Alana Joli Abbott – Author Interview

Alana Joli Abbott – Author Interview

Alana Joli Abbott has recently joined Outland Entertainment‘s as Editor in chief, but you’ve probably heard her name long before this new gig. Be it for her novels, her interactive games or her award winning game writing, Alana continues to amaze us with her talent. Let’s try and find out more from Abbott herself!

Who’s Alana Joli Abbott?

Starting off with an existential question like that? This interview’s going to be a stumper! I guess I’m a writer, editor, mother, wife, martial artist, and lapsed musician. I’m passionate about stories and the way that telling stories—and consuming stories—shapes the world we live in. Being a mom has changed the way I see storytelling happening around me, because I look at what stories I’m feeding my kids, and what stories they’re taking in from the world around them. There’s so much power in the way we tell our truths and our fictions, and I try to make sure I’m always on the side of using that power for good!

 

What was the first thing you ever wrote? Was it a school assignment or something you did on your free time?

The first thing I have a concrete memory of writing was a school assignment in third grade, but it was also fan fiction. It was a short story based on a comic book that my mom had kept from when she was a kid about a group of children and their dog. (Not Peanuts or I’d remember the title!) I inserted myself into their world and wrote a story about playing baseball with them. (I didn’t play baseball. That’s where the fiction comes in.) I think there might have been a rainstorm. Not too long after that I wrote an epic episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, based on the cartoon, because I followed that devotedly, on my father’s electronic typewriter. We didn’t get a computer until the next year or two, and sometime in there I started writing a really long Star Wars piece that’s now long gone. At the time, I was sure that LucasFilm would somehow discover me and publish it in the Expanded Universe. My first “original” novel was a riff on the Indiana Jones pulp style archeologist adventures featuring an Egyptologist with powers she’d gotten from a scarab staff, which I wrote as part of a contest in the old Disney Adventures magazine. As part of a project in for my gifted and talented class, I submitted it out to publishers and learned for the first time how the submission/rejection process goes. It was a definite learning experience!

 

When the moment came, did you need someone else uttering “You are a writer.” or did you know it already?

I don’t think I ever needed that validation, but I also don’t remember a time when I wasn’t receiving it. I was very lucky to have teachers who supported me throughout elementary school, allowing me to put on a play I’d written, starring members of my class, for the grade below us. In high school I had friends who would read my short stories and trade fiction set in the world I’d created back and forth with me. I didn’t realize at the time how exceptional that was, but it definitely established in me that this was something I could do, and would always do, professionally or not.

 

From novels, to comics passing through short fiction, games, interactive novels and numerous articles, we can say you’ve tried nearly every front of the creative and factual side of writing.

Among these different experiences what striking disparities do you notice from the creative point of view? And how about the actual writing approach?

The big question is about interactivity: if other people are involved in the storytelling, you have to leave room for them to tell their own stories, despite the fact that you’re the one writing it. So with the interactive novels and roleplaying games, there’s a lot of leaving doors open and thinking about multiple options for every scenario. I don’t ever get the feeling that I know the main characters of the story very well, because the main characters are the players. The story has to be about them, and I’m just creating the window dressing. Pretty extensive dressing, but dressing nonetheless. The story is a vehicle for their adventure, not my own vision. The writing format reflects that, too, most significantly in the interactive novel apps I write, which are written in a programming language called ChoiceScript. That’s much, much different from writing in straight prose!

By contrast, with my fiction I almost always start from the characters and then figure out what’s going on with them. The characters propel that story forward, so I get to know them very well, and it’s the motivations of my own characters who drive the plot.

Articles, of course, have completely different rules, and usually start from the research, even in (sometimes especially in) the short blog posts I do. If the data or history doesn’t support the article I thought I was going to write, I have to figure out a different angle. I call this kind of work analysis-synthesis writing: take apart the information from other sources and then put it together in a new and different way that’s interesting to my audience.

 

Do you have a favorite project? Why that one in particular?

There’s always some project I’m super excited about, and I’m proud of a lot of the work that I’ve done, but the story I’ve written that’s closest to my heart is “Nomi’s Wish,” which was very loosely based on two true events: one, a trip my sister and I took to the Isle of Man (where neither of us fell into the Chasms), and two, a wish that was given to me by Naomi Lewis, this amazing writer and translator of fairy tales who I worked with when I was an in-house editor in Detroit. Over a phone conversation, she told me she sometimes gave young people she liked a wish, and she gave me one. (I used it, and it came true, though whether that’s to the credit of the wish, I can’t say!)

