Please introduce yourself and your book(s)
My name is Russell Nohelty. I am a USA Today bestselling author of dark fantasy and science fiction novels and graphic novels. I’ve written over 20 novels set to premiere in 2019/2020, and have raised over $100,000 on Kickstarter for novels, graphic novels, and anthologies.
What is/are the story(ies) behind your book(s)?
Almost all my stories come from a dark place. They almost all deal with grief, loss, death, and junk. However, they are also imbued with a lot of humor to cut the tension. My work is all about the interplay of emotion, and how you can be crying and laughing mere moments from each other, just like in life.
What inspires/inspired your creativity?
I have severe depression/anxiety, and most of the time I cope by funneling that stress into my books. When I write, I feel better. When I don’t write, I feel worse. That’s why a lot of my work is very dark, because I am usually going through something inside my books. I’m trying to be better and more hopeful in my work, but I am not a hopeful person, so my books tend to be as bleak as they are funny.
How do you deal with creative block?
The best recourse for writer’s block is to write. Writer’s block usually comes from either fear or the knowledge that there’s something wrong with your project.
I’ve stopped writing projects because they just weren’t for me. I get 5,000-10,000 words into a project and realize I can’t go on anymore. You must be in tune with yourself and your body in order to know whether you need to abandon a story.
Other times, it’s something in the book that is flawed and even though I can’t put my finger on it, my brain knows that I should stop writing until I fix it. So, if I can’t write, I usually go back and try to find flaws in my writing.
Then, there is the fear of finishing something b/c you know it means putting it out into the world. If this is the case, you need to just press on, because the fear is irrational. If you want to write, you will have to put out the book, and so you need to either stop writing or understand that you will have to release the book eventually.
What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?
Most people are too precious, especially with their first book. They want it to be their dream project, but the truth is the first, fifth, and sometimes even the tenth project you write is going to suck, so you need to keep writing and moving forward.
That being said, the biggest mistake people make is that they don’t learn from their mistakes. They keep making the same mistakes again and again, even after they’ve written 10 books. You can’t just write a bunch of stuff. You have to keep learning and growing with each project.
Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?
Amazon is the best research tool there is. In every genre, you can search the top 100 and see what covers stand out. You can even do a reverse image search on Google and likely find the cover artist (if they aren’t credited in the book). Most authors laud their cover designer though, so it’s very easy to find them. Once you know who they are, you can pay them to make a cover for you.
You want to make sure you keep a consistent cover and title structure for your series. So, if your first book is 2 words, every book in your series should have two words in it, or maybe they are all puns, but the thing is there should be consistency across the series.
Don’t hire a new cover designer in the middle of a series. Make sure to keep the cover designer consistent so that people know the books are in the same series.
How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?
Negative reviews sting, especially if there are only a couple reviews in total. However, bad reviews can usually tell you something for future releases, so I always look at them and see what I can learn from the bad reviews, as well as the good. Every review is a chance to learn.
How has your creation process improved over time?
The more stuff I made, the more I understood the themes I liked to discuss in my work, and the more intentional I became and infusing those themes into my books. It’s hard to find a piece of my work that isn’t infused with mythology, distrust of authority, commentary on religion, the process of dealing with grief, or our irrational distrust of the other in society.
When I was a younger writer, those things came naturally, but now I am deliberate in the stories I take on and willful in maximizing the impact of those themes.
What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?
I am always surprised how much I love my books when I am done with them, and how much peace I have when I have finished something. There is a moment after the book is done and before it comes back from the editor that I feel a sense of relief and pride. It’s probably the only time I feel like that ever in my whole life.
Additionally, I am always surprised how after I finish a book, I can express my emotions about the topic I was writing about so much more clearly.
Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
I used to write books solely for me, but then I met readers who resonated on the same frequency of weird as me and I wanted them to enjoy the books as much as I did. So now I try to write something I will love as much as my readers. Sometimes, I will think of specific reader when writing a scene. It not hard to balance those two forces, because I am attuned to it. I intentionally wrote with my readers in mind for so long that it just became natural for me.
When you start out, you’ll probably only have one reader, but it’s always good to try to please that one reader, because if you can do that, then you’ll be able to find other readers like them. I am blessed with a lot of fans, but I didn’t always have fans. Back then, I wrote for my wife’s enjoyment, and now, 20+ books on I still do that. However, I have a lot more data from my readers to back up what I should be writing now.
What role do emotions play in creativity?
They are everything. Writing is very similar to acting and acting is all emotion. Yes, you have to sit down and do the work, but I try to give all of my characters an overarching emotion, and then “get into character” when I’m writing them. That might include talking out loud, changing my posture, or other tricks to get into that emotion, but I’m a very emotional person, so emotions guide everything for me when it comes to writing. My logical brain makes the outline, but then my emotions guide the story forward.
What are your plans for future books?
Currently, I’m beginning the process of writing my biggest series ever, The Obsidian Spindle Saga. It’s a 10-book series that starts with The Sleeping Beauty, a book about a girl who falls into the Dream Realm and has to visit fate at the Obsidian Spindle to wake herself up.
Thanks so much for letting me be a part of this interview series. You can find more of my work at www.russellnohelty.com and if you want to learn more about building a creative life, www.thecompletecreative.com is filled with resources to help.