Interview / Media

Hello again, Cats and Kittens! Peel your eyes and check out what I managed today – an interview with Nick Piers, the one and only author of the Armadillo Mysteries.

Nick! Welcome to the place. Digging the outfit, man! Make yourself at home. Avoid the recliner with the cat on it, though. She’s in a mood. Tell ya what, just sit over here at the table and we’ll get this started. Got you a nice cold Keith’s Pale Ale waiting.

 

nick-superman

Now then, the mic is all yours, sir. Tell us a little about yourself and your background.

Well, “yourself” is a pronoun used to refer to the person addressed as the object of a verb or preposition. And my desktop background regularly shifts between pictures of armadillos, Superman, Order of the Stick, and various Darwyn Cooke DC pictures.

Ummm… Say what?

Oh! Wait, no. I heard that question wrong. Round 2!

So hi! I’m Nick Piers: Canadian writer, comic book guru, urban cyclist, and DDP yoga enthusiast. My name to fame – what little fame there I have – is The Armadillo Mysteries: a series of hard-boiled superhero novels. I like to describe it as Mickey Spillane meets Ninja Turtles.

So, you know. It’s high, hoity-toity literary stuff.

Well with a combination like Spillane and TMNT, I’ve gotta know: Which writers inspire you?

Oh geez, how many can I list? As many as I want? All right, it’s your funeral.

Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka, Daniel Keyes, Jim Butcher, Robert J. Sawyer, Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, Chuck Palahniuk, Mary Shelley, and of course, Mickey Spillane.

My biggest inspirations – certainly for Dill – are Simon R Green and John Zakour. Green, especially, for his fantasy-detective Nightside series. After reading those, I dreamed of writing my own series in a similar vein.

Oh, and Jim Henson’s “DOG CITY”.

 I remember “Dog City”! With the crime lord bulldog dude. Fun stuff right there! So, tell us about your books. The things near and dear to you. Come on. Put ’em up on the table and I’ll take a quick pic of them while you talk about them and what other writing you’ve got floating around out there.

Books

 

The two biggies are THE CITY OF SMOKE & MIRRORS and THE DAME WAS A TAD POLISH, published by Pro Se Press. Pro Se also published some of my short stories, which can be found in RAT-A-TAT: SHORT BLASTS OF PULP and WRITE TO THE COVER VOLUME 1. I’ve also been published in the quarterly, A THOUSAND FACES, as well as magazines such as OPEN MINDS QUARTERLY and THE COUNTRY CONNECTION.

Oh! And a first for me: I wrote the script for Gaming Wildlife’s IF WWE WERE 100% HONEST YouTube video.

 

 

I also post irregularly on my blog.

 Sweet, Now as to the books, where can we buy or see them?

Rather than give a slew of links, I’ll link directly to my blog’s book links. They’ll have any links someone should need.

The City of Smoke & Mirrors

and

The Dame was a Tad Polish

Speaking of The Dame was a Tad Polish, give us an insight into your main character. What does he do that is so special?

Dilbert Pinkerton a five-foot-nothing mutant armadillo private detective. He’s the shoot-first-ask-questions-while-shooting type. He’s a chain smoker, a booze hound, and enjoys leaving take-out go bad in his Hovel Office so he can have a buffet of cockroaches. He’s kind of a dick and kinda trigger happy, but he also gives a crap about people wronged or injustices. Especially with this new case involving Lily Pad. She’s a fellow homoanthropomorphic (aka: mutant animal). And Dill can’t help but empathize with her struggles to fit in with society.

Hollywood seems to love characters like this, especially lately. If it came up and you could choose, which actor would you like to see playing Dill?

Actually, I think the best way to portray Dill is like the live action Ninja Turtles movies: animatronic puppetry! That’s the only way I picture Dill being done. I couldn’t imagine him properly done as a computer-generated character.

Awwww, yeah! That's what I'm talking about!

Awwww, yeah! That’s what I’m talking about!

