Until a couple of years I had yet to meet writer and editor Roland Mann in person even though I’ve “known” him for over 20 years and have inked some for him. Well, thanks to us being guests of the Pkeville Comic and Toy Convemtion, we’ve fixed that. Now, I’m still doing some inking for him here and there as he re-launches Silverline Comics. He’s a great guy and fun to talk with about writing and comics among other things -Bill
What inspires you to create and keeps you going?
I get inspired by a lot of things, really. History, good books or movies, BAD books or movies (I think, “I can do better than that!” ha). What keeps me going is that I love to write. I enjoy it. I’d rather be writing than doing a whole bunch of other things.
Do you have a set routine?
I used to, but with my schedule teaching Creative Writing at Full Sail University, it’s difficult to establish a set routine. I’ve pretty much always been a night owl and have often been most productive in the late hours of the night, wee hours of the morning.
What kind of output do you try to achieve?
That really varies a lot, too. If I’m fortunate to have a paying freelance gig, then I’m on whatever kind of timeline they want—usually a bunch of pages really fast. I also tend to hit crunch time when I find an artist who wants to work with me and they’re ready to go RIGHT THEN.
What inspires you WHEN you create? Music? Noise? Silence?
I don’t know those things inspire me, but I tend to listen to music when I write. I’m a classic rock guy so when I first got started, it was all Led Zepplin, Queen, Aerosmith…toss in some hair bands like Dokken and Queensryche. I can’t listen to something new when I’m writing, though. I enjoy music a lot, so if it’s something new and I like it, I find I focus on the music itself. My current jam is Neal Morse. I discovered him back about this time last year. I’ve been recently writing to three of his albums: The Grand Experiment, Nola Scriptura, and The Similitude of a Dream.
Who was the first comic book creator that influenced you to pursue this?
So this will probably be a weird answer because it wasn’t so much a creator that influenced me to pursue comic writing as it was their stories. When I first started reading comics, like many, I paid no attention to the creators. In retrospect, the writers that inspired me are Stan Lee, Steve Englehart, Marv Wolfman and Roy Thomas.
When did you realize you could follow this path yourself?
Not until well into college. I come from a family of farmers and when I would say I wanted to write, my dad would always ask me how I was going to make money to support my family. I couldn’t answer him because I didn’t know. It wasn’t until college that I realized I could, in fact, do this thing that I love.
What do you find to be a challenge in creating?
Time is my biggest challenge; there simply isn’t enough of it for me to do what I want to do. A challenge that is relatively new to me (like the last decade) is the black hole of the internet. I’ll be writing and go to look something up. FIND it…but then spot a link that also looks interesting. Thirty minutes later I’ll realize what’s happened and kick myself. It just wasted twenty minutes on something that only took ten minutes to find!
What else do you have to learn?
Oh man. Do we ever quit learning? I don’t really know specifically what I need to learn as a writer—unless you’re trying to suggest something. I know that I always try to work on strong openings. I struggle a little between the action opening and the more common slower opening today. Personally, I like getting into the action right away, but so many comics today don’t do that. I think it’s the influence of anime and manga on our storytelling.
What keeps you motivated to get better?
Y’know, I had a conversation recently with an artist I’m working with and we both came to the conclusion that we love the medium of comics that it’s the thing we’ll do—if able—even after retirement finally gets here. But I always want my new thing to be better than my last thing. The other thing is, while I don’t think I have a large fan base, I don’t ever want to disappoint the base I do have. They support me with their money and with the time invested in reading; I want them to anticipate that my next story will be better than the last, even if just a little.
Can you turn your brain (creativity) off (and on)?
No, I can’t. It seems to be always on. Is it possible to do? Can you tell me how? J
What advice do you have for aspiring creators?
Just do it! Yeah, it’s the Nike slogan, but it’s true. We’re fortunate in that today it is so easy to get a comic published; POD (Print on Demand) places like Ka-Blam have made it so that anyone—and I mean anyone!—can get their comic printed. So I always ask, “Why are you waiting?” Don’t wait for Image to call you, because they’re not. Do your comic. Then do another one. Then do another one. Then another. Maybe you’ll get some money for that one…but then just keep going. It’s the actual PRACTICE of creating that makes you better.
Do you ever worry about running out of ideas?
“Worry” probably isn’t the right word, but to keep it simple, yeah, sometimes I wonder if that will happen. Sometimes I start working on something new…but then suddenly it feels like something else I’ve done and I don’t like it. But, I’ll say this: sometimes when I’m feeling the well is a bit dry, I just try to read more. I find that I get inspired a lot when I read.
How do you handle the slow times?
Ha. I touched on it just a bit. I tend to try to read more during the slow times. If we’re talking slow as in I have no projects…well…I can’t remember many times when there wasn’t something I was working on, but when that has happened, I try to journal. I try to make sure that I keep my fingers moving on the keyboard, thoughts moving from my head onto the page. If that makes sense.
How do you feel about the industry?
Oh man! How much time do you have? The industry is so small, but we sometimes think it is so big—and people on the outside also think it’s big. But it’s not. The bigger problem is that our distribution system is broken. This isn’t a slam at Diamond at all. The problem is that comics are—for the most part—only available in comic specialty shops. You can no longer find the on the spinner racks or shelved with magazines. What I mean is, they are NOT widely available like they used to be. They used to often be impulse purchase items: I’m going to get bread, milk and oh look! Captain America! Now, in order to buy a comic you have to specifically GO to a comic shop. Me and you—we’ll do that. Comic readers and fans will do that. But the casual once-impulse-buyer won’t do that.
What would you say is your crowning achievement thus far?
My kids! Oh. You meant comics, huh? That’s a tough one. I think as a creator, you’re always supposed to either say “my most recent one,” or “the one I’m working on.” Right? Planet of the Apes was probably the most high profile comic I wrote…but the comic most people know me for is Cat & Mouse. I guess that’s why I’m working on a revamp of it. Ha.
Where can people find you online?
I wish and hope that I can everyone to go like my author page on Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/rolandmannAuthor/ I’m probably more active there than any online place. I also blog atwww.rolandmann.me where you can find my schedule and a bibliography and that kind of stuff. I’m @MannRoland on Twitter and you can find me on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/therolandmann/
Please stop by and say hi to me!
To comment on this interview, head over to the ShoutFyre forum: http://sketchmagazine.net/community/billsnicholsprescription/roland-mann/#post-26