Comics Experience alum Lex Wilson’s exciting new prose and comics project with Victor Rosas II, Uninvited Quests, is out now! You can pick it up on a plethora of platforms, including Amazon, Kobo, Nook, iBooks, and Smashwords.
We spoke with him about his craft and the benefits of an interdisciplinary approach to writing.
Comics Experience: Why the decision to build the Uninvited Quests stories with both prose and comics?
Lex Wilson: I initially saw this as an ongoing series of standalone comics, something between Groo the Wanderer and Usagi Yojimbo, with a Discworld sensibility. But that scope wasn’t looking realistic for an indie writer at my level, given the probable economics of indie comics earnings, the importance of compensating collaborators fairly, and the sheer number of stories I wanted to tell in this universe and with these characters.
I was also juggling enough other comics collaborations, and was more interested in adding a new writing project than a new project management, um, project. Best practices in indie prose publishing right now encourage a “freebie” story or short novel to help build an audience for a series, and I thought: what better business model than to give away free comics, and use the prose novels as a way to fund their creation?
So I get to do both! And I hope to tip the ratio toward doing more of the stories as comics and OGNs as the series goes on. It’ll be a fun business model experiment, no matter what happens. (Yes, yes. I know. All business model experiments are fun. I’m right there with you.)
CE: How does a multimedia approach add texture to the characters and the world they inhabit?
LW: Editors have assigned illustrators to some of my prose stories, for Analog Science Fiction and the like. It’s always a treat to see these, usually just before publication!
But this is the first time someone actually designed the characters while I was still revising the prose of the first book, so it was wild to be fixing paragraphs and considering whether descriptions were compatible with the book covers already completed.
I think readers will notice a tonal difference in the humor already, between the comics and the prose, and I’m eager to figure out for myself how much of that is the influence of Victor’s art. When I collaborate with other artists with these same characters on subsequent comics, what will shift and what will change the same? I admire television series where guest directors have to match a “house style” to keep the look and feel and pacing consistent, but I don’t think that’s how I want to work.
CE: What is your working relationship like with Victor Rosas II?
LW: We’ve now done 5 prose novel covers and five comics pages together. He’s now doing the sixth with me, and I hope prose readers don’t find the style too comic-booky for their taste, because I want to keep working with this dude forever.
I tend to give him three or four ideas per cover, along with a general description of the book. He picks one or two that speak to him, and plays with it/them, gets back to me with what he’s thinking. And he blows me away every time.
Like for this first one, I thought I had a clear picture in my head of what I wanted: the blocking pretty much what you see in the final version with the dragon (head and body on opposite sides) and two characters, only flat and maybe even background-less, like a screenshot from a side-scrolling video game. And he was all “what if I did all that, but made it slightly more dynamic” and that quickly taught me that I’m more interested in the pictures in his head than the ones in mine.
As we’ve continued to work together, I think we both have a tendency to overcomplicate things, like kids with too many toys to play with, like “ooh, since there’s also goblins in the book, wouldn’t it be fun if we added…” but it’s almost always the case that a simpler cover is the stronger choice. The guy does it all. Pencils, inks, colors, and (for the comic) letters.
Victor is fantastic, both as a collaborator and as a creator of great finished product. I’m at least as excited to share his next covers with you as I am to share my prose.
CE: How has your time with Comics Experience helped shape Uninvited Quests?
LW: Though I’d already participated in half a dozen short comics collaborations, making comics as a writer still felt crazy-impossible before I joined CE. And, okay, it still felt crazy impossible. But, hey, these people were doing it anyway, so all of the sudden I’m reaching out to more potential collaborators, I’m stepping further outside my comfort zone, and I’m tackling more and bigger challenges.
I think of CE as an ongoing convention conversation. For about what it would cost me to spend a weekend at a con halfway across the country, I get a year of hanging out with really smart people doing the kind of thing I want to get better at doing. And many of them–past and present members–are friends I can look forward to seeing when I do get to actual conventions.
CE’s not a magic bullet. But surround yourself with people who are doing the thing you want to do, and all of the sudden it feels a little more possible for you to do it, too.
How has your work in video game writing and acting impacted your prose and comics writing? What lessons do you feel aspiring comic book and prose writer can take from these disciplines?
Working in multiple media in a variety of roles has crystalized for me my love of story. When working solo on a project, I get to develop a story from the idea phase to complete project, and as an actor I get to be a small part–sometimes little more than set dressing–in bringing a collaborative story to life.
I get something from every collaboration, and here I’m including the best end results (where maybe I could do little but sit in awe at what my co-creatives were doing) and the worst of them (where my takeaways are a lesson in what not to do next time and maybe a nutty story to tell at parties if it doesn’t violate the NDA).
The great ones are not only full of fun and respect and new friends, but a resulting project that we can all be proud of. With each collaboration, I get better at doing my part to foster such an environment. I learn so much from teammates about how to work well, and how to make something great. And even with the spectacular failures, I can’t wait to apply what I’ve learned to the next one.