Nick Tory, a self-described “dirty recluse who lives in the a shack in the mountains”, is a comedy writer and bear wrestler. Yes, bears. So far, he has four books to his credit that center on Johnny Tee, a reformed criminal attempting to go straight and make money the legitimate way. Tory is the funniest author we’ve interviewed so far, claiming he spends his time writing and shaking his fist in the air. Not much else is known about him, being a recluse and all, but we managed to track him down and get some answers:
So, Nick, what’s harder, wrestling bears or writing a novel?
That’s a tough interview question. Tough, but fair. In that way, it’s kind of like wrestling bears…unless you wrestle black bears, who cheat like it’s going out of style. I would say that writing a book and wrestling a bear are equally tough except that I got bit a lot more when I was writing. Speaking of which, I think I should look for a new editor.
When did you decide to become an author? Did you have a singular aha moment?
I’m not sure I ever decided to become an author. I was always writing things and one day I woke up and my book was for sale on amazon. It was real quick, and I’m not sure I was lucid when the actual decision was made. So if there was an aha moment, I don’t remember it.
Why comedy? What appeals to you the most about this genre?
There was a time when I tried to write adventure and science fiction, but I was just never happy with it. Comedy seemed more natural for me, and when I gave it a shot, I found that I really enjoyed the process. The biggest appeal is how freeing it is. I write what I think is funny. If people don’t like it, it’s easier to say, “okay, no problem, I get that,” because it’s so subjective. It’s easier for me to be happy with what I put out, because who knows more than me about what I find funny?
I’ve heard that comedy can be a difficult genre to break into and that sometimes people are less accepting of comedy in novels as opposed to in movies or on TV? Have you found this to be true? Or, are there a lot of readers out there who are looking for laughs in their books?
It’s certainly tough because, as I mentioned, some people read it and just don’t get it at all. To them, it’s like reading Sanskrit, so finding readers can be difficult. On the flip side, when you do find them, they tend to be extremely loyal. I originally thought there was six, maybe seven people who wanted to read comedy, but it turns out that a lot of people are looking for ways to forget about their terrible, mind-numbing lives. And while I’m glad to help them out with that, I think it’s important not to forget. That’s why whenever I find out that somebody reads one of my books, I try to send them a personal email pointing out the negative things in their lives. I think I’m helping to maintain a certain balance in the world.
Can you tell us a little about your writing process? Do plot thing out in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants?
I have a loose outline that changes quite a bit as I go. Johnny is such a fun character to write for because he sort of tells me where the story is going and I just sort of help him out along the way. Sometimes I’ll wake up on the couch and entire chapters are written and I’ll sort of look around with really nervous, shifty eyes. But then I’ll notice that my neighbors bottle of expired prescription drugs is empty on the couch and there will be a muddy shoe trail from my neighbor’s garbage can to my house. Then I’ll think “now this makes sense. My neighbor is drugging me and writing this book.”
Johnny Tee, as you describe him, is a cross between James Bond and a dirty hobo. What was the inspiration behind this character?
I was reading a lot of John Swartzwelder and Richard Stark, and they had a big influence. I also really love the idea of a character that is just wholly unlikeable and gives you every reason to hope he fails, but somehow, against every fiber of your being, you end up rooting for him. So while he’s really not all that nice of a guy, he has to have a sweet side too, even if it just comes out for four or five seconds.
What do you think is the most important part of a story? Or, I should say, what is your favorite part of the story?
The most important part of the story for me is the one that fits the joke best. I frequently describe the Johnny Books as 1000 jokes crammed into 100 pages with a story sort of crammed into the cracks.
What lessons have you learned the “hard” way?
The two biggest lessons I’ve learned is how important a good editor is, and that the people around you, no matter how lovely they are, probably don’t want to read your drivel.
How was the publishing experience for you? Did you go it alone or did you get help?
I went it alone quite a bit in the beginning. It turns out that isn’t the best way to do it. I got a lot of help from author Amy Vansant, my editor Carolyn Steele, and my buddy Charles Hancock. In the end, the publishing experience is not all that fun. It’s a lot more fun to just write. I’ve recently considered starting to just keep all of my writing in spiral notebooks and bury them in my backyard. Then I would sit on a lawn chair directly on top of the covered hole, and hold a rifle. That seems extreme, but honestly that’s what I do with a lot of my regular possessions too.
How do you handle rejection or negative reviews?
They don’t really get to me, I think more so because the nature of the genre. Usually, I just shrug it off, but if that doesn’t work I drive to their house and stand out on the lawn, screaming obscenities and waving my arms around like a lunatic.
How do you find your courage? A lot of new writers are scared of putting themselves out there to be judged. So much so, that many of them never even take the first step. What advice would you give to them?
I’d tell them to just jump. The time will never be perfect, and the writing will never seem perfect. The best advice I ever got was to just keep writing. Write and write and write. I look back at the first book in this series, and I hate to even open it. The more I write, the better I think it gets, so now that the 5th book is coming out, I’m fractionally closer to being happy with the end product.
What’s next for you? What are you working on now?
There are set to be a total of ten Johnny Books. It’s three trilogies and then a finale book. Each one is around 100 pages, and the first trilogy will be released as a since work soon. It will be awhile, but once all that is done, I’ll probably write a romance novel because it will be completely unreadable and bizarre.
And that concludes what was quite possibly one of the most entertaining interviews we’ve ever conducted here at Literative. We don’t know if the bears are figments of his imagination, or not, but either way, they made for some great stories. If you would like to learn more about the hilarious Nick Tory, or read his books, please visit his website, follow him on Twitter @nick_tory, and check out his author page on Amazon!