Friday, 19 October 2012

How I Became A Published Writer

I never wanted to be a comic book writer.  Yep, a bold statement for someone who’s only published work is in the comic book medium, but it’s the truth.  Despite the fact that I had been reading comics on and off for years, through the odd graphic novel purchase or book from the library, and began reading regular issues a few years ago it never once occurred to me to merge my love of writing with my passion for comic books.

Let’s go back to the beginning before I explain any further.  I wasn’t the best reader when I was a child.  I struggled with some of the most basic reading and writing and had to have help through primary school and into the start of my secondary education.  Despite this, I always loved stories.  I would find ways of loosing myself in fiction outside of reading.  I would watch television and films over and over again, create elaborate games with my friends and spent a great deal of time day dreaming.  It wasn’t until I was in my teens that my passion for reading took over and I expanded my horizons.

Then I met Anthony Nunan.  He was a new teacher at my secondary school who’d travelled to England for a year from Australia.  Despite the fact that he was teaching Mathematics I soon discovered that he was a published writer and I was lucky enough to be able to read his books.

The books of Anthony Nunan
I was impressed by Anthony’s work, he was the first author I’d ever met and my mind was racing with questions about how he did what he did, how he created such rounded characters and developed intricate plots.  I wanted to know how someone could create something that could bring people so much pleasure and entertainment.

Anthony was happy to answer as many of my questions as I could fire at him, and even began to encourage me to try my hand at writing myself.  With his help I took a basic idea for a plot and characters and developed it, advising me on structure of plot, character development and dialogue.  He took me under his wing and guided me towards the career I wanted, because of him I knew that I wanted to be a writer, that I wanted to tell stories.

Over the next few years I kept at my writing, with short stories, poetry and full length manuscripts, though none of them were ever published.  I wrote because I could, because I needed to, to get the stories out of my head and onto paper, even if there was none to read them.

Then I met Hal Laren.  Hal was an aspiring comic book artist and writer who had started his own publishing company, Reaper Comics.  Initially I met Hal through a friend, and after finding out we were both something of geeks we developed a friendship.  Over the next year I learnt of his comic work and read the first volume of his comic series ‘Bex’.

Hal Laren at London Film and Comic Con 2009

Hal, knowing that I wanted to become a writer came to me and asked me if I would like the chance of writing the second volume of the ‘Bex’ series.  Hal, you see, loved producing the art on the book, but no longer wanted to write the series.  He had a great idea for the sequel, but wanted to bring someone else onto the project who could bring a fresh perspective to the book.

After meeting with Hal and listening to his ideas for the sequel I jumped at the opportunity to write the book.  The plot was intriguing, and the hero of the book, Rebecca, had so much potential in her that I wanted to explore.  So with the basic idea of the plot in my mind I set to work in creating the book.

I broke down the main beats of the plot that Hal had given me and began expanding upon them, creating the ‘flesh’ of the story around the bare bones that I began with.  Over the course of the next month I would write and re-write the book, meeting with Hal and bouncing ideas off him.  Eventually the script was complete, handed over to Hal to produce the art for the book.

I wish I could say that the next step was smooth, that I just waited for the completed pages to come in, that they were all perfect and that everything was fine, but I can’t.  During the early days of the art on the book Hal and I butted heads a few times over the artistic direction of the book and certain designs.  I knew that this was Hal’s book, that these characters were his creations and as such he was completely in his right to want to do things a certain way, but as the writer of the book I had a certain vision in mind for what should end up on the page.

Several discussions were had between the two of us and compromises were made on both sides until the final product was produced.  With the first issue of volume two, ‘Bex: Remnants of Life’, in hand we proceeded to release the book at London Film and Comic Con in 2010.  We produced three covers for the show, including a convention exclusive that led to a great deal of publicity for Hal and myself by the organisers of the convention.

Hal at the new and improved Reaper Comics stand at London Film and Comic Con.

Our first convention went amazingly and we completely sold out of every copy of Bex we had.  I spent the weekend signing books, meeting celebrities, comic book fans and I even got to have a great talk about writing comics with Greg Rucka!  All in all it was a wonderful weekend that ended too soon.
Since that first show Hal and myself have produced the other four issues of the comic and since the collected graphic novel.  Despite the ups and downs of the production of the book and the stress involved, the experience was amazing, and when Hal offered to let me continue the Bex series I snapped up the opportunity.  
The collected volume of 'Bex: Remnants of Life'

Reaper Comics are currently producing other titles, and as such I cannot say for certain when the third volume of Bex will be produced, though I can promise that the story is going to be worthy of the character and take the series in a whole new and interesting direction.  But before I had the chance to start working on the third volume of Bex Hal had me go back to the first volume that he produced and re-write it, to bring it into line with the rest of the series and my vision for its future.  But that’s a story for another blog…


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