Scott Nicholson On Kindle Worlds and Writing "Fan Fiction" In an Era of Shared Communication

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Scott Nicholson is the international bestselling author of more than 30 books, including The Home, The Red Church, Liquid Fear, the After post-apocalyptic series, The Harvest, Speed Dating with the Dead, and many more. He’s also written the children’s books If I Were Your Monster, Too Many Witches, Ida Claire, and Duncan the Punkin, and created the graphic novels Dirt and Grave Conditions.

So what's he doing writing fan fiction?

Well, he's part of the ambitious launch of Amazon's Kindle Worlds initiative, which allows fans to contribute stories to a number of franchises whose intellectual property owners have licensed the rights to Amazon.

More specifically, he's written a Kindle Worlds novel set in the Valiant Comics universe--and more specifically than that, it's set in the world of Archer & Armstrong, a book that we've discussed quite a bit here. Nicholson's Archer & Armstrong: Fortune Favors the Bold is available now from Amazon, 99 cents for a 16-page story that sees the characters captured by the One Percent.

Nicholson joined ComicBook.com for a discussion about his book, Kindle Worlds and the influence of comics on his overall output.

ComicBook.com: You're a horror guy. While you've certainly done a wide variety of work over the years, I wouldn't immediately think of you for a book like Archer & Armstrong, which blends historical, epic action and humor. How did your involvement come about?

Scott Nicholson: Comics were actually one of my first influences, especially those old House of Mystery and Tales from the Crypt types of comics, with short horror tales ending with a twist. I even made my own comics as a kid, using folded notebook paper. I got back into comics in the 1990s during the indie boom, and Archer & Armstrong was one of the books that really appealed to me.

archer-and-armstrong-scott-nicholsonComicBook.com: Kindle Worlds is interesting; not only are you working with somebody else's characters, but you're doing so at a time when there are several other authors doing that as well. Is that a bit off-putting?

Scott Nicholson: This is an era of shared communication. Even the idea of “ownership” is a little hazy. The more people that are building a community, the richer it is. Of course, it’s good to start with excellent characters and an established story universe—and the original creator should benefit artistically and financially-- but otherwise, the more the merrier. I’ve even let people write in my own fictional worlds. The digital walls are coming down and the playground is wide open.

ComicBook.com: You've written a fair number of short stories. Is it a bit like writing for an anthology? Just knowing that there's a commonality to the stories and many readers will see them as a whole, even though that's not how they're being written?

Scott Nicholson: I have written on editor request for various theme anthologies over the years, so it’s a little different when you know you are a part of something larger. While at first blush an author might think, “These boundaries will limit me,” in truth, Beethoven was working with the same twelve notes as the Sex Pistols. It’s all in how you play it.

ComicBook.com: As a best-selling author in print, you've had a lot of success with mass-market paperback. Do you think projects like this are a natural extension of that marketplace? Taking stories and making them as inexpensive as you can while still compensating those involved?

Scott Nicholson: Absolutely. There are no more predetermined and rather arbitrary limitations on your potential audience size. Before, your ceiling was determined by the publisher’s print run. Only in rare cases would the book be reprinted, and usually it would only be on store shelves for a few months. Now the audience is in the hundreds of millions, if not billions, and the work is available around the clock and around the world forever. I fully believe creators and readers should share in the savings of this efficient new model.

ComicBook.com: Obviously many authors are skeptical of the ebook market. What makes it attractive to you?

Scott Nicholson: Aside from the aforementioned efficiencies, I like the idea of a “living book.” You can add alternate endings, revise, fix any errors, or change covers at any time. You can bring new people into the work and even play with interactivity, especially as more ebook readers move to tablets and more of the work is stored in digital clouds. That opens up potential to tie art, video, and audio into the ebooks. We’re still very early in the evolution, and it’s a really exciting time to be creating and consuming art.

ComicBook.com: Have you been reading Fred Van Lente's Archer & Armstrong comics the last year or so?

Scott Nicholson: I’d donated my comic collection to a youth group a couple of years ago, so I ordered the complete original run of Archer & Armstrong on eBay when I found out about Kindle Worlds. Then I read the digital editions of the new version, and I was blown away. In a way, the difference parallels what has happened with the entire comic storytelling form. We all know that comics were never really “kids’ stuff,” but they have really pushed into new territory in both storytelling and art. Van Lente pulls off the remarkable feat of weaving multiple storylines together while maintaining clarity, action, and humor with a compelling set of “buddy” characters.

ComicBook.com: I really enjoyed Dirt when I read it. Is there a chance we could see you on board a Valiant title, or some other comics property, at some point?

Scott Nicholson: Ha, yes, I’d love that, I have edited some comics and actually have three comics projects stalled partway in production, mostly because I’m focused on my novels right now. I also want to be sure I can raise enough money to pay the artists. I’ve been playing with some of the digital comics creators and it’s on my lengthy to-do list. Again, as the technical barriers vanish, whole new storytelling methods are opening up.

ComicBook.com: Obviously most fans who do "true" fan fiction are continuity nuts, but they've got their own "fanon" in their head. How do you perceive your story as interacting--if at all--with the old comics, the new comics and the other Kindle Worlds stories?

Scott Nicholson: I deliberately wanted my story to be a side venture, a minor detour out of the main storyline, for several reasons. The primary one is that I have no idea when the reader will open the story—whether it’s tomorrow or five years from now. So I wanted it to be self-contained, yet true to both the spirit and the letter of the existing universe. On the other hand, there are various jumping-off points planted in there if I or another writer ever wants to keep rolling in that direction. I learned early on to always plant the seed of a sequel in my novels (even if I was the only one who knew it) in case there was ever a reason to revisit.

ComicBook.com: If you create a character in your story, could we see it pop up in another of your works, or does it become part of the Archer & Armstrong/Valiant library?

Scott Nicholson: Valiant owns the rights to its universe and anything created under it. That’s only fair, since Valiant is delivering the author an existing audience. It’s easy enough to create an original character. What’s hard is to build a following for it!

You can find Nicholson online at www.hauntedcomputer.com or sign up for his newsletter for new releases, free books, and giveaways.

Giveaway: In order to celebrate the launch of Kindle Worlds, Comicbook.com is working with Amazon through Fanscape to give away one free Kindle. We will be selecting one winner at random from among subscribers to the Comicbook.com email newsletter. Sign up for our email newsletter below.

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