My second favorite might be “Don’t Let Go,” which was published in the now-out-of-print Ransom: The Anthology. I’d always wanted to tackle the Tam Lin story, and I ended up liking my version quite a bit. It might be part of a larger world in which this sort of fairy thing happens more frequently, but none of those stories have been finished yet.

 

You’ve recently release Choice of the Pirate”, your third interactive novel game for Choice of Games. How did you decide to enter this gamified format of novel?

I was approached by the publisher for Choice of Games, because he knew me, through friends, as a game writer and a fiction writer; having both backgrounds is incredibly helpful for writing interactive novels! On the one hand, the prose has to be really strong; on the other hand, there has to be a lot of room for the player to experience the story the way they want to, which means the story can’t dominate over the player’s choices. The juxtaposition of both skill sets sounded like a lot of fun, and it has been! I don’t mind telling you it’s also the most challenging kind of writing that I do (and probably the format of that the fewest people are familiar with!). But when I phrase it, “Oh, yes, I had an app come out this year,” people get very excited thinking I’m a video game designer. I suppose that technically I am, but it’s very different from what people expect from video games as well! It’s really this niche format that’s wonderful to play with and work in, and I hope that a lot of people keep getting excited about it.

 

This methodology resembles a lot the “Choose your own Adventure” books. Were you a fan of these growing up?

I read so many of them! I think a lot of us who work in gaming came from that background. There was one I remember very specifically about finding a hidden utopia—maybe Shangri-La?—where you couldn’t find the city except by paging through the book. There was no in-story route to get there, and it was only by sheer persistence that I got to it. It was both rewarding and kind of a cheat! But it stuck with me.

 

One might say your fiction work delves mostly on fantasy and sci-fi backgrounds. Do you agree with that?

Oh gosh, yes. I wrote Showdown at Willow Creek for Choice of Games as a non-fantastical interactive novel and didn’t realize how much I relied on fantastical elements to move me through a story and to help design my worlds! A friend of mine who playtested Choice of the Pirate said, on first run-through, “Why does my pirate have magic?” And I said, “Because magic is awesome. Now play.” Storytelling doesn’t need magic or futuristic science to work, but isn’t it more fun if it’s there?

 

Is there a reason why you’re more drawn towards these genres?

I read pretty exhaustively in science fiction and fantasy and always have, and most of my favorite stories (books or films) have either an SFF element or an SFF atmosphere. I realized a few years back that one of my favorite childhood books, The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope technically isn’t SFF; it’s historical, and the faeire court involved in the tale isn’t technically magical, just a dispossessed group of humans. But it’s a Tam Lin story, which gives it the flavor of fantasy, even if it technically doesn’t fit. My other very favorite books that have always stuck with me are A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle and Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith. I think that’s a pretty good window on how my worldview on storytelling got shaped.

 

You’ve done quite an extensive research in Mythology. How did you first enter this world?

Don’t all kids get into Egyptology at some point? That was the entry point for me, and then in high school the drama club at some point assigned Greek gods and goddesses to all the usual suspects. But it wasn’t until college that I realized this was actually a field of study that was valued in an academic sphere. My creative writing prof, Mark Vecchio, taught a course called “Mythic Imagination” that I waited far too long to take. The impact of that course on my outlook and writing cannot be overstated. After I graduated, I went first as a student and then later as a teaching assistant on Mark’s study tours (which he still offers as OCaptain Tours), and through those I studied Arthurian/British, Irish, and Greek mythology in the actual locations where those stories were birthed. Once you start seeing stories in the landscape, you don’t stop. I now live within 20 or so miles of Sleeping Giant mountain and Tuxis Island, both of which have giant legends from the local Quinnipiac people (often much filtered through the Puritan worldview that recorded them). Like many places in England, my area of New England is a land of giants, and though I don’t entirely know the significance of that, it feels significant, deep into the earth around me.

 

Moving to another very relevant theme nowadays, diversity in writing is one of your battles. How do you feel about the efforts that have been made in this area these past few years?

It’s so nice to have someone give me credit for that, when really I feel on the periphery of the people doing the really important work! I care very deeply about representation in fiction, because, for one, it’s boring to read the same old stories about the same old characters retold with different hair colors or different towns but the same basic tropes. (Of course, after having just talked about how much I love Tam Lin retellings, I probably contradict myself a bit!) I don’t think there’s anything wrong with loving stories that fit into the traditional pattern. I love a lot of farmboy-becomes-hero stories. But I think there are so many other possibilities out there for stories that don’t share the same basic assumptions about the world as that farmboy destined for greatness. And that’s just from my own selfish perspective. It’s so much more important to value representation for readers who don’t see themselves reflected on the covers of novels. I was very lucky to come of age when Alanna: The First Adventure was on the bookshelves of my library’s budding YA section. I think I cut my hair to look like the character on the book jacket, and while I didn’t have copper hair or purple eyes, I saw my name (differently spelled) and a face that could have been mine right on the jacket of my favorite book. That’s an experience that a lot of kids don’t have, especially given how miserable the stats are when it comes to children’s books featuring protagonists of color right on the cover. And this is all just tip of the iceberg stuff. I can’t recommend enough good articles on this topic, so I’ll link to just a few.

