Not too long ago I posted my review of the graphic novel Dark Light. I loved the ideas that were presented in the story so I reached out to the creator, Chad Kultgen, and asked him if he would do a brief interview for my site. Chad was nice enough to take some time to answer a few questions. I have to say that I was intrigued by his answers and how well thought out they were not just when it comes to writing, but his ideas and outlook on life. Take it away Chad…
I moved around a decent amount as a kid but I spent my formative years (junior high and high school) in a few different suburbs of Dallas, Texas before moving to Los Angeles for college and staying here to pursue writing. I started writing as early as I can remember. I always liked reading comic books and novels and watching movies and TV shows. That interest in the mediums emerged as a desire to create things in them at a pretty young age. I remember writing a fantasy book on my family’s first computer using a program called Word Star when I was a kid. And even before that I was always doing little short stories, or drawing my own comic books as a kid. I suppose I started as soon as I had the impulse to do it.
I’m not exactly sure. A million little ideas for things are constantly popping up in my head and some of those ideas stick around and flesh themselves out. This was one of those ideas that started when I heard that the SciFi Channel (back then anyway, now it’s SyFy) was interested in a big, sweeping drama set in space, another Battlestar, essentially. I don’t know how true that was or if SyFy ever actually pursued that but once I heard that I just found myself thinking about something set in space for a few weeks and eventually that thing became Darklight. I’ve always been a huge sci-fi fan and the ideas in Darklight are just things I think about a lot – the eventual end of our universe, extending the human lifespan with technology, uploading our brains, computing power getting big enough to predict every possible future for the rest of time, etc. And I didn’t know how many opportunities I’d have to explore those things in my other writing so I thought this would be a good project in which to include them.
The ending of Dark Light really opens more doors and leaves more questions than answers. Do you intend to write a sequel sometime in the future?
As I mentioned the thing that sparked this idea for me was trying to come up with a TV show set in space. This initial story was always meant to be the opening to a much larger story about what happens when humanity is forced to move into a brand new universe. I would love to write all kinds of stories in that next universe. I have a bunch in my head currently. In the best possible world, I’ll eventually get to do them.
I loved the artwork in Dark Light. When you began working on the story how did you find the artist, can you talk a little about that process?
I sold the idea for Darklight to Boom before I started writing it. Then once the writing process began, Boom/Archaia suggested Piotr Kowalski. I took a look at his art, thought it was fantastic and off we went. There wasn’t much more to it.
Throughout your career your focus has been on novels, why did you want to try and tackle a graphic novel?
My focus has been equally in television, movies and novels but doing a graphic novel was certainly new for me. I grew up reading comic books pretty religiously. I cut my teeth on things on things like the Dark Phoenix Saga which led me to really dig into the entire Marvel Universe, which led me to become more aware of DC than I was and then I started getting into Frank Miller and then when Watchmen came out I understood that comic books would be more than just something I read when I was a kid. I’ve always just been a huge fan of the medium and I’ve always known that it was something I wanted to do. So when the opportunity presented itself I was really excited. In many ways it was a childhood dream come true. Just walking into a comic shop and seeing a book there with your name on it was pretty fucking incredible.
Dark Light was printed though Archaia Comics. How did you get mixed up with them? How did they decide to pick up your book, can you talk a little about that process?
I had a few meetings with Boom to pitch the idea for the comic book and that was really it. They were interested and we moved forward. Somewhere in the process of actually making the comic book I think, I’m not exactly sure, but I think Archaia and Boom aligned and Darklight was going to be put out through the new entity. I think. Again, I’m not exactly sure how all of the business end of things played out on that project.
In your other novels there seems to be a pattern of sexual themes and relationships. Why did you want to take on a entirely different genre in science fiction? From what you have previously done, this seems like a complete 180.
I have a million ideas that are all pretty different. My next novel, for example is completely different from anything I’ve ever done in any medium. I can’t really help what ideas come out of my brain. Some will have sex, some won’t. Some will have robots, some won’t. Some won’t even have human characters or any characters at all. I just pick the idea that’s floating around in the soup that seems the most interesting to me at the time and I do that one. So while Darklight might be a “complete 180” from my novels, it’s very much akin to a huge amount of other ideas I’m constantly thinking about.
I think it is safe to say that some of your novels have created quite a bit of controversy. Why do you think people react the way they have to your work? Do you think it has something to do with the PC culture we now live in?
I think people mistake personal subjective preference for absolute objective truth a lot and when they experience something that presents an idea outside of or contrary to their subjective preferences they react in the only way they can, which is to express their subjective opinion in an attempt to make it seem objectively true. I think much of my work presents ideas that challenge personal preferences in the most sensitive parts of the human psychological structure – religion, sex, gender, love, relationships, etc. Anyone presenting ideas that are far outside the norm on any of these issues will spark a controversial reaction. I think it’s just human nature to aggressively attack ideas that are opposed to your own in the basic categories that deal with the nature of humanity. Because everyone wants to think that their view of reality is the correct one, their strategy for life is the best one. So by not attacking an opposing view, a person would allow that view to maintain equal validity to their own, which is near impossible to rationalize on a subconscious level. Especially when you’re dealing with religious ideas, ideas about gender, about sex, about abortion, about the fundamental components of human civilization, really, people want to believe that what they think is correct. I try to challenge that because I personally don’t think there is a correct way to perceive any of this.
