Q&A with Landry Q. Walker


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 working on a series of all-ages graphic novels called Pepper Page Saves the Universe – these are published by First Second Books and are available in pretty much all major bookstores. I recently completed the first volume of my medieval war epic The Last Siege (published by Image Comics). I previously wrote 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. Did a book with Dean Koontz once and also adapted the sequel to G.R.R.M’s A Game of the Thrones (A Clash of Kings) into comics format. Lots 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

An air of authenticity -OR- That’s why God invented Wikipedia*

Wikipedia was actually founded by this guy - Jimmy Wales - but it's not as funny
*Yes, I know Wikipedia was actually founded by this guy – Jimmy Wales – but it’s not as funny

“Write what you know” can only get you so far.

What if you want to write something you don’t know that much about?

One word: research.

Thought you were done with that when you got out of school? No such luck, my friend.

When you write, you want to make the reader/audience feel like you know what you’re talking about, or least give the impression you do. Just making stuff up or copying something used in an older movie is the lazy approach.

This isn’t saying you need a character spouting a master’s thesis on the subject, but tossing a few facts or proper terms here and there can really go a long way towards establishing credibility.

If you’re still in the outline phase, this is prime researching time. As you’re developing your story, try to find out something you can use that would make it that much more believable.  While this practice definitely applies to anything history-based, it also works with stories set in the present.

Say you’re working on a medical drama. Those characters should be able to immediately identify a certain condition, the cause (if necessary) and what the treatment is. Spending a few minutes finding this information out will make that possible.  You think the writers of HOUSE just made stuff up? Nope. The medical problem in each episode was based on facts.

Researching could also prove to be a key part of moving your story forward. Maybe a character finds something out or reveals something that suddenly changes the direction things are going.

Writing about a profession you know nothing about? Talk to someone who actually does that for a living. How would they handle this type of situation? When someone finds out you’re writing a story and want their input, they’re usually pretty enthusiastic about helping you.

Spending some time finding stuff out can even pay off when you least expect it, or aren’t expecting it all. Even if you don’t use it this time, there’s a good chance it could come in handy somewhere down the line.

This way you can solve that particular problem faster, thereby making yourself look that much more like a writing genius, impressing all who sample your craft.

And isn’t that what it’s really all about?

Wikipedia is my sister! My daughter! My sister! My daughter!

My apologies for a lack of posts the last few days. A combo of extra hours at work, family stuff and just being busy kept me away.

Progress on the second act of LUCY has been slower than I’d like, but that’s okay. Better to take my time than constantly be fixing it later.

I got some very nice feedback from a fellow writer about Act One. He’s read some of my other stuff and was quite enthusiastic about what I’ve got so far. Although he’s not crazy about the main character being a woman, I think it makes for a slightly different approach, as well as being somewhat original.

Because I’m trying to keep this story as historically accurate as I can, I’ve been using various websites as reference guides. The Civil War, trains, and so on.

And of course, Wikipedia. I’ve gotten a lot of very helpful info from it so far. It is truly invaluable.

Throughout the events of the story, I’ve been establishing that several of the characters will end up in California. This includes the love interest and the villain, who has also stolen Lucy’s train. I pictured a big finale taking place IN California. Sounds awesome, right?

The story starts in the East just as the Civil War is ending, then gradually heads west. That means the trains would need to make their way across the country, which would be 1865.

I wanted to make sure this was plausible, but Wikipedia informed me the driving of the Golden Spike in Utah was the birth of the Transcontinental Railroad. In 1869. Which is 4 years AFTER this story takes place.  Which means I need to CHANGE SOMETHING!

Either I move the time of the story ahead, which destroys that whole “end of the Civil War” aspect, or I change the locale of where the story ends.  As much as I hate to do it, it’s easier to go with the latter.  One of the many rules of writing is “kill your darlings,” so it looks like I’ll being committing murder-by-author in the next few days.  Like I said, it would be great to have the showdown in California, but it just won’t work.  Time to dive back into Wikipedia and find out where gold was plentiful before the railroad.  Denver might work.  A showdown on railroad tracks through the Rockies has potential.

I was originally hoping to be done with the outline by the end of the year, but that ain’t gonna happen.  I’ll be happy if I get to the midpoint by then.

-I sent the scene rewrite back to the director a few days ago, and have heard nothing back.  I don’t know how he feels about it, and he said he wanted to shoot the remaining scenes tomorrow (Sunday).   As always, I wish him the best of luck.

-Even though I thought I was done with it, I sent the logline to NORTH POLE NOIR to the logline contest yesterday. I don’t know what kind of a chance I have; I’ve entered it before, but with no results.  This time he seems to want more Christmas-themed ones, so maybe this time.  Fingers crossed.