 

That said, I’m a white female writer and I know I come from a position of privilege. As much as I try to be inclusive and critical of colonialist viewpoints in my fiction, I am sure I mess up. I remember when I was working on Cowboys and Aliens 2 and one of the commenter called me out on using the word “yella” to mean coward, thinking it was a slur against the Asian railroad workers. Having grown up with Western movies, it never even occurred to me that someone could read it that way! I did some research and found out that the term came from a different root—but sometimes, that’s not what’s relevant. The way that people perceive what’s written is what they bring to the story, and it’s important not to create a situation where readers feel alienated by a story they love. I just keep trying to fail better the next time.

 

Do you think we’ve achieved any real progress? Would you say more in terms of gender or race equality?

I want to believe that there’s been progress, but I think that the news lately would tell me that it’s a tough hope to hold onto. And just in games and SFF there’s been this backlash, especially over the Internet, against inclusivity. I want to believe that the reason the backlash is occurring is because there has been progress made that some of the Old Guard don’t like. But the fact that it’s there means that the struggle has to continue, and we’ve all got to keep fighting the good fight so that those undertold stories can reach a wider audience.

 

And how about the backstage: do you agree that the works we get are a reflection of the lack of diversity of the actual writers?

I think less the writers than on the in house side, honestly. There are many, many excellent writers from all walks of life: race, gender, class, sexuality. One of the big problems, as Daniel José Older has written about (in one of my links above) is that the gatekeepers of writing tend to lack diversity. I know that Lee & Low books and Simmons College have a scholarship for further study in children’s literature for “students from diverse backgrounds.” To carry the metaphor, it’s not just the people backstage, but also the people producing the show. I’m not pointing fingers here, because there are a lot of reasons this situation is what it is (and I certainly want to keep my own job!), but I think if we really want diverse books, we have to have diverse agents, editors, publishers, filmmakers, directors, showrunners, Broadway creators… the list goes on and on.

Then I get all bogged down in it and think, let’s just tell each other some stories! I want to hear them all.

Thank you, Alana, for sharing a little bit of your world with us!

SG

 

P.S.: Check out all the other interviews with illustrators, writers, game-designers and other authors!

Ed Lavallee – Pop Star Assassin Creator

Ed Lavallee – Pop Star Assassin Creator

Ed Lavallee has opened up about how his career began and the way he manages to balance graphic design and comics. And when he breathes new life into one his lifelong projects we cannot sit tight: we have to know more about Pop Star Assassin! And about “Ed Lavallee, the Creator”.

We’ve briefly talked about PSA before, but we need more info! Where did you come up with the concept?

The idea for Pop Star came about as a culmination of all of the pop cultural influences I loved growing up as a child in the 70’s. I loved all types of genre films sci-fi, horror, action/adventure, but the pinnacle for me was watching Black Belt theater on Saturdays. This was usually a double feature with crazy, over-the-top characters, and even crazier Kung Fu action, but at the same time it was juxtaposed by the hilarity of the badly dubbed English. With that said, my hero then and now will always be THE MASTER, THE DRAGON – BRUCE LEE! His movies and everything about him had a huge influence on me. If you haven’t seen the documentary I AM BRUCE LEE – watch it! You won’t be disappointed.

 

What can you tell us about this universe you created?

Well, Pop Star is set in the 70’s and starts out in Vegas, without giving away too much this first miniseries sets events in motion that will change the face of the planet resulting in a very Blade Runner-esque – the only difference it will be brought with 1970’s low-fi gadgetry and tech. Big, bulky, and unreliable. Ray guns, EMPs, orbital weapons platforms, massive rooms full of giant super computers.

 

You’re in a safe place here. You can confess: is Elvis secretly your almighty idol and inspiration?

Elvis did play a big part of my childhood. He was larger than life – THE KING of Rock n Roll. His fame was otherworldly, legendary. Part of that plays into the story in the fact that when Elvis died there was so much speculation, an unanswered questions…then the Elvis sightings started popping up and that just added to the mystery and elevated him to god-like stature in the eyes of the world – not just Americans. The tabloids are still running stories about Elvis to this day. Makes for a great story though, huh? 😉 Ultimately though, Bruce Lee is my ultimate inspiration and almighty idol!

