Where I Am
About Kevin Rau
I'm the author of the H.E.R.O. series of novels in the SciFi/Superhero genre. I also do character art (as seen on the rest of the page here).
I've launched the Author Interview pages to promote my fellow authors, and hopefully create some cross-links back to their websites or social networks within the interview.
Interview Date: 7/5/2012
Jeffrey Taylor is the writer and co-creator of “Slipstream,” an online web-comic available at www.clockworkcomics.co.uk. He is also a columnist at Movies.com and a staff writer/moderator at The Superman Homepage, which is the #1 Superman website in the world.
When did you start writing, and was there a significant even that prompted you to do so?
I grew up doing theater and entered a junior playwright festival in high school. It was a short play with five actors about how my then-girlfriend and I met and first got together. As a freshman in college, I was inspired to write “Catch Me,” an 80 page play. The script took about one month over the winter break, which I then directed the following spring. I had an idea to for an opening moment, came up with characters and worked out the entire plot with scene breakdowns which took me less than a day. Once production began, I entered it into a contest at the school and won first place in dramatic writing.
If you could have one superpower, what would it? (Assuming said power would be reasonably powerful.)
I would choose flight, and probably add the ability to move quickly without freezing or suffocating. In fact, flight is the one power that Slipstream has in my comic book. Since a lot of superpowers are coupled with a weakness, his are thin brittle bones, like a bird’s, that can break easily. That’s not a drawback I would enjoy.
Do you have a favorite superhero from novels, comics, or movies?
I collect comics and currently have about 11,000 in my collection. But my #1 superhero by far is Superman. I have almost every issue from 1971 to the present. I write for the #1 Superman website in the world. I write a column about the upcoming film for Movies.com. Warner Brothers flew me out to Chicago in the summer of 2011 to spend a day on the set and interview the writer, director, producer and the new Superman (who was in costume at the time). Plus when I was seven and eight years old, Christopher Reeve’s son was on my baseball team. I also cohost one of the most popular Superman podcasts on the internet, so it’s safe to say that I’m a pretty big-time fan.
Kev's response: Now that's cool.
Where do you get your inspiration for writing? What motivates you?
As I said, I’m a big comic book fan already, so writing comics feels pretty natural. I often have an idea what I’m looking for to make the panels match up, but there’s a lot that I leave up to the artist, who is also a storyteller in his own right. Most of the time, I’m asked to write something with a specific theme in mind. I was once asked to write a screenplay for a short film about a couple who break up their relationship during a car ride home. In the case of “Slipstream,” I had an idea for a story that would make a good comic book, but my editor was specifically looking for superhero stories, so I went with something completely different. As for my online writing, my themes are usually Superman or other geek culture items, which I already have an emotional investment in and and knowledgeable about. For some, it’s simply a review, which I try to put a new spin on or do in a way that I haven’t done before, but for others, the subjects are somewhat open ended, so if I want to compare Superman to James Bond, I can just do that, have lots of people read it and collect a paycheck. It’s good to love what you do, and I’m already pretty much obsessed, so it’s a good fit.
Do you pre-plan your stories, or are you a by-the-seat-of-the-pants style writer?
Mostly I pre-plan, but I also get good ideas from focused free-writing. I tend to get my best ideas from a beginning point. So when I was first thinking about “Slipstream,” I was out walking my dog by a canal and there was an old man playing with a radio controlled boat, but it had gotten caught under a bridge. He asked me for help and I wasn’t really in a position to help him since I had my dog with me and had dinner roasting in the oven at home. I told him I was sorry that I couldn’t help him. That became page three of the first issue and exemplified the theme of an ex-hero who is no longer in a position to help people. From that theme, I came up with characters and an overall plot for six issues and how it would break down. I made sure to write down all the ideas I was having during the period my artist was working on character designs and we cherry-picked the ones that ended up fitting in nicely. When I sit down to actually pen the script, I have at least the main points and a goal in my head. Sometimes that includes a specific beginning or ending, but it’s always work to decide what to reveal when in order to make sure I don’t give something away too soon or hold off too long on something that I’ve hinted. But I tend to write the next actual script once the previous one is being drawn. I know where I’m going to by that time it’s just a question of how to specifically get there The details are what make the story work and once I have those stepping stones those details seem to write themselves while I’m practically in the passenger seat.
Kev's response: Now, if you'd said that from that meeting with the older gent that you came up with the idea of a villain who robs people of their toy boats...
Do you write only when inspired, or do you have a set schedule where you sit down to write?
