Well, well, that weekend went fast!
If you've forgotten, it's Monday, and that means I get to sit down with an author and chat about books and writing!
Today I have Nicholas LaRue. He's a short story author, novelist, and screenwriter.
He is the CEO of LaRue Entertainment Group, a consulting company working in and around the entertainment industry. Nic is also a woodworker and engineer that enjoys making things with his hands and using different types of materials and styles to create new and interesting items. He is a film critic that has been fortunate to work in and out of Hollywood, traveling the country and giving talks about everything from digital marketing to film theory. Nic is the Editor-in-Chief of FilmSnobbery, a website that focuses on independent film and emerging filmmakers. He currently is back in his home state of Massachusetts living in the country and writing full-time.
Let's drop some links here before we get into his interview!
Author Website: https://niclarue.com
FilmSnobbery (film criticism): https://filmsnobbery.com
Twitter (author acct): https://twitter.com/thatniclarue
Twitter (film acct): https://twitter.com/filmsnobbery
Facebook (author): https://facebook.com/AuthorNicLaRue
Facebook (film criticism): https://facebook.com/FilmSnobbery
Saving Hitler (Amazon): https://www.amazon.com/Saving-Hitler-Nicholas-LaRue-ebook/dp/B09N38PJPD Nic's Flash Fics (Kindle Vella): https://www.amazon.com/kindle-vella/story/B09TTLM2XD
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I think the first time that I really started to enjoy writing was in middle school when I sat in our primitive computer classes and typed up stories on now ancient IBM computers. I would write superhero stories when I would insert myself as the main character who went on adventures with the heroes from comic books by going through portals that would mysteriously appear at the beginning of the story, and again at the end to take me to the next adventure.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
I consume a LOT of media. I read books, watch movies and television both recreationally and for work, and I read a lot of comic books. I also got into the habit at a very young age to watch how people around me interact with each other. I generally take things I see or hear and put my own twist on them. My favorite question I ask myself when I’m thinking about a potential story is “what if?”.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I try to write every day. I go down into my office and close the door if that works, or I go meet with a writer’s group and get work done for a few hours that way. Sometimes I just sit on the couch with my laptop with the TV on in the background and write that way if I’m feeling particularly inspired. As a film critic and freelance writer, I also sometimes have to deal with deadlines, so my work schedule in that way can fluctuate.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
When I’m writing I absolutely cannot be disburbed by anyone speaking to me. If I’m taken out of the work and lose my train of thought, I tend to lose that impulse to write (fiction, not articles or
freelance writing), and I generally have difficulty getting back into the state of mind of the storyworld I was writing in.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
My first full book was written when I was a freshman in high school. It was hand-written and I still have a copy of it in a binder in my office. I’ve even thought about dusting it off and re-writing it.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I’m a big movie person. Since COVID pretty much grounded much of the world from going to the movies, I’ve been catching up on things I’ve been meaning to watch over the last few years at home. I also enjoy going to my local comic book shop here in Worcester, MA. When I lived in Los Angeles I used to enjoy going to stand-up comedy shows, a fun place called Frank & Sons in Commerce, CA that is basically a giant warehouse of vintage toys, comics, movies, and other memorabilia. Mostly I just love spending time quietly working on our new fixer upper with my dog.
What does your family think of your writing?
When I first started FilmSnobbery, my independent film review site, they absolutely didn’t understand
it as a vocation. They have always been supportive of my creative writing, but again wrote it off as a fun distraction. I would often get the “you’re so creative” speech followed by “you should do such-and-such” for a job that had nothing to do with harnessing that creativity, but was only because it paid well. After spending the first seven years running FilmSnobbery, moving to Los Angeles, and thriving there, they became much more understanding of what I was doing. In regards to writing books, flash fiction, or other types of creative writing, they still have a difficult time being understanding of it unless I actually show them a physical book, then it feels “real” to them.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
That I could actually DO it.
How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
In my life I’ve written maybe a total of five actual novels. I’ve published one novella and I’m very proud of that, but the one I think I’m most proud of is called Hidden Talent, which I’m currently editing now.
It’s the one my wife seemed to respond to the most and the one that other writers, when I give them the logline or pitch for it, seem to respond positively to as well.
Do you have any suggestions to help someone become a better writer? If so, what are they?
Writing IS hard. Writing WELL is harder. The more you write and exercise that muscle, the better you’ll get. Try to write something every day. Try to make a note in your phone or in a notebook when you have a good idea for a story. Not everything has to be a novel, and you don’t have to finish everything you start. There is no budget, no time limit, and no pressure to write unless you’ve given a publisher or a client or someone an expectation of completion. Have fun with it, and if you want to do it for a living, treat it like a proper job.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I don’t have a lot of beta readers, but the reviews I’ve gotten so far on my last published work Saving Hitler have been a mixed bag. As someone who is a film reviewer, I’ve learned to dish out the criticism, and I’ve had to learn to take it now that I’m on the other side of the table. I respect that anyone took the time to read what I’ve written, much less wrote their thoughts about it. My motto for those that don’t respond to something I’ve written is “stick with me, eventually I’ll write something you’ll enjoy”.
Do you like to create books for adults?
I have ideas that span all different ages and groups. But generally yes, I tend to write more from my own perspective as an adult for other adults that might be going through things similar to some of the themes in my books.
What do you think makes a good story?
