Today on the show, Melissa got to sit down and chat with Richard Ashley Hamilton again! He’s back to talk all about his new comic book series Fearbook Club, with Aftershock Comics. They also geeked out on the writing process, being 80’s babies, and cooking Cuban food!
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Listen to Richard’s last appearance on the show:
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Richard Ashley Hamilton
Melissa: [00:00:00] this is by their country. And I’m Melissa search ad today on the show. I’m excited. I get to welcome back a comic book creator I’ve chatted with before. Who’s always a pleasure to talk to here to talk about his news series theater book club, Richard, Ashley Hamilton. Welcome back to the show.
Richard Ashley Hamilton: Hey Melissa.
Melissa: having me. Thanks for being here. It’s been, I was trying to figure out, I think it’s been like 10 months, maybe since the last time we chatted possibly a full year. When we first had our conversation, we were literally smack dab in the middle of like the height of the pandemic. So, you know, tell me a little bit, like, how are you doing?
How have you adjusted you know, how has now that we’re sort of like, kind of back on the up and up, hopefully to normalcy, like how’s all that going for you.
Richard Ashley Hamilton: Yeah, no, it’s, it’s going fine. I always feel kind of guilty saying it because so many people have had so many hardships cause the pandemic, but you know, the Hamilton’s are doing just [00:01:00] fine.
We, as of tomorrow, all four of us will be back vaccinated. Our youngest son is nine, almost 10, so he gets a second job tomorrow. So that we’re very grateful for that. And you know, it’s, I, I worked from home prior to the pandemic. I’ve been working from home throughout it. The only adjustment is that now my wife and my kids are here with me too, but it’s a, it’s a good problem to have, you know, our oldest son is a teenager, so we felt like, well, pretty soon he’s going to have a car and want nothing to do with us.
And, and the sample go for our younger boy eventually, too. So. They find out, we feel like we’ve basically gotten almost like an extra two years with our sons, you know, really kind of up close and personal, maybe a little too up close and personal at times, but we’ve got all this extra time with them and we love it.
You know, we wouldn’t wouldn’t trade it for anything. Obviously we should, the circumstances were a little different, but
Melissa: yeah, I’ve heard that a lot from, you know, I don’t have kids, but friends of mine that do you [00:02:00] know, at times I’m sure you’re like, okay, I’m ready for them to get the heck out so I can have my space again.
But I think also it’s just, it definitely gives you more time that, you know, we didn’t, we took for granted, I think before, you know, we were always just busy rushing around and I know a lot of it’s brought a lot of families together actually, because you get to spend like this quality time, like playing board games and doing cool stuff like that.
Richard Ashley Hamilton: Yep. A lot of board games, a lot of Disney plus. And you know, just, it’s kinda like all those little conversations that happen when you’re in the kitchen together or just in passing and you know, it’s really great. And I think for the kind of writing that I do, which tends to be for younger audiences it also feels like a little bit of R and D you know, like I, I hear the way my kids talk.
I hear the way they talk with their friends or, you know, they’re now doing soccer and karate again. So all those interactions are, I’m trying not to be like a creep spine and children or anything, but you know, you pick up little snippets here and there and it’s all grist for them. [00:03:00]
Melissa: Yeah. Now you said you have a teenage son.
Does he read your work? We your, cause I know you write for kind of his age group and a little younger, but is he into that
Richard Ashley Hamilton: at all? Yeah, no, I’m lucky both my boys read my stuff and they seem to enjoy it, or they’re just very careful of their old man’s feelings and they just told me they do. But no, it’s kinda, I started to joke about it.
I feel like my, my tastes and my writing ability never really matured past middle school. And so that’s just happens to be what I write now. And my sons are kind of in that area and eventually they’re going to outgrow it and get sick of me, but you know, for right now they, they dig what I’m writing and I I mean, Sort of being facetious about them being R and D, but sort of not.
And you know, in the, in the case of fear book club, the new book that I’m here to promote that started out as like, a campfire story. I told you. It was a Friday, the 13th, a couple of years ago. And [00:04:00] you have like a, it’s like a fire pit in our backyard and the boys wanted to hear like a spooky ghost story.
And you know, I’m an idiot and it’s Friday at 13. So I’m like, oh, I’ll tell them the plot of the Friday, the 13th movies, the Jason working saga. But you know, I’ll clean it up for him a little bit. And I started telling her and my wife like shaking her head and doing the, you know, dragging her finger across her neck.
Like cut it out, you know, and just pull the signs, like, you know, dummy. You’re such a great writer for kids. Don’t tell them about Jay stories, make up a new story. And so I was like, oh, you know, she’s right. And it was kind of, she threw the gauntlet down. So, I stopped kind of right around the events of like Friday 13th part 3d.
And I just started making up a new one and it was just this story just kind of. Kind of popped into my head and sort of one little scene led to another, into another and it was fine. I, I really didn’t think much about it. You know, kids go to bed that night and the next morning they wake up and I asked them to actually sleep and it turns out they both had really [00:05:00] horrible nightmares.
And that’s when I knew I was onto something.
Melissa: like a traumatized, you write this down so I can traumatize more people.
Richard Ashley Hamilton: Yeah. Terrible father, I guess. Good for, you know, our writer of kids’ books or whatever. So, yeah, so, you know, I don’t, I mean, it, it, it was something that kind of stuck with me and I just kept thinking about it.
And I realized that something about the story, you know, tapped into some kind of fear that they were feeling as kids. And I think that for me, when I started thinking along those lines was, was with newly led to doing this book with aftershock, which is you know, I feel like I know you’re a horror fan, I’m a fan.
And, and, you know, as adults we get to watch our movies whenever we want, we read Stephen King. And, and like, I don’t know about you, but for me, it’s like, that’s how I sort of process and sublimate, whatever drama was going on in my life. I turn on the Exorcist or I turn on the thing and it just kind of [00:06:00] like helps me figure out whatever’s going on.
We’re lucky kids don’t really have. That, that kind of horror fiction that, that addresses them at their age and what their concerns are. And that is genuinely scary. You know, like they have goosebumps and goosebumps is awesome. My wife’s read it, I read it. But it’s you know, it’s, I think more like silly than.
