Bill Nichols’ Prescription:
Comics 10ccs Beau Smith
What inspires you to create and keeps you going?
Weird stuff that doesn’t come in any particular order. Could be influence from a bar of music, a film, TV show, an instant in life, the weather….mostly from non-fiction books that I read. An idea can come from that where I put a slant or quirky twist on a real-life event, and bang….it becomes fiction.
Do you have a set routine?
Kinda, although the Covid19 schedule has changed it a bit. But when we’re not under the Shelter At Home situation, I get up about the same time every morning, feed the dog, feed myself, read the paper, check email, then take Cobb for about an hour hike. Then it’s time to go to the post office. (Living in a very small town (POP 1400) they don’t deliver the mail, you have to go pick it up.) Come back, sort through the mail. Then it’s around lunchtime. I either eat here as I sort through the mail, or I got out and have lunch with my local cohorts in crime, Ray Crabtree, Clint McElroy, Chuck Minsker, Doug Morris, and until his recent move, C.E. Wilson. I also tend to have lunch with a lot of out-of-town friends that travel through the area from all over the country. We always try and eat at my favorite place, Central City Café, in my hometown of Huntington, WV. The rest of the afternoon is filled with writing and a few phone calls. Around 4 pm, Cobb and I take another jaunt outside. Come back, write some more. At 6 pm, my wife comes home, we have dinner. And then for the most part the day is done. I try not to write at night. Gets me too wired and then it’s hard to get to sleep. I don’t work weekends if I don’t have to.
What kind of output do you try to achieve?
I’ve got deadlines, so I try to meet them, if not get ahead of them. I don’t have a certain amount of pages I try to get done. It’s more like I have a set of scenes that I want to finish. I don’t like to stop writing in the middle of a scene. If I co-writing with someone, like Tim Rozon, Melanie Scrofano or Chuck Dixon, we work the same way, in scenes. We finish one and then hand it off to the next person.
What inspires you WHEN you create? Music? Noise? Silence?
I rarely write with any noise. No TV, No Music, (Sometimes my old school Easy Listening on Pandora, Re: Henry Mancini, Ray Coniff, Chet Atkins…) I read and act out all the dialogue to make sure it sounds right and not forced. Cobb has to listen to that insanity.
Who was the first comic book creator that influenced you to pursue this?
Stan Lee. He was the first writer to actually “Speak” to me. I also followed his pattern of self-promotion in both my writing and my marketing work. If you knew Stan Lee, then you knew Marvel Comics. If you liked Stan Lee, then you liked Marvel Comics…and bought them both. Outside of comics, I have always been influenced by Elmore Leonard, for his use of dialogue, and Clair Huffaker for his storytelling pacing. Both men didn’t waste your time with flowery jibber-jabber and “Look at my big words” style of writing.
When did you realize you could follow this path yourself?
As I said, it just spoke to me; it seemed natural for me. Although I am not on their level, their work seemed a natural fit for me. It wasn’t forced or showy. It just worked. I don’t like or feel the need to co-write with other writers. That’s why I’ve only worked with Dixon, Scrofano, and Rozon. They fit with the way I like to tell a story. They aren’t time-wasters either. They see the story and know how to get it on the page as well as using dialogue that isn’t cliché or forced. Every character speaks with their own personality like in real life. I like to think I’ve honed my skills as time has moved on. I love learning from others, editors included. Not editors who want to be writers, but editors that listen and make wonderful sound and feedback boards. They know storytelling.
What do you find to be a challenge in creating?
I know my limits and interests. I doubt if you’ll ever find me doing a classic “Who Dunnit” story. Too much like math and I don’t have much interest in it. Writing a story where I have little interest in the setting, characters, and situation would be…not hard, but of little interest to me. I’ve sent 34 years of writing, both creator-owned and licensed characters. Characters owned by others, I have always found something that interested me in them. I have also turned down characters and work that didn’t. I wouldn’t wanna waste their time and certainly not my own. I want to do my best work, not just any work.
What else do you have to learn?
LoL…..everything. You learn something every day. I look forward to learning. I read on an average of two books a week. My mind always wants to learn. The more I learn, the better I can write. Learning and writing are what I love to do.
What keeps you motivated to get better?
My addiction to learning. There’s a story in every minute you’re alive. For me, my mind is a very hard thing to turn off or at least gear down into idle. That’s why I try not to write past 8 pm. I do most of my reading at night or on weekends. I can control it that way. Motivation is no problem for me other than if I’m sick. If I’m ill, then there is no way this overgrown crybaby can work.
Can you turn your brain (creativity) off (and on)?
Creativity—no. That’s why I fill dozens of notebooks with ideas and notes. Even in my off-hours. But I can control that. I stay away from the keyboard. That’s harder to control. I have my structure and schedule. I’m really good at sticking with that.
What advice do you have for aspiring creators?
If you’re gonna create, then you are gonna also have to learn to market yourself. You are just as much a product as your work. I’m an introvert at heart. I don’t like small talk. BUT….You have to learn to turn the dial of your personality up. You can always rest later. Digging holes all day doesn’t wear me out as much as talking to people. I’ve always been a sprinter, not a marathon runner. I can give my best in a fast and hard amount of time, but after that, I need quiet time. Learn to pace yourself. Know how long you can promote yourself and when to back off. Find your persona, be respectful, likable, and know when to be quiet. Your work will speak for itself.
Do you ever worry about running out of ideas?
Seriously….not in my 34 years of writing. I can always find a quirk that needs to be displayed or a twist that I can bend even more. My curse is having too many ideas. It’s the border between sane and insane.
How do you handle the slow times?
I’ve got a lot of interests. Slow time means refocus to something else I like to do. I’m outside if there’s a break. Good weather, bad weather, I’m out there. As long as books are published, I’ll be reading. Fish in the water, I’m fishing. Ammo in the chamber, I’m shooting. Old stuff in a barn to look at, I’m looking.
How do you feel about the industry?
It’s been very good to me. I’ve spent my career on both the creative and the business side, couldn’t ask for more experience. Is it broken? Yes, it’s always been broken. Is it unique, Yes, it’s one of the very few, if only business where you have to know…LOVE…the product to be able to understand it to sell it, market it, and create it. You HAVE to. Just because you sold and built a company of world-famous wickets, films, cars, or books, doesn’t mean you can come into comic books and do the same. You HAVE to know the product and love it.
Author, Artist, Editor for ShoutFyre.com
Bill is the creator of Arteest & Ursula comics, writer for Ringtail Cafe, co-creator of Savage Family, writer and inker of HellGirl: Demonseed. Editor for ShoutFyre and Sketch Magazine. Co-author of Camelot Forever novel series.