 

Now, seriously, were there any artists and/or authors who influenced you on this particular project?

Well, like i said previously the majority of the influences for Pop Star were all of the things that influenced me in the formative years growing up in the 1970’s, but I would say it is ultimately influenced by everything. No one specific artist or author comes to mind, but if I had to name names, I would have to say Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorcese, and Francis Ford Coppola.

 

PSA has a very specific style when we speak about its artwork and storyline. What was your goal?

Really, my goal with the artwork for PSA is the same as my goal with artwork for every comic book project I work on – find the BEST, most talented, and unique artists I can find to bring the story to life. I am very lucky to be working with the brilliant, MARCELO BASILE. A true master of the craft, he is really kicking ass on Pop Star. Each new page of art I receive is better than the previous. He is the visual mastermind behind the look and feel of all things Pop Star Assassin. He is to be applauded. Take a bow, Marcelo!

 

You work with different artists on this project: Marcelo Basile, as artist, and MattCashel, as co-writer. What did you find more difficult to collaborate in: the artwork or the writing?

I’m a fairly laid back guy when it comes to collaborating with other creatives – I think this comes from working as a production artist/graphic designer as my day job. As part of a team it is all about compromise. I tell all of the artists. I work with that my script is just a loose outline of what I see happened, and to feel free to change things up if there is a better way to something visually. After all they are the experts. I will make points in y script if there is something specific that needs to be seen, but other that I like to leave most of the heavy lifting to the artist. Writing collaboratively, is much the same, but more back and forth with dialogue and moving the story forward in a way that is interesting and makes sense. Compromise is key.

 

Did you find yourself on the spot, having to make many concessions or was it a smooth ride?

It is a fairly smooth ride. Marcelo is a consummated professional, and is always willing to make edits to art if there is something I need changed. though it is pretty rare that I ever want to change anything. I mean C’MON, have you seen his pages! Perfection!!!

 

How did it feel to get such positive feedback from Jimmy Palmiotti?

Jimmy P is the hardest working professional in comics today. He is also the coolest, most genuine, and nicest guy you will ever meet at a comic convention! I am truly lucky to have Jimmy’s endorsement. Meant a LOT to me for sure. 

 

Having personally financed the first 2 issues of Pop Star Assassin, you’re now running a Kickstarter campaign to help fund issue #3 and beyond.

What do you think attracts comic book fans to PSA?

Well, I know for one thing the art if out of this world, but I hope that readers see PSA as the total package.  After all, what’s not to like about Sex, Drugs, Rock-N-Robots, right? We believe strongly in the story and characters and come hell or high water we will get this first 6 issue miniseries finished!

 

You offer many variant covers for PSA, from an array of comic book artists. How did you manage to get so many different artists interested in the Pop Star Assassin universe?

All of the artists doing variant covers are either people I have worked with in the past or people who I admire and would like to work with in the future. We truly are lucky to have so many talented artists doing covers for the campaign. Most of them I just asked.

 

What can we expect from Pop Star Assassin in the future (besides its 3 other issues!)?

Pop Star is a far reaching story and was originally planned as an ongoing series. As we reach the end of issue 6 the world will be turned on its head. We are trying to build a deep universe of characters and sub-plots that can really go in any direction. We will start to see some of that with Norma and a new character that debuts in issue 3. Stay tuned!

 

Have you ever considered seeing it adapted to an audiovisual format? If so what would you choose: live-action or animation? Movie or TV-series?

The ultimate dream of most comic creators getting that option! While I can honestly see PSA as a full-on, over-the-top, live action blockbuster, I feel that the depth of the story and its characters could only be done justice with a live action TV show on a premium cable channel – HBO, Showtime and Netflix are all doing stellar work. Game of Thrones for me, is my favorite show on televisions right now. Season 2 of Daredevil was pretty kick as also though!

 

We know you’re hyper focused on PSA right now, but what other projects can we expect from you in the near future? 

Well, I currently have a few irons in the fire so to speak. I am working on Backlands with Jeremy Mohler and Erick Marquez – issue 1 is complete with issue 2 in production. I am working with artist Rudy Garcia on Julia Cruz: Evolution Cop. We are putting the finishing touches on issue 3 right now

 

Fans will be able to find you at Planet Comicon this month! What are you most looking forward to that weekend?

Conventions are always a creative re-charge for me, catching up with old friends, making new ones, and seeing all of the new comics and art is always super inspiring for me. It’s always fun hanging out afterward with everyone, having a few beers and talking shop. But ultimately, I am there for the fans and hope to make a lot of new ones! Without them, we are nothing! Putting a smile on someone’s face is what this is all about. Stop by and see us at the Outland Entertainment booth.

