Hey Fellow Goners,
Dave here with this week’s very late newsletter.
First, I apologize for the lateness. Sean and I have been working double-time on something top secret that we’re going to announce soon. Hint: It has to do with our zombie serial, Z 2134, which you may recall that we took down just a couple of days after it first went live.
Z 2134 WILL BE back, but it won’t be for a couple of weeks.
Sean and I will tell you more the minute we’re able to. But it’s good news.
This week we’re bringing you Available Darkness: Episode 2.
You can get it here:
If you already read the original AD book we released in August 2011, you can skip the first season (the first six episodes) over the next few weeks. Unless you either really loved the story and want to read the revised version to see how we’re making it better.
As I said last week, though, it’s not necessary to re-read the first season because we’re not changing the events which occurred in the book you already read.
If you haven’t read AD yet, now’s the perfect chance to hop on board. It’s got all the action, chills, mystery, and WTF endings you’ve come to expect from us. And it’s a whole new take on vampires — I mean completely different.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT…
Available Darkness follows a man who wakes up buried alive with no memory of his past.
In his pocket is a note telling him to avoid the police, avoid the sunlight, and don’t touch anyone. Because when he does, he drains their lives in an instant.
Also in the note, an address.
As he begins digging into his past, he finds himself reluctantly looking after an 11-year-old girl who he saved from a monstrous predator. He’s also being hunted by an FBI agent, and a mysterious agency who wants a secret that the amnesiac is holding.
If you missed Episode 1, you can get it here:
Available Darkness: Episode 1
Thanks to everyone who reviewed or emailed to tell us how much they’re enjoying Available Darkness. It’s cool to see the first book Sean and I started back in 2008 seeing new life as a serial. While many of our readers have already read the original book, many are only now discovering it. And in a way, I’m rediscovering it as I go through, revising it. It’s like seeing old friends, and is getting me excited to get started on the second season soon.
We’re continuing our free ForNevermore promotion today (Sept. 27) with Episode 3 (which we also had free last week), and Episode 4.
ForNevermore: Episode 3
ForNevermore: Episode 4
You can also get the FULL SEASON (Episodes 1-6) here if you don’t wanna wait to read the rest.
ForNevermore Season 1
INTERVIEW WITH HUGH HOWEY
Lastly, if you’re a fan of Wool creator, Hugh Howey, Sean, Johnny, and I had Hugh on as a guest at The Self-Publishing Podcast.
Warning: The show has almost as much cursing as Boricio’s morning routine, so you might not want to listen to it work or in front of the kids.
Here’s a link to the YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0C9vVkM2C0&feature=plcp
Here’s a link to the audio (which should be up a bit later today):
As always, thank you for reading,
Emma Newman is the author of the soon-to-be-published Twenty Years Later, her debut young adult fiction novel set in a post-apocalyptic future, which she has been podcasting since last year. She lives in Somerset, England with her husband and two year old son. Though he’s an only child, she considers him her second child – the first baby being her novel.
Emma runs her own copywriting and online PR business called Your Nisaba, named after the Sumerian goddess of writing and knowledge. Nisaba was launched in 2009. She drinks far too much tea, and finds the little real life she spends time in, a curious mixture of terrifying and wonderful.
Last week, Emma released an ebook collection of some of her short stories (see the great cover pictured a bit further down in this story).
1. When did you start writing and what inspired you (also, what kind of stuff did you first write)?
I started writing stories at the age of four according to my grandmother. I wrote all the time until a short story got me into Oxford University when I was 17. That created a block that lasted for ten years! Then I began to write again and the first draft of Twenty Years Later poured out of me over 26 days. I barely felt in control of it. My poor husband was a writing widow.
Inspiration? There was no inspiration to write as far as I recall. It was as natural as breathing and wishing I had superpowers. I remember a desperate disappointment with the world as a child, it simply didn’t live up to the excitement held in books, on film or in my imagination. There was nothing else I could do except read and write myself into more interesting places I suppose.
I wrote stories about magical places, magical powers and weird things happening in the mundane world. I suppose in some respects I never stopped! In my early teens I wrote a huge Star Trek: Next Generation story, mostly because I was obsessed with it at the time. I’m not ashamed of my geeky past… being geeky is one of the few things I’m good at!
