Time for another infrequent Q&A Friday post. You send me questions, Action Force, and I answer them. Let’s get to it.
I love the drawings you’ve been doing! Do you ever get a character idea via a drawing first, and the fiction comes after?
I tend to view my drawings and my novels as two separate domains. I have never drawn a character to any novel first, and everything in my books started out as written word first. Only later, when I’m bored, do I usually bother drawing anything from my books. Part of this is because, while I do enjoy drawing, I consider myself a writer first and foremost. Drawing, for the moment, is a nice hobby, but nothing I do on a professional level at this point.
I do have characters I created as cartoons first, and I have loose stories floating around in my head for some of them. But, aside from some groundwork on concept and character sketches, I haven’t written those stories down. The foundation is there though, and I’d love to do something with my cartoons someday. But I also know the limitations of my training and experience and would much rather work with more talented artists who could take my stuff and make it into something better than I could on my own.
The opportunity hasn’t arisen yet, but I’m hopeful it will one day.
If you were playing a Dungeons and dragons game what class do you choose?
As it turns out, I have played D&D on occasion. Not often. I’m not really a RPG guy. Not because they’re bad games but because so many people are bad writers. You discover that when you play enough RPGs with people who think the goal of any session is either to be the funny guy or the complex role-player or the treasure hoarder. All of which usually translates to characters who constantly gets in the way of the story for the sake of their own self-serving goals. If I had a dollar for every role-playing session that ended with me bored out of my mind while the other heroes hit on wenches or played “funny” pranks on each other, I’d have probably five dollars.
My other problem with RPGs (especially the rules heavy D&D type models) is that by cataloguing everything a character can and can’t do, you tend to create rather flat heroes who are either seeking to solve every problem with their same basic skillset or who simply lack any sort of genuine problem solving ability at all. It can become a chore of memorizing stats and optimizing builds and all kinds of micromaxing and arbitrary limitations that simply bind players and their choices. Basically, so many RPGs seem to me as really complicated board games without any of the charm and with a ton more paperwork.
My favorite RPGs, such as they are, are light on rules and encourage a fast easy game that rewards participation without requiring memorization. Feng Shui is an obscure RPG based on Hong Kong action flicks, and it is hands down the favorite of all the games I’ve ever played. It breaks a lot of rules. Characters creation is done in ten minutes. There are no large charts to pour over, no quibbling over weapon optimization, no loot to collect. Most importantly, the heroes in the game start out as action heroes, which skips the leveling process so many games seem to be built around that I find so tedious. In Feng Shui, your character starts out as a badass.
But going back to D&D type games, my answer is easy. Fighter. I play them because they usually involve a lot less paperwork and bookkeeping, and instead of trying to micromanage my mana or special powers, I can just hit the monsters with my battleaxe until they die or I do.
Do you believe in bigfoot?
I’m assuming this is a genuine question by someone who has never seen my posts about the pseudoscience that is Finding Bigfoot. Either that, or you’re setting me up for an easy rant. Either way, I’ll answer it.
I could leave it at that, but I’ll go ahead and add some clarifications. I cannot say definitively that a bigfoot-like creature doesn’t exist somewhere out there, but I can say that, given what passes for evidence among bigfoot hunters, we haven’t found it yet and it doesn’t look like it is actually out there.
Most of these type of pseudoscience shows have managed to push me past healthy skepticism to near certain doubt. The Finding Bigfoot team has spent years roaming the woods with cameras and all manner of recording equipment. They haven’t found a damned thing. That’s pretty damning evidence as far as I’m concerned. To put it another way, if they were looking for leprechauns and had the same results, no one would give them the benefit of the doubt.
The same thing happened to me when it came to ghosts and UFOs. All the “evidence” is so much nothingness that to suggest there is overwhelming proof for these things just strikes me as disingenuous at worst or self-deception at best. I’ll change my mind when an actual bigfoot is found. Not some grainy footage. Not another eye witness account. An actual honest-to-The-Mighty-Robot-King bigfoot, alive or dead.
Otherwise, I see disbelief as the only reasonable option.
Would you be in favor of an animated film using one of your books and your sketches of the characters? Is that even feasible?
Yes, very much so.
I believe it is very feasible.
But I’m not really in charge of such things. Not yet anyway.
Where do you come up with names for your characters?
I’m assuming you’re asking about the weird names, not the ordinary ones. The ordinary ones I tend to simply pluck from random internet searches, although sometimes I have other reasons.
The two-headed ogre from In the Company of Ogres is named Martin and Lewis, after Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, though almost nobody gets that reference these days.
Abner Greenman from The Automatic Detective is a literal, little green man. His first name comes from the L’il Abner comic strip and the last name, well, that’s fairly obvious.
Quick, AKA Quetzalcoatl from Divine Misfortune, gets that name because it’s a lot easier to spell over and over again than Quetzalcoatl.
Almost every character in Too Many Curses gets a name that either symbolically represents their curse or is alliterative in an effort to help keep things clear. Echo is a bodiless voice. Walter is a wall. Olivia is an owl. And many of the other characters are simply known by their curse AKA the Ragdoll Princess and the Toad Prince.
Duke and Earl (Gil’s All Fright Diner) do NOT get their names from the song Duke of Earl, despite what some might think. They get their names from the fact that they both are common to royalty AND Southern tradition. And, of course, Sheriff Marshall Kopp is indeed a play on words, but not meant to be especially clever so much as easy to remember.
Emperor Mollusk (Emperor Mollusk versus the Sinister Brain) is meant to indicate his position of power, egotistical self-worth, and cephalopod nature.
I’d say about a third of the time the names are something I’ve really thought about and are there to serve as a reminder to the reader of who or what the character is. But most the time, they’re just random normal names.
Have you considered doing a Mack Megaton comic?
All by myself? No. To do it right would require a ton of work and effort, and by necessity, I have to put my efforts into novelology. It’s how I pay my rent and afford to buy my Skylanders figures. But if someone wanted to work with me to create one, I’d definitely consider it. Though nobody with the resources and ability has come forward yet.
That’s one of the things worth noting. It takes a lot of time to do anything creative. While I love doodling, it is still something I do on the side. Putting aside questions of talent (I still consider myself an amateur at best), there is a lot of expertise I lack, even if I had the free time.
Time is the enemy of all of us, and it’s no different in my job. It can take hours just to create a decent page of writing, draw something interesting, or do the latest rounds of edits. The longer I do this, the more I am convinced that what separates the amateur from the professional is devoting enough time to make it happen. Sure, talent is nice, but nothing beats consistent drive and hours upon hours of sitting down and working. Like I said, not much different than any other job.
Right now, I draw for fun. I draw when I feel like it, and I draw what I like. But that’s not the same thing as being devoted enough to do anything beyond a few doodles in service of my writing career. Who knows what the future holds though?
Thanks for the questions, Action Force.
Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,