I wish I had the stamina for that, but when it comes to my articles I tend to do research and write them partially ahead of time, but finish them up, edit and add pictures right before my deadlines. My comic book scripts need usually need to be done before the art begins or I lose the ability to shift the story around if I need to. But more often than not, I have a specific place that I’m going or I’m free-writing for exploratory purposes that will help me get to where I need to in order to write what will become the finished product.
Do you have a favorite genre to write in? To read?
I tend to aim for realism and character-centric storytelling with a concept in mind. My early plays were very conversational instead of action oriented. Coming up with “Slipstream” felt like a stretch in the beginning because I was asked for a superhero story, which is the sort of thing I love to read, but hadn’t written before. Even so, it’s highly character centric and I make a point of putting some sort of action into each issue, which I find harder than coming up with the character and plotting. I’m still looking for the right artist for the next project I’m planning, but it will have some sci-fi elements, which also gets me out of my comfort zone, but the characters are still going to own the show. I intend to keep those sci-fi plot points subtle and abstract until they need to be revealed in the middle of act two. Comics are just another kind of storytelling like books or movies with a lot of different genres, so as long as I have the opportunity to work with them, I intend to branch out and tell lots of different stories that don’t necessarily keep me in my comfort zone. It’s just much more of a collaborative effort since I can’t draw, but once I learn an artists strengths, I leave the right elements to whoever is drawing.
What do you enjoy the most about writing?
My favorite part about writing is once I’ve put all the work and effort into creating, writing, editing and all that goes with it, then reading it again months later when I don’t necessarily remember what I was thinking. The work goes back to standing on its own. I also like the brainstorming to pick out the good ideas and put them together in an outline, so that actually writing where I fill in all the details just lets the storytelling flow.
Is there any part of writing you don’t enjoy?
Editing. If I have the time, I either take a break or sleep for the night between when I write something and when I edit it. I’m great with grammar and spelling, but sometimes I miss something here or there and I almost always hear about it from someone. One trick I use is changing the font or the letter size so the words aren’t in the exact same place where I may have missed a typo before.
Kev's response: I went back and re-read my first novel, originally written 3.5 years ago now, and it was a mild shock.
Can you tell me something odd about yourself?
I can sing a 2-part round of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” by myself.
Kev's response: Pfah, dude, I can sing all kinds of things. My voice blends in with the bone-shattering vibrations of the loud sound in the room perfectly, I do believe!
Do you write one story at a time, or do you have several novels in the works at one time?
I tend to focus on one aspect of my writing on a given day unless a breaking story hits where I need commentary for a website or I end up having a deadline shift. When it comes to my long-term projects like “Slipstream,” I tend to have a lot of time to think things through and even come up with more details from later in the story that I can tease earlier on.
Have you ever wondered why evil people want to take over the world. Why not take under it?
I honestly don’t know why anyone who want to take over the world. The people who most want to are always the ones who shouldn’t actually do it. Those with the best interest of the bulk of the population in mind rarely make it that far. Taking under it is probably best for everyone.
Kev's response: And there you go. Words of a wise man.
Where do you see the future as far as paper books versus digital e-books?
I had an interesting conversation with comic book writer/artist Jerry Ordway about how print media, especially comic books, are a dying art. The technology has improved and these days most people have computers or even tablets that won’t tire your eyes, which appears to be the wave of the future. Once the six chapters and origin of Slipstream are completed, we still intend to collect it as either a hardcover or paperback collection, so print is still alive. The question is for how long.
What are your current projects?
“Slipstream” is pretty big, but I’m also developing two other comic book projects and am on the lookout for the right artist for one of them. I write columns at www.movies.com called “Man of Steel Countdown” and “The Geek Debate,” and am a staff writer for www.supermanhomepage.com. I cohost two podcasts. One is called “From Crisis to Crisis: A Superman Podcast” available at The Superman Homepage and www.supermanpodcastnetwork.com, and it’s a discussion of all the Superman comics and other media from 1986-2006 complete with creator interviews. We’re close to the end of the Death and Return saga. The other is called “Green Lantern’s Light” which is available at www.greenlanternslight.com and we do that monthly about the Green Lantern comics starting in 1984 and moving onward.
Do you have any advice for others about self-publishing?
Do it. For some, it’s the only way to get your work out there to get noticed and you have a better shot at getting the attention of a bigger publisher once you have something concrete to show them.
Kev's response: Jeffrey, great interview, very interesting to hear from someone on the blogging and comic side a bit more. I wish you the best of luck!comments powered by Disqus