Q&A with Landry Q. Walker

 

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Landry Q. Walker is a writer who likes pop-tarts and has been in jail twice and on the New York Times bestsellers list once. He spends his days punching the keyboard until words appear on the magic screen. Books include: The Last Siege, Danger Club, Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade, Project: Terra, and more.

What’s the last thing you read/watched you thought was incredibly well-written?

The last thing I watched that I felt was incredibly well written… I’m going to go with movies on this one. The film Get Out is the first thing that comes to mind. I came to that one a bit late, and a lot of plot points had been spoiled. But it didn’t matter because the execution was so solid.

How’d you get into writing comics?

I got into writing comics after noticing that a lot of my friends who could draw weren’t doing much with their talents. I was about 18-19 at this time. My friends had talked about making comics for years, and I had always thought there wasn’t a place for me in the process. Then I decided to write – though writing had been at the back of my head since I was a young child (I had written Indiana Jones and Lord of the Rings fanfic).

A lot of people hear the term “comic book writer”, but don’t really know what the job entails. How would you describe it?

Writing comics requires thinking visually – much more so than other types of writing. You need to be able to see the action on the page with your minds eye, and work from their. that means understanding how much dialogue can fit in a word balloon, when to let the art tell the story, how the eye scans across a page of art. You can also write with a method where you plot the story, and the storytelling exclusively. But I’m not a huge fan of working that way.

You’ve written for established characters and created your own. Do you have a preference of working with either, or are they two totally different worlds?

Totally different worlds. With established characters you have an easier path as the world building has been done for you, but you also have to stay within certain parameters. As example, a proper Batman story leaves Batman in the same place at the end of the book, so that the next writer can pick up the story and run with it. You’re really just taking turns writing chapters.

Follow-up: is there an established character you haven’t written for, but would jump at the chance to?

Probably? To be honest, it all depends on the restrictions. Some jobs look like dream jobs because of the character you’re working with, but then you get the job and the restrictions are so fierce, you don’t really get to explore what drives you at all.

A key component of writing (and not just for comics) is to make the stories and characters relatable. What sort of approaches do you take to accomplish that?

I honestly don’t think much about whether my stories are relatable to other people. I think that if you stop to consider the “rules” of writing, you’re generally not writing. I tend to work off of gut instinct on whether a story feels right to me.

What are your thoughts on writers who want to self-publish their own comics?

Do it. Everyone who wants to make comics should start by making their own. Experience every aspect of making a comic. Deal with distribution, promotion, balancing schedules. Do all of it. And don’t wait for your work to be good enough. If you do that, it will never happen. Just start now.

What are some of your favorite comics and webcomics?

Favorite comics: Lately, I mostly have been digging into old stuff. Charlton comics mainly. Old Blue Beetle and Captain Atom. A lot of the horror stuff from the 60’s and 70’s too. For webcomics, not many. I follow Dumbing of Age and Questionable Content. I’m behind on it, but I really like YAFGC (Yet Another Fantasy Gaming Comic).

What’s some writing advice you would give your just-starting-out younger self?

Play less Mario Kart.

How can people find out more about your work?

I’m terrible at self-promotion. But you can usually find my latest work by checking out my Twitter feed. I’m currently wrapping up my medieval war epic, The Last Siege, and will soon be announcing a graphic novel series with my long time collaborator Eric Jones (one of those friends I mentioned in the question about getting into writing). I’ve previously written a series called Danger Club about a group of teen heroes fighting against their own reboots, and an all ages Supergirl series called Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade. Lots of of other stuff too. Check out my Amazon author page.

Readers of this blog are more than familiar with my love/appreciation of pie. What’s your favorite kind?

Apple. From Hostess.

hostess apple pie

Ride that positive wave

surfing batman

Let’s face it. This is a business of severe ups and downs, and given our druthers, we all prefer the ups.

But it doesn’t always work out that way, hence the downs. Which also significantly outnumber the ups. By a lot.

Who among us doesn’t have a story where something seemed like a sure thing, and you’re thinking “This is it! My big break is just around the corner!”, only to find out that that break is actually forty blocks away, there’s a transit strike and the Indian food you had for lunch is drop-kicking your lower digestive tract?

Yep, been there.

But I’ve also been fortunate to have had a pretty good share of ups.

Some moderate contest success. Management come and gone. The ultimate goal getting a little closer each time, always seemingly just out of reach with no sign of changing.

