October is Black Speculative Fiction Month! To celebrate, each Friday in October will be Pulp Fiction Friday. Authors will contribute a post discussing the writing of pulp, mystery, spies, and whodunits in the realms of science fiction and speculative stories. Welcome to Bobby Nash to Pulp Reports!
AND WE’RE LIVING HERE IN ANGELTOWN…
by Bobby Nash
I’m going to let you in on an industry secret.
Publishers are sneaky.
No, seriously, you have to watch them. They won’t take no for an answer and they know just the right things to say to convince writers to do what they want. Like I said, sneaky.
Let me tell you a story.
I was attending the third annual Pulp Ark convention in Arkansas where I had won Best Author, an honor that still surprises me to this day, but that’s another blog post for another time. Like so many conventions, there were more than a few opportunities to sit and talk with fans and peers, usually at the hotel bar. Cons are also a great place for ideas to spawn as happens when creative people get together. It was at that hotel bar where my friend, Tommy Hancock cornered me to tell me about this new project Pro Se was putting together and wanted me to be part of because (and I quote) “you’d be perfect for it.” Pro Se was going to do new stories with Nate Hollis, the p.i. hero of Gary Phillips’s Angeltown comic book series. Now, as a fan of Gary’s work and of the comic, I was intrigued, but my schedule was extremely full at the time. This seems to be a recurring thing for me these days. I promised myself going into the convention that I would be firm and say no to any offers that came my way until I got caught up. (Yeah. Even now I have a hard time typing that with a straight face.) I came away from that convention with two stories to write. Shows how smart I am, huh?
So, Tommy is telling me about the anthology and I’m intrigued, but I stood my ground, thanked him for thinking of me, and politely declined.
Now, for those who don’t know Tommy Hancock, he listened to my “thanks, but no thanks” and in his head, I’m sure he said, “challenge accepted.” Thankfully, he didn’t say it out loud. Since we’re here talking about my experience working on Gary Phillips’ Hollis P.I., you can imagine how the rest of this conversation went. Like I said, he’s a sneaky one, that Tommy Hancock. In all seriousness, this was not a hard one to say no too, especially when I heard the line up for the book. Gary Phillips and Derrick Ferguson are buddies of mine and I knew they were going to turn in some kick ass stories. Plus, as odd as it seems, we had not appeared in any of the same anthologies to that point. I didn’t know Juliet Blackwell or Aaron Philip Clark as well, but after reading their stories, I knew they were a prefect fit. So, I returned home from Arkansas with my Pulp Ark Awards– in addition to best Author, The Ruby Files’ Rick Ruby (created by myself and Sean Taylor) won for Best New New Pulp Character– and a story to write. The best thing about long drives is that’s a great time to work through story ideas. A little hard to write on the road, but I had the beginning of my tale by the time I reached Georgia.
I love writing crime fiction. There is an element of crime fiction in almost everything I write. One of the cool things about writing pulp tales is that I spend a good deal of time writing about the 20s, 30s, and 40s. All fun, but I do sometimes long for a character to pull out a cell phone. Thankfully, Nate Hollis is rooted firmly in the hear and now. Plus, the book skewed more toward adult themes and subject matter than books I generally work on so that was a fun challenge. For that reason, I knew that the story of Naomi Waynesboro in my story titled “Naomi” was not going to be a happy one.
Warning: there may be spoilers ahead so only read on if you’ve read the story lest I spoil a twist or two.
Okay, no complaints about spoilers if you’re still reading.
The world Nate Hollis inhabits is not always a nice place. Dealing with gangs, drug dealers, prostitutes, crooked cops, and assorted degenerates is just another day on the job for Nate Hollis. Being surrounded by this has affected Nate, as it would anyone, but he is not the type of man to let it overpower him. In fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves, like Naomi, Nate pushes back the darkness that threatens to destroy his city. Although I doubt he would ever refer to him as such, this is what makes Nate Hollis a hero. He cares.
Naomi’s story is not a new one. She is a young, idealist dreamer fresh off the bus in the City of Angels looking for fame and fortune in Hollywood. It doesn’t take long for the barracuda’s to get their hooks in her as the Hollywood dream machine throws buckets of cold water in her face. Getting into the movies sounds a lot like the publishing industry sometimes, huh? Oh, I could tell you stories. Following Naomi’s path leads Nate and his friend, bounty hunter Irma Deuce (one of the coolest characters ever) into the underbelly of the adult film industry where young girls like Naomi are used up and spit out.
As a writer, I enjoyed the challenge of writing a more adult theme than my usual work. Researching this one probably put me on a few watch lists as there are some really unique… yeah, we’ll go with unique, sites out there that shed some light on this topic.
Writing about topics I don’t have a personal knowledge with is always an education. Researching this topic was no different. One of the questions I’ve been asked more than once since Hollis P.I. premiered hasn’t been about the subject matter, but about how I, a middle-aged overweight white guy, could write a character who is African-American, younger than me, and in much better shape? I am always amused that I get this question related to Nate Hollis, but never when I write female charters like Domino Lady or Ghost Gal.
As a writer, I start with the character. Once I get to know the character, that informs how he or she will react to the situation I put them in. If I write a scene where our hero is chasing the bad guy into a building and they run through a door, slamming it between them and the hero, what will the hero do next? This is the set up. That’s plot. What happens next depends on the character. Nate Hollis would handle getting on the other side of the door differently that Domino Lady or MacGyver would, for example. That’s where character and plot collide. Once you know the character, he or she will show you where you go next. I love it when that happens.
In the case of Nate Hollis, Gary Phillips had already handled the heavy lifting with his stories featuring Nate. Getting to know Nate meant re-reading the original stories and the story bible put together for the writers and I was set. In writing the story, I was only interested in how Nate Hollis would handle the situations I put him in.
I could ramble on about the writing process a lot longer, but I’m pretty sure I passed Nicole’s word limit a few paragraphs back. Word counts, much like deadlines, make a delightful whooshing sound as you fly past them. Ha! Ha!
Before I go, I would like to thank Nicole for inviting me to be part of her Pulp Fiction Fridays feature. There have been some good things posted already and more to come so please check them out. I’d also like to thank Gary Phillips for creating a character so cool I couldn’t say no to and to Tommy Hancock for not letting me do so. Big kudos to the other Hollis P.I. writers; Juliet Blackwell, Aaron Philip Clark, Derrick Ferguson, and of course, Gary Phillips. Also, a big thanks to all who picked up Hollis P.I. and read it, and especially those who reviewed it. We love reviews.
And of course, a shameless plug to visit me at http://www.bobbynash.com or on social media. I’d love for you to pop by and say hi.
About Bobby Nash:
An award-winning author, Bobby Nash writes novels, comic books, and short prose tales for a number of publishers and clients. Publishers including Dark Horse Comics, Sequential Pulp Comics, IDW, Moonstone Books, Airship 27 Productions, Pro Se Press, Raven’s Head Press, Stark Raving Press, Farragut Films, Dark Oak Press, Radio Archives, and more. Bobby is a member of the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers and International Thriller Writers.
For more information on Bobby Nash please visit him at http://www.bobbynash.com and across social media. If you see him wandering around a convention, please say hi.