2. What genres do you most enjoy writing?
Over the last few months the stories I have written for the short story club have revealed that I have a particular passion for stories that are described as “subtly unsettling” by the readers. I love cross-genre – just to be difficult of course. My novel is in a post-apocalyptic setting, but incorporates urban fantasy themes within a mystery driven plot. Hmmm, perhaps I’m not a big fan of the constraints of genre.
3. Who are your favorite authors?
Oh, that’s hard to answer. Ray Bradbury is a god in my eyes, if I were prone to religious tendencies I’d set up an altar to him and his short stories. I love Isaac Asimov, John Wyndam and Frank Herbert. I’ve recently discovered Stephen Hunt and his steampunk novels, I’m also partial to Neal Stephenson, Michael Marshall Smith and Michael Moorcock – uh-oh… this is turning into too big a list! Favourite you say? Can I have all of them?
4. Who are your inspirations?
In terms of my writing, I can’t point at one person, or one book. I subscribe to Ray Bradbury’s view of inspiration: everything I have ever read, watched or experienced has seeped in and formed a creative mulch within me. If I sat down and really analysed my creative writing, I could pick out threads from so many different places, but I’m not nearly self-absorbed enough to do that. I just enjoy watching the mushrooms grow out of that mulch, and try to write them down as best I can!
5. What is your writing schedule/process?
‘Schedule’ implies that I’ve figured out how to fit regular writing into my life. I can’t lie and say I’ve done that! My life was very different when I wrote my first novel, and now writing is pressed into the cracks and little nooks that are left around the major commitments in my life (family and being the breadwinner whilst my husband is full time Dad).
I have developed a process though. It involves three critical factors: The first is (and always should be) a fine cup of tea. The second is saying out loud “I give myself complete permission to write complete and utter rubbish!” and the third is writing without editing. The first draft is there to be rough and refined later. When I get this process right, the editing time is greatly reduced. If I am in the wrong mindset, the writing takes a long time to flow.
When I write the sequel to Twenty Years Later, I like to listen to Hail to the Thief by Radiohead. It puts me in the mood; I listened to it a lot when I wrote the first one.
6. Tell us about 20 Years Later.
It’s about three extraordinary teenagers who form an intense friendship whilst searching for a girl who has been kidnapped (the sister of one of the trio). It’s set in London 20 years after ‘It’ killed almost everyone in the world. As the children uncover the whereabouts of the sister, they’re unknowingly uncovering London’s darkest secret, and the cause of the apocalyptic event that took place before they were born.
As I mentioned before, it has elements from different genres, grouped broadly into young adult post-apocalyptic fiction. I see the central themes of the book being loyalty and friendship in adverse conditions. Each one of the children swears a personal oath under different circumstances, and the ramifications of those oaths are extensive and world-changing. The children are extraordinary, but they have to deal with the same issues that teens do in the real world; namely absent parents, the emotional turbulence of adolescence and the temptation to join gangs in order to feel safe in a dangerous world.
7. How did you decide to put the book online in audio form?
It was a combination of things. I came across a couple of articles about writers promoting their books with podcasts with great success. I also had the pleasure of meeting Isobel Joely Black who has been podcasting her Amnar novels for years. Her enthusiasm and encouragement convinced me to take the plunge.
I was also driven to just get it out there! The thing I found so frustrating about my (at the time) failure to find an agent or publisher was that I wanted to put the story out there in some way. Indeed, when I started my blog a year ago I was seriously considering self publishing. Podcasting seemed to be a happy balance – I would see if people actually liked the story and my writing, and the actual text wouldn’t be in the public domain. It was one of the best decisions I made last year.
8. What is your favorite thing about publishing online? Least favorite?
My favourite thing is getting comments, emails and tweets from people who are listening to the book and genuinely enjoying it. It is reassuring, thrilling and a huge ego boost of course! After spending so long trying to get published, I was wondering whether it just wasn’t good enough. The response to the podcasts has helped to reassure me that people enjoy it and want to read it when it comes out. I think Nathan Bransford calls that fear the “Am I crazies of writers” and this has been the cure.
Least favourite…. I don’t know. I love recording it, as it brings me back into the world every time and that’s so helpful now I’m writing the sequel. I don’t begrudge the time or effort at all. That’ll be the labour of love thing I guess!
9. What is the idea behind the Short Story Club and what has the response been like?
It’s very simple: people join for free and every month I send out a call for ideas – opening lines, what if scenarios, situations etc. I pick a winner, write a short story from the prompt and the winner who suggested it gets to read the story before everyone else. Once they have read it, I send it out to the rest of the members and the process starts again in the next month.
