JOEL ENOS has written comics (Sonic the Hedgehog) and graphic novels (Ben 10) and published short fiction in Whispers from the Abyss, Visibility Fiction and FLAPPERHOUSE. His comics adaptation of Anais Nin’s “Under a Glass Bell” with artist Fiona Meng, was published in A Café in Space. He’s also edited many best-selling manga series including Naruto and Tokyo Ghoul.
1. How long have you been writing and what got you started?
My parents have old tapes of my siblings and I telling stories before we could write. And this year I published three or four stories that I co-wrote with my sister, Angela, so it’s just something we’ve always done, make stuff up. Then I guess the more I could read, the more I wanted to write. We didn’t have a TV when I was really little so my “visual storytelling” fix came from comics, which are kind of surreal and rely a lot on dialogue and imagery and concise caption-based narration, something that still influences my writing, I think. But professionally I went straight from grad school for English to being a magazine editor and journalist for a few years. So writing in a different way than now with fiction, but still writing. Always writing.
2. What is the best piece of advice you have for new writers?
Write what you like and what you want to read. And not everything works. If you’re writing for yourself, you can do anything you want and just be glad that you have it on paper for yourself for later. But if you want readers, learning to translate your storytelling to the audience is so important. Revise. Cut. Rearrange. Chop. Remove. And work with an editor. Everyone needs one. Even editors need editors when they write.
3. Are there any writing resources, such as books or websites, you’d like to recommend?
I read a lot of books by writers and there’s always something in each one that stays with me. Some that come to mind that resonate with me currently are the essential On Writing by Stephen King. The Novel of the Future by Anais Nin, speaks strongly to those who feel mainstream publishers aren’t hearing them. Mindy Kaling’s books about writing and acting for TV are deceptively fun because of her style, but also very insightful. And I just finished reading Chris Hardwick’s The Nerdist Way, which I found really inspiring in terms of just creating anything, not just writing.
4. What is your favorite type of fiction and who are your favorite authors?
I like all kinds of stories and fiction. But I am most drawn to surrealism with strong atmosphere, regardless of genre. Especially when the style is very different from what I write or can even do. That list includes a lot of people but usually anything by Haruki Murakami, Jonathan Lethem, Nalo Hopkinson, Shirley Jackson. But Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte totally fits that too. And I just read the novella Avery Overman’s Adventures in Underbed by Robert Rodi and thought it was perfectly strange.
5. What tips do you have for finding time to write?
I take it where I can get it. Sometimes at the expense of sleep but I write a lot, or at least outline, on the ferry or on airplanes because what else are you doing to do when sitting for that long?
6. Do you prefer to outline a story in advance or write on the fly? Why?
I outline everything to the Nth degree and revise it a million times. My imagination would never let me finish a story without moving toward that goal of “this is the ending” even if I change what that ending is a few times. Recently, my short story “Pineapple Head,” got a new ending even after acceptance thanks to a suggestion from my brilliant editor at Visibility Fiction, Holly. Now the story says exactly what I wanted it to and it may not have done that as successfully before for everyone the way it ended originally. So I’m always ok with changes if it makes a story better before it prints. Part of being an editor myself too, I guess is that I plan every story out, even if it’s short. And I give myself deadlines, even if no one wants the story yet.
7. How do you deal with rejections?
I take any valid criticism seriously and will revise the story if I feel like it needs it. But mostly, I just wish the person had taken it and then I move on, either to a new market, or with a new story. It’s good to remember that pretty much everyone gets more rejections than acceptances.
8. What are your writing goals for the next twelve months?
To write more and not worry about who might want to read it till I finish the story. And to collaborate more with other writers and artists and editors. I enjoy the process of working with people to tell stories as much as I like telling them solo.
9. For the next five years?
I love comics so am always thinking of ways to write more of them, work with new artists, and tell new tales in that visual way. I have a few projects in the works that I’m hoping people will like, both in comics and in prose.
10. Is there anything you’d like to plug? Feel free to share a link.
My website is joelenos.com but I’m terrible about updating it.