Friday, June 21, 2013

2nd Interview with Author, Musician and Budding Artist, Stephen Hines

For regular visitors of Up Around the Corner, you might recall our first interview with Stephen Hines back in March of 2012. As it has proven a commonly visited interview, I’ve invited him back to discuss what he’s been up to over the last year.

Welcome, Stephen. Please, take a moment to tell, or remind, us a little about yourself.

Thanks so much for having me back, Terry!

I’m a pasty white high school English teacher from Ohio who dabbles in writing (and sometimes illustrating) comic books for ages fourteen and up. Two of my newest four comics have been for mature readers, due to controversial content. I’ve also published a YA novel for junior high kids and I’m currently writing a memoir that will be for an adult audience.

From teen comics to an adult-audience memoir, that’s quite a spread. Are your reading interests as varied? What are some of the novels, books, or comics you’ve recently read? What inspired you/how did you come to read them?

Haha! Thanks! Variety is indeed the spice of life. I enjoy reading anything that catches my eye. If the material is well-written I’ll stick with it. The only genre I never read is horror, but that’s just because I’m a wimp when it comes to scary stuff. If it freaks me out then my imagination won’t let go of it, and that’s never pretty.

The last novel I read was Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. I was inspired to read that by a former student who knows I love dystopian science fiction.

Other than that I’ve been locked in on reading all of Garth Ennis’ Preacher graphic novels. I picked up the first book because I’d read other stuff by Ennis. The Preacher series is so addicting (due to its edgy content, genius characterization, and demented humor) that I’ve been ignoring everything else until I’m done. I have one or two chapters in the final volume and I’m dreading turning that final page.

Freaked out imagination that won’t let go and dreading. Never good.

Taking another tack with dread and imagination, what’s one thing about writing/being an author that you tend to dread? What’s one notion or idea that your imagination hasn’t been able to let go of (related to writing or otherwise)?

Hmm…well, I used to dread editing but now I love it (since it’s another chance to add a layer of paint to the picture, so to speak) but now I’d have to say designing book cover layouts. I’m not the most Adobe Illustrator savvy person on the block, to say the least, so it takes up entirely too much time and induces many headaches. But, I’m improving at glacier-like speeds so maybe someday, right when the new version of the software’s released, I’ll halfway know what I’m doing. :)

A notion my imagination hasn’t been able to let go of? Wow! That’s an excellent question. The main thing that comes to mind is a fear of death, especially when it comes to losing a loved one. Whenever a close friend or relative dies, the grief really overwhelms me and even permeates my subconscious mind. For example, two months ago we had to put our oldest cat-daughter, C.D., down. We’d known that her cancer was back for three and a half years, but she wasn’t in any noticeable discomfort on most days. Suddenly, on a Friday night, we discovered that her tumor had burst. To make a long story short, we had to take her to the vet, who told us that the only humane choice was death.

Quite often, just as has happened after losing human loved ones, C.D. shows up in my dreams at night. It’s obviously my subconscious mind working through the loss, but I hope she continues these cameos and starring roles at night so I can keep seeing her.

Losing a loved pet is never easy, nor is losing a friend or relative, that’s for sure.

On a hopefully brighter note, could you tell is a little about your most recent release?

Very true, Terry. Very true.

My newest release is the first in a three issue miniseries called Zombie Fabulous! I wrote the script and enlisted the artistic genius of a gentleman named Aaron Lindeman for the rest.

Issue one follows the story of a drag queen/Cher impersonator who is brutally murdered. Cher comes back as a zombie and, along with struggling valiantly with her overwhelming desire to still look fabulous (which is quite difficult as a decaying, undead creature), she’s also developed a taste for BRAINS!

Aaron Lindeman and I are very proud of how this book came together because it’s no easy read. There’s barely any narration or dialogue and the art is quite subtle and a bit abstract, so there will be no passive reading for anyone who picks it up.

Zombie Fabulous isn’t your first foray into graphic novels. Can you tell us a little bit about your other works?