Relatability. I think that even when you are reading something in the horror, sci-fi, or fantasy genres, one of the things that keeps people interested in certain books are the characters and situations that
they can relate to for things happening in their own lives.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I always wanted to work in a movie studio. I got to realize that dream a couple of years after I moved to Los Angeles, and eventually was the head of my own department at one of the oldest studios in Hollywood. Being able to do that, and appreciate the journey it took to make that happen, made a lot of the not-so-great things that have happened in my life worth it.
What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?
I would say people and companies that are predatory towards newer writers who attempt to sell them in on get-rich-quick or publishing scams/schemes. It happens in most creative fields, but I’ve seen it rampant in both the publishing and movie worlds the most.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
I think when I start I’m running on the “high” of writing. I can go for hours if the ideas keep flowing, but at the end, when I’ve finished, I feel like I could sleep forever.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
I don’t know if this is common or not, but I would say the need to follow a certain path that seemed to be easy or work for others. When I first started writing full-time, I was certain that if I just followed the steps and advice of those that came before me, that I would get representation quickly, followed by publishing opportunities, and that would lead to more. I found within the first six months that path wasn’t for me, and that going my own way would lead me to the type of success that worked for me.
Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
I think a healthy ego can help but a big ego can hurt. Most creative endeavors rely on some level of feedback from either a viewer, reader, a client, a reviewer, or an editor. You need to have a healthy enough ego to recognize when other people are telling you a truth that could help you, and also an ego that will give you the confidence to reject ideas that will change the nature of the story you are trying to tell. Not everything is going to be for everyone.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Distraction. Being distracted when I’m writing will take me right out of the headspace of writing and it can literally result in me abandoning an entire idea if I can’t get back into that story space.
Have you ever gotten reader’s block?
Reader’s block? Not that I can think of.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
Not really. As a professional film critic I wrote under Nic LaRue while my novels and short stories are written under Nicholas LaRue. Not a huge difference, but I did it to differentiate myself from those two audiences.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I like to put twists on familiar genres or ideas. I have a story I just outlined that is considered high fantasy, and I want my main character to break the fourth wall and speak directly to the audience, which I’ve been told is unexpected, therefore potentially dangerous and alienating to the reader. I mean, c’mon. If it works for Deadpool, She-Hulk, and other characters in literature, why can’t it work in my story? Why does everything have to follow expectation and rigid format? I don’t hold to that ideal. I write for myself first, my readers second, and hope that the venn diagram of those things intersects. If not, there’s always the next story.
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
Absolutely. I have a good friend who is on the spectrum that published a non-fiction book and always has great ideas for other works and gives great feedback on mine. Just because people have difficulty expressing emotion doesn’t mean they can’t understand it.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you building a body of work with connections between each book?
I love the idea of storyworlds, and I’m currently working on a series of novellas that I hope to collect into a single edition. I also have a trilogy of books that are separate genres, but deal with the same family through various times eons apart. I enjoy writing and reading things like that, but it’s not something I purposely strive to do for everything. I think stand-alone projects can also have a big
impact on how people perceive your work.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Back up EVERYTHING. I lost five novels in high school because the disk got erased and the teacher wouldn’t allow me to bring in another one to back things up from home.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
It showed me that no matter what, invest in a good and proper editor before clicking on the “Publish” button (if self-publishing). But a good editor will save you a LOT of embarrassment.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
ProWritingAid was a great investment of money to get my work to a point where some of the smaller projects could be self-edited and released without being afraid of any big issues. Other than that, any money I’ve spent going to comic-cons or book fairs to meet and speak with other writers.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
I was bullied a lot when I was a kid, so I knew from an early age that words could hurt, but when I was maybe in middle school I discovered stand-up comedy, and found the power that came with that, and how disarming humor could be to people who tried to exert their power over you. It also helped me in developing a quick wit and personality that I could use to make friends and resolve problems.
What are the most important magazines for writers to subscribe to?
If this were maybe ten years ago I would have said Mad Magazine. Anything counter-culture generally has really strong writing that you don’t always see on an average trip to Barnes & Noble. I also would recommend reading comic books, even if you only read the trades (collected editions) of certain storylines. Generally speaking, I find most modern magazines to be nothing more than a collection of ads, and even articles disguised as ads.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
Ishmael by Daniel Quinn.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
My mascot is absolutely my dog, a Husky named Luna. That dog absolutely embodies my attitude. She’s loyal and happy to be around people, but will make you work to earn her respect. She won’t let anything get between her and a treat, and will rip the throat out of anyone that threatens her family.
What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters, if anything?
I owe them a thanks for the experiences I had to give me the stories I’m telling. Even if those experiences were bad they helped form ideas for well-rounded, real, and believable characters and situations in my stories.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
What does literary success look like to you?
I feel pretty successful right now. I guess it’s just about knowing what you want and managing your expectations moving forward.
What’s the best way to market your books?
It really depends on the book. I think it’s more important to market yourself as a writer and get people interested in you, rather than a single book. To that end, I find Twitter to be a good way to reach a lot of people quickly, Instagram and Facebook are good for paid ads, and podcasts are great to connect with people in your own voice.
What do you have coming next?
Right now I’m working on several projects. I’m editing a book called Hidden Talent that I’m really excited about. I have outlined and written a bit of a high fantasy book called Running With The Knight that should be fun. I’m working on and publishing stories on Kindle Vella regularly, and I also just soft-relaunched my old indie film criticism and news site FilmSnobbery after being away from it for a few years. I have an LGBT focused Greek mythology novel I’m a few chapters into that I’m excited about, and I’m writing the next sci-fi novella that is set in the same story world as my last published work Saving Hitler. Other than that I’m working on fixing my house, travelling once COVID has died down more to cons and book related events, and generally promoting myself and my work.