Meet the “Genre Mixologist”: an interview with Bobby Nash
Bobby Nash is a creator whose name I know all the way back from the early days of my own writing career. He’s a fascinating genre-bender in his work, writing mysteries, crime novels, science fiction and of course, super powered fiction. This makes him the perfect subject for my second creator interview.
If you don’t know the basics of Bobby, he’s a writer of multiple genres of fiction as well as comics and screenplays. A member of the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers and International Thriller Writers, he’s won multiple Pulp Ark Awards and a Paranormal Literary Award. His Starship Farragut episode “Conspiracy of Innocence” won the Silver Award in the 2015 DC Film Festival.
Much like every story, every creator has a beginning. Where (and if you dare, when) were you born? What was young Bobby Nash like?
Oh, I dare. I was born on August 14, 1971 in Atlanta, Georgia. I was an only child until my brother joined us when I was 8 ½. Being alone to play, I learned the power of imagination. I started re-enacting stories from TV (after school it was Star Trek, Dukes of Hazard, Six Million Dollar Man, Buck Rogers, Batman, G.I. Joe, or the ’66 Spider-Man cartoon in reruns). That later developed into me creating new scenarios. From there, I was hooked on storytelling. Thankfully, I’m still hooked.
You listed half the great adventure shows of the late 70s and early 80s there! What influence do you feel they have on your work now?
I’d dare say they have provide a good deal of influence. When I was creating the Snow series, I used the detective/p.i. shows of the 70s and 80s as an influence. It’s hard for me to write Snow without thinking of Magnum P.I. or Rockford Files in terms of tone. I also realize that not all of those stories can be told the same way today. In the 70s, your plot could be that Magnum finds out about an assassination attempt across town. He has to get there in time to stop it. That was your plot. Now, with cell phones, text, email, etc., that plot alone isn’t enough. Technology has made some stories tougher to tell, but that’s part of the challenge.
As much as I watched all those old shows, I know I sometimes have the exact opposite problem when I’m writing a story set in the past. I get to a story point and realize, “crap, he can’t just call someone quick here.” How do you think the ever growing connectivity of technology will effect the mystery and suspense field over the years ahead? And how close do you pay attention to that technology for your own mystery and suspense work?
You have to learn how to work the mystery around the technology. The audience won’t buy it if you use the “no service” on the cell phone bit. Technology is part of life. If you’re contemplating a crime for your story, you have to take all of those variables into account just like a real criminal would. Technology challenges us, as writers, to come up with new and inventive ways to tell our stories.
Most writers I know started to write at a young age, but what book or comic made you say “I want to write someday?”
This is one of those that is tough to answer because writing snuck up on me while I was teaching myself to draw. I was inspired by comic books: Amazing Spider-Man #s 192, 193, and 194 were my first comics and I devoured them, studying them backward and forward. I wanted to be Keith Pollard when I grew up. Instead, I ended up following in Marv Wolfman’s steps. They were the creative team on those issues.
There was also Snowbound Six by Richard Martin Stern, which drew me in and ignited my love of the outdoors, or at least writing about the outdoors.
Encyclopedia Brown was my first introduction to detective work, which has been a big part of my writing life. I still remember that lightning comes before thunder, which was a vital clue in one of my favorite Encyclopedia Brown cases.
There were others, to be sure, but these were the earliest ones I recall having an impact on me becoming a writer.
I feel like Encyclopedia Brown is a formative moment for many writers growing up in the 80s. I know I realized I was really bad at solving mysteries from them! What influence, if any, do you feel those early works have on your writing?
They really piqued my curiosity for solving mysteries. It changed the way I read or watched TV. I started actively looking for clues as opposed to going “oh, yeah…” when the protagonist revealed how he or she solved the mystery at the end. I learned that clues can be subtle and over the top and still blend into the narrative. When I was writing Evil Ways, I was convinced that every time I wrote a clue to the true villain’s identity, there was a neon sign pointing to a certain characters going HERE’S YOUR KILLER RIGHT HERE! Luckily, most people did not see that neon glow and I heard a lot of “oh, yeah…” moments were had by readers, which thrilled me to no end.
It also taught me to play fair with the reader. I really hate it when the protagonist pulls out the one vital clue that points to the guilty party and it all happened off the page or off camera. You have to play fair with your audience. Let them have the opportunity to solve the case too.
Tell us about your most recent release, Sanderson of Metro?
Sanderson of Metro is a retelling of the origin story of Frank Dirscherl’s The Wraith. The novel adapts a comic that Frank wrote and then dives into an as yet unexplored pat of the character’s beginnings, fleshing them out and adding layers to it. Frank and I co-wrote the novel. Sanderson of Metro is Book 1 in a new series of novels by Frank featuring The Wraith. I was honored to be asked to team up with him on this and I had fun with it. The Wraith is a cool character.
Collaborative novels are nothing new, but it always seems each has their own process. How did you and Frank alternate work on Sanderson of Metro?
It worked pretty well, actually. I started with Frank’s comic, which he wrote. That set up the basic framework of the novel. I then wrote the novel from there. Once that was done, Frank gave it a pass so that everything stays consistent with the other novels in the series. I think it came together quite nicely.
When your not writing, what interests do you pursue in your free time?