Used to be I would get all upset and distraught, and filled with self-doubt.

Not anymore.

I’ve become that dangerous combo of talented, patient and determined.

My writing’s improved, so I’m very confident about the quality of my scripts and the skills I’ve developed to get here. My scripts may not be the absolute best, but if anything, they’re damned entertaining.

There are going to be bad days. There are going to be shitty days. Accept it.

But there will also be good days. There may even be phenomenal days. Days where you feel invincible and unstoppable. These will be few and far between, so enjoy them. Hold onto that feeling and feed off it for as long as you can. It’s definitely not easy to maintain a positive attitude, especially when everything around you feels so negative.

This is just part of the neverending obstacle course we all have to work our way through. At first, it seems impossible, but the more you do it, you’ll find it gets a little easier each time after that.

Surf’s up, chums.

Iron fists, meet velvet gloves

And the hits just keep on coming!
I find a little onomatopoeia makes each day a little brighter

Scenario time!

You’ve finished the latest draft of your latest project. You know it’s not perfect, but it’s probably better than the previous incarnation(s). Or at least hope it is.

In theory you’ve built up a network of reliable peers with skill levels comparable to yours, so you put the word out.

“If it’s not too much of a hassle and you have the time, would you be so kind as to take a look at this?”

Some will have to decline, but others are more than happy to oblige. You, of course, offer to return the favor if the need should arise.

So you send it off and do your best to not think about it.

Days or weeks pass, and then the notes begin to trickle in.

Thoughtful questions about story and character are asked. Typos you didn’t realize you missed are highlighted. Details you had not even considered are pointed out. Everything geared towards helping you make your script better.

These other writers, struggling to succeed just as much as you, don’t hesitate to offer their encouragement.

That’s one scenario. Here’s another.

The notes come across as angry, impatient and frustrated. Even worse, your script is criticized. Metaphorically torn to shreds.

“This makes no sense!” “I don’t get it.” “WTF?” “Bored now.”

This is helpful?

I’ve read my share of scripts that needed a lot of work, with the writers having come to me for help. If I see what I consider a problem, I’ll identify it and make suggestions of how it could be fixed, leaving the final decisions up to the writer. Nor will I hesitate to mention something that works or that I enjoyed.

I try to make it a positive experience, and am not out to make anybody feel stupid or inadequate. (We all do that just fine on our own.) Responses usually read along the lines of “These are great! Thanks so much!” and are taken at face value.

It really bothers me when somebody is excessively negative and claims “I’m just doing the same thing the industry does.” But you’re not in the industry, let alone a screenwriting guru. You’re trying to break in, just like me.

I’m not looking for lavish praise about my work, and I honestly don’t expect it. If you like the script, great. But I want to make it better, and to do that I need help, and that’s what I’m hoping you’ll provide.

Patience and meticulousness required

Obviously, a lot of effort went into creating this. See how it paid off?

You think writing a screenplay is hard? Well, it is. But that’s just the first step of the process.  Getting it out there is an even harder hill to climb.

I’ve got a what I consider to be pretty good query letter put together, but will utilize a little more professional feedback to give it that extra ‘oomph’. While consulting various forums, websites and the like, the general consensus is as follows: show the strength of your writing ability with a finely-crafted logline, a minimal amount of words about you and a maximum amount of professionalism.  This thing has to make somebody stop in their tracks and immediately think, “I HAVE to read this script!”

That’s the first part of what I’ve been working on.  The second part is proving to be quite the challenge: who to send this letter to.

I’m taking the scientific approach to this and doing my homework to find out who would be the most receptive to reading my script. Since it falls into the fantasy-adventure genre, I don’t want to look like an amateur and approach a place that does something completely different, such as horror or indie drama. It makes me look bad and wastes their time. Again – maximum amount of professionalism.

Digging through thousands of listings of agents, managers and production companies is proving to be the biggest hurdle. The last time I did this, I had the benefit of using the Hollywood Creative and Representation Directories, but I’m not sure if the publisher is still around. It may be time for another trip to the always-helpful public library and see if the latest editions are available.

Part of my brain is saying “Quit stalling and get moving! There’s no time to lose!” Then the rational part kicks in and says, “Would you rather get it done fast or professionally?”

I’ll take option number two.

Movie of the Moment – THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. I’ll write about this next time, but for now – not as good as THE DARK KNIGHT, but still pretty enjoyable.