THE CONVENTION COLLECTIVE: Thank you for joining us in the Spotlight Russell! How did you get into writing and why did you want to become a writer?
Russell Nohelty: I don’t think I ever had a moment where I decided I wanted to be a writer. I’ve wanted to tell stories since I was a kid, though. I started wanting to be an actor, and then a director, then a cameraman, and then an editor, and then back to director, before I finally came back to writing.
In every other instance of creativity (except art), you needed a lot of people to tell your story, and you needed permission from all sorts of other people. I don’t like asking permission, which was what made writing so appealing to me. As a writer you literally create from nothing. None of the other things I’ve ever tried to do even came close to that kind of power.
TCC: What genre do you like writing the most?
Russell: Easily fantasy. I’ve been called a horror writer before because I use a lot of monsters and demons in my work, but I can’t think of one book that I would categorize as horror that I’ve ever written. Maybe The Void Calls Us Home comes close, but I think that’s more dark fantasy, than horror. To me, horror means playing into the terror aspects, whereas I use horror elements to tell fantasy stories, much like Neil Gaiman.
TCC: What was the first work you completed, where you stepped back and thought, “Yes, y’know what, I can do this for a living!”?
Russell: It was after the Ichabod Jones: Monster Hunter Kickstarter back in 2014. I made over $5,000 in a single month for the first time in my career. A few months before that I went to my first convention with a small printing of Ichabod and sold out, and just figured if I could keep doing that, I would figure it out, which I did.
TCC: Which writers inspire you? And they don’t have to be in the medium you work in, either…
Russell: There are the writers that inspire me when reading them, like Melissa Albert, Stephanie Garber, and Alix E. Harrow. The ones that inspire me when I listen to them speak, like Neil Gaiman or Harlan Ellison, and then the ones that inspire me through their friendship (along with making amazing things) like Angela Oddling, Nicolas Touris, Erik Lervold, Walter Ostlie, and Pat Shand, along with too many others to name.
TCC: Can you tell us your greatest fan moment, interacting with a personal hero of yours where you may have gone a little weak at the knees?
Russell: I have lived in Los Angeles a long time, and don’t get starstruck very often, but my favorite comic, and the one that made me want to make comics, was Y: The Last Man, so when I moderated a panel with Pia Guerra a few years ago, that was quite an out of body experience.
TCC: What is your favorite fandom? Who is your favorite comic book character/movie/tv character?
Russell: Most of my fandoms are so small that they might be only me in them, and some have been ruined by their creators in the last few years, so I’m not quite sure. My wife and I have been rewatching all of Fullmetal Alchemist, so that’s what I will say for now, as that’s one that hasn’t been spoiled for me, which is odd because usually I prefer female protagonists, like Katniss Everdeen, which is another of my favorites.
I usually stare wide-eyed at people when they talk about their fandoms at conventions because I read very obscure books and indie comics which tend not to have big fandoms attached to them.
TCC: What’s your working routine? Do you work regular set hours and days, keeping certain days free for personal time, or do you find you create any time the muse takes you?
Russell: I try to keep the same routine every day. I wake up around 6am, spend the next couple of hours getting myself ready for the day, then start writing at 9am. I have 9am-2pm blocked out for writing time, and make sure nothing intrudes on that. My goal is to write 5,000 words, and I can usually get that done by 12pm or 1pm, but sometimes it does bleed into 2pm. Then, I work out and then read, until I get back to answering emails and doing admin work from about 5pm-7pm. When I have interviews, writer’s groups, or other commitments, I try to make them between 2pm-5pm, so that the rest of my day looks the same. To me, creativity comes from structure.
TCC: When you’re creating, what do you use for background noise? Some creators use music or podcasts, some use a TV show that they just can listen to in the background. What do you use?
Russell: I have different playlists for different series. For The Godsverse Chronicles or anything with a fast-paced thriller vibe, I have an angry girl rock playlist. For anything more atmospheric and moody, like Ichabod or The Obsidian Spindle Saga, I have a dark pop playlist, and then for anything light or for cooldowns, I have a folk rock playlist.
