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Michael A. Nelson
Graphic Novelist
Horror Interview by The Gravedigger

Q: What is your background as a writer? Your influences?

Well, writing is something that I've always done. I had a two-sentence "essay" published in the local newspaper when I was five, I won a school writing contest in sixth grade, and wrote epic-length campaigns for my D&D friends in high school. I've always been writing in one way or another. But it wasn't until I finished reading Fred Saberhagen's Book of Swords trilogy when I was 12 that I knew I wanted to be a writer.

I think everyone as a moment or two in their lives when certain things just click, as if something inside them that they didn't know was there finally reveals itself in a profound and majestic way. That series was one of them for me. When I read the last sentence of the story and realized that it was exactly the same as the first sentence, yet now had a completely different meaning, my world changed forever. I knew at that moment that THAT was what I wanted to do. Unfortunately, I wasn't that good. By the time I was in college, I knew how to put words together in an interesting and compelling way, but I had no idea how to tell a story.

I took a couple of creative writing classes but those proved to be worthless. It wasn't unti l I came to LA and fell in with a couple of talented writers that I actually learned anything about story telling. That's how my online novel DINGO came about. I had been working on an epic fantasy and had my friend and brilliant writer Johanna Stokes take a look at it. Thankfully, she was brutally honest with me. It...wasn't good. Too many times, friends tell you what you want to hear, but having talented people tell you what you need to hear, whether you want to hear it or not, is invaluable. She suggested I try something in a different voice, a different style, something that I could really have fun with. Since she's smarter than I'll ever be, I took her advice and wrote DINGO. That's what landed me my first comics gig. Ross Richie had heard about DINGO and after giving it a read, asked me if I'd like to try my hand at comics. BOOM! was in its infancy so he had me start small with an 8 page Zombie Tale. He liked what I did and has been asking me to write for him ever since.

Q: With the FALL OF CTHULHU series you're tackling an already established mythos of HP Lovecraft and with SECOND WAVE, a followup to H.G. Well's WAR OF THE WORLDS. Do you find it dau nting following in these author's footsteps? And do you find it easier/harder working with an already established "universe" as contrasted with an original story, like X ISLE?

For me, writing stories in other people's sandboxes is always a bit of a balancing act. I want to be respectful of the original work yet still make the story my own. Finding that fine line is difficult. It's also difficult because many readers come in with certain expectations about what a Lovecraft or Wells story should be. And since my first goal is always telling the best story that I can and not necessarily rigid faithfulness to every aspect of the universe I'm working in, I sometimes don't always meet those expectations. I try, but I'm not always successful.

I also have a responsibility to those readers who aren't familiar with those worlds. Not only do I want my stories to appeal to fans of those worlds, but I want to make them accessible in a way that if a person has never heard of Cthulhu, it won't m atter. She should still be able to enjoy the story. But if she HAS heard of Cthulhu before and knows something about the mythos, then she'll get a little bit of extra enjoyment from the story. Well, that's the idea anyway.

With something like X Isle, the process is completely different since everything is so open ended. There's no canon that must be adhered to when crafting stories, so we have the freedom to do whatever we want. That can be daunting however. It's usually easier working in a universe that has already been created for you instead of building one from scratch.

Q: With X ISLE you've teamed up with Andrew Cosby. How did that whole thing come about? I enjoyed it quite a bit-- it reads like an action movie....

Glad you lik ed it! Andy and I are both proud of that one. As for how it came about, it was just one of those things. Andy likes to collaborate with other writers and I was fortunate enough to catch his eye with Second Wave. So when he asked me, I jumped at the chance.

A lot of people have said that X Isle reads like a film. Some people mean that in a good way, other people in a bad way. Personally, I think think the "cinematic" style used to tell the story works the best for X Isle. Whenever you sit down to write a story, you want to make sure that you're choosing the best way to convey that story to your readers. Andy and I could have easily told the story from a single POV with deep, internal monologue to move that single character through the story, but the nature of the story demanded something different. It's an island, populated by weird and dangerous things. It naturally lends itself to big action, big events. So we felt that the a movie-like story telling style would work best.

Q: In the artwork the characters resemble Hollywood actors, such as Dwayne "The Rock" Nelson, Matthew McConaughey, John Cusack. Was this soley the artist's idea or was it written in the script that way?

Yes, the resemblances were a bit uncanny, but we did not write any of that into the script. I think our descriptions were pretty generic (man, mid 40s, stalwart, attractive when he was younger, etc.). Greg must have read the script and got that "movie" vibe from it and then took it in that direction (checking to make sure lawyer's number is on speed dial).

Q: What have been your favorite projects at BOOM?

Wow, that one's tough. I guess I'd have to say that the Gray Man arc of Fall of Cthulhu has been my favorite so far. I just love the character Lucifer and her relationship with the Harlot. There's so much story potential there that whenever I sit down to write about them, I feel like a kid with a new swing set.

Also, Dominion runs a pretty close second. I'm really proud of that series and thoroughly enjoyed the writing conventions I used to tell that story. I tried to give the series a sense of "breathing" by sometimes writing a page of nine panel grids followed by a full splash. It made for an interesting challenge. I'm a little disappointed that not many people know about Dominion since it has some of my best writing to date.

Q: What are you working on now?

Obviously, Fall of Cthulhu. I'm starting the Apoc alypse story arc (that follows Godwar) which will be a nice bookend to the meta-story we've had so far. There's also a fantasy/sci-fi mini-series that I'm working on as well. Unfortunately, I can't say to much about it just yet, but once it hits previews next month, I'll be able to chat about it more. And of course, I'm very excited about a new project that stars one of the characters from Fall of Cthulhu. I can't say which one (again, I'm not allowed to yet), but it probably shouldn't be too hard to figure out. We're still in the early stages of the project (we don't even have a title yet, though I'm tentatively calling it Project #4-LC until we do) so there's still a lot to be done. It's slated to hit bookshelves in December. That means that it should be hitting previews in a month or two. What I can tell you about the project is that it won't directly be part of the Cthulhu Mythos. Oh, there will definitely be supernatural elements to the series, but we're going to be separating the character (and maybe a couple of the supporting characters as well) from the Mythos and bringing her into a universe of my own.

Q: Do you have a website?

I have a blog called Man's Machinery where I post mostly about my writing and the occasional thing that catches my interest. I also post images from my comics from time to time as well so readers can get a sneak peek at what's coming out soon.

find information about Michael A. Nelson at imdb.com find horror stuff by Michael A. Nelson

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