Conor McCreery: Willing to Compromise. Unwilling to Settle.

Conor McCreery is the co-creator of Kill Shakespeare, the swashbuckling tail of Bardicide published by IDW. The series has been adapted for the stage, as a board game, and is currently being developed for television. He’s also assassinated the character(s) of Sherlock Holmes and Harry Houdini in Holmes vs Houdini for Dynamite Comics and is currently killing more things in Titan Comic’s Assassin’s Creed title (all with the awesome Anthony Del Col).  Conor has contributed stories to numerous anthologies including the latest edition of the New York Times best-selling Anthology FUBAR: Age of the Sword. He started his writing career as a journalist in Canada where he became the head-writer for Business News Network, as well as a producer and occasional on-air personality. He later plied his trade in Ghana at The Statesman the country’s oldest independent paper, where he managed to collect several death threats (and annoy the ruling party of Zimbabwe) while working on features covering, among other things, Ghana’s orphanage system, student riots, and the country’s first major off-shore oil discovery – as well as writing a weekly NBA column in an attempt to convert an entire nation into fans of his beloved Raptors. His work has been featured in The Globe and Mail, The Grid, and in Living with Shakespeare, published by Yale University Press.

Conor was interviewed by Thomas Logan for Sliver of Stone Magazine.

September 11, 2012.

Conor McCreery

You had an impressive writing background before you started with comic books. Did you always want to do comics or did that come along later? Once you transitioned into the comic book world, did you have to build your platform from scratch? How did you “break in” to the industry? What were the main obstacles as you started your career?

Awwww shucks. You guys…

I guess it was impressive. I don’t know. I mean mostly I had worked as a journalist, and I was fortunate that that let me travel. I was also really grateful for the opportunities to do some work on TV projects – although the only thing that actually made it to screen was uncredited – so… impressive?

But to get back to the question at hand, no, I didn’t know I wanted to be a comic writer. I mean, I liked comics, and I thought they were so much fun, I loved the freedom of those stories, but it wasn’t until we started work on Kill Shakespeare that I realized that this was something I really could do.

And our breaking in was by working the heck out of the story for Kill Shakespeare, finding an amazing artist in Andy Belanger, and then putting together a great pitch package that several publishers really liked. Anthony Del Col, the co-genius of K.S., Holmes vs Houdini and Assassin’s Creed did a great job of getting us in front of IDW and they said yes!

A writer and an artist walk into a bar… and decide to collaborate on a comic book project. What would constitute their basic toolbox?

Good communication. A sense of humour. A willingness to compromise. An unwillingness to settle. Caffeine.

Who’s your audience? What are three things you think your readers absolutely want? At what point in your process do you take these wants into consideration and stop writing for yourself? Also: what liberties and restrictions do you observe?

I think you always have to write for yourself, because if you aren’t then your work won’t ring true. I’d say that I’ve probably “compromised” more with writing partners to make our shared tastes unify then ever thinking “oh, the reader might not like this.” I feel you have to trust yourself, and trust that your audience is smart enough to follow you along – and if your story is strong enough they’ll be interested enough to see what comes next – even if they’re not sure they like what’s coming next.

How do you assess your success as a comic book writer?

Moderate. I’m super proud of Kill Shakespeare, Holmes and Assassins, as well as some anthology stuff I’ve done, but at the same time, I’m hardly a household name, and that next project is something I still spend a lot of time chasing. Last year I had two deals for series and both ended up falling apart, so I don’t take anything for granted.

So many cons. Which ones have been your favorites—and why?

Oh gosh… I love all of them for different reason. HEROES is run by the best dudes ever, except perhaps for the team behind Montreal. Toronto and TCAF are home town shows. Calgary and Edmonton treat you SO well as a guest. Ditto Seatlle, plus it’s a great place for networking. New York is… well NEW YORK! C2E2 is a great sales how, but somehow relaxed. MCM London is so much fun. The Middle East Film and Comic Con might be my fave experience though, it was so exotic and the people behind it are so passionate about building comics in the region.

Comics have recently evolved beyond their traditional ink and paper format and into the digital world. Several years back, Comixology hit the scene, and, more recently, Madefire jumped in. Digital comics or print? As a reader, which of the two experiences do you enjoy the most? Do you have any recommendations (outside of your own work, of course!) of essential titles to include? What constitutes your personal collection?

I still prefer print, but that might be more to do with my tablet than anything else. As for “must have books?” It’s all the usual suspects: Transmet, Lucifer, Sandman, 100 Bullets, Morning Glories, Bone, Buddha, Fables… So many more…

Tell us about your writing process. Also: Which writers have influenced your writing? Are there any current trends that have changed your outlook of writing? What sources do you use to stay updated re:  the industry?

I’m pretty bad at staying updated to be honest, but The Beat does a great job, as does Comics Alliance, CBR, Comics Worth Reading, and Bleeding Cool. And SoS is one of a number of really sharp blogs.

As for the writing process – I often work in concert with another writer, and even if I don’t I like for the artist to be heavily involved. The collaborative process gets my brain going much more than me just sitting on my own. I find I need to be talking out loud to get my brain to work at it’s utmost.

What are common myths about comic books? What is the weirdest thing you’ve been asked about your work?

I don’t know if there are any common myths anymore. When I started in this game I would have said that they were for kids, or that they were all about superheroes, but I think people who read comics know that isn’t true. And I suppose the weirdest thing that I was part of was a gentleman in Miami who was trying to tell me that Shakespeare had encoded messages in his plays that were meant for an extra-terrestrial audience, and that, by the way, the same messages were also hidden in California’s driving code as well as in a pre-Summerian language (which I think was actually a fictionalized idea from Snow Crash.)

That was a bit odd.

Do you have children? What do they read? Comic books tend to be associated with geek culture. What do you think is the best way a non-geeky parent can support their young nerdlings?

I have two children, two and a half and eight months, so neither isn’t a reader per-se, though Peregrine does have a Kate Beaton book she loves.

As for supporting your kids? I think you need to let them find what they love and then you need to learn about it. It’d be the same if you were a geek parent and your kids became huge jocks – you need to get down to the practice field and watch them, or take in a few games of their fave sport – who knows you might start to like it. Same thing with geek stuff, whatever they’re in to give it a chance. And if you don’t like it? That’s cool, just support that they do – and maybe try to turn them onto new stuff that you like better.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on Titan’s Assassin’s Creed title with Anthony. I’m also going to be writing a new Kill Shakespeare adventure coming out later this year, and I have four or five pitches I’m planning to take out this year as well – so hopefully I’ll be pretty busy.

Follow Conor on Twitter: @ConorMcCreery