I have to listen to the same things every day to get myself in the mood. I used to do movies or TV shows, but they totally break my concentration.
TCC: What was the first comic con that you remember attending? And, indeed, what was the last?
Russell: The first show I attended was San Diego Comic-Con in 2010, where I tried to sell my first comic (it didn’t work). The next couple of years I showed up to sign books, and then got my own table. The last show I attended was also the first show I tabled at: Long Beach Comic Expo.
TCC: What’s your favourite element of a comic convention? And which bits could you easily leave behind?
Russell: I love knowing you were going to see friends and fans in a safe environment. The worst part about the pandemic has been remembering to reach out to people that I would normally see if not every month, then 2-3 times a year at least.
Things I could leave behind including, the long hours (usually 6a-6pm on your feet), the high costs (tables cost between $300-$600 depending on the show, at the very least, and with travel it can cost thousands to get there) and being away from my family for 10-20 weeks a year at shows. When they come back, I’m definitely not going to be doing as many, and hopefully I can find a way to get a better balance of fun in there, too.
TCC: At a convention, when you’re not behind your table or doing the things you have to do at a con, which corner of the show would we find you in?
Russell: Small press or artist alley, but usually it’s small press. However, the honest answer is probably…the bathroom, because I literally won’t leave my table while the show is on unless I absolutely have to, but once the doors are closed, or the books are sold, you’ll find me in the small press section, talking to other creators about their books.
TCC: A lot of creatives are also taking to crowdfunding – such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo – to generate income from their work. What’re your thoughts on that?
Russell: I’ve run 17 campaigns, and I plan on running 4-5 a year for the next few years, so I am in favor of it. We moved a lot of our sales to crowdfunding in the past year, and ramped up production on a lot of titles to fill the fact that we weren’t doing conventions. It’s literally kept us in business the last 18 months, and it’s a huge part of our plan even when shows come back.
TCC: What projects have you recently finished? What are you working on at the moment, what projects are coming up that you can talk about?
Russell: I just finished a Kickstarter for our new series, The Obsidian Spindle Saga, and I’m really excited for a new entry in the Godsverse Chronicles this summer. People have been asking me for another Godsverse comic since I released Pixie Dust in 2017, and it’s never felt like the right time, but I had a lightning strike of an idea last year, and found an amazing artist to draw the book, so I’m really excited about it.
It’s called Black Market Heroine (editor’s note: Black Market Heroine is now live on Kickstarter), and it takes place in the 1980s, 30+ years before the Apocalypse in Katrina Hates the Dead.
In it, a black-market criminal gets involved in a deal that goes bad and ends up rescuing a kidnapped girl who demons are planning to sacrifice to start the Apocalypse. Now, she must find a way to save the girl’s life, stop the bad guys, and prevent the end of the world.
You can find a promo for the book, including the first 10 pages at www.russellnohelty.com/bmh
It’s so fun, and drawn by amazing artist Cammry Lapka, who I think is going to blow up in the next year as she has so many amazing projects coming out.
Then, once that is done, in November I’m launching one of my favorite all-time books to write, Anna and the Dark Place, for an exclusive one-time printing.
Next year is a big year because we are ending three of our most popular series.
Ichabod Jones: Monster Hunter will end after volume 4, Cthulhu is Hard to Spell will end with volume 3, and The Godsverse Chronicles will end with the release of four more books which expand on Black Market Heroine.
Then, I have to figure out what I’m going to do next, but I’m very excited for what’s in the works.
TCC: How do you stay connected with fans? Do you use a mailing list or newsletters, are you active on social media?
Russell: Yes, I have a mailing list at www.russellnohelty.com. You can get one of my favorite stories from the Godsverse for joining my list. I am also on Facebook, and Twitter, which I use for different purposes.
You can also look me up on Kickstarter and follow me there, since that’s where I’m releasing most of our new books, or Bookbub because most of our books will eventually come out there, but they will ALL come out on Kickstarter.
TCC: Where can people find out more about you and reach out to you?
The best place is www.russellnohelty.com and join our mailing list.
TCC: Thanks Russell, for your time!
Russell: Thank you for having me.
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