Deathmatch 2015: Seven Questions with Nikola Jajic

DEATHMATCH_boogeyman

Boogeyman illustration by Tabban Soleilmani

Nikola Jajic is a Chicago-based writer and graphic novelist who won the 2015 edition of Indie Writer’s Deathmatch with his story “The Boogeyman” featuring those most ancient of monsters, Nick Nolte and Gary Busey. We asked Nik about his memories of the contest and what life is like post-Deathmatch. You can stay up to date on his work at his website.

1. How long have you been a writer?
My first published works were as a movie reviewer for a local (Chicago) zine, about eleven years ago. I moved onto various short stories and scripts a little after that. So it’s been about ten years, give or take.

2. How did you hear about the Indie Writer’s Deathmatch and what prompted you to enter?
I’ve been following the carnage over the last couple of years. I enjoyed the trash talk, and with the rising mountain of rejection letters on my desk, I came to the conclusion that my skin had gained the required density for contest entry.

3. How did your weird and delightful story “The Boogeyman” come to fruition? It feels like the beginning of an old joke: “Gary Busey and Nick Nolte walk into a bar….” What made you choose “The Boogeyman” as your Deathmatch story?
The story started out as a writing exercise. I’ll do this from time to time to get me going, afterward I might put the piece up on my blog, or just shelf it. This happened to be around the time of last year’s Deathmatch submission call, and I thought it might be a good fit. Right place right time, I suppose.

4. Did you expect to get as far as you did?
I liked the story (Although I’m a bit biased), but I wasn’t sure it had the legs for the contest. So the fact that the Boogeyman not only found its way into the contest, but also crushed its enemies and saw them driven before it, while hearing the lamentations of their women… well, that was good.

5. What was your general feeling regarding the comments section? Did you find any were particularly memorable/helpful/offensive?
I’m a sucker for the ol’ pat on the back. I feel like most struggling writers are, whether they’ll admit it or not is a different story. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed the passionate, and sometimes misplaced, vitriol that occasionally came our way.
I felt the other finalists all had strong work, but our entries were so different, that commenters who actually read both of the competitors’ works each round, were left with an easy decision. One that was probably made within the first paragraph or stanza. It was apples and oranges, and those two fuckers have been at war for an eternity.

6. How were your meetings with our Indie Publishing Makeover folks: BookThug, Russell Smith and Sam Hiyate? Any particular nuggets from these experiences?
Sam was a nice guy, and he had some tips and suggestions that were quite helpful. I communicated briefly with bookthug through email, and that was fine as well.
That’s about it. I guess if I had any other nuggets to pass along to future winners, it would be that they should have something else prepared for the publisher and agent to take a look at, something that’s in their wheelhouse.

7. Finally, has the Deathmatch had any lasting impact on how you work as a writer, almost a year after your win? Would you do it again?
I think being forced to live with your story for weeks after it’s done and gone is something I hadn’t experienced before. With most of the other published works I’ve written, by the time it reaches readers, I’ve already moved on as the writer.
But with this, being in the same space as the audience while they read it, and hearing their feedback round after round, that was something new for me, and I enjoyed it. Also, my inner twelve year-old proudly flexes anytime I’m referred to as a DEATHMATCH CHAMPION.
As far as doing it again, I happen to have a Santa Claus story with a certain Boogeyman je ne sais quoi. Just lift your Santa ban, and let the fat man in!

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