Welcome back everyone. This week we’ll be visiting with Russell Nohelty from Los Angeles, California.
Russell, will you start us off with a little about yourself, and where you grew up?
- I was born, then I grew up, went to college, and moved to Los Angeles. I worked in film for a while, then moved to work in comics, started my own Publishing company called Wannabe Press (wannabepress.com), and now we’re here. Currently, we publish 12 webcomics every week with a blog on weekdays.
That’s an awful lot of work, and I definitely take my hat off to you for your accomplishment. Where did your writer’s journey start out from?
- I’m pretty to super neurotic and I talk to myself all the time. I think my writer interest originated as a way to get thoughts out of my head and onto the page. Once a character is on the page they stop haunting my waking thoughts.
- I thought I began writing seriously in 2006. However, my mom recently showed me a keepsake box with published poetry and newspaper articles going all the way back to middle school, including a book I started in middle school and got pretty far in before abandoning it. So I guess way earlier than I thought. At least 12 if not before.
- I was a miserable failure as a tv/film writer. Nothing was happening, but I loved this idea I’d pitched to Disney about a detective team that solved mysteries with science and math. I was already in production on Ichabod and a couple other graphic novels, and I thought Gumshoes would make a good novel.I still think that. We don’t sell a ton of Gumshoes: The Case of Madison’s Father, but those that read it really like it.
With all of that experience, is there a particular event you look back on and think, “there, that’s when I became a writer”?
- [Yes] When I did my first signing for my first comic book at the Viper Comics booth in 2011 or 2012. The first time somebody actually bought my book I think was the moment I considered myself a writer.
Having someone beyond your immediate family who reads your work can indeed be a wonderful feeling (not to mention, paying for the privilege!) With everything you are working on, are you at a point where you can share some current news, or maybe some of your current work?
- We’ve started a Kickstarter on September 8th for our new book Katrina Hates the Dead, and we are promoting it like crazy. We did one last year for our book Ichabod Jones: Monster Hunter and raised 150% of our goal. This year we want to hit 200%.
- Whenever I talk about this, people’s heads sort of explode.I’m doing the Kickstarter for Katrina which is my main focus. We have to hit 200% funding with that one.Then, I’m drawing a new comic book called How Not to Invade Earth (wt). I also have a book I drew and wrote called Gherkin Boy that releases every Tuesday on my site.
I recently finished editing two book and just started editing a third. I’m tweaking the treatment of a novel trilogy, and rewriting a movie script for a producer.
All while running Wannabe Press where we release 12 webcomics a week and a blog I write that comes out weekdays.
- You can see a ton of my current work @ http://www.wannabepress.com. I have Ichabod Jones: Monster Hunter that updates every Wednesday. Plus Gherkin Boy updates on Tuesdays. And our Kickstarter has 10 pages up for preview. If you like it there’s a link right to the kickstarter page to donate.
I’ve looked at a few of the pages, and did find them intriguing. Since you mention webcomics, screen writing, and a novels in your portfolio of the written word I’m curious, how did you develop a writing style that works with the different media?
- I tell people that it’s “that thing I do”, which is to take horrible, scary, sad, or depressing situations and make them humorous. I think there is always humor in even the darkest situations. If I pitched you any of my work, it would seem super grim, but when people read them it’s not that at all. Like Christopher Moore.
Sounds like you enjoy surprising people with your work, and your fans seem to enjoy the surprises you add – a win/win for everyone. Do you ever include any experiences from your own life to add realism to your writing to help create those surprises?
- All of the books are very personally about me. No matter if my perspective is from God, or a 16 year old girl, I put a lot of myself into the book. However, none of what I write is actually real in the sense that it really happened. Most of it could happen, though. Except for Gherkin Boy. There’s no way a pickle can fall into a black hole. Pickles are more careful than that.
- [It’s] always how I experienced the events, even if I’m talking about somebody else. That perspective really is the key to a lot of my work. I want you to determine truth.
Do you mold any of those experiences into a message hidden within your stories for readers to find along the way?
- I want readers to have a good time and be entertained. Most of my work revolves around perspective and how one’s perspective can alter the truth of the book. They are almost always told very strongly through somebody’s perspective, and I make sure that narrator is unreliable so that the audience has to develop their own truth.Then there’s also that idea that there is humor even in the darkest moments.
I’ll agree with you there. I’m sure it garners you a few odd looks along the way. I remember seeing your cover art for Katrina Hates the Dead, do you design your cover art, or do you work with others to bring the designs to life?