As for where it came from, I was grumping around my house for a couple of weeks wanting to write a short story but feeling uninspired. I had enjoyed your competition so much, entered another one with a second story and wanted more! I realised that I needed writing prompts, but couldn’t find a good source at the time.
The idea of the club grew out of that in part, but really it just came out of nowhere whilst making a cup of tea (I refer you to my earlier statement regarding the importance of tea.) I wanted prompts, I wanted to share my writing but was uncertain about putting everything onto the blog, and wasn’t sure how to get people interested in sending the prompts in. I hit upon the idea of creating a community of readers who sent in prompts and then get to read monthly fiction for free as a thank you.
In one feel swoop it tackled three problems: it ended procrastination as people were waiting for the story every month, it gives me a pool of amazing prompts and it enables me to share my writing in a public yet private way.
The response has been amazing! There are over 100 members now and the prompts they send in are simply wonderful. Most months I have about five shortlisted ideas I agonize between to pick the winner. The members are supportive and enthusiastic. I couldn’t have asked for more.
10. Tell us about your book deal.
Well, the thing I love about it the most is that I got it through Twitter.
Yup. You read that right…
Early last year I was followed on Twitter by another post-apocalyptic genre fan, and he mentioned a new press (@dystopiapress) in a tweet whom I duly followed. This was before the press had even started up! I sent an email to myself (I’m still trying to find a better way to organise my brain) saying “Watch this press!” Over the next few months I chatted with the press founder over Twitter and waited with baited breath. When the press was officially launched and submissions were called for, I sent mine in.
It was just such a pleasant experience right from the start. After nearly thirty rejections, 95% of which were completely impersonal, I had a personal note from the publisher reassuring me that my submission had been received. Bliss! Three days later I had another email saying that he’d read the 50 page sample and wanted the rest of the manuscript. I’d reached that point before so I tried really hard (and failed) not to get too excited and hopeful.
Four weeks later the publisher got back in touch with an offer of a contract. He’d given the first fifty pages to teen readers and they all wanted to read more, and he loved the book.
I nearly died. In the best possible way of course…
It was an odd situation as Dystopia Press is based in America and I found myself with a contract on the table and no agent. I asked for advice and an author friend recommended the Society of Authors, who, God bless them, offer a free legal contract vetting service for members. I joined, got feedback from them and had a serious think about what I wanted too. Between their advice and my instincts, I negotiated some changes to the contract and the publisher was fantastic. One thing that was very important to me was that I be able to continue with the podcasts. By that point there were people following them and I didn’t want to let them down. The publisher was great and understood my reasons and it was included in the contract that I could continue. In fact, I plan to roll it out on a major fiction podcasting site later in the year too.
I feel so blessed to have found him! The book is in pre-production now and slated for release in October. I am still grinning like an idiot.
11. If you could take any book or series by any author and be allowed to write it, which would you choose?
Hmmm. I’ve dithered over this question and still don’t have an answer. I suppose I have so many of my own just dying to be let out of my head that I can’t imagine picking up someone else’s series!
12. What are your future writing plans?
I am currently writing the sequel to Twenty Years Later and there will be a third book in the series too. The Short Story Club will continue and hopefully grow, and there are several other books crammed inside my brain that are getting increasingly impatient with me. I participate in the wonderful Friday Flash movement, and I’d like to try and do a flash fiction piece for that every week if I can. I’m soon to launch another project but that is currently secret (mostly because I am so nervous about it!)
My ultimate goal is to support my family through my fiction writing alone, but that feels like the holy grail of the profession. I hope that a combination of good fortune, sacrificial offerings of hot cups of tea and the sheer burning madness of simply having to write will get me there in the end.
Subscribe to Emma’s feed here.
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Our interview today is with writer and TV producer, Joel Schwartzberg, the author of The 40-Year-Old Version: Humoirs of a Divorced Dad. The book, a series of thought provoking and humorous essays on his journey of becoming a better dad following his divorce, also touches on a subject that is both controversial and not talked about much, male depression following the birth of a child. We talk with Joel about his book, his creative process, the dangers of public confession of personal thoughts and about the controversy surrounding an article he wrote in Newsweek about male depression.
How did you get started in writing?