 

Any surprises planned?…

Hmmm…??? 🙂

 

 

Thank you, Ed, for killing our curiosity about this “lysergic trip to the heart of American conspiranoia” that is Pop Star Assassin.

 

S.G.

 

P.S.: Don’t forget to check out PSA Kickstarter campaign! (At least have a look at the video and spread the word: Ed’s rock’n’roll look is worth it!!)

Shotguns & Sorcery RPG: Matt Forbeck’s Journey

Shotguns & Sorcery RPG: Matt Forbeck’s Journey

A lot has changed since the last time we spoke. Matt Forbeck has worked closely with Robert Schwalb to finish the first draft of the S&S RPG manuscript. With around 180,000 words and a little over 300 pages long it seems it’ll be one of the biggest game books of the year.

Let’s find out what they’ve exactly been up to while working for the upcoming Roleplaying Game based on Forbeck’s IP Shotguns & Sorcery.

 

Matt, could you explain to us how it is to transform a universe you made famous in novel format into an RPG?

It’s fantastic fun. The world of Shotguns & Sorcery actually started out as an RPG setting in my head, although the world first got to see it in fiction, so it’s a real thrill to watch it develop into a full-blown RPG.

 

Was it an organic process?

As organic as anything can be that comes from people typing at each other. For me, it felt very natural. I started out as an RPG developer over two decades ago, so working on another RPG again felt like coming home.

 

What exactly was your job on this specific part of this big venture?

I wrote the background for the book and supplied all of the details about the world. My pal Rob Schwalb did all the heavy lifting with the rules, while Outland’s CEO Jeremy Mohler is creating all the art.

 

What was the biggest challenge or even obstacle you found?

It’s been a while since I wrote the Shotguns & Sorcery stories, so I actually had to back through and read them, taking notes as I went. This gave me all sorts of ideas for new material for the setting, but it’s kind of odd to study something you once wrote.

 

Did you have to compromise a lot? Did you feel like the S&S characters and universe had to change a lot to fit the RPG model?

Not much at all. As I mentioned, I originally developed Shotguns & Sorcery as an RPG setting, so bringing it back to its roots left it fairly well intact.

 

Did the results so far assume the form you wanted?

So far, I’ve been thrilled with every part of it. I can’t wait to see the finished book. There’s nothing quite like holding a book like that in your hands.

 

What is it that you’re most looking forward to show the audience as soon as the RPG is available?

Jeremy’s artwork. It’s really going to breathe new dimensions of life into the world and draw players right into it.

 

Can you give us any scoop on a favorite character, magic, cypher…?

I really like what Rob did with the cyphers overall. That’s something new to Shotguns & Sorcery, and he made it fit well.

 

Any future plans regarding this I.P.?

After re-reading all the books, I have ideas for lots more Shotguns & Sorcery stories. I don’t know when I’m going to get to writing them, but hopefully soon.

 

Thank you, Matt! We can’t wait to delve even further into the Shotguns & Sorcery‘s Universe!

Stay tuned for Robert Schwalb’s interview comming to you on April 27th!

S.G.

Jeremy Tolbert – Co-writer of Nightfell

Jeremy Tolbert – Co-writer of Nightfell

Writer or scientist: Jeremy Tolbert joined both on his science fiction works. Now venturing into fantasy and time travel, Tolbert is writing for a range of different audiences.

 

Where did you come up with the concept for Nightfell?

The core of this project from the beginning was a handful of concept sketches that Nic had prepared, along with a title.  They had some general ideas about something involving the undead, and Nic had some great sketches of undead warriors.   This was our starting point, and from there, it was up to me to build a larger concept.

For me, the main thing I wanted was to do somewhere where the undead weren’t the bad guys.  Traditionally, bunch of rotting corpses, you think, okay, yeah clearly these are the evil dudes.  This time, I wanted a story where it made sense that the zombies and what-not were fighting for the side you could get behind, at least at first.

But as I thought about that further, I realized I don’t really like the typical black/white morality of the old school epic fantasy.  In the post-Game of Thrones era, you can’t just paint one side all good or evil, so I started thinking about my other side, the berunmen, and from there, a lot of the other concepts of the world, such as the Nightfell itself, developed.

 

How is it to collaborate in the creation of a story? Is there too much compromise?

My ideas are not that precious, and I basically saw my role on this project as a collaborator who brought a certain expertise with story to the table, but beyond that, I was willing to listen to any feedback.  Nic’s made changes here and there to page layouts and so on, but in my opinion, he’s improved the project every single time from whatever my lesser vision was.

Collaboration for me has been a wonderful experience, overall.  I really hope to work with everyone involved more in the future.  As a short story writer, I spend a lot of time in my own head.  I find working with others to be refreshing.