- A bunch of different people. Renzo Podesta and Juan Frigeri designed their own covers for Ichabod and Katrina respectively. Charlotte Stevens did Spaceship and My Father. I try to get an artist that matches the style of the book. I don’t rely on any one person.
Going back to your answer about working your experiences into story form: does the story influence how you pick your title, or do you have a specific method you use?
- If I’ve done my job right, the title just appears to me while I’m developing the book. Almost all my titles were work in progress titles, but they stuck throughout. I don’t change my titles often. The book sort of evolves to fit whatever title I choose.
Wow! I’m sure that has led to a few spots where you faced down some difficulties to work around. Do you have a support network outside of your family you can turn to if you need it?
- More than anything Facebook is my #1 support system outside of immediate family and friend unit. Conventions are #3.
::Chuckles:: I love Facebook for similar reasons. Ask a question, and answers appear very quickly, no matter the time of day. Would you consider any of the people you interact with as a mentor figure, or would that position be filled by an author whose work you really enjoy (even if you haven’t met them)?
- I’ve never had one mentor. I’ve picked the brains of everybody I know and learned from hard won experience and the kindness of my friends.
That must have been tough, having to mentor yourself. Do you have any favorite authors, or books, you go back to time and again when you feel like returning to the basics?
- Oddly, I’m not a big Christopher Moore fan but he influenced my work more than any other. Him, Vonnegut, and Palahniuk, all combine to form the basis of me as a writer. They all have a very humorous way of looking at bleak situations, and forming narrators that are quirky, unreliable, and flawed.
What about the other side – your favorite authors, or their books, you enjoy taking a break with?
- This is a hard question. I’m a picker of lots of different people. However, if you’re asking what author can I pick up any time and love their work, it’s Brian K. Vaughan. No matter what comic he’s writing I know I’m going to love it.
Are you reading any of his work now, or has someone new captured attention?
- I’m rotating between Blake Northcott’s Arena Mode, Andy Weir’s The Martian, Duncan Whitehead’s The Reluctant Jesus, and Peter Welsh’s And Then I Thought I Was a Fish.
That’s quite a list. Any other new (or new-to-you) authors who have joined the ranks?
- All of the new authors above have great points of view. I can’t recommend any of them highly enough. Neo Edmund also has a great series which is a paranormal take of Little Red Riding Hood which was super inventive.
With everything you have going on that revolves around writing, would you say you’ve settled into a permanent career?
- Yes, but it’s a long journey. You need to build up a fanbase now. I spend a lot of years NOT building a mailing list and NOT interacting with my fans as a detriment. Even if you only have 20 people on a mailing list now, engage with them. They are the base for you to grow your business.
Sound advice for any stage of the journey. And, it seems you have over come many obstacles to get here. Are there any lessons or challenges you’ve overcome that would help other new writers be better prepared for what lies ahead on their own journeys?
- So much from every book. I could spend a month talking about what I learned. Mostly, it’s just overall improvement as time went on, and love for the medium. I love writing more and more with each project.
- [Find] editors and beta readers [you] can trust to tell … the truth about the book.
- [It can be hard to have] enough time to write it all down.
- I’ve never met a writer who didn’t want to nuke their book and start from scratch. I’ve grown much better and being okay with where my books are, even though they are flawed. I am flawed, so why shouldn’t they be?
Very true. And the more you learn and grow, the better your writing becomes. With that in mind, is there any particular advice you would pass on if asked “where do I begin”?
- I have tons of advice for writers. So much I have a blog with 7 years of advice for writers @ wannabepress.com/russellnohelty. Mostly, it’s just write, write, write, write. Keep writing different projects in different genres. Don’t worry about editing at first, just write. Find out what you like and where you like it. Find out everything you can about your voice, and what kind of writer you want to become.
Words I wish I had heard many, many moons ago.
Russell, it has been wonderful having you over to visit today. Before we wrap up, any words you’d like to share to your readers?
- I love you. Seriously, if you somehow like my work I’m fascinated by you. I can’t imagine anybody having the same warped sense of humor I do, and yet there are people everywhere that are drawn to my work. That’s amazing to me. You amaze me.
May those readers continue to grow in number for you.
If you enjoyed the interview, and wish to connect with Russell, you can find him over on his Website where he also has his blog, on Facebook (personal), again here on Facebook (wannabepress’ page), Twitter, and Amazon. You can also find him on tumblr, pinterest and Instagram, though he’s not as active on these platforms.
If you enjoyed the interview, and wish me to host one for you, please stop by my Offered Services page, and fill out the simple submission form. I’ll get back to you soonest to discuss details.