 

As for actors, this will sound strange but there’s a relatively unknown actor, Ed Lieberman. He made a small appearance on “Big Bang Theory” as a man Sheldon meets on the bus. Except Sheldon is hallucinating, seeing Isaac Newton as an armadillo. Don’t ask, I don’t really get it, either. And for a moment, the man is shown as a walking, talking armadillo in a trench coat and fedora. Lieberman only says the line of “Yeah well, women. What’re ya gonna do?”

https://youtu.be/u71ODfRiVOw?t=1m22s

But what’s funny is that THE CITY OF SMOKE & MIRRORS had been out for two years when that episode aired and I was already starting to hype THE DAME WAS A TAD POLISH. I tweeted a joke about it, that I’d already cornered the market on armadillos in trench coats and fedoras. I don’t know if someone on the show has read Dill. I highly doubt it, but it’d be amazing if they had and threw him in there like this.

Anyway, the more I obsessively watched that clip, I started really digging Lieberman’s voice behind that badly rendered Dill. So if I could get an animatronic Dill, voiced by Lieberman? That’d be perfect for me.

And while we’re at it, I’d do the same with Lily Pad (animatronic) and have her voiced by Anna Akana.

You’re writing about anthro characters, and I know sometimes folks can get mighty picky about details. How much research do you do?

 For a silly, pulp adventure starring a mutant armadillo? Oddly more than I expected.

I talk about this more in my Joys of Writing blog entry, Research, but for one thing, I basically become an armchair expert on armadillos. I picked up this great book, The Nine-Banded Armadillo: A Natural History, by WJ Loughry and Colleen McDonough. It’s become a constant companion while writing anything involving Dill.

Usually, I’ll do research on the fly, in the middle of writing a scene or just before writing it. I’ve picked up many books on crime scene investigations, forensics, criminology, mythologies, and even some science-related books. I talk about this in more detail in my Joys of Writing blog entry called Research (http://nickpiers.com/2013/11/22/the-joys-of-writing-research/).

When I try to research on the fly, I end up watching cat videos, so you’re doing good there! When did you decide to become a writer?

 After Grade 2, if you can believe that. I don’t know when I wanted to be a published writer, but as far as just being a writer and storyteller? After Grade 2. I started writing stories in crayon about Gizmo from the film, Gremlins. Over time, my writing improved and my stories became more complicated. I don’t know when I wanted to actually publish. I’ve dreamed of walking into a bookstore – any bookstore – and see my work on the shelves.

Why do you write?

Boy, that’s the quintessential question, isn’t it? Do I do it for potential fame? The (preferably positive) feedback? The money? The money would be nice, I suppose. Make a living off it.

But really, my answer is simple: I write because I need to. Ideas, stories, characters, and moments constantly enter my head. The only way I stay sane is to write it out, to put them on the page, and get them out of my head. Otherwise, I’ll go absolutely batty.

I can dig that. So do you have a special time to write? How is your day structured?

I wish. To be honest, I’m horribly inconsistent with my writing. I’ll putter on down to Starbucks for a spell, hoping that I’ll bang out around 1,000 words, which is my average for a writing session. Sometimes, I’ll crack out less. Sometimes, I’ll be on a role and crank out two, three, even four thousand words in one sitting. I think my record is around 8,000 words in one session.

That’s a decent session. So when it comes to being on track, do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?

 Usually, I’ll have a rough roadmap in my head. This usually includes some rough notes I’ve either written down or typed out. For Dill, I try not to plan too much, especially on what he’ll do. I’ll try to weave the mystery as best as I can and then throw Dill into the pot and see how he deals with it.

Really, for me, my writing process is very free-writing. I don’t think much about what I’m writing while writing. There’s a broad roadmap, but I let my characters do most of the work; especially with Dill. Growing up, I’d hear other authors talk about how a character took over, doing things they didn’t expect. I never understood that until I started writing Dill. I wrote the first two chapters of The City of Smoke & Mirrors on a whim, to see if I could feel comfortable writing that kind of book. And Dill just took over. I’d throw him into a situation without a clue of how he’d get himself out of it. I’d end chapters on cliffhangers and a friend of mine would ask, “How’s he gonna get out of that?!” I’d say, “I dunno, I’ll let Dill figure it out.”

There’s a moment late into The Dame was a Tad Polish where I needed to get Dill from Point A to Point B. Except I didn’t know how to get him there. As I was writing the scene, Dill suddenly did something totally unexpected. I sat there in Starbucks, stared at the screen, and suddenly said to him, “What the hell are you doing, Dill!?” Then I stopped and thought, “No, wait. You’re a dick. This works.” And I wrote the rest of the scene (and subsequent chapters) accordingly.

What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?