 

Did you always envisioned it as a webcomic?

I wrote it to be structurally flexible.  The 9 panel grid we used lended itself well to the webcomic format, but I also structured it in 10 12 page chapters so that it could either be collected as a single graphic novel or broken into 2-chapter issues.  Our goal was have some flexibility there.

 

There’s a whole debate around comics becoming digital. Do you think webcomics are the gateway for this new digital world?

I’ve been reading webcomics since the early days of Sluggy Freelance back at the dawn of the internet. I think comics don’t care what the medium is; sequential art can tell a story on a cave wall or a digital screen equally well.  The medium might present some interesting challenges here and there, or even some new tools or advantages, but fundamentally, I think comics can survive and thrive on anything.

 

Do you find yourself more driven towards a specific genre(s)? Which one(s)?

I’m more of a science fiction guy than just about anything else.  I’m a pretty logical thinker so even in my more fantasy-ish worlds like Nightfell, I tend to think in very scientific ways about the world-building and so on.

 

What was the first thing you ever wrote?

I wrote a 20 page “book” of the adventures of a elf wizard and his sentient cougar sidekick in the 1st grade.  I’ve wanted to be a writer for about as long as I can remember.  I also wanted to be a scientist.  So science fiction was a natural choice.

 

What was the first book you ever read (or was read to you)?

I honestly can’t recall the first.  It was probably something by Dr. Seuss.  I do know the very first science fiction book I read –Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey.

 

And comics: which were your favorite ones?

I was late getting into comics. Most of my reading growing up was via the library, as we were very poor and didn’t have a lot of money.  So I was in my late 20s before I started actively reading comics.  My gateway drugs were Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis – pretty much anything by that guy floats my boat.  Y: the Last Man was another big deal for me early on.

 

Nowadays, what can we find you reading?

I get a handful of comics every week – I’m the kind of guy who likes to pick up the first issue of just about any series with a concept I find interesting, so a lot of Image books.  I am also reading 365 short stories this year, mostly science fiction and fantasy, so you’re likely to find my nose in the pages of a science fiction magazine.  Figuratively speaking – I read everything that’s not comics in electronic formats these days.

 

Are you a person of idols?

Sure.

Who were your childhood heroes?

Charles Darwin,  Arthur C. Clarke, Anne McCaffrey,  Gary Gygax, and so many others.

And today? Who do you look up to?

Anybody who works for a living, honestly.

 

What made you enter the comic universe of storytelling?

I was fascinated by the opportunity to have an artist interpret the pictures in my head and draw them.  Collaboration between different artists is something I’ve always wanted to do, and I really love the more cinematic storytelling style of comics, as compared to regular prose work like I usually do.

 

Of all the projects you’ve worked on, is there one that stands out from rest? Why?

Well, as my first comics project, Nightfell stands out for sure.  Working with everyone, watching as each new page from Nic has come in, has been a dream come true.  I hope my story work can live up to the amazing artwork!

 

And now a peek into the Future. Can you tell us what project(s) are you most looking forward to?

I’m really looking forward to a young adult time travel novel I’ve been working on for several years.   It’s kind of like Jurassic Park meets Treasure Island.

 

Thanks Jeremy for letting us get to know you a little better!

S.G.

P.S.: If you enjoyed reading this interview take a look at the other ones we have from illustrators to writers, passing through game-designers and authors.

Scott Colby – Co-Writer of N0.1R

Scott Colby – Co-Writer of N0.1R

Finding a creative outlet in writing from a young age, Scott Colby is already releasing his 3rd novel later this Summer. However, N0.1R was his first comic book venture!

 

Where did you come up with the concept for N0.1R?

N0.1R was originally the idea of the book’s artist, Nic Giacondino. He had a heck of a world and an idea and just needed someone to help flesh it out a bit more. That turned out to be my job. His concept left me with a few questions about the world and the characters, so I got to work answering those myself and the final product was born.

How is it to collaborate in the creation of a story? Is there too much compromise?

I really like collaborating on a story. Sure, there’s compromise, but more often than not something really cool comes out of the combination of two disparate ideas about something. It’s rarely one side or the other coming out on top.

Did you always envisioned it as a webcomic?

That was what I was told it would be.  🙂

There’s a whole debate around comics becoming digital. Do you think webcomics are the gateway for this new digital world?

Definitely. The great thing about the internet is it’s a giant, never-ending rabbit hole. You never know what you’re going to find—or who’s going to find what you put there. Combine those traits and you’ve got a great platform for comics moving forward.

Do you find yourself more driven towards a specific genre(s)? Which one(s)?

