by Erin Finnegan, NY editorial intern
Paul D. Storrie is the author of many Graphic Universe books, including several volumes of Twisted Journeys (#03 Terror in Ghost Mansion and #05 Nightmare on Zombie Island) and many of our Graphic Myths and Legends books (Amaterasu, Beowulf, Hercules, Perseus, Robin Hood, William Tell, and Yu the Great). He has also penned a book for our mysterious new graphic novel line. Paul’s mysterious new book will be released in the Spring of 2011.
Q. What was the first thing you were paid to write?
Robyn of Sherwood, a comic book starring the daughter of Robin Hood.
Q. What’s your favorite genre to write in? What type of writing do like best – long, short, fiction, nonfiction?
I’m pretty exclusively a fiction writer. For some reason, nonfiction just doesn’t appeal to me. Picking a favorite genre is difficult. Most of my stories have a strong action/adventure vibe, but they’ve taken the form of historical fiction, mystery, fantasy, science fiction and more. If pressed, I’d pare my choices down to hard-boiled detective fiction or sword & sorcery.
Q. Did you start off writing prose and switch to comics or vice versa? What’s it like working with an artist? Have you ever been surprised how your artist(s) see your characters or world?
Professionally, I started writing comics and have branched out into prose. I think I wrote prose first as a kid. Working with an artist is generally an incredible experience. Although you can be surprised by how much an artist’s vision of the world and characters differ from your own, the most astonishing thing is when you seen an artist’s work and think, “That’s it! That’s exactly what I was thinking!” I love that feeling.
Q. Graphic Universe books are generally for kids; how do you get into the mindset of your audience?
Some of my friends and family would claim that I don’t have to get into a kids’ mindset, I’m there everyday! Mostly what I do is think back to what I loved when I was the age I’m writing for and try to recapture some of the wonder and excitement that I experienced back then. Also, I try to remember that kids are a lot sharper than we sometimes give them credit for and make sure I’m not oversimplifying or writing down to my audience.
Q. If you write for Twisted Journeys or another series with a relatively strict structure, what is it like working within that structure?
Generally speaking, there’s a somewhat restrictive structure writing most regular comics. Most often, there’s a specific number of pages and you’ve got to make sure you’ve got enough story and not too much to fit. The Twisted Journeys books take that to another level, where there are a certain number of different kinds of pages. The first thing I did when I started my first Twisted Journeys book (Nightmare on Zombie Island) was to count out how many pages any given story path might have. If I’m remember right, the longest was only 32 pages (including ‘choice’ pages). That’s not terribly long, so it was important not to try and squeeze too much story into that space. The most important thing working with a strict structure is to embrace it, to try and pick a story that works best within that structure. It’s like the old saying about not trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
Q. Have your relatives bought copies of your books? Do your friends ask you to sign their copies?
Sometimes. Sometimes they mistakenly think I’ve got big boxes of books laying around and expect me to give them free copies!
Q. Have you ever written someone you know into a story? Perhaps at their insistence?
I don’t think I’ve ever written anyone into a story. Sometimes I’ve used names (usually first names) of friends or family. Sometimes I’ve written a character inspired by someone I know. I tend to avoid adding real people into my work because I wouldn’t want them to be angry or disappointed if they thought I hadn’t portrayed them correctly.
Q. What other stuff have you written outside of Graphic Universe?
The most complete list is on my website, storrieville.com, on the bibliography page.
Q. Which of your comic projects was your favorite to work on?
Even though it’s probably the shortest project I’ve ever written, I’m really proud of my contribution to Marvel’s Captain America: Red, White & Blue anthology. I got to write my favorite superhero in a story set in my hometown of Detroit and it was illustrated by renowned artist David Lloyd (who drew V for Vendetta) and colored by the very talented Chris Sotomayer.
Q. Do you listen to anything while you write? Lyric-less music? Talk radio? Podcasts? Can you leave the TV on?
I can’t listen to anything where the words distract me. That means I tend to put on movie/TV soundtracks or music that I’ve heard so often that it blends into the background. I like listening to NPR, but I can’t do so while I’m writing. I guess because listening to a conversation engages the same part of the brain that’s used for making up conversations between imaginary people! I envy my artist friends who can listen to podcasts or watch TV while working.
Q. This is a total cliché question, but do you have a favorite comic writer or prose writer? Who are your influences?
My favorite comics writer when I was growing up was probably either Steve Englehart, whose work on Captain America I particularly enjoyed, or Roy Thomas. I think their work probably influenced mine a great deal. One of my favorite prose writers is Loren D. Estleman, who writes mystery/crime stories set in Detroit, as well as westerns and historical fiction. My influences, in addition to those gentleman, include mystery writers Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, fantasy writers J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber, and science fiction writers Poul Anderson and Gordon Dickson. Plus Howard Pyle, whose Merry Adventures of Robin Hood is responsible for my lifelong love of the bold outlaw of Sherwood.
Q. Which college did you go to and what was your major?
I graduated from Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan with a Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Literature. I thought about majoring in Creative Writing, but decided to go for a broader approach. Also, I took a lot of art classes, though I was a few credits shy of getting my minor in Fine Art.
Q. What is the next convention you plan to go to?