Melissa: It is. Yeah, it’s, it’s a little corny. And I think Wakefern, maybe if you’re really, really young, goosebumps might freak you out a little bit, but I think once you hit over the age of six or seven it’s yeah, it’s more just you know, it’s its own genre, I guess. And I mean, RL Stine is made a killing off of those books and yeah, I think, I mean, they’re so famous and they’re so like everyone knows them, but I, and I think that a lot of people probably got inspired by them and thought, well, Hey, I could do something like goosebumps, but like make it even more terrifying, you know, along those kind of lines, you know?
Richard Ashley Hamilton: Absolutely. It’s, it’s become a touchstone for me. And I think a lot of other, you know, writers who, you know, tend to [00:07:00] write about similar things and you know, th I mean, none of the system, not goosebumps at all this desperation. Yeah. And he, he keeps cranking them out and that’s great, you know, we keep buying them.
But you know, I think this was kind of. Like I said an opportunity to hopefully tell something that was really scary and really scary and in a way that kind of meets kids where they are today. And that was sort of the other thing I was grappling with as a, as a dad is you know, I’m a writer, I’ve got anxiety you know, my wife has anxiety.
And you know, I think our kids can’t help, but pick up on it. And, you know, they hear us talking about the state of the world and pandemic or things that had been going on politically in the past couple years and the environment. You know, they’re also like they can’t escape from it. You know, I feel like when I was a kid, I could sort of put my head in the sand a little bit.
Right. You know, read an X factor, a comic book and forget about my worries. Not so. With this generation, you know, like with your devices and with everything else, [00:08:00] it’s kind of inescapable the anxiety and the fears that are swirling around them. And, you know, they, they’re living in a world where they have, you know, we have this horrible tragedy at the school, the Oxford high school in Michigan last week, you know?
Yeah. It’s, it’s a real tragedy and
Melissa: and yeah, it’s unfortunate because you know, I, I remember like before the pandemic hit, like the school shootings and just the, the the mass shootings were at all time high and then the pandemic hits and you know, of course that spark. Tragedy as well from people, you know, getting sick and passing away from COVID.
But at the same time, everyone was like, wow, all these shootings have stopped, right. Because everything’s on lockdown, everyone’s at home. And and that was actually a fear of mine. I thought as soon as the world opens back up again, I feel like this violence is going to start up and, you know, and unfortunately slowly you know, we’ve seen [00:09:00] a few shootings in the last couple months and I can’t imagine.
Being a child right now, or a teenager, you know, because like you said, when I was growing up, I didn’t know anything about politics or parties or you know, the news. I mean, I, my mom and dad would watch the news and, you know, you just, you go to bed or whatever, you’d watch a movie. So I can imagine, you know, that like mental illness among young people is probably at an all time high right now and social anxiety and all those things.
So it must be challenging for you as a parent to kind of like, how do you navigate that? Like, how do you, what do you tell your kids.
Richard Ashley Hamilton: I mean, you know, it, it’s, that’s the question, you know, and it’s, it’s what my wife and I grapple with. And I think, you know, most parents out there are grappling with and you know, we, we try and always be straight with them and when something happens, we, we explain it to them and you know, how we feel about it as a family.
And I think another big thing is, you know, we just ask a lot of questions. We ask them how their. You know, my, my oldest [00:10:00] son is in middle school this year alone. There have been like two, two threats to gun violence or bomb scare. And the school takes it very seriously. And the school notifies all of us.
And of course we, we don’t send their boy to school on those days, but it’s like crazy to have to even worry about this stuff right now, you know? And then you know, my younger son is in, in elementary school and you know, they asked us to write these things called the comfort letters. Have, have you ever heard what those are?
Yeah, this is I’m, I’m sorry for your, your listeners. They probably want to slip the risks right now. We get to some fun stuff, but comfort letters are this thing where you, as a parent, you write a letter to your kid and That letter goes to the teacher, it’s sealed. They keep it in a special backpack and they only break it out in case of an emergency, like an earthquake or an active shooter situation, some sort of scenario where you can’t get to your kids.
And they’re like in lockdown in the school, and you’re supposed to put everything in the letter that you can to keep them calm, but you [00:11:00] also kind of need to treat the letter. Like if this is the last thing you ever get to say to your kids, what do you tell them for this things I’ve ever had to write?
It’s it’s really gut wrenching and thank God we have never had. Break glass in case of emergency and distribute those letters. And I hope my boys never have to read them. I don’t want any child ever after we won. But you know, this is the world that we live in and the world that our kids live in and they are so strong, the fact that they can get up every morning, I’m talking about all kids out there now and face the world and still live their lives and still find ways to laugh and joke around and pull pranks or whatever it is.
I’m so impressed by them. And so, you know, I really want to Tribble club first and foremost, I want it to be entertaining, to be scary. I want them to get the thrill out of it that I, I got out of scary movies and books when I was a kid, when I was reading something that was maybe just a little bit, a little bit dangerous, a little bit beyond [00:12:00] my assigned reading level.
So I want them to have that. And then I also kind of like the shadow mission for it is we want anyone who reads it. We want them to kind of like, maybe see how the characters in the book deal with their own field fears real-world and supernatural and how they cope with those fears. And maybe our readers in, in seeing these characters do that.
They can maybe take home some of these skills and apply them to their own lives. So that, you know, that that was kind of the, the goal of it. And I think that’s the other kind of thing. And, and, you know, I’m sort of hoping that in success, we can do more volumes if you’re a book club, because again, not to knock goosebumps, goosebumps is awesome, but it’s like an anthology.
Every book is different with a few exceptions. There really aren’t repeating characters and that’s all well and good, but I, you know, to kind of go back and answer one of your earlier questions, like, how do I. As a parent or as a writer, how do I help my kids or any kids kind of deal with [00:13:00] fears? I do it through story.
And I think that it’s one thing to see how characters kind of survive sponsor any other anthology. But it’s another thing when you follow characters consistently over serialized story, and you see how they deal with the fears that are recurrent in their lives, and it’s not like, you know, the end and it’s all.
You still follow them. They still deal with the same fears with new fears and variations of fears. And I just think like, if, if we, you know, we follow these characters long-term and see how they cope with this stuff, it’s a more realistic representation of what our readers going through. Maybe you know, like I said, maybe they can find some, some things to put in their little toolboxes and apply to their lives.
Melissa: Yeah, no, that’s, that’s really great. Cause yeah, literature is like, so healing and therapeutic and and I like having, I like that idea of having characters that, you know, you can keep reading about because like you thought, I mean, anthologies are great, you [00:14:00] know, stand-alone novels are great, but you know, we do get attached to these characters.
