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Mar 12, 2021

Steve Niles is an American comic book writer, novelist, screenwriter, and producer with a prolific portfolio of groundbreaking horror comics including Criminal Macabre, Ash & the Army of Darkness, Batman: Gotham County Line, Ghosts of Krypton, a Superman adventure and October Faction upon which the Netflix show is based. Steve also wrote the original comic and adapted the screenplay for 30 Days of Night among many, many other things. 

Steve is also the co-founder of Monster Forge, an extremely exciting production house specializing in monster-centric projects that extends across film, animation, games, comics and even toys! Steve co-founded Monster Forge with Shannon Eric Denton and I spoke to both of them all about Monster Forge back on episode 67, so be sure and check that out. 

Steve is a legend in the world of horror and someone I’m a big big fan of. I was extremely excited to talk to him about his career history, writing & creative processes, and his favorite new movies & comics. Please enjoy this conversation with Steve Niles. 

Here are some key takeaways from this conversation with Steve Niles. 

Save everything. As a prolific creator, Steve is always writing and frequently working on multiple projects simultaneously. Therefore, his mind is always coming up with ideas for his many projects which is why he has a system for capturing ideas as they come to him so that when it comes time to write, he can face the page with a backlog of material to start from. Whether you are an Evernote power user, a scrapbook keeper, or simply using your notes app on your iPhone, it’s critical that you give yourself permission to be a hoarder of ideas.  As a creator, your ideas will rarely come to you fully formed, and instead usually show up as small disparate details that are looking to be developed - this is why you will want to begin capturing all of this material as it comes to you so that you can arm yourself against writer’s block with a wealth of concepts that can be molded to fit your current project. 

Heed the Punk Rock ethos of DIY. A few directors have cited the punk rock as crucial inspiration for their approach to film, including Larry Fessenden. Steve is no exception. Having played in multiple punk bands like Gray Matter and Three, Steve was imbued with the DIY (do it yourself) ethos of punk rock at an early age and it completely dictated his approach to his career. In a nutshell, the DIY punk ethos states that you should never wait for any larger entity to give you an opportunity but instead create your own opportunity entirely by creating your own platform. This came about primarily in the ’70s and ‘80s when a ton of punk bands couldn’t get signed by mainstream labels forcing them to launch their own labels out of necessity. Similarly, Steve’s early graphic novel work was considered a little too transgressive so instead of pitching to multiple publishers, running the risk of rejection, Steve opted to start his own graphic novel label with Arcane Comix and his career took off. This is huge because when you own your work outright, you’re effectively shielded from the corporate entities who often want to water your work down to sell more copies or mold your material into the mainstream. This mentality is a slow death for most artists, so whenever you can, keep things punk rock and do it yourself. 

 

KISS; keep it simple stupid. Steve has collaborated with some of the greatest minds in horror, including Rob Zombie, Sam Raimi, Clive Barker, Wes Craven, and John Carpenter. One of the things he’s learned from them is how the strength of their ideas usually lies in their simplicity. They collectively have relatively simple concepts which allow their work to truly sing since it’s not weighed down by complicated story elements. This is a big trap that a lot of writers fall into; brimming with ideas, most writers want to pack their stories full of multiple concepts, storylines, and endless amounts of details only to distract and disengage the reader with a bloated storyline. Simplifying, on the other hand, allows nuances like the artists’ style, vision, and world to shine through since it’s not bogged down by overly complex details. 

Simplicity, however, is not easy to come by, and actually requires more work than complexity. As the old saying goes, “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” So heed the advice of the masters of horror as you’re developing your stories - the simplest distillation of your idea is usually the best version of it.

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Produced by Simpler Media