Interview with Bo Chappell

*How long have you been writing for?*

Every since elementary school. I was told constantly by English teachers growing up I was creative and had a real talent for storytelling, which I was used to doing everyday when I was playing by myself most times. Plus factor in all the comics I was reading growing up and my love of drawing, I was always coming up with stories. I even had a teacher tell me she cried reading one of my writing assignments. But it wasn’t until finishing up high school that I had started to work on what would eventually become “Year 47”, and that started out as a very different screenplay. Cut to 15 years later, and I finally get to tell that story.

*How many rejections did you receive before you first became published
and how did you stay motivated?*

I’ve had stuff rejected by the best. Haha. I’ve pitched comic book, scripts, and even some failed website stuff to go along with book submissions. I still have the stack of rejection letters I’m oddly honored to still have because, even if I never reached this point, I could look at that stack and know I tried my best. I’ve had my spirits broken many a time when it came to finding my voice, but the minor victories, even if only on a personal level, kept me going.

Plus, having the right kind of energy in your life is crucial, and that usually lies in the people around you. My close friends keep me in check and inspire me with their existence and creativity. And when I met my best friend who would become the love of my life, that was more than enough to find a way. Now I got them telling me their motivated to work on their dreams, not realizing they were indirectly motivating themselves all along. But that’s the best way to do it. Mark Twain said, ” Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” They make me great.

*Favorite Author and book when you were a child?*

I was a sucker for Shel Silverstein and Chris Van Allsburg. Guess that surrealistic, subtle truths about life with their original art rubbed off on me. I always like when children’s books aren’t afraid to be real and don’t talk down to the reader. I also loved “Five Chinese Brothers” and “In a Dark, Dark Room”. But when I discovered comics, oh boy. To quote Meatwad, “I love me some Batman, boy!”

*What music do you listen to when you write?*

It’s always different, but music is essential to me when it comes to fleshing out ideas. In those initial stages, anything goes, but once I start seeing the movie of the story in my head, I start building a soundtrack. Hell, songs can even be the catalyst in some situations. I like to imagine little movies all the time when I listen to music. Specifically for “Year 47”, there were two big songs that helped shape it into what it is. The main one, and I urge anyone who is reading to give it a listen, is “Quarantined” by at the drive-in. That song is the theme in my mind. The other that I kept in my head obsessively was a cut of the score to the anime TV show Trigun (big influence) called “Big Bluff”. Creating a soundtrack to go by can really help. If anyone is interested, I made a Spotify playlist to Year 47:

*Any superstitious rituals that you go through when beginning a new story?*

Can’t say it’s a ritual, but drawing out the characters, props, and settings is where I end up starting a story 99% of the time, intentional or otherwise. Googling countless images goes with it for references and inspiration. You should see the folders I have for Year 47. I’m a very visual person (weird, right?). The job when it comes to writing for me is how to convey the visual in my head to the reader without taking the fun out for them. The difficult balance is helping the reader to paint their own picture without inadvertently taking a photograph and showing it to them, no matter how much you want them to see how it looks to you. Being who I am, I’m still very much working on that aspect, but the payoff of letting go is how it compares. That’s why I can’t wait to hear feedback.

*Favorite book released in the last year?*

Yeesh. I’m so behind on all the things I love, I couldn’t say. I will say the last thing I read that I enjoyed was “Monster & Madman” by Damien Worm and Steve Niles. It’s a couple of years old, but it’s a graphic novel about Frankentein’s monster trying desperately to come to terms with his existence as a monster and wanting his humanity, only to have it lead him to Whitechapel where he ends up being offered help by Jack the Ripper. I would kill to work with Damien Worm on a graphic novel version of my book. That book is a true treat for horror fans.

*Favorite book released in general?*

Oh man…you asked a REALLY hard question. Graphic novels aside, I gotta say it’s a tie between World War Z and The Zombie Survival Guide, both by Max Brooks. I can’t separate those two. He made zombies even scarier than they were to me as a kid by taking a serious, realistic approach to them and making it believable by not batting an eye when presenting it as truth without reinvention. In a sea of zombie media, those books are volcanic mountains.

But that movie version can get fucked.

*Favorite quote from a book that is not your own?*

I’m gonna go ahead and say the entirety of Dr. Manhattan’s inner monologue from Chapter IV of “Watchmen” by Alan Moore. It’s a crime to describe it instead of letting it be read. The highlight for me though is, “I am going to look at the stars. They are so far away, and their light takes so long to reach us… All we ever see of stars are their old photographs… I no longer wish to look at them. I no longer wish to look at dead things.” Just…wow. Alan Moore, man.

*Favorite quote from one of your own works?*

Hard to say being so embedded in it myself, but my fiancee’ really liked this:

“Life is a series of choices, one seamlessly leading to the next. Although many of us aren’t aware of it, it’s those choices that make up the fabric of existence. We weave in and out of each other’s lives not knowing where our thread ends because we can’t see what hasn’t been finished when we make up what it is. It’s not until we’re all done can we see our thread, but by then it’s part of the cloth… Choice and fate are the definitions of existence. Without them, nonexistence. One without the other, chaos.”

*Do you play any table top RPGS?

No, and how I missed out on that growing up in the eighties is baffl…no wait. I barely had friends and I lived in the South. Nevermind. Not baffling. But man, I would love to get in on that, but that lack of friends thing is persistent. I think I’m gonna do some research and create a character for fun.

*If so, tell us about your favorite character that you’ve used.

*drawing* Yeah, yeah. Gimme a minute.

*Advice for new writers who are struggling with character creation?*

Character questionnaires of any kind can really start the fires. I also like to toy around with googling images for clothes, haircuts, and personal items to give a character more definition. And, I know it sounds odd, but if you have any sort of game where character creation exists with enough detail choices, I’d play around with those. Filling out information on skills, accomplishments, strengths, weaknesses, fears, and then creating your character visually gives you a deeply intimate introduction.

Once you have that, run them through reactions to anything from dinner conversations to opinions on movies to hobbies they enjoy, leaving no detail unattended. At that dinner, what did they order? What would they say to you when you told them about you? How would they treat you in their world? How would they fit in yours? Your characters are the only people you can ask anything without repercussions. But remember to learn from how and why they answered instead of what as that is far more valuable to your story.

*E-Reader or Physical copy?

Ebooks are convenient, but nothing beats paper. There may be other copies, but the relationship you have with yours shows over time. That fresh smell of ink gets replaced with old paper, and the fine edges wear down and get folded with each embrace. Like you, the history collects and defines it. A cherished book eventually becomes the last character in the story.

*Favorite genre to read?

Like music and movies, I can’t narrow that. I’m all over the place because I feel like I do myself a disservice by having one. I gravitate towards sci-fi and fantasy, but even then, there’s a lot of genre mixing going on. When you can mix genres, you can usually get my curiousity.

*What first inspired you to become a writer?

Funny thing is, I can’t say I ever wanted to be a writer. Since I was a kid, I just wanted to tell stories like the ones I read and watched growing up that shaped me into who I am and inspired me to be who I aim to be. And that changes with each new story because, good or bad, big or small, you learn something new about yourself or you reinforce or weaken an existing detail. We’re always in flux, and stories guide us like a compass towards ourselves. Being a point on that map for myself and anyone else is the only time I don’t feel lost.

*Tell us your favorite joke.*

“You know, I’m sick of following my dreams, man. I’m just going to ask where they’re going and hook up with ’em later.” – Mitch Hedberg

Just google infrafan to find me pretty much everywhere.