We get invested in their lives and you know, it’s just like, you know, shows like the walking dead, which I know we’ve talked about before. And and you want to see what happens to them for as long as possible. So, and I think, especially when you’re a kid I know that’s when I fell in love with like serial type, you know, recurring stories, I think what was VCR.
Was really good about that. She’d have these long series where you know, the characters would keep coming back. So I think that’s really brilliant for young people, especially. So, you know, going into fear book club, tell me about, you know, tell my listeners like about the promise. Exactly. I love that whole idea that you just kind of thought this up at the campfire.
That’s really cool. It adds to like, like the whole grim dark of it all, you know? But tell us about the promise and like how like book a issue one opens.
Richard Ashley Hamilton: Yeah. So it’s you know, this first start can particular really. There, there’s a few characters kind of the [00:15:00] main one that we follow in this opening art is a young guy named Whit Garcia.
He’s in the sixth grade and he’s just moved to a new part of town. And so he’d be starting a new middle school and there’s kind of a reason why. Made that move it’s him and his mom. And so he starts this new middle school and he’s a very kind of shy introspective guy. And he’s also like a real shutterbug.
He always carries around this camera that needs to belong to his dad. Beautiful. Like. And he’s really talented photographer, but it’s also like a bit of a security blanket. He’s able to kind of keep everyone at a distance. Cause he’s always looking at them through the viewfinder instead of you know, engaging with them face to face.
So his principal you know, she’s, she’s been a principal a very long time and you know, she knows what’s going on here and she thinks, you know, this kid, he’s a wallflower and I’m going to make them balloon. And the best way to do that is by having them join a club. And since he loves cameras so much, This is what you’re going to join the school to your book club.
And he, this last thing he wants to forced to [00:16:00] interact with other kids. And you know, aside from the whole fish out of water, in a new school drama, he goes through your book club, but there’s only three other members. One of them is this boy who’s been bullying wit and he’s stuck in the club. Also, he’s commuting all of his many detentions with your book duty.
And then there’s two other kids that are in there. They’re actually twin sisters Hester and Hillary Kim Korean American. And they’re really fun because they, they come from sort of a very conservative culture, but their interests are anything. But Hester is. Like us super into horror and graphic novels.
She’s a really gifted artist. She’s always scribbling on her tablet and her twin. Hilary is an aspiring standup. But all her jokes and routines are sort of like middle school
Melissa: related, hilarious, by the way. Cause I have read the first issue and I love the twins, like the banter and the dialogue was great.
Richard Ashley Hamilton: Yeah, they’re there, they’re a blast to write. They are way cooler than I ever was in middle school and ever will be even right [00:17:00] now. And there, the guy who’s kind of the the advisor for the yearbook club also really has no business being there. And his name is Mr. Moody and he’s the school drama teacher.
And he sort of, I think like a very Jeff gold blew me in character, a little self obsessed, a little narcissistic, really totally oblivious. And he’s way more interested in life. Looking at his own headshots than it helping the kids with any actual yearbook duties. But any way with on his first day at this new school is taken pictures around the campus.
There’s kind of a condemned doing of the school that got damaged in an earthquake a long time ago when he takes some photos. And that night he goes back to his apartment where he lives with his mom. His mom has an anxiety disorder, which is you know, very much steeped in fact, and personal experience and something that we touch on in the story.
But he he’s converted his bedroom and their apartment into a dark room. He painted all the walls of black and it’s not just because he’s a moody [00:18:00] preteen it’s because it’s a dark room. So he turns on the red light and he develops the photos the way his dad showed him. And when he starts to look at the negatives of this part of the school, where nobody’s allowed, he starts to see images of kids in them.
And there are these weird sort of photo, negative children and weirder still they’re wearing clothes that are not really contemporary fashions. They look like things that are from the. 18 hundreds and, you know, plus, or minus a few decades. And so what that does is that, that kind of kicks off this big mystery for wit and these other kids who aren’t quite his friends yet, but they soon become his friends because they all start to see these these photo, negative kids too.
And, you know, without giving away even more than I already have what, what they find out is that there’s sort of a weird supernatural secret to their school. There’s a a kid goes missing from the school every year. They, they disappear without a trace. Nobody knows why, and they’re quickly forgotten about, and nobody knows why about that either.
And you [00:19:00] know, wit and his, your book club, if they if they don’t figure out why, then there’s a good chance they may share this. That’s all these other kids. So, it’s a very I, you know, I’m, I’m a child of the eighties. So I sort of, the Amblin movies and all that Hamlin off stuff like, you know, Goonies.
And so it’s very much like a supernatural kind of Goonies and it’s, you know, we, we really try to balance the humor and the horror. We think the kids are really funny. I think I should probably, I should have mentioned this at the get-go, but artists is this amazing guy named Marco Matroni from Naples, Italy after shock found him.
And this guy is going to be huge and what he has done with these characters he’s brought them to life. The kids. I feel they act so naturally, but the really funny he’s got a great animated style that really expressive, funny parts of funny, and the creepy parts are creepy. I’m a little biased, you know, people will feel the same way, but [00:20:00]
Melissa: I agree.
Yeah. I, I, you know, the art definitely pulls you in right away, you know? Cause I have to admit like there’s a lot of comics that I’ve read or been excited to read and sometimes the art just doesn’t do it for me or, and sometimes it’s the writing too. But I think like for me, I’m such a visual person and I think a lot of people are that read comics, you know, I think a lot of people read them maybe rather than pros or whatever, but yeah, the art just really draws you in right away.
And that’s what I liked about it. You know, we were also so busy in our lives and we have, I think a lot of us have really short attention spans and there’s so much content we’re consuming that I’m really impressed. Like just when I get drawn in right away. I was, I was doing these writing courses.
There was a convention, I was watching an online and someone said that, like, when you’re reading a book, it’s almost like you’re having a hallucination. And and it’s like, and that’s a good thing. Meaning like, if, if you’re not drawn out, you know, by something that brings you back to reality, that’s a good sign.
So I definitely think like your [00:21:00] the fear Bach did that. And so, you know, hats off to the artist as well, because I think that seems like a good collaboration. Now, when you so you’ve had you met him before anything or it was just after shock was like, we have this artist for you to work with?
Richard Ashley Hamilton: No, I I’d never met him.