I’ve always loved to write – I even get a thrill out of addressing envelopes. Having lovingly dabbled in essay writing in high school and college, I suddenly decided to see just how good I was (read: if I could make any money by merely writing). I sent a few sample pieces to my local paper who took me on as a weekly columnist. My pieces commingled with gardening tips and bat-mitzvah announcements, but I was proud and it gave me great confidence to aspire higher. After taking a Mediabistro course, I was ready to write and submit to larger magazines and newspapers. Getting published in The New York Times Magazine was a big deal, and gave me the boost I needed to keep both my ambition and my standards on a very high shelf. Since then I’ve been in Newsweek, The Star Ledger, The New York Post, The New York Daily News, Babble.com, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and lots of regional parenting magazines, where I’m still proud to rub shoulders with gardening tips and bat-mitzvah announcements.
What are some of the differences in writing for TV, magazines and newspapers compared to blogging?
As a function of both my busyness and laziness, I’m really a short-form writer. I do almost all of my writing on my daily commute from New Jersey to New York, and that 40 minutes is the perfect amount of time to bang out a good draft of a short piece. My style suits personal essays and blogs in particular.
Some bloggers see themselves as media middle-men, pushing found news and information from Point A to Point B, but I’m a writer at my core, so I can’t help but hold a higher editorial standard. I’m more of an essayist than a standard blogger, but blogs are a nice platform for my work, especially my humor, and everyone appreciates a well-told story or point, regardless of the media platform.
What prompted you to write The 40 Year Old Version: Humoirs of a Divorced Dad?
My divorce forced me to focus on the redefinition of my fatherhood. The things I learned and realized during that journey naturally opened a new door in my personal writing. The more I parented independently, the more I learned about myself. The more I learned about myself, the more raw material I could “unpack” on the page.
There hasn’t been much of a voice for divorced dads in the publishing marketplace — most books I found were somber “survival guides” and legal advice. So I saw an opportunity to create a novel collection of both previously published and original pieces that focus on this chapter of my life I call “The 40-Year-Old Version.”
Through my writing, I hope to entertain, but to also encourage good fathering insight among the dads who read my work. This is the book I needed in the early days of my own divorce, which put me in a great position to be the one to write it.
How much of this material was a collection of prior essays and how much was written specifically for this book?
Ten of the 40 essays were previously published. The rest I wrote specifically for the book. Even when I wrote with the specific purpose of filling more pages, the piece would ultimately morph into a story worth telling, or implode on its own shallow itself. So I’m proud of each and every piece. Some essays had to be carefully and slowly cultivated; other shot out of me almost fully formed, like a cannonball.
What is your writing process like? Do you have varying processes for the different sorts of writing you do?
I’m lucky that my writing brain is always on, the pilot light rarely go out. Once I get a half-baked idea in my head, I begin writing even if I’m unaware of my point. It really takes shape and tightens in the eventual rewrite, and I have a fulfilling “a ha!” moment when I realize my point.
Typically I look back at an early draft and chop the first paragraph entirely so it can hit the ground running. I recommend that technique. A good personal essay doesn’t need an opening. These are not Twilight Zone episodes. The best ones open as they are being consumed by the reader. I also love coming up with strong endings that satisfy.
I listen to music when I write, but usually I’m distracted by lyrics, so dramatic movie soundtracks really do the trick for me. It lubricates my writing process.
I love the rewriting and editing; it feels like my version of proudly polishing the Mustang in the driveway. Good writers know instinctively when they’ve created a perfect line, and when a line still needs refining. That said, I could be whittling and improving and tightening all these pieces to this very moment, but at some point you just have to stop.
How much do you censor what you write?
The only things I censor are jokes that seemed funny five minutes ago but lose their comic luster. If you’re going to write a joke, it’d better be good. I also leave out identifying information about my children.
I’m not an offensive person by nature and don’t have an offensive schtick, so there’s little offensive material in my writing. That said, my parents weren’t exactly thrilled with some of my portrayals of them.
How difficult is it to lay out so much raw emotion for the world to read?
I think being a personal essayist is like being an archaeologist of your own soul – the deeper you dig, the harder your mission, but the more valuable your finds. I can sense when I’m not unpacking a personal issue enough in my writing, and I dig harder. If it seems embarrassing or too revealing, I’ll often tell myself “I’m a writer; this is what I do.”
The nice thing about writing on raw emotions is that they’re often best served raw. Editorial seasoning and metaphoric marinades just get in the way. There’s no way to dress up a line like “divorce has made me a better father”. Best just to say it plainly and with confidence.
