In this edition of Portals and Pathways, the spotlight falls on my friend and fellow Council Tree Productions colleague, Nicholas Yanes. Among other things, Nick is the guy who always does such a great job with the articles the Sci-Fi Pulse website features, from time to time, about my work (and the work of others). I’ve also come to find that Nick and I share a devotion to creativity as a craft that must be worked at, a drive to put in the time it takes to achieve in the craft, and an obsession that sustains us through the times when the world looks at us like Nimoy regarding Shatner, with eyebrow raised.
I’m glad Nick took time out of his busy schedule so we could have this chat, but that’s the kind of guy he is. Here’s Nick!
Q: We met through our mutual friend Joel Eisenberg, and our common association with Council Tree Productions. How did you get involved with Council Tree?
Short Answer: I noticed that Joel posted a call for pitches. A buddy and I had been working on an idea, and we decided to pitch it to Council Tree. Joel loved it, and has been working with us to develop it since then.
Long Answer: Before I started my Ph.D. program in Fall 2018, I knew that I wanted my dissertation to be about William Gaines, MAD Magazine, and EC Comics. Around this time, I learned that a movie about Gaines was in the works and being developed by these two people named John Landis and Joel Eisenberg. Wanting to talk shop with them, I made sure to look them up once a year just to see if I could interview one of them for my dissertation.
Sadly, I finished my dissertation and earned my doctorate before I could talk to Landis or Eisenberg.
Sometime after I graduated I learned that Joel had co-written this cool fantasy novel, Chronicles of Ara. I was working for Sci-Fi Pulse at the time, so I reach out to see if I could interview Joel about this book. The interview went so well that Joel was willing to talk to me about Gaines and EC Comics.
During our first conversation Joel learned about everything I had done so far and asked me, “How are you not represented by an agent yet?”
It was a small question, but it highlighted that Joel was impressed by my work and it meant a lot to me. It was a needed boost to my confidence when I was at a low point.
Since then, Joel’s learned that I’m always willing to help and that I’m reliable. So when he saw potential in the show my friend and I pitched him, I think Joel knew that I would be willing to put in as much work as he demanded of me.
Q: What current projects are you working on, creative and otherwise?
A: Academically, I’m working on a book about the TV show, Hannibal, with the brilliant scholar, Kyle Moody. I am also developing my dissertation into a book because the world needs more content about EC, MAD, and Gaines.
Other than developing a show with Council Tree, I am working on a collection of inter-connected short stories set in a supernatural Iowa.
Q: Give our Portals and Pathways readers a little sense of your background, if you would. Is writing your full-time job? If not, what do you do? How did you get started writing?
A: Sadly, writing is not my full-time job yet. I’m currently juggling two to three jobs at a given time, in addition to writing articles, working with Council Tree, and applying for full time work. My main gig has me at a local college helping students learn how to write and I’m also a private writing coach for person who wants to start a company that produces educational products. I’m also an excellent house/dog sitter. (By the way, being a dog sitter is great because it is like having a new pet dog every weekend.)
I had always been interested in telling stories but it wasn’t until I was finishing my Masters degree at FSU that I got hooked on being a writer in the published sense. This because I not only wrote my MA thesis on WWII era comic books, but I got part of it published in an academic book called, Captain America and the Struggle of the Superhero. After that seeing my name in print, I knew that I wanted writing and publishing to be a huge part of my life.
I actually became so motivated to publish that I got a book contract during the first of year of my Ph.D. program; this book would become The Iconic Obama.
Q: Are there any people you consider inspirations? What is it about them that inspires you?
A: I’m inspired by anyone who has a great work ethic. One of the threads that connects all of my friends is that we are all these low-level workaholics who are always willing to pull all-nighters to get the job done. We love to party and hangout, but we all also know how to focus to get a job done.
I’m particularly motivated by this type of personality because this is what separates professional writers and creatives from hobbyists.
Q: Do you have any particular work rituals or routines?
A: My workday routine involves me trying to get out one page of content. Due to the time requirements of work and staying fit, I’m lucky if I can just get a solid hour of writing in everyday.
On the weekends is when I can really produce. I tend to hang out at Ave Maria University’s library on the weekends. It is open to the public and is a great place to just write.
If I can’t make it to AMU, I will find a coffee shop that I can stay out for several hours while I write and develop content. In addition to being home to several Starbucks locations, Naples, FL. also has two great non-Starbucks coffee shops that I love to write at: Second Cup and Kunjani.
Regardless of where I’m at, once I’ve gotten my coffee ready, my earplugs in, and a word file opened, I’m ready to get to work.
Q: What are two of your favorite books or films?
My two favorite books are The Devil in the White City and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. Though one is non-fiction and the other is fiction, they both inspired me to rethink topics and time periods I thought I fully understood.
Q: Do you think the creative industries today—film, books, music, art—are too commercialized? Which do you think is more important—‘making’ (as in the creative act itself) or ‘making it’ (commercial success)?
This question immediately made me think of this quote from Paddy Chayefsky (screenwriter of Network and author of the novel Altered States), “Stop thinking about writing as art. Think of it as work. If you’re an artist, whatever you do is going to be art. If you’re not an artist, at least you can do a good day’s work.”
Coming from the academy, I was constantly surrounded by tenured professors with guaranteed paychecks who preached against commercialized art and scholarship.
This is nice in theory, but once you realize that bills won’t get paid by a random interpretive dance, it becomes essential for creatives to begin to think of their creative work as work. Once a person realizes this, it becomes key for them to think of how much time they invest in a project and what its ROI will be.
I’ve noticed that creatives who approach their work like this tend to not only have a more realistic understanding of their industry, but they are more willing to accept feedback and criticisms in order to improve their work.
Q: Any advice for beginning writers/creatives?
A: The best advice for writers and creatives I could offer is the same advice that other professionals have given to me: read a lot, write a lot, re-write/edit more, and be grateful for any feedback you get.
And more importantly, this is a marathon, not a sprint; so think in terms of years, not in spans of weeks and months.
Thanks for taking time to do this, Nick!