But you know, when I was starting to, to develop the series with my editors at aftershock, it’s Mike Martz and Christina Harrington, who are I can’t say enough good things about them. You know, the the, the feedback, you know, like I told you, this story started as a campfire story, and I thought I had it pretty much, you know, locked in my head, knowing what I was going to do, but the notes they gave me were so thoughtful and so additive, and they, they took the story to places I hadn’t anticipated and it’s all the better for their involvement.
But you know, they, after shock, they, they are in contact with a lot of really great artists. And you know, the way it works is that they, they, you know, since it’s sort of a you know, create or co-own the book, [00:22:00] they want to get my input. When did I, I think, and you know, like you, I feel like comic art is crucial, especially you know, for middle grade books, because I, I, I know that kids can kind of just on first glance, look at a book and know whether it was really meant for them or not, you know?
And so we wanted a style that was going to be. I think it me, but not pandering in the way that a lot of kids’ books are. They sometimes make things, look a little too cutesy, a little too cartoony. And I think that can be a turnoff for some readers, especially for our readers. So, you know, they, they had a list of a lot of talented artists, but you know, Marco’s samples stood out for a couple of reasons.
One was that he drew really credible young characters to respect the true, really great fantastical stuff. And that’s really hard to do that, you know? Artists who are great actors, but maybe they can’t quite do the larger than life, supernatural stuff and do both and a whole lot more. I’m going to show for this guy 29 days.
And the other thing that was [00:23:00] kind of like the little cherry on top is in his samples. He had done a page of total hunters, fan art and troll hunters was a franchise that I’d worked on for a couple of years since I was, oh, my got this guy gets it.
Richard Ashley Hamilton: going to be friends. So, you know, we we were kind of off to the races he was available and you know, I started and he joined, I think even before maybe I was midway through writing the first issue and it was great because I was then able to go back and.
Adjust the script and tailor it to him. And, you know, I always ask an artist on, when we begin a collaboration, you know, what, where do you like to draw? We hate drawing. What, what are you scared of drawing? What have you never drawn, but always wanted to, you know, and, and Marco talked with me about that and.
It was really helpful. And just the more we worked issue to issue you know, he really got the characters immediately and sees the depiction of the characters, brought them [00:24:00] to life in a whole new way for me. And so that went back and informed the script and it was just a really lovely collaboration. I I’ve been very lucky with all the artists that I’ve worked with in comics.
Sometimes they are assigned to a project and I have no direct interface with them. You know, the, the, the editor will act as sort of an intermediary, but, but with aftershock you know, we would just email Marco and I with Mike and Christina on copy and we would talk them out and you know, it was just a really great back and forth.
So that’s another reason why I hope we get to do more of these. I want to work with Marco again and again and again, and also not to be left out or a letter or Dave. He is really great. He does a lot of the aftershock books and a lot of books for other publishers, but he really, they, they, you know, it’s kind of one of the things I really learned in comics early on that’s like fluttering is almost like sound in movies, amateurish.
You, you notice it right. Ruin the [00:25:00] whole thing. Like if you see a student movie and the sound sucks, the whole thing sucks, but you can have great sound and it elevates everything. And I really feel the lettering does the same thing. You know, just the fonts that they’ve chose and the placement of them and what he chose to emphasize and whatnot.
It really like helps give the characters, their own voices, and it really sets up some of the scarier moments. And I, I just, you know, I I’m, I’m really amazed by his art history in the book.
Melissa: Yeah, no, it all seemed to just really come together really well. And and as an Italian, I, you know, I’ve got to say, I’m never going to complain when I hear about Italian artists.
You know, and there’s quite a few actually in the industry, I I’ve talked to several comic book writers that like, oh, my artist is from Italy. And I’m like, well, good for Italy. Like, you know, my dad’s from Italy and I’m like, that’s awesome. I had no idea like growing up. You know, Italians were, you know, getting into the comic book industry.
And now I feel like I, every time I talk to someone they’re like, oh yeah, my artists is [00:26:00] Italian. And I’m like, that’s awesome.
Richard Ashley Hamilton: It’s funny. You know, cause comics, they really are like the international language. You know, when when another artist I work with is from Argentina and Spain, they come from all over, you know?
But it’s funny because you can give a comics reference like, oh, you know, I see like a. Will Eisner thing here is and cabbage thing, and they know exactly what you’re talking about. You know, it’s cool. You know, like I said, even though Marco is in Naples, Italy, like to me, he recreated the American middle school experience of flawlessly.
So yeah. Yeah.
Melissa: That’s pretty talented. That’s awesome. So, you were saying it’s a graphic novel which is really cool. And so it’s available now. When is it coming out? When’s the release
Richard Ashley Hamilton: date. Yeah, it’s available for pre-order now. I believe FMC. Final or cutoff and I’m learning all these great terms I think is in a week or two.
I’m not quite sure when this is going to drop, but [00:27:00] basically the middle of December, but available for pre-order Barnes and noble target. And I always recommend bookshop.org that puts you in touch with any local book shops in your area. And so you can support them instead of some of the big chains, if that’s important to you.
And then you know, my preference is always to go to a local comic shop and order it from them through diamond it’s in the current catalog right now, the November catalog. But you know, some people don’t always have a comic shop in their town, so that’s where bookshop.org, but Penn’s a really good resource.
And I actually think quite a few compact shops are part of that network as well. So the prices are competitive with like an Amazon or whatever, but you’re supporting a local business. So it’s like when.
Melissa: Yeah, I’m always a fan of that. I just did an event last weekend at a local bookstore. I had gotten gotten invited to just come and hang out and just give a little chat and display my books.
And, you know, I always just really love that because it’s a young couple and they just bought the bookstore and it’s [00:28:00] secondhand books that they are trying to do more events to, you know, get more people interested in, in reading, you know, for one, but there’s just so many. So many bookstores have closed down even before the pandemic, just because of big, you know, places like Amazon just kind of driving everyone out of business.
So, it was just really nice to be in that kind of intimate environment, you know, and getting to chat with, like, there was six other authors there too. So, yeah, I feel like we need to support, definitely support those local bookstores so we can, you know, so they don’t got a business.
Richard Ashley Hamilton: Yeah, for sure.
There, you know, I don’t know. Anytime I walk into a bookstore, I just automatically feel at home. You know, I just feel like such a sense of community and kinship in there, so. Wow. Yeah. And, you know, so support the local bookshop, if he can and support for your book club, if you can, and then hopefully that’ll allow us to make more of these.