Your Newsweek article, in which you discussed your depression after the birth of your first child, earned you a bit of scorn and seemingly made you a poster child over at the conservative site, Townhall.com as a prime example of what’s wrong with liberal men. Did you anticipate this kind of reaction and how did you respond?
I was honestly surprised by the harsh, vitriolic reaction, especially on the Newsweek message boards. I was called everything from a coward to a “terrible excuse for a father.” I was on the popular Michael Medved radio show twice, and heard it loud and clear from his audience. Medved himself thought I had abdicated a lot of personal responsibility.
Fortunately, I have a thick skin (especially after the Medved training), but I also know that what I’m telling is true and honest for me, and that’s the goal of personal writing. Also, many men have approached me privately to say that they too felt a strong sense of personal loss upon sudden fatherhood and struggled to get through. They felt they had no avenues in which to talk about it, so their depression was compounded by guilt. This made me feel less isolated and scorned.
Fathers are told all the time to just “man up” in the face of conflict, but this is a very invalidating and antiquated perspective. We are still humans, still individuals, and our worlds are no less rocked by parenthood than mothers’ are.
I also try hard to make clear I did not “cut and run” from responsibility, and that my divorce was primarily the result of a fatal mismatch between my wife’s and my approach to the marriage, not to my issues with sudden fatherhood.
How have women, or mothers in particular, responded to the piece?
Amidst the criticism, I received tremendous and consistent support from women and mothers. Women who suffered from post-partum depression could so easily say, “Who are YOU to talk about PPD?!”, but they largely responded with sympathy and understanding. I’ve also received tremendous support from divorced mom and stepmom bloggers.
I have great respect for moms, so getting support from them is very gratifying – and relieving. I’m mom-approved. Some pro-fatherhood groups I’ve encountered target and challenge traditional motherhood, but that’s not what I’m about.
How do you respond to the criticisms that you’ve put your emotions above your duty as a parent?
I respond first by asking why those have to be competing values. Can you not be open with your emotions but also dutiful to your responsibilities?
Also, a father or mother struggling with personal issues of sudden parenthood must tend to them immediately, because it will otherwise infect his parenting judgment. You can’t wish away depression or put it on hold. I consider dealing with my emotional reactions a crucial part of my parental responsibility. Once my depression lifted, I was better able to settle into the role of dad and shift priorities.
Finally, a parent shouldn’t sacrifice their duties to self – or to marriage for that matter – for the responsibilities of parenthood.
Parents are still human beings, and humans constantly strive to improve themselves as much on the inside as on the outside. Having emotions requires no apology, but burying and denying them is not a healthy way to live, much less a good way to parent.
I parent firmly and hold high expectations of my kids, but I don’t mind my children knowing that I consider myself a parent-in-progress and imperfect. As they grow as children, I grow as a parent.
Has such a negative reaction caused you to share a bit less of yourself in writing since?
It hasn’t intimidated me, but I have few deep personal conflicts like that – at least that are worth sharing. Parenting is funny, difficult, challenging, ludicrous, joyous, and exasperating – like life itself. So I go wherever the writing takes me.
How has divorce helped you be a better father?
When I was married to my ex-wife, I identified my dadhood by others’ expectations of me — hers, my parents’, even Dr. Phil’s. But once I was forced to come up with my own rules, my own standards, I began to sense my own personal parenting style emerging, and my sense of being a dad growing along with it. I felt like a genuine dad for the first time. That allowed me to feel both calm and confident in my parenting, and enjoy it more. These are qualities that make me a better father than I’ve ever been. My children even remarked how I “get them” differently than their mother does, and how I’m less angry than I’d been. I love hearing that because there’s no greater affirmation for a parent than that which comes from his own children.
How is your relationship with your ex-wife now? How has she responded to your writing about the subject?
We have what can best be described as a civil relationship, but work out any and all conflicts outside our kids’ attention. She knows I write about family as part of the process of writing about myself, but we don’t dialogue about it. We have completely independent and separate lives – I have a new wife and she has a steady boyfriend, and we respect each others’ privacy and sovereignty.
Have your children read the essays/book, and if so, what are their responses?
At 10, 7, and 7, they’re a bit too young to comprehend the subtext of my pieces, so I’ve chosen not to share them at this time. But they know I’m a writer, and I’m very proud they see me that way. I look forward to sharing my work with them when they’re older. I hope it motivates them artistically, but even more so spiritually. We should all be on journeys of self-understanding and self-improvement, and sometimes it helps to have that modeled for you.
