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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014

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In Arts & Entertainment

Put "Cocaine Vampires" on your 2014 reading list.

"Cocaine Vampires" book set in Brew City


Local writer Jim Cryns recently finished and self-published a full-length novel called "Cocaine Vampires." It will be available through Amazon. com soon.

Despite the title, Cryns says he knew almost nothing about vampires or cocaine when he started writing, but he does know a lot about Milwaukee, which is where the book takes place.

Recently, OnMilwaukee.com caught up with Cryns and talked writing, Milwaukee hot spots and the ever-changing publishing world.

OnMilwaukee.com: How long did it take you to write this book?

Jim Cryns: It took me about three months to write the book. I don't work with an outline, so it flows rather quickly. The revisions and line edits proved to take longer than the actual writing of the book. I think that's when you really know you're a writer: when you're willing to do all the extra stuff just to finish your project.

OMC: Who published this book?

JC: This is a self-published novel through Createspace. I had looked into local publishing houses or 'vanity presses,' but Amazon offered essentially the same services for little-to-no money.

With the advent of Kindle, anyone with a keyboard can write a book and get it "out there." I think the publishing industry is on its ear. Nobody knows what direction it will go or if it will be standing in five years.

If you make the effort to get a hard-copy of your book, you have a chance to get it read, get it seen. If you throw it on Amazon in Kindle form, you are figuratively putting a drop of water into Lake Michigan.

OMC: Where is the book available for purchase and when?

JC: The book will be available through Amazon at the end of January. If the book sells, then we'll probably see it in other outlets.

OMC: What is the book about? How many pages is it?

JC: The book runs about 340 pages and is about mortality, despite the title. It's about how we deal with our own mortality, the choices we make. It deals with the eternal questions like they address in "Blade Runner." Who am I? Where am I going? How much time do I have?

Writers are told early on to write about what you know. While I don't know much about cocaine or vampires, I do know Milwaukee.

About half of the book takes place in town. I've had many readers of the manuscript tell me it was fun to see the local spots in the book.

OMC: Where are some of the local spots that appear in the book?

JC: They include the Milwaukee Athletic Club, a reference to Wolski's, Downer Avenue, the gyro place on North Avenue, Bay Shore Mall, Summerfest grounds and Bay Beach in Green Bay.

OMC: I love Bay Beach!

JC: One of the characters had to ride the Zippin' Pippin'. (The rollercoaster at Bay Beach.)

OMC: Were you inspired by other vampire stories? How is yours different from the others?

JC: I'm not a vampire genre guy. A good question would be, "Why would an idiot write a book titled 'Cocaine Vampires' if he wasn't into vampires?" I was into the concept first.

What do you take away from someone that matters most to them? To vampires, I made it longevity. My second novel, "Felix Get's Schooled," is getting a look by a fairly big publisher. It's a middle-grade book.

So, I go from drugs and vampires to a clean kids book in the swipe of a pen. I've written seven full-length screenplays ranging from thrillers in the pharmaceutical industry to Disney-esque material.

OMC: Did you study writing?

JC: I didn't study writing. I studied history at UW-Milwaukee, then earned a masters degree in labor relations. Oddly, the history undergraduate work required so much writing for the exams, I give that experience a lot of credit to jumpstarting my writing.

I did write when I was a kid, but my older brothers pummeled me until I gave that up. I've been a freelance writer and journalist in Wisconsin for more than 20 years, but if it hadn't been for that course of study, and Mario Ziino with the Milwaukee Brewers for whom I have written hundreds of articles, I don't know if any of this / that would have happened. (Mario Ziino was also a staff writer at OnMilwaukee.com in 2003.)

OMC: Who are your favorite writers?

JC: When I was in college I worshiped the usuals: Hemingway, Woolf, Fitzgerald. As I aged I preferred Henry Miller, Norman Mailer, James Cain. One of the first novels that really hit me to the core was William Styron's "Sophie's Choice." Tim O'Brien is a wonderful writer. I love to read Carl Hiaasen, Tom Robbins and a new favorite, Peter Hedges. He wrote "What's Eating Gilbert Grape." A fine movie and a better novel.

OMC: What other writing projects do you do?

JC: I write news features, stories. The freelance world has come crashing down as of late. Probably 95 percent of the gigs I used to get are gone. And I don't mean to other writers, I mean gone.

OMC: Did you grow up in Milwaukee?

JC: I was born in Chicago, moved to Milwaukee with my family in the mid-70s. After graduating from Whitefish Bay High School I did the wandering thing: D.C., Florida and back and forth many times. I finally settled back in Milwaukee in 1993, got married and have two daughters. We live near Port Washington.

OMC: What did you learn from writing this book?

JC: I learned anybody can write, but not everybody finishes. Stories and ideas always come easily for me. The writing even comes relatively easily. The editing, reviewing and polishing was something I'd never been willing to do before.

If you can't do that, if you're not willing to do that, you're really not a writer. I also learned that writing has to be done for you and you alone. If you're writing to make money, you'll be disappointed. I make more money from freelancing and ghost-writing than I will ever make from my own work. To paraphrase somebody, writers write because they have to.


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