Melissa: And also just touching back on, like what you were saying you know, about the premise, I really like, even though it’s supernatural, it’s whore you [00:29:00] do have this way of sort of inserting real life things that kids can relate to. And like you were saying, deal with situations and have those skills to maybe cope, you know, in real life.
And I noticed first of all, I love the new kid trope. I think that’s just always, you know, you’ve seen it in like karate kid and, you know, things like that where it’s like the new kid moves to town or starts a new school and and kind of like a chosen one vibe as well, I guess in the sense where, you know, there’s bullying and things.
So was that and you mentioned the anxiety too, which a lot of writers, a lot of people experienced, I for one also have anxiety issues. Were those things that you kind of planned on putting in or did they just kind of come through organically when you were wearing.
Richard Ashley Hamilton: You know, it’s a little bit of half and half, I think you know, the the new kid trope was definitely a conscious choice because you know, for me, you know, you always have these questions of like, why this story, why now?
And so why does wit [00:30:00] why is he the only one who can see these ghost kids? The school has been around. Like 150 years. Why, so the first one to notice it, and there’s a reason for that and it, and it ties very much into his character and his interests. And so it’s a little less that he’s a chosen one. You know, I feel like kids today have sort of gotten away from that.
Like when I was a kid He-Man was big, you know, it’s Adam gets the sword, you know, he’s kind of like a chosen one sort of guy, but I think kids today gravitate more towards someone like Tony stark. Who’s a self-made hero, you know, more entrepreneurial and it’s less about, oh, well, Tony, Stark’s pretty rich, but you know, it’s kind of, even if he didn’t have all the money in the world, it’s kind of in him and he sort of, you know, makes his own opportunities and he just relies on his own internal skills to solve this problems.
And so I really wanted to be a kid like. You know, and you also wanted to show that he and the other kids, they make mistakes, they get a lot of things wrong and that’s actually, [00:31:00] okay. That’s a good thing. That’s how they find the solutions to their situations. You know, when I was a kid and I made a mistake in school, I was basically treated like a dunce, you know, like made, to feel the tremendous amount of shame.
I’m happy to see that you know, schools today are starting to get a little bit away from that. And it’s less about getting straight A’s all the time and it’s more about experiential learning. Okay. You got it wrong. It’s time. That’s okay. That’s how we learn. It’s not a mistake. It’s just one step closer to the correct answer, you know?
So, we have a little bit of that in here too. You know, the anxiety stuff, like I kind of alluded to before you know, my wife, when she after she gave birth to our, our oldest son, who’s now a teenager. She suffered postpartum. Jenny manifested is pretty extreme anxiety and to the point where like, she didn’t even feel comfortable leaving our apartment for son and they’d be cooped up in there all day.
And we live in LA and it would get hot during the day. [00:32:00] And we had an alarm system and it got so hot inside that the glue that held the sensors to the windows doors would start to melt and fall off the detail that we put in a fear book club. It was, it was, it was crazy. And that, you know, and we didn’t know anything, we were kids ourselves, but my wife is the strongest person.
I know she got through it and got better with some help and you know, and is, and is totally okay with me disclosed some, all of this stuff on a public podcast. Yeah. And you’re cool with that, honey. Right? Shaking her head. No, it’s fine. And you know, same thing. Like I, you know, my dad’s a psychologist.
I’ve been through therapy many times in my life. I am very open about it because I like my wife. We want to kind of take the stigma off of that. My wife said, like, who do we know that doesn’t like, wouldn’t benefit from therapy and it’s like anything anyway, you know? So especially if you’re a writer or in the arts or in any way, creative, I think it’s as essential as a [00:33:00] keyboard, really.
So, you know, we, we kind of wanted to put that stuff in there and also like, as a message to, you know, we see the adult characters, grappled fears, we see the kid characters grapple with fears, and that’s sort of another message of the book is like fear. You know, it is what it is and it’s not always a bad thing.
Sometimes it’s a good thing. Sometimes it’s a way of pointing something out to us and it’s not about eliminating all fear. It’s learning to kind of cope with it and live around it. Maybe even kind of survive and thrive with that fear. And so, you know, that that was all part of it. And then there, there were other elements that just sort of, kind of emerged organically either in Marco’s art or in conversations with the editors.
But you know, we, we also any opportunity to be, could to fit in sort of real world fears and anxieties. For example, there’s metal detectors that the kids. Okay. A lot of schools today have that. It’s just sort of a background detail. That’s there, that’s a little nod to it. They have emergency preparedness drills in the school.
We have [00:34:00] a fun kind of scene with that. And basically just even a lot of Hillary’s stand-up routines are anxiety, adjacent jokes, and she talks about being in therapy herself and, and mixed a lot of jokes about her therapist. So it’s there. All of it is to say like, We see it. We know it’s there. It is what it is.
Let’s not bury our heads in the sand. Like I used to do as a kid, that’s address it, but let’s find a ways to live with this, you know, cause unfortunately the fear isn’t going anywhere.
Melissa: Yeah, we have to learn to adapt and cope and everything. And I know I liked that too, because you know, I’m also a child of the eighties and things, you know, the horror or even like the campy horror, you know, that was like had the funny moments as well as a scary were just when you watch them now, they’re even more hilarious, but they’re just not realistic, you know?
On Halloween I watched the monster squad again for [00:35:00] the first time in like forever. It was my favorite movie, me and my siblings growing up so much so that our parents made us up our own monster squad business cards which we still have. Yeah. And half of them have been on the show actually, they’ve been on some other country.
So when they were doing their reunion, but you know, I was watching that Andre, Andre Gower, and Oh, gosh. I’m totally blanking on his name. He is an old, the older gentleman who played Dracula or the vampire Dunkin Ray radar,
Richard Ashley Hamilton: one of the best drag killers in movies ever. I think like
Melissa: a hundred percent.
Yeah. But we were watching it and I was just like, oh my God, I don’t remember how ridiculous this movie was. And I think at that time I was you know, somewhat scared of certain things. Like, you know, the Frankenstein with the, with the little girl, you know? But yeah, it’s, it’s funny. It’s good to watch, you know, back for like nostalgia [00:36:00] purposes.