The mystery. It was my first time writing a murder mystery, so I was reading articles from other writers on how they concocted a murder mystery. Eventually, I got so frustrated, I took a little notebook and started writing question after question after question about the mystery. Who did it? Why them? Why did they do it? Why did they leave or set up the body like that? What’s their end goal for all this? What will they do if this plan falls through? What happens when Dill gets involved? What if they get caught?

Some answers created more questions, so I kept answering those until finally, I had what I thought was a pretty solid mystery. But good lord, it was a slog to get there. I don’t know how the best mystery writers do it on a regular basis.

Well, since we covered the difficult part, what was the easiest thing about writing it?

I guess writing Dill himself. I became very comfortable with him after the first book and I really got a grasp on him. As I mentioned before, I basically free-write, so Dill taking over makes things easy.

Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?

 Absolutely, though like my writing (and other things), it’s not very consistent. This year, I’m trying to finally clear out some of my backlog. Any book lover knows what it’s like to have a backlog of unread books. It’s like gamers who have a backlog on Steam. So far this year, I’ve read Robert J Sawyer’s Rollback, Douglas Adams Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Restaurant at the End of the Universe (first time reading those, I’m ashamed to say), and Whipping Girl by Julia Serano. I’ve just started reading Quiet by Susan Cain. I’m trying to switch between fiction and non-fiction for each book.

As far as favorites? Too many to list them all, but here are some: Greg Rucka, Neil Gaiman, Robert J Sawyer, Simon R Green, and John Zakour. Green and Zakour, I’ve mentioned before.

You have unique covers for your books. Who designed them?

The City of Smoke & Mirrors’ cover was done by Chris Sheehan, who I found on the Digital Webbing forums. The cover was designed by Sean Ali.

The Dame was a Tad Polish’s cover was drawn by Larry Nadolsky. Its design is actually a parody of the cover for Mickey Spillane’s The Killing Man. The book was designed by Percival Constantine.

Original Spillane cover:

1094935

Cover image found here: http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1283738293l/1094935.jpg

 

It’s been a busy day, and you’ve been hard at work. How do you relax?

 Lately, it’s been either spending time with my girlfriend or playing video games. I recently finished The Witcher 3. I also greatly enjoy urban cycling and DDP Yoga. BANG!

Let’s take a look at some of your favorites. What is your favorite book and why?

I think it’d be Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes. Its writing is absolutely brilliant how it shows Charlie’s intelligence gradually increasing. And it’s just a really solid story, overall.

A close second is Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. I remember reading it in high school, which helped me think more about race within society. When I re-read it only a few years ago, I fell in love with the book all over again.

Same basic question: Favorite film and why?

The Shawshank Redemption. I can’t really put my finger on why it’s my favorite, though. The acting is phenomenal, the story is deceptively simple on the surface, and it has one of the best payoffs in film. I never get tired of the big “ah ha!” moment. It has probably my favorite example of poetic justice.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

The same advice one of my oldest and best friends gave me: write. Just write. Don’t think about it. Just write. Even if you think it’s crap, write. Writing crap is better than not writing at all. Don’t be that person that has a great idea, points to their head, and says, “I have it all up here.” Stop thinking about it and WRITE IT.

Ok, so nobody gets out of one of my interviews without a lemur question. It’s traditional, man! With that in mind, if you could see any one of your characters as a lemur, which one would you choose and why?

Screw one of my characters! Why don’t I create a whole new character that’s a mutant lemur? Hell, I just google image searched lemurs and my first thought was making some kind of seedy informant that Dill rustles up sometimes.

Don’t expect him to show up any time, but the idea is my head now and it won’t go away any time soon. Thanks a ton for that. Jerk.

Ha! My pleasure. Giving people incomplete characters is even better than singing a part of a song and haviing it haunt them all day long.

Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?

 Two things:

1) I think I’ll know I’ve made it when someone in a Dilbert Pinkerton cosplay comes up to my table at a convention.

2) If there’s one thing I fear more than anything else, it’s discovering that someone has written Dill slash fanfic. Especially once they start getting weird. You have the obvious ones like Dill/Tony or Dill/Komodo. But some sick bastard will inevitably include Mickey (Tony’s dog) in one of those. Whoever you are, you future sick bastard, I hate you already.

Yeah, I can imagine that would…what? No, I’m not writing that idea in my notebook! That would be wrong.

