Seeking a career in comic books, Kevin Paul Shaw Broden took art courses throughout his educations only to eventually discover that no matter the media he was a storyteller. Kevin has been telling stories ever since. His first published story was a science fiction tale that appeared in his college newspaper. Since then he has written for television animation, including the Japanese series MIDNIGHT HORROR SCHOOL. Kevin is a member of the Animation Writers Caucus of the Writers Guild of America.
I was wondering where you get your story ideas?
Truthfully, I haven’t a clue.
The spark that ignites a story can come from practically anywhere or anything. Perhaps reading an article, seeing a picture, or even a smell can start the creative processes at the back of my mind. Sometimes it forms a single scene, which I will later build around, but other times a full fledged story emerges within moments and I have to get it down fast.
My novel REVENGE OF THE MASKED GHOST is an example of this fully formed birth of a story. However, I realize it was a convergence of interests going back to my childhood. Before I discovered comic book super heroes, I was listening to Old Time Radio programs about mysterious heroes such as The Green Hornet and The Shadow. Those original Pulp Era adventurers, and later reading Roy Thomas’ ALL-STAR SQUADRON about the Golden Age of super heroes, made me fall in love with that first generation of masked men and women. So many years passed, and my mind fed on all those heroes, I sat in the porch swing of my parents’ backyard, with no real goal in mind but to relax, when a question popped into my mind: How does a family react to discovering one of them is a masked hero? This question was quickly followed by: What do they do when he dies at their feet?
Those two questions demanded to be answered. I grabbed my notepad and wrote. Soon a fedora-wearing Masked Ghost stepped through the French doors of his sister’s Park Avenue penthouse and died at her feet. I kept writing, discovering what she and her husband would do, and within an hour I had worked out the overall story for the novel. I would first release this story online as a weekly serial, and then turned it into a complete novel, adding a back up story called “Bargain Basement Murder”.
What is the usual process for your fiction writing? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
That’s an easy one. I’m a pantser.
Though I wrote a very basic outline for REVENGE OF THE MASKED GHOST, it was more a list of title cards like those that appeared at the beginning of each chapter of movie serials.
When I sat down to write the next chapter, it was full speed ahead, starting off from where I had ended the previous one.
For me, any detailed outlining or plotting only bogs down the creative processes. I just need the basic idea, some rough notes, and jump in headfirst and start writing.
Of course there is a lot of rewriting and editing that follows, but that is good too because you discover things you missed as you went by the first time. Keep writing.
Pretty much I follow where my masked muse takes me.
Sometimes, however, the muse comes to a stop and suggests I do research. REVENGE OF THE MASKED GHOST takes place in Manhattan of the 1930s. There are things that I needed to know about that location and time, like when was the construction of the Empire State Building finished. It’s an important point in time for my story, and it also played an important role with one of my main characters. In doing the research, I found things that could take the story places I hadn’t expected or planned for.
I love doing research for stories, but I do it as the story demands.
I tend not to do much world building other than to know the overall setting in my mind. I think the best world building comes from discovering it through the eyes of my characters. If there is something further needed, then I expand upon what is discovered. As a writer, I am an explorer on an expedition to a new world and my characters are leading the way. It’s their world I’m exploring.
What is your daily writing time like?
Overall I it’s when I can find it. Though at the moment, that can be much of the day. As an artist I begin each day doing a warm up sketch, sometimes of an idea out of my head, or of some pulp era comic character or actress. This gets me started towards working on the next page of my comic. However, this morning warm up sketch also can get the writing juices flowing.
While sketching an unrelated drawing, it may spur a story idea and I will quickly jot it down. If it’s a good idea, those first notes expand into a couple of pages and eventually a story.
I tend to devote my mornings to art and my evenings to writing. If I have a story that must be finished, especially with a deadline, I will devote entire days to it.
Are you a full time writer? If so when did you make the decision and what factors led to the decision? If you are not a full time writer… Is your plan to one day being a full time writer?