But I love that like, horror has evolved so much to where it’s, it’s less, I mean, there’s still, can’t be stuff. Of course. A lot of the zombie stuff is can’t be, but there’s this more relatable stuff, but it’s more real-world I guess applicable, you know, like as far as, like you said, dealing with real life stuff, but also having like the supernatural element.
So that must be like, just really fun for you to be a part of as well, like to be contributing to that genre.
Richard Ashley Hamilton: Oh, well, it’s nice to hear you say it in those terms, you know, I mean, honestly, I think like the, you were saying earlier that the, the horrible stuff there it’s have to deal with day in and day out is way scarier than any monster or ghost I could invent, you know, kind of foolish really to, to not, you know, take advantage of it, I guess, to be kind of crass about it.
But you know, I, I think you know, I, when I was a kid, I didn’t like when I felt someone was lecturing to me, I know my sons certainly are the same way. And so, you know, we didn’t want this to [00:37:00] be a didactic book, like a manual, like here’s how to cope with your anxiety. You know, again, we wanted it to be a really entertaining.
That’s sort of like a Trojan horse for, for some of these other themes and you know, things that they just have to contend with day in and day out.
Melissa: Yeah, well, that would be awesome if like you could get them in schools and start, you know, maybe doing like a school tour where you get to go chat with, you know, audiences of, of kids and and it’d be really cool to see like a Netflix or something to, I’m gonna just be your agent now, I guess,
Richard Ashley Hamilton: from your lips to the Scholastic book, clubs, ear and tank Ted Sarandos is either we we’d like that too.
I mean, you know, fear book club was meant first and foremost to be. You know, comics for kids, you know, like that’s, that’s how I learned to read and write it’s my native medium. And you know, I love that we now live in this world where it’s cool for kids to read comics and, you know, they’re like the, some of the best-selling books, like [00:38:00] I think the lore Olympus is just like a bestseller across the board, not even for graphic novels, which is great to say nothing of its success as a web comic.
You know, so it’s, it’s just cool to be a part of that that makes me really happy and excited. And, but, you know, then you see Marco’s art and you’re like, geez, this would look really cool. It’s an animated series too. So we’ll see what happens. The book isn’t even out yet, you know, I think we’re just trying to focus on getting it out there and make it the best comic and it will be if something else happens with this, that would be awesome because you don’t get in the comics for the money.
I’ll tell you that.
Melissa: Yeah. I’ve heard that before. Yeah. That’s like, you’re not the first one to say that, so you definitely have to be passionate about it. And I think until you get those, you know, movie deals and things like that that’s when they kind of start seeing more money type success, but but yeah.
Success. Isn’t always money. I mean, of course it’s easy to say, but but yeah, success can come in so many different ways and just knowing that like you’re reaching people and readers and when you’re getting, you know, emails and [00:39:00] letters from, from kids are going to conventions and having people come up and cause play and, you know, wanting you to sign their stuff, that must just be like an incredible feeling.
Richard Ashley Hamilton: Well, I’ll tell you, since you brought it up and I got somebody found me on Facebook a couple of weeks ago and she was she’s a librarian at a elementary school in Fayetteville, North Carolina. And she said that they had ordered a complete set of piece troll hunters books that I’ve written.
They were like tie in novels to the Netflix series and Simon and Schuster put them out a couple of years ago. And I loved, I loved writing these books and at the time. To me, it felt sort of came and went, you know, Dreamworks didn’t really promote them at all. They’re more focused on, you know, movies and the shows cause they’re, you know, film and TV studio.
But this librarian emailed me or DM me and said that you know, they had the complete set and the kids loved them. They were checking him out all the time, but somebody lost book number three and [00:40:00] she looked on Amazon. And because the book is that print, it’s like crazy expensive. Now that I have an extra copy to give to the library, I’m like, yeah, I absolutely do.
And I’m gonna send you a whole bunch of other stuff too, because that’s like the whole point, you know, and that’s the best feeling in the world that somebody out there, especially a kid is reading something that I liked. And they maybe think that the parts that I thought were cool, maybe they think they’re cool too, you know?
And so that’s that, you know, I, I still work sort of in and around the animation industry and I, you know, Doing a bunch of emails, you know, from time to time with people on projects. And that can get really frustrating. It’s like, you’re beating your head against the wall, but you get this one message from an educator out there and it’s like, it’s that that’s makes it all worth it.
Melissa: you know what you’re doing it for, why you started doing it to begin with. Yeah. Yeah.
Richard Ashley Hamilton: And I, you know, that’s, that’s the other thing, I mean, I was sort of joking, not joking about, you know, the, the, the the [00:41:00] pay and comics not being great. And it’s true. And I hope that changes over time. You know, we see a lot of hashtags going out around you know, animation Raiders being paid more, which they absolutely should.
And really all writers should be paid a hell of a lot more because he’s really benefiting billions and billions off of their ideas. Yeah. So comic writers and artists and letters and editors and everyone else in comics make a whole lot more money, too. But you know, the, the, the current pay structure, maybe one benefit of it is that it keeps that.
Some of the posers, you said you only do it for the love. So somebody who’s in there to make a quick buck or to like try and flip a like film pitch into like a comic. They get weeded out pretty quickly, which I think is probably a good thing.
Melissa: Yeah. Now, and that’s like that in indie publishing as well for, for novels.
It it’s a lot of work and like 10%. Are actually making like five and six figures a month. You know, I’d say the rest [00:42:00] of us are, you know, way farther below that, but we keep doing it because you know, we love it and I love telling stories and I love creating, I couldn’t not write really because I have too many ideas.
They keep me up at night and, you know, pages and pages of notes. And sometimes it’s a curse because I’m, you know, your start on one project and then those little plot bunnies start whispering in your ear. Like, oh no, you should, you should write this other, you know, they
Richard Ashley Hamilton: always come out of hiding.
Yeah. You know, it’s, I think ultimately a good problem to have so many ideas. And I don’t know about you, but I, I I’m the same way I have to write. And I kind of realized a few years ago that really it’s like therapeutic. You know, and you know, when I was when I had a day job at Dreamworks animation, I, you know, kind of started out it’s, it’s like a receptionist as a temp, and then it became an assistant and all that time, I was kind of self publishing comics on the side.
And we, we had at least one of her sons at that point, he was really, really [00:43:00] young and they could get up super early. And so that meant I would have to get up at like five in the morning to write, to do my own stuff. And I, you know, kind of that conditioned into doing it. I really loved that. It made a little ritual out of it, make my coffee, sit down and get maybe an hour worth of writing in.
