MM: Hi Russell, thanks for taking the time to speak to me.
RN: My pleasure.
MM: You write in so many different formats- novels, non-fiction, comics, children books, which is your favourite?
RN: That’s really hard. I love them all for different reasons. If I had to pick one, I would say comics because there is magic in seeing your words come back from an artist for the first time and they are better than you could have ever imagined.
However, I love novels because you can tell a story all by yourself, and the experience of every reader is unique as they visualize your story a little bit different from anyone else since there are no pictures.
And non-fiction is the easiest to write, and often has the biggest impact. You can be clear and concise with non-fiction and I can see the immediate change it makes with people.
MM: Do you have plans to adapt any of your comics to novels or vice versa?
RN: I already have. Katrina Hates the Dead was adapted into the novel And Demons Followed Behind Her (aka Katrina Hates the Apocalypse) which is the first novel in my And Death Followed Behind Her collection. Pixie Dust was adapted into the novel Betrayed, which is part of my And Hell Followed Behind Her collection.
MM: Your latest project Cthulhu is Hard to Spell features a variety of amazing artists and writers. What was the biggest challenge in editing such a collection?
RN: The sheer scope of managing so many creators is easily the hardest part of putting together a collection. On one hand, having so many artists means no artist is responsible for too much of the workload, but you have to make sure they all get their work in on time and, more importantly, that their work is of high enough quality that it maintains the integrity of the anthology.
Then, when the book is done, you have to sell it, and you have a responsibility to all of those artists that you do a good job with that part too.
As the editor, you set the pace, and everything flows from you, which is, frankly, exhausting. However, I also love it because there is a camaraderie with anthologies that you don’t get with making comics or novels. It’s my change to work with so many amazing artists, writers, and creators, and for them to stretch their legs and try something new.
MM: With comic anthologies I’m always impressed not just in the different tales but the art styles. There’s no two tales with similar art. Is the art as big a consideration when choosing stories for an anthology? And then deciding the running order…?
RN: I try not to make it a factor in choosing the stories for the anthology, but I definitely want a bunch of different tones, and many artists who have never worked in the mythos before. The biggest thing with choosing stories is art quality and point of view. I want to bring in artists with varied points of view who will bring something new to the mythos.
Tone and style are incredibly important in deciding the running order, though. A good anthology works like a mixtape with ebbs and flows, changes of tempo, and other considerations that make sure you aren’t getting too many of the same type of story in a row.
You don’t want to run too many comedic stories or dramatic stories together, or too many short or long stories together. Also, you want to save the biggest scares and laughs for specific times during the book’s length, so you don’t wear out your audience. It’s much like designing a novel or comic script, but you’re doing it on a massive scale. I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about the rhythm of the book.
MM: As someone who only had passing knowledge of Cthulhu and hadn’t heard of most of the old gods, I found the anthology informative. Are there any old gods missing you wish you could have included?
RN: I love that you said you found it informative, because that was our goal. We wanted to give people a low barrier of entry gateway into Lovecraft, while servicing hardcore fans as well. I love hearing from hardcore fans that they loved the inside jokes and stories we chose, and I love hearing from new fans that they learned a lot about the mythology from reading the book.
After the first anthology, there were definitely a few gods and monsters I thought didn’t get talked about enough, like Shub Niggurath and the Yith, so I tried to focus on those stories this time, with the ones we didn’t do last time. Now, I think what’s missing are some of the lesser gods, and some of the races of the Lovecraft universe. Though with 68 stories across two volumes, I think we do a pretty good job of surveying the whole of the mythos.
MM: Several of the stories in Cthulhu is Hard to Spell make a joke about how hard it is to pronounce Cthulhu. One even calls him Kathy. Is this something you encouraged?
RN: Not encouraged, but that’s something that is a running joke through the whole book series. I try to keep that joke running a little bit here and there, because I’m hoping fans will appreciate it.
I also kept a theme for each anthology. So, the first book was about the gods about to invade. In this book, the gods have invaded and taken over the universe. In the third book…well, you’ll have to find that out when we announce it after the campaign ends.
MM: Lastly, there’s a wide variety of genres in Cthulhu is Hard to Spell and in the foreword, you mentioned your aim was to focus on the old gods not just horror. The result is a lot of surreal fantasy pieces with Cthulhu not being feared in several, reality TV and the Yith transferring bodies with cats to name a few tales. Which of the scenarios do you feel is most realistic? And which is the most horrifying?
RN: Our goal was to show the Lovecraft gods and monsters in new ways. I’ve never seen an anthology that focused so heavily on Lovecraft’s mythology before, and not just his horror.
One thing I was conscious of when I planned the anthology was that many people don’t know Lovecraft, but Lovecraft has permeated every corner of culture, from James Cameron’s Abyss, to In the Mouth of Madness, to Avengers, to Stephen King’s work, to Aliens, and beyond.
In fact, I was introduced to Lovecraft through non-Lovecraft works, and that is probably true for most of the world. So, when I designed the anthology, I wanted to show that Lovecraft was everywhere, and that his mythology touched every kind of story, from the truly terrifying to the silly.
The one I found my horrifying, though, was Unboxing by Marcus Perry and Christian Gossett. They created a truly bright, vibrant, beautiful work, that turned everything I thought about social media on its head. That one is probably both the most realistic AND the most terrifying.
Cthulhu is Hard to Spell is the second anthology based on monsters that Russell Nohelty has edited. It’s a varied collection in every sense of the term with monsters ranging from Dagon to the Yith, romantic stories, horror ones, comedic ones, digital art, manga like art and everything in between. Each story had a different take on life after the old gods had taken over and thankfully little off it focused on a revolt which I feel is cliché. I did enjoy the first half of the anthology more than the second but there were some gems later on like Camp Sarnath which has hardly any dialogue but is heart-warming tale of a kid and a sea creature. It’s hard to pick my favourite story but two that stood out were Good Kitty with its description of cats and surprise ending. The other is The Old Gods Aint’ What They Used To Be which shows a Cthulhu fallen on hard times as he tried to adapt to popular culture. Many of the stories are topical with reality TV and technology but also incorporate elements of the fantastical which is something I’d love to see more of. Overall this is a great collection for Lovecraft fans and people who enjoy fantasy.
The Kickstarter for Cthulhu is Hard to Spell runs until 26th March and includes paper toys and copies of Russell’s other books among other rewards. Check it out, and back it, here