From childhood, I saw myself with a career as an artist and writer. That career began illustrating backgrounds for comic books, followed by writing television animation scripts, and now writing stories and novels. I truly do want to become a full time writer, but that isn’t practical at the moment.
Can you tell us about your experience working with your current publisher? (Any other publishers?) (Or your self-publishing experiences?)
REVENGE OF THE MASKED GHOST and my first fantasy romance novel CLOCKWORK GENIE were self-published as eBooks, followed by related short stories. I have had two short stories published by Pro Se Productions, one in the anthology NEWSHOUNDS and the other in an anthology called BLACK FEDORA.
As mentioned earlier, along with being a writer I am also an artist. For my self-published works I painted all my own covers. I also painted the cover art for NEWSHOUNDS, and did an interior illustration for LEGENDS OF NEW PULP FICTION from Airship 27 Productions. I have been paid to do covers for other authors.
Having a publisher such as Pro Se provides an outside eye for editing and packaging that is easily lost as a self-published author. Things can slip by if there isn’t someone at the gate to catch it and send back for improvements. This is truth for both a writer and artist, you can declare it done but its not really until someone else has seen it.
When I did the illustration for Airship 27, there was a lot of reworking of the image at the suggestion of my art director. I liked what I had first drawn, but it is much better because I listened to others. The greatest problem for any writer is marketing and getting people to know my books exist, but that doesn’t stop me from writing more stories.
What is your current release and (without spoilers) tell us about the new book or series.
I have just released a 5th Anniversary edition of REVENGE OF THE MASKED GHOST, which includes a new introduction and additional interior illustrations. I then followed it up with A TALE OF THE SCARLET SPIRIT: “In the Clutches of Convicts“. As you can tell my passion is with the masked heroes, and after discovered the Masked Ghost I soon found his mate The Scarlet Spirit. The two work great together, but she likes to have adventures on her own. They fight crime on the streets and the towers of Manhattan while the police believe they are criminals. New Pulp author Derrick Ferguson has included REVENGE OF THE MASKED GHOST in his list .
FLYING GLORY AND THE HOUNDS OF GLORY, the webcomic I illustrate and co-write with Shannon Muir is currently celebrating its 15th Anniversary. This too is about masked super heroes. Debra Clay is the granddaughter of the wartime super heroine Flying Glory. Discovering that she has inherited super powers, she convinces her friends to put on costumes to become super heroes. It starts off as a way to promote their high school rock band, but they soon find themselves fighting real villains. New readers should start with issue 17 at as it both catches up the comic history and opens up new story avenues.
Can you tell us about some of your other writing (fiction or nonfiction) and any appearances or signings that you have planned?
Though I will be attending the San Diego Comic Con when this interview sees publication, I won’t be on any panels. This past February, while attending the Long Beach Comic Expo, I sat on a panel entitled “Adventures in New Pulp Fiction” with my wife, Shannon Muir. The audience was interested about the history of pulp, the growth of New Pulp and the Masked Ghost’s place in it. Shannon also discussed her experience breaking into the New Pulp and genre fiction markets after college training in classic literature and poetry. I look forward to the opportunity to be a part of future panels.
By the end of this year, I will be releasing an anthology of short stories that follow up on the adventures of the family that have to live with the REVENGE OF THE MASKED GHOST.
As an author what inspiration or advice would you give to a writer who is working to make the transition to Author?
There is a lot that can get in a way of a writer finding the story, but no barrier is greater than the writer’s own fears. If you put words on paper or on in a computer screen, then you are a writer. Don’t worry about what comes next until you’re finished writing the story.
I held my muse back for a long time, but once it escapes there is only one thing to do. Follow wherever it takes you and write down everything it tells you.
To close out this interview … Who is your favorite author, and can you recommend a book by that author?
Growing up my favorite author was Ray Bradbury; however, if you’d like to read something that has inspired me to write things like REVENGE OF THE MASKED GHOST, then take a look at Dashiell Hammett’s THE THIN MAN. The character relationships in this story have heavily influenced my own storytelling.