And, and that’s how much time I had before my son would wake up crying, hungry, change, whatever. And the, the, you know, the other good thing about that was like, it, it Kind of takes away the luxury of writer’s block. Like you don’t have enough time to sort of sit from the keyboard and dither around.
So it’s like, it’s like running sprints, you just sit down and you just go. Cause you know, the clock is ticking for the kid wakes up and on the days where I got my work done. Well, I’ll tell you the days where I, I was a little lazy and I didn’t get up and I do do my writing. I’d go to Dreamworks and somebody would say, you know, get me a coffee or make these copies or whatever.
I would be so resentful, so miserable. I hated every second of it. But on the days where I did my thing, first, I’d go in there. You want, you want extra sugar in that, [00:44:00] whatever, you know, like happy to do it. As I, you know, I got my, my therapy out of the way and I was kind of centered and ready to deal with everyone else’s nonsense.
So, you know, it’s like, I think we, we right. Cause we love it, but also we really sorta needed, you know, and, and that was why I, I read comics as a kid too, is another form of therapy. So, you know, in that sense, if, if your book club can. Provide some sort of therapy through entertainment or whatever that I’m just paying it forward.
And, you know, that’s, I feel good about,
Melissa: yeah, inspiring, you know, future generations of writers, you know, you know, kids that are reading your, your books and others and just being like, oh, I could, maybe I could do this too. You know, because anytime you read anything, I mean, the world is built on stories and, you know, they say there’s no more original ideas in a sense, right?
Like we’re all, we’ve all used a lot of them, but they’re yours and they’re different because it’s your voice and nobody has your specific voice and that’s [00:45:00] really all it is. And so we’re all very much influenced by each other. Fantastic. So yeah, I think it’s really cool to think. And I think that too, when people read my stuff, I’m like, oh, I hope, you know, somebody is like, oh, I can do this as well.
Because it’s just a, like you said, it’s, it’s not about like, trying to become like the next, you know, JK Rowling or whatever. George R. Martin it’s, it’s more about just like doing something you love on a daily basis as, as much as like, you know, your schedule allow you to do it, but, you know, that’s pretty amazing though, getting up at 5:00 AM before your, your son wakes thought because that takes true dedication and you have to be super, super passionate to do that,
Richard Ashley Hamilton: you know?
Yeah. I guess, I mean, it was really born of necessity. You know, I, I had sort of fallen out of practice and I had to do it this morning for another. I’m kind of feeling it now. So if that was, I was like 13 years ago, I, you know, it was able to to handle, to run on a less sleep, a little, a little more nimbly than I do now, but I, you know, I [00:46:00] just completely agree with everything you said.
You know, from time to time, somebody will, you know, message me on like Twitter or whatever. And they’ll say like, I got a great idea for like a troll inter story or how to train your dragon story, you know, who should I submit it to? And I tell him what, like, I, you know, I don’t, you know, Dreamworks and other students like that, they’re not really in a position to accept unsolicited, you know, stories based on the characters like that, that for legal reasons, they can’t do anything with it.
But my advice to them is Zoe’s all of that energy that you were going to put into that story, tell it with your own characters and babysit, put just even like an iota of your own experience in there. That is so much more interesting to me as a writer and as a reader. And I think that’s the way that the rest of the marketplace is going right now to your right.
There’s only. Five plots seven plots, you know, but it’s, it is like how we feel through it, through our voices and our [00:47:00] experiences and our perspectives. That’s where the magic is. And, you know, there will be more JK Rowling’s and George RR Martin’s out there. We don’t know who it’s going to be, but I’d say a prerequisite to that level of success is actually putting in the work and doing the writing, even when it’s not convenient, even when it’s not paying the bills, you do it for the love of it as we’ve kind of, sort of become a little monitoring in conversation, but it’s good.
I have to remind myself of that very regular basis.
Melissa: Yeah, it’s true. It’s, you know, for anyone listening and I’m sure other writers that are listening, you know, are going yeah. Yeah. We know, we know, you know, cause it’s, it is easier said than done. Cause we all have those moments where you just, you know, you have days where you wake up and you’re like, you know what, I’m just not feeling it today.
The important thing is to make sure that that. The next day and the next day, and the next day, like you get, you can take a day off, you can have a day, it’d be like, you know what? I just want to sit on the couch and watch TV, or I want to go for a bike ride or I want to just do something, you know, different.
But I always say like, like [00:48:00] writers, no matter what we’re doing, we’re always thinking about writing. So we can kind of, you know, procrastinate as much as we want until all of a sudden it’s just like waking us in the middle of the night.
Richard Ashley Hamilton: I couldn’t agree more with all of that. Hold on one sec, my dog is scratching him.
Let her in surprise. Guests are driving me crazy.
But yeah, I couldn’t agree more, you know, I’m, I’m in awe of people like I’m am like Stephen. King’s like right every day, no exceptions. I can’t do that. You know, like I take weekends off. I, I take any time off. I possibly can even anything it’s like, you know, it’s Arbor day. Sure. That’s closed. That’s a holiday, you know, like whatever.
So, but I think like, you know, part of it is like, don’t burn yourself out. But part of it also also like, those days where you’re just sitting and, and, you know, watch Netflix or just reading somebody else’s stuff or just doing nothing, just sitting there doing nothing. That’s part of the job too. At least it is for me, or maybe it’s just the way I rationalize it, but it’s like, [00:49:00] my brain needs that downtime to kind of recharge the batteries and just think about things.
And you have stuff kind of simmering on the back Horner and, you know, taking time away is sometimes the best solution. The only solution to a story problem, you know, if you are going at it,
Melissa: that is adorable. He’s adorable. That’s so cute.
Richard Ashley Hamilton: You never do this while you’re doing this.
Melissa: I’m surprised my cat isn’t like on my lap right now because I’ve ignored her for, you know, a few hours now and I totally totally get it.
Storable yeah. A hundred percent agree with you though. Yeah. You have to refill the well
Richard Ashley Hamilton: you have to refill the well, and I think all writers out there, especially if you are juggling a, a day job or day jobs with your writing career. Go easy on yourself. Give yourself a break from time to time. Reward yourself, treat yourself, go out and get an ice coffee.
