An Interview with Steven Novak

Steven Novak’s friends tease him as being the busiest man alive. He’s an independent publisher, novelist, and artist. He’s also a driving force behind the Indie writers’ group Literary Underground. More than that, he’s a real pro, very funny, and a pretty cool guy. Welcome, Steven. (Oh, and don’t call him “Steve,” unless you want a poke in the eye.)

This Blog Blank: So we may as well get the good stuff out first. Can you tell us about your latest work? What was your inspiration for writing the story?

Steven Novak: First and foremost, the final chapter in the Forts series is set for release before the year is out. It’ll be good to have it done. I’ve spent nearly three years on that story and it’s arguably the most personal thing I’ve ever written. There are aspects of the story pulled directly from my life. I don’t want to sit here and say something stupid like “it took a lot out of me” or anything, because I hate when “creative” people do that. (It’s a hell of a lot harder breaking rocks then it is writing a book.) I guess I’m just ready to move onto the next project. I took the characters in Forts where I needed to take them, I did what I wanted to do and I accomplished what I needed to accomplish. Bring on the next thing.

TBB:  You are pretty busy – writing, illustration, book trailers – how do you balance your time?

SN: I’m really boring. That might sound stupid, but it’s true. I’m married and I’m boring, and I lead a boring life. I don’t really go anywhere or do anything other than hang out with my wife, work and create stuff. That’s all I really want to do. I have no interest in climbing a mountain; I couldn’t care less about traveling, or meeting people, or getting some fresh air. Fresh air is overrated and my freakishly white skin burns far too easily.

TBB: On your page on Literary Underground, you say that “Harold and the Purple Crayon” led you to a life of telling stories. What was it about that work that inspired you?

SN: Everything. If there’s someone out there that’s opened up Harold and The Purple Crayon and didn’t instantly fall in love with it, they deserve a kick to the shin. Strangely enough, when the final book in the Forts series hits later this year, I think readers will realize just how massive an effect Harold and The Purple Crayon, in particular, had on the story.

TBB: I hear writers all the time say that they “write for themselves.” Whom do you write for? Why?

SN: I guess you’re going to have to add me to the list of repetitive writers, because I’m about to say the same thing. It’s trite and it’s been said a million times, but it’s also true – for me at least. Making a living as a writer is a tough thing and the chances of actually doing it are pretty slim. If you aren’t writing for yourself, what’s the point? You’ll have wasted all those years trying to worm your way into the latest fad and scribbling down sentences that don’t mean a thing to you, only to never find the success you were striving for? If you accept the fact that you aren’t likely to flop onto a bed full of money with a bikini-clad groupies anytime soon, you might as well spend your time writing something you can look back on with a bit of respect. If “writing for yourself” happens to mean goofy love triangle stories with vampires, werewolves and zombies, well, then you’ve hit the jackpot.

TBB: If you were forced to choose, would you define yourself as a writer who does art, or an artist who writes?

SN: Honestly I think it all falls under the banner of art – mostly. I would say, however, that drawing has always and most likely will always come first for me. I drew and painted the cover for Forts: Fathers and Sons before I’d even written a word. Long before that – before I even knew what the heck a word was – I was scribbling on the walls with a crayon nubbin wedged between my pudgy fingers. My pencil and my sketchpad will always be my first love.

TBB: Being a photographer as well as a writer, I take a lot of inspiration from photographs. What do you use to generate your story ideas, to make it “real” to you?

SN: I don’t know. I guess my inspiration comes from a lot of different places. I read a massive amount of comic books as a kid. For a long while I wanted to get into moviemaking, so I’ve seen more films over the years than the average person ever should. Sometimes I’m listening to a song and an idea pops into my head. Sometimes I’m just standing in the shower washing the crack of my backside.

TBB: What do you like most about your work? What do you want people to take from it?

SN: Depends on what work in particular, I suppose. Most importantly I’d just love for them to feel like it’s honest. While I might not be the world’s greatest writer, or structure the most amazing sentences, or even utilize correct punctuation, I like to think it’s obvious that I’m not just phoning it in. Whether it’s the uber-serious stuff like Forts, or the humorous stories in Goats Eat Cans, (set for release in 2012) there’s a little bit of me in every chapter. I give it everything I’ve got – even if what I’ve got isn’t all that great at times.

TBB: Tell us a little about Literary Underground. Unless you’ll have to kill us afterwards, because that would suck.

SN: I wouldn’t have to kill you, no. It might be fun to kill you, but that’s an issue for my therapist and the authorities when I’m eventually discovered. Basically LitU was founded by myself and a writer friend of mine, MJ Heiser. The goal of the group was to aid self-published authors in putting together the finest, most professional looking product they could, pull together marketing advice and strategies, and give everyone a singular place on the web for which to call home and cross-promote. We’re still in our first year and mostly pleased with the way things have worked out. Have there been growing pains? Sure. Will things improve as we move forward? Of course. For the most part it’s been a fantastically positive experience though.

TBB: How do you get your ideas for designing book covers?

SN: If I’m doing them myself it’s pretty simple – I do whatever I think looks coolest. If I’m doing them for other people I try my best to take into account specifically what they’re looking for and throw in any suggestions I might have to improve. Really though, when it comes to working with authors self-publishing their own stuff, the most important thing is to make them happy.

TBB: How can they find your work?

SN: I’m all over the place. The main hub for all things Steven Novak related is my website: www.novakillustration.com. From there you’ll find links to the Forts site, The Literary Underground, as well as my online store. I can also be found at http://www.goatseatcans.blogspot.com. It’s sort of a promotional site for the series of books I have coming out next year which I’m really excited about and has been a fantastic way to follow up the heaviness of the Forts series.

3 thoughts on “An Interview with Steven Novak

  1. Great interview! One of the things I’ve always loved about Novak’s work is the brutal honesty behind it all. With Goats Eat Cans, I feel bad for laughing at some of the stories–they are funny, but they are also awkward, embarrassing, and not remotely funny at the time he experienced them (or so my Empathetic Monster tells me). Novak has a way of laughing it off–making it funnier, while also keeping it real. There’s something incredibly admirable about that.

    Always a fan,
    ~2

  2. Great interview. Steven is awesome! Right now I have over 800 people on Goodreads who’ve marked my book as “to read”. I’d say 99% of that is due to the amazing cover he created.

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