Nick, thanks for dropping by, man. We gotta do this more often. Next time, we’ll make it a party!

So there you have it, folks! Dig on Nick’s stuff. I’ve added the links below. Just click ’em and enjoy the magic computer linky thing taking you to the cool places.

Website/Blog: http://nickpiers.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nickcpiers/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/NickPiers

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nick-piers-a17611b6

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/nickcpiers

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/ThatNickGuy

 

 

 

 

So shortly before Yule this year, a link popped up in a fiction group I belong to. The Secret Life of Pandas invited us to play along with the Writer’s Q&A she had done. I thought perhaps I’d accept that gracious invitation, and yet I’ve spent several days forgetting it (which is typical, of course). Today I said to myself that I would get it done, so here it is, in all its unvarnished glory.
When did you first start writing? When I was a mere babe, I ripped a canine tooth from the gaping maw of a hungry tyrannosaur and used it to scratch obscenities on the nearest bathroom wall, followed by my drinks order for the day. After that, I stayed pretty chill for a while, until I was a middle school student (probably fifth grade or so) and the desire to stain pristine pages with ink caught up to me once more.
Was being a writer something you always aspired to? Not at all. It just happened. I actually aspired to be a space pirate. That hasn’t happened…which is a damned shame. I’d look cool as hell with a mutant parrot on my shoulder, and I could get a cybernetic eye and then put a patch over it for effect. That, and I’m pretty good at saying, “Arrrr” a lot.
I have all these stories that bubble up in my head and scream at me to put them on paper (even if it’s only digital paper). Giving them voice and a chance for others to dig on the weird shit that rolls about in my head is fun.
What genre do you write? What day is it again? I’m not really specialized. I’ve done superhero stuff, science fiction, fantasy, supernatural, steampunk, paranormal western, and a few others here and there. Sometimes I classify it as one genre or another, and sometimes I just say it’s a story. One of the few things that ties my stuff together is action.
Can you tell us a little about your current work in progress? Again, I fall back to a “which one” kind of thing. Let’s keep it simple:
 1: The fourth Firedrake novel, Inquisition. Continuing the stories from my earlier books, with lots of fun new folks and weird situations. I’ve missed Drake since I’ve been on some other projects.
 2: A new short for Z262, my anthropomorphic space colony stuff. Holidays with Zeke is a little slice-of-life tale about what happens when one of the most effective killers ever to eviscerate soldiers of the rodent army meets his girlfriend’s parents for the first time — as they celebrate the birth of their pacifistic deity.
When did you start working on this project? Well, #1 is about a year old, if not a little more. It’s coming along slowly, as do most of my projects.
#2 is about two weeks out.
What was your first piece that you can remember writing? I have vague memories of some creative writing assignments back in 1980, but I can’t put the details together. I remember that I loved those assignments, though. The one part of my school years where I can say I actively over-achieved.
I wrote a lot of RPG fanfic in my early high school years, about the people I gamed with and the characters we used. Bits and pieces of that are more likely to be what I actually remember.
What was it about? The RPG stuff? Usually detailed sections from one scenario or another, telling of how our characters triumphed over some obstacle or another. Lots of blood and gore. Cursing and alcohol was probably a major part, as well.
What’s the best part about writing? Seeing different situations through the eyes of my characters. I describe what’s going on, but I actually see the images play in my head.
What’s the worst part about writing? The urge to drive a shrimp fork into my brain and twist-start that big gray bitch when the words suddenly seem to stop coming (or just sucking when they do).
What’s the name of your favourite character and why? I still love to play around with Firedrake. That would be Special Agent Francis Drake, United States Department of Justice, Metahuman Response Division. He does and says a lot of the things that people wish they could get away with when dealing with bosses (and frequently everyone else).
How much time a day/week do you get to write? When I grab some instead of wasting time, then I get whatever that amount is. I’m notorious for my laziness.
When is the best time for you to write (morning or night)? Night, definitely. Morning is that special time when humans should be asleep. Sleep during the day, boys and girls, and you’ll be awake when the vampires come.
Did you go to college for writing? Nope. I went to college for classes that I can’t really remember. After I stopped doing that, I went to work in the real world for a while (deeply weird, definitely not recommended for all). I’ve attended a few classes since then, but they’re all in subjects I want to learn about.