What is this free time of which you speak? I do have interests outside of writing. I like to read, go to the movies, watch TV, sleep. Sleep counts as an interest, right? Ha! Ha! In all seriousness, there has not been a lot of free time the past few years due to family issues. Both of my parents required a lot of help and care and that kept me busy. Things are starting to feel… well, normal isn’t the right word, but better as we recover from losing my mother last year and my dad’s surgery and recovery. There might actually be some free time in the near future… after I get caught up on deadlines. Ha!
Picking your favorite work is sometimes like picking your favorite child, but I’m cruel so I ask anyway. Of all your past work, which novel or short story most felt like it clicked for you?
My go to answer for this type of question is usually Evil Ways. Evil Ways was my first published novel and it is the one that reads the most like me of any of my work. I went into this novel not knowing what I was doing or how anything worked, but at the end of the day I came out of it with a story that is undeniably by me. One of the best compliments I received was “as I was reading it, I could hear you reading it to me.” As I have learned and, hopefully, grown as a writer, some of the things I attempted in Evil Ways would probably be done differently today. Sometimes I miss the freedom of not knowing the rules when it comes to storytelling.
Should we be worried that the work that reads most like you is called Evil Ways?
Probably. Ha! One of the best comments I received was from a friend of mine. After reading the novel, she told me, “You’re a bit creepy to me now.” That made my day.
You’ve worked in both comics for a while now, stretching back into the early 2000s up to more recent work on At The Earth’s Core (for Dark Horse), Domino Lady (for Moonstone) and Big Bang Universe (for AC Comics.) Do you see more comic writing as a potential career goal or is it more of a fun aside from your prose work?
I’d love to write comics every month, but I just don’t get that kind of work from publishers so it’s like a side gig to the prose work. That said, I would write a monthly comic in a heartbeat. Comics are my first love. They are what started me on my creative path and I still love reading and writing them.
What’s your dream comic gig? If you could be in charge of one character or title, what would it be?
I would love to write at least one good Fantastic Four story.
What do you have on the writing board right now?
My top priority at the moment is finishing a novel starring AC Comics’ Nightveil for Pro Se Productions. I’m reaching the finish line on this one and should have it finished very soon. I’ve also started plotting and writing the first of four novellas for Falstaff Books called Hunter Houston: Horror Hunter, a spin-off of John Hartness’ wildly popular Bubba The Monster Hunter series. Plus, I’m working on Snow Trapped, the fourth novella in my Snow series and there are always a few other irons in the fire.
You have hopped between mystery, science fiction, urban fantasy and superheroics in your writing career. Do you enjoy mixing and moving around genres as you write?
Mixing genres is my favorite thing. I think I should put GENRE MIXOLOGIST on my website and business cards. Yeah. I like that. Mixing genres can be a lot of fun. I love writing crime fiction and thrillers so there is a little of that in almost everything I write.
Do you feel that writing in multiple genres helps or hurts when it comes to building a fanbase?
I think it helps. Not everyone is going to read everything I do. Comic readers do not always read novels, pulp fans do not always pick up my thrillers, that sort of thing. I write what I like and hope there’s a fanbase for it. As a reader, I like reading multiple genres. I assume that most readers are like that. None of us are just one thing, but yet, we market books as though readers of science fiction only read science fiction. That is patently false.
Why do you think the advice to so many young writers is to stick to one genre, even to one character or series?
Because that’s how publishers/producers/editors have always thought. We’ve all heard the stories where a famous writer has to write under a pen name to write under a different genre because the publisher believes they can write only one thing. Take J.K. Rowling, for example. She is one of the highest selling authors in the world with her Harry Potter books. She wanted to write a crime novel. The publisher said no, she can only write what they know will sell. She writes it under a pen name, sells it to the publisher. It sell okay. When it comes out that she is the author, sales for the crime novel skyrocketed. That’s when the publisher decided to bank on her name and cash in. The publisher had no faith in her until they realized they could make money.
It’s wrong-thinking, in my opinion, but so much of the industry is rooted int he way things were done in the 1950’s and that way just doesn’t work anymore. The publishers who are embracing the new media, learning ways to service modern audiences as well as traditional audiences, those are the publishers who will set the standard going forward.
Every author has favorites among their own works, but also of their contemporaries. Please share an author or a work you think deserves more attention or a wider audience.
Oh, sure. Put me on the spot, why don’t ya? Ha! Ha! There are some tremendous talents out there who are not only excellent writers, but wonderful people. I have built great relationships with authors and love to support them. They include John Hartness, Paul Bishop, Van Allen Plexico, Derrick Ferguson, Milton Davis, Jana Oliver, James Palmer, Sean Taylor, James R. Tuck, Gary Phillips, Ellie Raine, Andrea Judy, Jonathan Maberry, Kieth DeCandido, Jay Requard, Barry Reese, and oh so many more. This is by no means a complete list. I could easily list a couple hundred names.
Where do you see your writing career being at in five years?
Hopefully, it will be paying better. I wish I had a more lofty answer, but I hope that in five years I am still writing, still enjoying doing what I do, and making a living at it. So far, I’m two out of three, but I’m working on it.
If people want to learn more about your work, where can they find you?
I am all over the place. If there’s a social media outlet, it’s a good bet I’ve got a page there. The easiest place to find me, and a place with links to all of those other sites, is www.bobbynash.com