A lot of what I write is fantasy, but I try not to get stuck on any one genre. I’ve done a little bit of everything.

Why?

I was just thinking about this the other day. I enjoyed the fantasy genre when I was younger, but lately I feel like it’s lacking depth. Working in that particular genre is a great chance to really challenge accepted norms and build something surprising and new—which are things I feel like a lot of fantasy authors just don’t do.

What was the first thing you ever wrote?

I was always that smart kid who finished his work first, so I needed a way to pass the time in school. I couldn’t draw at all, so I started writing. I can’t remember my first story, but I’m pretty sure it happened in third grade.

What was the first book you ever read (or was read to you)?

No idea.

And comics: which were your favorite ones?

I haven’t read a ton of comics, but I was always partial to the X-Men. Such a cool universe with a great cast of diverse characters.

Nowadays, what can we find you reading?

Lately I’ve been on a science fiction kick—Marko Kloos, John Scalzi, Iain M. Banks. And I read nerdy baseball websites like it’s going out of style. Not that it’s ever really been in style.

Are you a person of idols?

Not really.

Who were your childhood heroes?

Optimus Prime and Bret “The Hitman” Hart.

And today? Who do you look up to?

Anyone who can make a living writing his or her own stuff.

What made you enter the comic universe of storytelling?

I wrote some prose for Jeremy Mohler way back when, and he offered me the chance to write some comics, I decided it sounded like fun.

Of all the projects you’ve worked on, is there one that stands out from rest? Why?

Probably my first novel, Shotgun. That thing took forever. My style’s changed and improved (I hope) since then, but you can definitely catch a few glimpses of where I was going.

And now a peek into the Future. Can you tell us what project(s) are you most looking forward to?

I just finished the first draft of my third novel, Diary of a Fairy Princess. It’s the most absurd, ridiculous thing I’ve ever thought of. It’s great. It constantly makes me laugh while I’m revising it. Half of it’s written in a spoiled princess voice I had a ton of fun working with. I suspect readers are either going to love it or hate it with few opinions in between—and I really can’t wait to see which way it goes. Hopefully it’ll be available by the end of the summer.

Thanks Scott for giving us access to your creative universe!

S.G

P.S.: If you enjoyed reading this interview take a look at the other ones we have from illustrators to writers, passing through game-designers and authors.

Gabe Schmidt – Creator & Writer of “Mars2577”

Gabe Schmidt – Creator & Writer of “Mars2577”

Gabe Schmidt love for Greek gods and science-fiction from an early age may have propelled this talented author into his writing path. Let’s find out a bit more of his history.

Where did you come up with the concept for Mars2577?

10 years ago, I was traveling on a trip with my parents to visit my older sister in Washington, D.C.  It grew off of the fact that there’s a place on Mars called Mount Olympus, and I began to think of a sci-fi setting where Greek gods are simply rulers over different areas of life.  On the long drive, I wrote down in my notebook the different roles that could be played by Zeus, Hades, Poseidon, and Hera.  While I liked the setting idea, when I thought of stories, I wanted them to be about the heroes of Greek mythology living in this world created by the gods.

Did you always envision it as a webcomic?

Definitely not.  It started off as a regular book.  Back then, there were only three other people who read any of it.  One of them, Shamus, suggested it as a comic book instead.  He hooked me up with an artist he knew, but the artist was not consistent enough to get any work done beyond the slightest glimpse of concept arts.  It was for the best anyway; the story has evolved a lot since then, in both my writing ability and the plot itself.  I did keep my eyes open for other ways to tell the story, though, and when the chance to work with Outland Entertainment presented itself, I leapt at the opportunity.

There’s a whole debate around comics becoming digital. Do you think webcomics are the gateway for this new digital world?

I am honestly not familiar with the debate around digital comics.  However, I have been reading webcomics for a very long time.  While the first ones I read were basically daily jokes (Penny Arcade, PVP), some of them were long and developed plots with plenty of jokes so it was easy to transition from the normal webcomic group (Order of the Stick is my favorite of these, Goblins is also good).  While the former had the feel of newspaper comics (with material you would never find in so public a forum), the latter felt more like normal comic books that knew how to crack a joke.  I think it is inevitable that digital comics are a core part of the comic community, whether or not anyone decides to debate it along the way.

Do you find yourself more driven towards a specific genre? Which one?

Why?

Science Fiction has always been my absolute favorite, in both writing and reading, but I try to diversify my interests as much as I can.  Vonnegut has had a lot to do with my love of science fiction, and I was reading a lot of his works when I first started getting back in to writing in high school.  The ability to use science fiction as a vehicle to discuss any topic you want without the restraints of modern-day technology or world situations is something I’ve always found liberating.