Honestly, I haven’t published a graphic novel yet, but my series Valedictorian USA (illustrated by the amazing Daniel Salcido) will eventually be collected into one. Val USA is an over-the-top satire about nine high school students who are all competing on a reality TV show to become America’s first national valedictorian. Of course, the cast of teens was carefully chosen (and carefully coached by the producers) in order to maximize the drama.

In the future I’m planning on printing a short graphic novel that collects my old web comic: Clyde the Redneck. That goofy comic strip (written and poorly illustrated by yours truly) was basically just a bitter old Ohioan who tooled around in his pickup shooting his mouth off about everything from politics to teenagers, music, and spray tans.

Also, I’m currently publishing a mini-comics memoir, called Crackerstacker, which details my misadventures while working in a grocery store. So far only three issues have been published but I have twelve years worth of hilarious material that have yet to be covered. I write and illustrate this series, so my days of wearing giant, square glasses and a flowing, stylish mullet are never going to be lived down.

Last year I also released a one-shot comic called Icon-O-Plastic (illustrated by Jake Warrenfeltz and inked by Rafer Roberts). This odd little story was a surreal meditation on fame and fortune that focused on a rock band called The Icons. I also wrote, performed and recorded a five song EP (with vocals by Stephen Strohmenger) that are the “lost demos” of The Icons, which tends to sell very well at conventions.

It appears you keep busy with a variety of projects, Stephen.

It is also my understanding that you’re a dedicated Pittsburg Steelers fan. With that in mind, two questions:
1. Make a prediction on how the upcoming NFL season will go for the Steelers.
2. If you had the opportunity to ghostwrite or co-author a book with any current or former Pittsburgh Steeler, where they would discuss their life and sports career, which player would be your top pick and why?

I certainly stay busy.

1. Hmm…I’m tempted to be pessimistic about our upcoming season but I’ll resist and predict that we’ll rebound from our abysmal 8-8 record and finish this year with a 10-6 record. Then we’ll win our first playoff game before barely losing in the second one.

2. Wow! That’s a tough question. I guess I’d have to go with Big Ben because his ups and downs (on and off the field) would provide plenty of interesting material, plus he’ll be retiring in the next 2-5 years. Hopefully there’ll be a chapter about how he won a third Super Bowl before hanging up the cleats.

It’ll be interesting to look back and see how accurate your prediction proved to be.

Haha! It usually only takes a few games into a season before I can accurately predict how the season will end, so this is probably completely wrong.

Is there anything you’d like to share with the readers that you’ve learned over the years about being an author?

I’ve learned that patience and perseverance are vital. Very few authors can explode onto the scene and sell a ton of books instantly. It’s important, then, to be a writer for the right reason: the love of the process. If an author isn’t writing what he or she loves then being patient is going to be next to impossible. There are so many rejections of all sizes that come with being a writer, whether it’s someone walking past my table at a convention without even looking, or someone looking at my books then walking away, or a reviewer posting a negative opinion of my work, or a magazine rejecting a story I’m proud of, etc. All of those things can erode a person’s will to continue if the work isn’t being done with the right motivation. As a veteran comic book author/illustrator (Bob Corby) once told me, “If people walk away without buying one of my books then that just means my stuff isn’t for them. If it is for them, they’ll be back.”

Good quote from Bob Corby!

Bob is an amazing dude. He runs the Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo (S.P.A.C.E.) in Columbus, OH, which is my favorite con by far.

As we’re closing in on the end of the interview, Stephen, is there anything you’d like to add?

I’m terrible at math. Oh, you meant to the interview!

I guess I’d just like to add that folks can check out samples of my work here: .

There’s info on my site, too, about the assorted stores and websites where my books can be purchased in both paper and electronic formats.

And, thanks again, Terry, for having me back!

You’re welcome, Stephen. And of course I’m going to plug my favorite book you’ve written, and one that more than a few of my students have read and enjoyed, Hocus Focus. A darn good read!

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