What bothers you more: speeling errors; punctuation, errors, or errors for grammar? Well, I would like to go on record as saying I love this question — for the format if nothing else. Most of the time I pick up on spelling as soon as it pops up. It makes speeding through a first draft interesting, as I keep pausing to back up and correct.
What is the best writing advice that anyone has given you? “Dude, drink this!”
No, seriously, it would probably be the people who tell you to keep reading. By seeing how different authors write, you help expand and refine your own voice.
What advice would you give to another writer? Don’t use the word “bae”. I mean, really. Like ever.
Stop comparing yourself to other writers. I don’t read your writing and think, “This is no Stephen King” or some such, and pretty much no one else does (unless you put it out there with, “This is just like Stephen King” on it somewhere). It’s not fair to yourself or your art to put yourself through that. I’m not saying you should never strive to better yourself, or to be a writer in the league of your favorite author, but don’t look at your work and think that it’s not good just because it isn’t what someone else has done.
What are your favourite writing sites or blogs that you turn to for help, tips or encouragement? I snap up articles here and there, read them, and then move on. I have no specific sites that I visit for that. I do belong to a weekly fiction group, and the folks there have shown me several new blogs that I enjoy reading.
Besides writing, what else do you enjoy doing? I dig shooting and maintaining firearms. I can spend an entire afternoon cleaning them and not be bored. I drink coffee a lot, and I like eating tacos (although I’m not sure how that fits in here — but in my defense, the question was pretty open).
What are your hobbies? I love pen-and-paper roleplaying games. I suck at the computer ones (they’re usually too scripted or require interaction on an MMO level, which I avoid like the plague topped with a generous helping of tuberculosis), but old-school gaming got me through some pretty shitty moments in my past. Revisiting them now and again is like coming home again.
What’s the best book you’ve read this year? Well, I re-read Rolling Hot by David Drake. I’ll go to my grave thinking that is one of the best pieces of military science fiction ever created. It’s in my top five books ever. As to new books? It’s a toss-up. This past year I fell onto the Caverns & Creatures series by Robert Bevan, and the Cape High series by R.J. Ross. The former is guaranteed to be a rollicking ride of laughs and crude humor. The latter is a world-spanning series about super-powered youth learning about their world, and R.J. writes it in a way that has me spinning pages like a lazy susan on crack.
What’s the best movie you’ve seen this year? I’ll stick with new releases, rather than fawning over my personal favorites this time (Army of Darkness FTW!). I just saw the new Star Wars flick the other day (Episode VII: The Force Awakens). I enjoyed it quite a bit. Lots of action, fun characters, and the usual array of beautiful scenery and props.
What is your favourite book or series of all time? Man, I hate trying to come up with just one. I grew up on The Lord of the Rings and The Hitchhikers Guide, but I also cut my teeth on The Executioner, Able Team, Phoenix Force, Deathlands, and similar. Lately I know I’m guaranteed a good read with David Drake’s Hammer’s Slammers series.
Who is your favourite author? Dan Abnett probably hits a high note. The man has written dozens of books in the Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 universe for Black Library, and — as if that weren’t cool enough on its own — he used to write Judge Dredd.
What are your plans for the rest of the year in terms of your writing? Well, since the year has practically ended, I’ll go with next year. I have several short pieces in various stages of editing that will soon be released, and I’m always scribbling down something for my Z262 stories. There is a fourth Firedrake novel in the works as well, as discussed above.
Where else can we find you online? Here and there. I’m a member of the Pen and Cape Society, a group of authors who write superhero prose (among other projects). I have a profile over at Goodreads that I almost never remember to update. Stories of mine have appeared in several places, and you never know where one might turn up. I’ve got a (neglected) Twitter presence, and an author page on Facebook. See? I’m trying to adapt to the whole “technology is your friend” thing.
All right, writer friends. Join in if you want. It’s actually more fun than you think it might be. Trust me. I did it. See? Right up there. Dude, seriously, if you’re reading this and you ignored everything above it… That’s just weird.

In preparation for the February 29 release of the superhero anthology We Were Heroes, publisher Martin Ingham asked me a few questions. Naturally, I answered them, because not doing so would just be weird. Step by step, the author interviews will reveal the true me, and forensic detectives everywhere will wet themselves in horror! MwaHaHaHa! (See? There’s the patented evil laugh!)

Check me out over HERE!