Drink at a coffee shop. Go see a movie. [00:50:00] If you feel safe doing it or vaccinated or Goodwood drive in, we’ve been doing that. Our family it’s really fun. Or just, you know, go, go buy a comic and read something or just sit down and do nothing just to think like, I love to do that. And I’ve always taught my kids about that.
Cause they’re always on their devices. It just. Put this stuff aside, because if you’re constantly distracted by, you know, games or other responsibilities, then you, you are not refilling the wellness.
Melissa: Right. Exactly. And you know, it’s funny just before I let you go. I was, I thought about you the other night, I was watching Jimmy Kimmel and Guillermo Del Toro was on and you know, I’d never actually seen him in an interview before I don’t think he does very many and he was so funny.
And I was thinking back to the conversation we had about him last year when we chatted and, you know, you had spent the day with him and, and he had this like journal that he brought that had all these like scribbles and things in there. And I just thought that was the coolest thing, because there’s this really famous [00:51:00] director, who’s done so many amazing movies and he’s won awards and, and he’s just still, he’s got his little journal that he takes everywhere.
And I thought that was really inspiring, you know, because it’s like, you know, you don’t. Your process is very humble, still, I think, you know, in an assigned to, so yeah, I was thinking about you and our story when you were telling me about that and how you had hung out with them and stuff. So it was really fun, fun to watch
Richard Ashley Hamilton: the best days of my life.
Yeah. He’s, he’s great. He, I think he’s doing a couple interviews now to promote nightmare alley, which I, I can’t wait to see, but you know, he’s, he’s a guy like obviously he’s had tremendous success. All of it very much deserved as far as I’m concerned, but you know, at the end of the day, he’s still like a fan and a storyteller and he keeps those journals and those journals are, are just works of art.
There’s even I think insight additions put out a book sort of reproduction of some of them track it down, if you can, it’s really gorgeous. And there was even a museum exhibit to tie into it. We, you know, [00:52:00] being an LA. Lucky enough to be one of the places where towards my wife and I went to see these things up close and just all the detail and, and just all the ideas and the thinking.
And I think in those moments, he’s just doing what we’re saying. You sort of sitting there unplugging from rest of the world and letting his imagination run wild then. And part of his process is that he records it in these notebooks. You know, other people, maybe they you know, I keep a notebook, but sometimes I love to cook.
And sometimes I just do that, that, that is what helps them lock things. So whatever it is that works for you do that, don’t feel like you have to do what all the other big writers out there do. And there’s no one.
Melissa: Exactly. That’s great advice. What do you like to cook? What’s your favorite thing?
Richard Ashley Hamilton: You know, I’m half Cuban, so, I cook a lot of Cuban food.
It’s my grandmother’s recipes. And but I’m vegetarian, which, which is a little incompatible with Cuban foods. So a lot of pork, but we’re, we’re making some, some interesting progress with jackfruit lately. You know, Christmas Eve is [00:53:00] coming up in, in Cuban culture. And I think in probably most Latin cultures, you’re up Christmas Eve is like even bigger than Christmas day.
So I got all my grandma’s recipes. I make her black beans, which have always been totally vegan. I sort of realized late, late in life. We make plantations I will make pork for the meat eaters and the extended family. We’re, we’re our little family of forest, mostly vegetarian. And you know, we’ll make Flon make a bunch of things, but yeah, the the jackfruit pork is.
I’m working on it. I’ve been at it for a couple of years down. Maybe this is the year where we finally crack the code and make
Melissa: grandma proud. Yeah. You’ll have to send me the recipe when you get it. I’m not vegetarian, but I do like to eat vegetarian meals. You know, I like take breaks from meat from time to time and just kind of clean, you know, clean the system and cleanse and all that good stuff.
So that sounds really fascinating. You’ll have to send me that recipe when you perfect it. Yeah,
Richard Ashley Hamilton: absolutely. I’ll be shouting it from the rooftops. This thing’s been like a central preoccupation [00:54:00] of my life ever since I became vegetarian. And so, yeah. Yeah. I’ll let you know for
Melissa: sure. Awesome. Awesome. Well, it’s always a pleasure having you on the show.
I love chatting with you. I feel like we could chat for hours about writing.
Richard Ashley Hamilton: Likewise. Well, thank you, Melissa. It’s always great talking with you and thanks for being so patient. I don’t need Blab on about my process and let me promote for your book club. A lot of I’m really proud of the book. I, I can’t be totally objective about the story, but you know, it was I can.
I can definitely be objective about the art and the lettering and they are top-notch aftershock puts out great books. They’re now starting to put out books for young readers. This is for book club is the second book in their seismic press line, which is kind of like a Southern print for young readers.
The book that came up before is called rainbow bridge. It was co-written by Steve Orlando and Steve Fox. And sorry, I’m blanking on the artist’s name, but that’s a really great book too, when they’re there. You know, one of [00:55:00] the things that drew me to after shock they have a slogan that says read dangerously pool, and now they’re doing that for kids.
And I know as a kid, I love to read dangerously. I know my kids loved to read dangerously when all the other kids out there to read dangerously too, because it’s good to get a little scared and outside your comfort level, and that’s going to help you figure out what’s, what’s freaking you out in during the day and during.
Melissa: That’s right. Yeah, no, I love aftershock. They put out great content. They have for a long time, so that’s awesome that you get to work with them and and to be part of their, you know, umbrella, I think that’s, you know, there’s, there’s a lot of comic book companies out there. There there’s a lot of great ones, but I definitely think that aftershock definitely stands out.
You know, whenever I go to comic con I’m always like looking for the aftershock booth because there was just great stuff that they put out, so congrats on you know, being a part of that. And yeah. And so for everyone listening we’ll, you know, we’ll have more information. We’ll definitely. Release info about, you know, when the book is w [00:56:00] when Fairbrook is out and everybody can purchase it.
And like you said, it’s up for pre-order now. So, everyone, you know, just go to your local comic book store if he can, but if you, if you cannot, if you’re not in an area that has one, then, you know, definitely check out Barnes and Nobles and Amazon. And I Comixology I’m sure too, you could probably get digital copies and things like that.
Richard Ashley Hamilton: So, and target, that was kind of weird. I saw that it was on the target website. I don’t know that I’ve ever had a target before, so we’re at target a lot. Yeah.
Melissa: Yeah. I love target. Awesome. Well, yeah, thanks for coming on the show and everybody go check out fear book club.