What has been the best experience following the publication of your book?
By far, having someone come up to me personally or write me an email saying he was moved or entertained – or both – by the book. Especially if that person is not in my immediate family. I’ll take personal appreciation over a professional review any day. One fellow came to me at a book signing and said it read like the story of his own life. That felt really good, knowing I wrote it before he did.
If you could give one piece of advice to fathers-to-be and new dads, what would it be?
Be the dad you are, not the dad you or someone else thinks you should be.
Joel Schwartzberg is an award-winning essayist and screenwriter, national champion public speaker and speech coach, law school drop-out, horror fan, divorced father, and former Wheel of Fortune contestant. He was a Head Writer for Nickelodeon in 1998 and later an editorial director for Time Inc. Interactive. Currently, he is the Director of New Media for a PBS broadcast news magazine. Joel’s essays on parenting and other spontaneous phenomena have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, The New York Daily News, The New York Post, The Star Ledger, New Jersey Monthly, Babble.com, Chicken Soup for the Soul, The Huffington Post, and regional parenting magazines throughout the U.S. and Canada. Joel is also a featured blogger for iVillage and teaches courses in book publicity and public speaking for Mediabistro.com. In his free time, Joel eats and occasionally sleeps.
Welcome to the first Collective Inkwell interview. Our aim is to showcase the most creative bloggers, writers and artists working on the web today. We kick things off with an interview with cartoonist Brian Anderson of the syndicated comic strip Dog Eat Doug.
Anderson’s strip follows the adventures of Sophie, a cheese-loving chocolate Labrador and her owner’s baby, Doug. The popular strip is cute, imaginative and at oftentimes laugh-out-loud funny. If you’re a parent or dog owner, or daring enough to be both, you’ll swear that Anderson is spying on you to come up with his ideas.
Among topics for discussion, Anderson talks about his creative process, how he uses social media to promote his work and the effects of the economy on syndicated comics.
Please give a warm Collective Inkwell welcome to Brian Anderson.
My chocolate Lab, Sophie, was the original inspiration. I didn’t have my baby boy at that time. So all the baby stuff I made up. Lot’s of image searches for toys, high chairs and numerous other baby products. Now I just look around my living room.
How much of your real life seeps into the strip?
A lot. The strip is more of a documentary at this point. My wife has gotten used to everyday occurrences showing up in the strip.
Describe your comic creating process.
Everything starts in notebooks. Ideas, doodles, storylines and new characters all start as ink sludged around pocket sketchpads. From there I put together a weeks worth of ideas, then print out the panels on bristol board (5.5 x 14 in.).
At first, I penciled then inked with copic multiliners. I always wanted to use a brush, but was a bit nervous. So the only way to get over that and give the strip the look I wanted was to jump in and just start inking with the brush. I used Kuretake and Sailor brush pens. Recently I switched to a variety of felt tipped brush pens from jetpens.com. So I still get the brush look with a but more control. I also now pencil with blue lead. This eliminated the erasing step. Skipping steps helps a ton when you’re on a daily deadline.
The inked strips are scanned in and lettered in photoshop. I started out lettering in illustrator but because the strips are delivered for print as Tiff’s, there wasn’t a need to keep the type vector (again, skipping a step = good thing).
Tell us a bit about your syndication story.
My first go around with syndication was in 2000. I revamped my college strip and sent it off. I also ran it online as a short lived webcomic (“Paying the Rent”). A couple syndicates were interested in developing the strip, yet in the back of my mushy cartoonist brain I knew it wasn’t the strip I could be married to for ten years or more. So I stepped away from pursuing syndication and focused on my screenwriting.
It wasn’t until 2004 that I just couldn’t ignore the desire to do a daily comic. Once again I burned through some sketchbooks with possible ideas. One being another revamp of “Paying the Rent” and the other was a single panel strip. One day sitting around on the couch with my dog, the whole “Dog eat Doug” thing hit me. The title, the characters and the first dozen or so strips materialized in a flash.
I grabbed the URL dogeatdoug.com and signed up for Comics Sherpa and launched DeD as a webcomic. Once I had enough strips for a pitch, I sent off packages to all the syndicates. That was July of 2004 and in October of that year, Creators called with an offer. Honestly, during that initial phone conversation, my only thought was “huh, I never knew they called you to reject a strip”.