What was the first thing you ever wrote?

When I was in elementary school, there was a standardized writing essay for the state or the federal standards.  Don’t remember all of the details for sure, but I remember the topic was “What I Did Over Summer”.  I asked the teacher if it had to be real or if it could be fake, and she said it shouldn’t matter.  I wrote about how I was abducted by aliens and kept in some alien zoo.  (This may explain my later attachment to Vonnegut, as something similar happens in Slaughterhouse Five.)  The essays were sent away and processed by someone or some committee I’ve never met, and I received a low grade, closer to a C or C- in normal standards.  The negative reinforcement discouraged me from writing for years, until I got in to high school, when I restarted my old passion.  Now, of course, I realize that negative criticism is essential for becoming a better writer; when someone reads my work, I’d always rather hear what they didn’t like than just a general, “It was good!” with no further explanation.

What was the first book you ever read (or was read to you)?

I’m sure the very first book ever read to me was something along the lines of Dr. Seuss, and I know Goosebumps was some of my early reading.  However, the first book that I specifically remember reading was Jurassic Park, after seeing the movie many times in theaters, when I was eight.  I didn’t understand a lot of the scientific mumbo-jumbo, but it put me on the path to pursue that understanding, and it also gave me a good introduction to science fiction.

And comics: which were your favorite ones?

I didn’t actually start reading comics by issue until I was 16, and I’ve since gone back to reading comics by the trade instead.  My top five trades, in no particular order, are Green ArrowArcher’s Quest, Maus, Saga Vol. 1, Criminal Vol. 1 and 2, and Habibi.  As far as superhero comics, in addition to Green Arrow, my favorites were the Punisher MAX series and Marvel’s 1602.

Nowadays, what can we find you reading?

My four favorite authors are Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, and I inevitably go back to reading a book by one of these four between other books.  Recently I’ve been trying to diversify my reading list across different subjects, from The Elegant Universe to Heart of Darkness, from The Journey to the West to Snow Crash.

Are you a person of idols?

I am.  I love the gods of mythology, the heroes of stories, and the protagonists of real life.  I have a tattoo of Anansi, a god of storytelling and trickery, the very type of idol that sings to my soul.

Who were your childhood heroes?

Definitely Batman, from Batman: Animated Series, and Joker, from the same.  Han Solo of Star Wars and Jack Burton of Big Trouble in Little China.Beast from X-Men and Donatello from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  (There’s a chance I was always destined to be a nerd.)

And today? Who do you look up to?

It may be generic, but my parents.  My dad is the embodiment of a hard worker, and he would do absolutely anything for his family.  My mom was one of the first strong women (of many) that I’ve known, and helped establish that from the beginning of my life, so I’ve never struggled to write female characters with depth who are more than just a Damsel in Distress.  (Or, at least if they start that way, they evolve out of that state.)  My sister, Rachel Schmidt, is also on the list, as she is a successful artist out of Washington, D.C., proof that if you work hard and have an amazing amount of talent, you can go far in the creative world.

What made you enter the comic universe of storytelling?

I practically grew up out of my local comic book shop.  While I didn’t start my own pull list until I was 16, all of my other hobbies (card games, miniature games, roleplaying games) were played at Gatekeeper Hobbies from the age of 10 on up.  I wasn’t the first one to think of putting Mars 2577 in a comic form, but I feel like the medium is both natural for the material as well as something I had been familiar with for years.

Of all the projects you’ve worked on, is there one that stands out from rest? Why?

Mars 2577 is my first big project to get published, so it will always have a special place in my heart.  Hopefully other projects of mine will show up before too long, but we’ll just have to see.

And now a peek into the Future. Can you tell us what project(s) are you most looking forward to?

I always end up working on more than just one project at a time, but there is one I’m trying to channel most of my writing energy in to.  The project that I am focusing on writing the most right now is called Shattered Worldsoul.  It is a post-apocalyptic novel revolving around eight different characters, in a town being harassed and eventually attacked by bandits.  It started as two linked short stories.  The first tells the story of a man waking up in the back of a van, not remembering anything of his life from before that moment, and immediately falling in love with the woman driving the van.  The second tells the story of the woman, who had lived a hard life, and who met the man when he was in love with a different woman half the world away.  When he was having surgery that would cure his amnesia at the cost of triggering it one final time, she broke in and burnt all of his notebooks about the woman he originally loved, so she would be the world for him.  From there it’s evolved a whole cast of characters and outlines for 66 chapters (although significantly less than that is written so far).  Hopefully, when that’s finished, readers familiar with Mars 2577 will have another fun setting from me to read.

Thanks Gabe for letting us get a glimpse of your creative world!

 

S.G.