Dead. He had done significant work on it but it had a long way to go. When they asked Kraus to finish it, he had never felt so honored.

“During the process of writing the book, and it’s a 700 page book, there were a few different times during the writing where I received, as if from the grave, new material,” Kraus said. “I was probably a couple of hundred pages into the book, if not more, when we discovered a whole new chunk of pages that he had written. Then I was probably a couple of hundred more pages into the book when his manager discovered an envelope with notes about where he was going in the storylines… it was a very unusual type of puzzle.”

He adds, “I had a responsibility to maintain what he had written and then I took it a lot further with research and interviews with his wife and all sorts of things to try to figure out what he would have done in any given situation.”

The Living Dead is set to release in June, however that is not the first book Kraus is releasing in 2020. He just released Bent Heavens earlier this year, a young adult novel that he describes as not dissimilar to E.T. except if the alien was tortured instead of cared for.

“It’s a book that looks at dark morality and to some extent into the uses and misuses of torture,” he said. “It’s about the rage that builds up and how some people express that rage through punishment of beings that are unlike them.”

If that’s not enough, his first middle grade series is being released in September, called They Threw Us Away. It’s the first of The Teddies Saga about a group of brand new teddy bears who wake up in a junkyard with no recollection as to why they were thrown away.

“It’s about teddy bears, which seems unusual coming from me,” Kraus said. “It’s very much a teddy bear story that I would write which is to say horrible things happen to these delightful, cuddly teddies as they strike out from this junkyard.”

He took inspiration from Richard Adams’ Watership Down, a darkly serious tale that happened to have bunnies as the main characters. After reading it in high school, it became one of his favorite books and a similar journey he wanted to follow with his own writing.

He looks back now at his writing and storing it away method and says that it was the best training he ever had for being a writer. In today’s culture and the ability to present one’s work virtually anywhere, Kraus was never searching for external praise. He doesn’t read reviews, good or bad, but instead focuses on what he loves to do.

All I want to do is write,” he said. “I love writing and the reaction to it... I just want to continue to write things that are exciting to me in the time and the moment that I’m writing it.”

To purchase Bent Heavens or preorder The Living Dead and They Threw Us Away, visit Daniel Kraus’ website.