The strip didn’t launch into papers until November of 2005. That gave me a bit of time to let the art mature and refine some of the first strips. Everything happened fast after I created the strip. Of course there were many years of cranking out junk and piling up rejection letters.
What comics did you look up to as a child?
A ton. really anything I read influenced me in someway. However the standouts would be Walt Kelly, Jim Davis, Charles Schultz and Sullivan (a political cartoonist in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette).
If given the opportunity, what other comic, current or no longer running, would you love to write and draw?
Ooooh. That’s like locking a five year old in a candy store. Man, there’s a lot of strips I’d love to get my hands on. If I really had to pick, it would be Little Nemo.
What comics do you enjoy these days?
I’m fortunate enough to have partnered with some of my favorite tooners at TallTaleFeatures.com. I was a fan of all their work before we all got together. Cocknbull.net is a newbie, but at the top of my list (and not for the kiddies).
I keep a steady diet of comic books too. Right now I’m reading Farscape, Muppets and OZ.
What role does social networking play into your comic’s success?
Well twitter is really starting to explode for me. Other than that I only hang out on Facebook. The key to social media is using what you enjoy.
How do you balance your comic time with the family?
It’s tricky. I was at home for a year before my son came along. SO now it’s a work in progress figuring out how to get everything done. Plus I have two books I’m working on outside of the strip. But you do figure things out. Obviously nap time for junior is prime work hours. And there are tricks. I carry a small notebook and a voice recorder all the time. Even if my son is running at 80mph, I can catch ideas that jump into my head before they fade out. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
I noticed that you still host your own comic on a blog, despite it being on the syndicate’s web site. Why did you choose to continue to host your own comic and what kind of resistance did you get from the syndicates?
DeD started as a webcomic so it was natural to keep that going. Plus, my main focus has always been online. Webcomics is the new frontier. No one’s really figured it out yet and that’s part of the fun. There was no resistance from my syndicate. And really there never is resistance on anything from them. Cretaors is a dream.
How do you feel the decline of newspapers will affect the syndicated comic business? Has it affected you personally, yet?
It has affected it in the sense that the web is slowly eliminating the middle man in the whole comic strip equation. Unfortunately that middleman, newspapers, has been the one paying the bills for syndicated cartoonists. Like many things in web-land, readers are just not going to pay to read a strip online. The focus for cartoonists who want to make a living at it is still the same: get as many readers as you can.
In the hey days of newspapers you could make a sweet living just from royalties. Even in those years, the most successful cartoonists used the exposure in papers to build a franchise. That remains a valid model today on or offline.
So far I’ve only lost one client due to a paper going belly up.
It was highly surreal the first time I got ink stains from holding a comics page containing DeD. There was a bit of a lag from signing with Creators until it launched. Seeing it in print made it all real. And the collection was a dream. I mean growing up, comic collections were the ultimate perfect bound prize.
What are your plans for Dog Eat Doug?
My number one plan is to keep improving the strip, both art and writing. Business wise I see the newspaper side of things as one pillar in the foundation. The second pillar was bringing Doug and Sophie into the world of children’s books. And right now I’m working on greeting cards and getting DeD animated online.
What are the syndicate’s plans? Do they have any merchandise in store
for readers, etc?
Fortunately my plans go hand in hand with my syndicate. I’m free to pursue any opportunities and they are also working on some. And I do hope to have some merchandise out there soon.
What are your plans for your other comics?
Oh boy. There’s a lot of veggies stewing right now. I do have a graphic novel based on my screenplay “Bloodkin” that’ll be out later this year. And I have a few new webcomics in the works. Two are based on upcoming novels and the other is just for fun.
What advice do you give to others looking to break into comics?
Absolutely love what you do. Never quit, but at the same time you need to be honest with yourself about your work and your goals. I self published three comic books years back that I knew weren’t ever going to break sales records. But I knew that upfront. I didn’t have “American Idol” syndrome (that is singing like a choking wombat yet convinced you’re the next Usher).
What have been your best and worst experiences regarding Dog Eat Doug?
The best is hearing from readers. I always said that if a comic strip makes only one person laugh, it’s a success. There really haven’t been any bad experiences.
If you could go back in time to before you started the comic and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
Learn to live on three hours sleep.
Thanks Brian for taking the time to talk to us!
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Now the Collective Inkwell Questions: Do you read comics strips in the paper or online? Which comics do you enjoy? What are some of your childhood favorites?