Born in New Jersey, raised in Northern Virginia, and now living in Los Angeles, Russell Nohelty is a writer who exemplifies hardwork and building one’s brand. Nohelty is not only known for producing high quality stories, he is also known for frequently talking about his business strategies and sharing advice with other writers. Wanting to learn more about Nohelty’s career and his recent book Pixie Dust, I was able to interview him for ScifiPulse.
Nicholas Yanes: When you were growing up, what where some stories you loved experiencing? Are there any you still enjoy revisiting?
Russell Nohelty: Most of my fondest memories as a kid came from television, honestly. I wasn’t’ a big reader, but I loved Murder, She Wrote, for instance, and MacGuyver. I watched Saturday morning cartoons and grew up on television of all kinds. That’s something I’ve brought into this new project, to make things feel more like episodes or seasons in a television show.
Yanes: When did you realize that you wanted to pursue a career as a writer? Was there a specific moment in which this goal crystalized for you?
Nohelty: Originally, I wanted to be a director, then I went to director of photography, and then editor, back to director, and finally I landed on being a writer because I needed to have something to produce. The first things I ever wrote and produced were short films and web series. From there I honed my skills as a writer.
Then, in 2008, I got in a car accident and was basically bed ridden for six months. I couldn’t direct, or shoot, or anything. All I could do was write, so I did. A lot. It wasn’t until I wrote a lot of scripts that I decided writing was the career choice for me, though I still didn’t write books or comics for many years. It wasn’t until I realized how much more control I could have in those mediums that I became hooked on them.
Yanes: To me, you are a perfect example of a creator building their brand and business through pure work and hustle. Where did your work ethic come from? On this note, how do you avoid burnout?
Nohelty: I feel like the legend of my work ethic is more epic than what actually exists on a day to day basis.
The truth is, that I am only actively focused on working for 6-8 hours on an average day. I am chronically ill, so I don’t have the energy to work 18 hours a day every day. Some days, I can turn it on and work 12-18 hours, and it’s true that I am always working on something, but the real secret to it all is that I build up a lot of work before I ever release things out into the world.
For instance, I had Katrina Hates the Dead and Ichabod Jones: Monster Hunter both 100% completed years before I brought them to market. Right now, I plan on releasing 18 books in 2019, but I’ve already written 15 of them, with three reserves which could fill in the gaps if necessary. So, while I do put out a lot of work, it’s mostly because I’m always working on things in the background while I’m releasing things in the foreground.
It’s much more smoke and mirrors than people realize. People are always trying to release something right when it’s done, but I know the value of timing things for maximum impact.
Yanes: You currently live in Los Angeles. How important do you think geography is to a writer’s professional success?
Nohelty: I think it’s incredibly important on one hand, and not important at all on the other. There is no doubt that being in Los Angeles gave me access to a ton of amazing creators who I never would have met in person otherwise. I’ve become friends with writers, directors, and show runners which never would have happened if I lived back in DC.
However, I find some of my best relationships have grown out of social media, with people who I’ve never met before in person. So, I do think it’s important, but I also think that you can accomplish a lot online. It’s all about networking. Not who you know, but who knows you.
Yanes: One of your recent publications is the graphic novel Pixie Dust. What was the inspiration for this story?
Nohelty: My idea for my monster hunter trilogy was three different monster hunters, in three different styles, and three different time periods. Since Ichabod and Katrina both happen in a “contemporary” time, I wanted to share something from the past.
However, one of the coolest things about the series is that in the first book the monsters were definitely the bad guys. In the second book, the monsters were nebulously the bad guys. In Pixie Dust, I wanted to flip that all on its head and make you question whether the monsters have really been the bad guys all along.
Yanes: Akta is the protagonist of Pixie Dust and is a fantastic character. Was she based on anyone you know? Also, how do you hope this character grows over the years?
Nohelty: She was based on Katrina, from Katrina Hates the Dead, more than anything. I love the raw determination of Katrina, but I think her action are suspect often, so I wanted to show a character who has the same drive, but does things in a much more sophisticated and professional way than Katrina. Katrina was raw, while Akta is more refined.
Yanes: Nicolas Touris’s artwork for Pixie Dust is fantastic. How did you realize that Touris was the perfect fit for this story? On this note, how did you work with him to make sure the art best represented the story?
Nohelty: Nic and I go back a long way. I was the original publisher for his web series Faithless before we shuttered the web comic division of Wannabe Press. I knew he loved epic fantasy and I knew I wanted to work with him. I hired Nic to design my logo soon after he came on with Faithless, and then we worked together on an anthology piece. We’ve always wanted to work together on a bigger piece, but it was hard to find the right thing.
Pixie Dust had gone through a ton of artists over the years, and I feared it would never get done. However, one day I dusted it off and sent it off to Nic, and the rest was history. Once he had the story, all I requested was that he draw it in square format. Other than that he had carte blanche, with me refining his decisions here and there.
For me, it’s all about finding the right artist and letting them go nuts.
Yanes: You are currently working on adapting Pixie Dust into a novel. How do you approach writing novel differently from writing a comic book? Do you find the experience to be in any way freeing?
Nohelty: It’s definitely not freeing. There are a lot of choices that people don’t think about when writing a book. For instance, do you write the book in first person or third person? Do you embellish the experiences of the comic, or stay true to it? How long do you write each chapter, and how much detail to you add? It looks like just words on the page, but there are a lot of choices you have to make that can’t be undone once you make them without a page one re-write.
The thing that is freeing about a novel is that it’s all you, and you get to connect completely with the reader on the page. You can write as long or as short as you want, and the words you choose have an impact on the story in a way that they don’t when you are the writer on a comic.
Yanes: When people finish reading Pixie Dust, what do you hope they take away from it?
Nohelty: I want them to question their relationship with the other in society. Pixie Dust at its core is about a monster hunter who comes back as a monster and starts to question everything she was taught about monsters being evil. I use monsters as an allegory for humanity, and the other in our own lives. So, I hope people think of that when they read Pixie Dust.
Yanes: Finally, what else are you working on that people can look forward to?
Nohelty: I am releasing 18 novels next year. Twelve of them will be in the shared Katrina/Akta universe, and they will take you from Pixie Dust, through Katrina, and ten thousand years after the end of Katrina Hates the Dead. It’s a very ambitious project, but right now I have 15 books written, with three more to go before I start releasing them.