Recently I read your “unique marketing strategy” for the promotion of one of your novels, Strange Animals. I think there is some mad scientist type genius behind this, but again the culture we live in was somewhat outraged when you did this. How did you come up with this strategy and why did you decide to go through with it? What was your intention?
I view everything I do as an experiment. Sometimes the experiments are exploratory and sometimes they’re more traditional, involving a hypothesis, etc. The Strange Animals project was certainly more of the later. I became interested in the idea of a pregnant woman making a website on which she challenged the pro-life movement to donate 100 million dollars to a trust fund for her unborn baby. If she got the money, she’d have the baby, give it up for adoption and all of the money would be placed in a trust for the child which he or she would get on their 18th birthday. If any less than 100 million was received by the end of the second trimester, she’d have an abortion. That idea had been kicking around my head for a few years and I really wanted to know what would happen in the real world if a woman did this. And even more than that, I had some ideas about what might happen and I wanted to see how accurate those ideas were. So I decided that I’d make the website as though it was real to test my own hypothesis, which was essentially outlined in the book. The website existed for two weeks before the book came out. It got covered by Vice, Fox News, TLN, the Daily Beast and a bunch of right wing conservative places. The public reactions that I predicted in my book turned out to be pretty accurate and I was really happy with the outcome of that experiment.
You have quite a few film credits to you name. Can you talk about your experiences working on a film and what it is like to see one of your stories made into a movie (Men, Women, and Children)?
My experiences in movies have been varied to say the least. One in particular has been the single worst experience of my career and the others have been some of the best. But across the board the experimental value of all of the experiences has been incredible. The worst experience was writing a movie, selling it to a studio, having the studio make it many years later after several rewrites, going through credit arbitration, getting screwed (as everyone seems to in that process) and then having the movie tank anyway. One of the best was getting to see one of my books adapted by one of the greatest writer/directors working today into a movie that I couldn’t have enjoyed more. That movie also tanked, but I still think it was an incredibly successful adaptation.
Sometimes things happen in your life that you don’t fully understand… ever. But you do understand that no matter how compulsive or strange the thing may be, you get a great deal of happiness from it and possibly even a deeper understanding of your own artistic process or of your place in the world, or any other realization that you find meaningful. Urban cell phone squirrel photography is that for me. And yes, I am the greatest wild squirrel photographer in the world. While some wild squirrel photographers might be able to produce an image or two that are better than my best, no wild squirrel photographer has amassed a body of work even remotely approaching mine or an intimacy with their subjects that approaches mine. If you have evidence to the contrary, I’m happy to review it.
As a successful writer, do you have any specific goals? Maybe something that you set for yourself either words per day, or how many pieces you would like to complete each year? What drives you to keep pushing forward?
I have about ten projects that I currently do some work on every day. Just depends on which one is on the top of the pile in my head that day. Unless there’s a deadline being mandated, then I obviously work on whichever project is under deadline. What keeps me going is that behind those ten ideas are another hundred and I’m adding to that stack every day. I started a document a few years back where I just jot down a few paragraphs about an idea when one comes to me. That document is 114 pages long now. I know I’ll die with hundreds of unfinished projects and that’s beyond depressing to me. So the only thing I can really do is to try to get through as many as I can until I arbitrarily die.
Of all your projects which on are you most proud of, or which one means the most to and why?
I view all of my projects as practice for the next one, none have more weight creatively to me. Some have made me more money than others or come at more impactful moments in my career than others, but they’ve all been practice for the one that comes next.
Who was your biggest influence that pushed you to want to be a writer?
Can you talk about any new projects you are working on? What does 2016 hold for Chad Kultgen?
I’m working on a few new books, a few movies and some TV shows. I don’t know much more than that about what the final phase of any of these things will be.
As an aspiring writer, can you offer any advice to me or anyone else out there? What do you attribute your success or perhaps failures to along your journey? What has helped you the most to become successful?
Success is measured differently by everyone. I feel a compulsion (much like taking squirrel photos) to write every day. I can’t really stop myself from doing it. If I go too long without writing, without getting some of this shit out of my head, my brain starts feeling like it’s on fire. For me, writing has always been about relief to some degree. As for advice, I’d say writing every day is good. The more you do anything the more you begin to understand your relationship with it, how it affects you and how you can, in turn, affect it. Once a person gets to a level of comfortability with something in which they feel it’s an extension of themselves, then they can manipulate that thing as though it’s a part of them. This, I think, is when a person can do their best work, after the tool to do that work has become a part of them. And if you care to know the opinion of other people, which is sometimes good, obviously show your stuff to as many people as you can. Listen to what they have to say and then do whatever you think is best, either taking some of their advice or discarding it. Because in the end, at least this is how I feel, the best thing you can get out of an artistic endeavor is satisfaction, which (again for me) has never come from anyone’s opinion of my work other than my own. I obviously love it when people enjoy what I’m doing, but I’m doing it because I’m compelled to.
Is there anything else you would like to add? Thanks for the questions. You can follow me at any of my social media links below.
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