Interview with Conner Bartel – Swords and Sorrows

Hello, We the Nerdy, I am here interviewing Conner Bartel, writer of a new comic, Swords & Sorrows.  We talk a bit about the project, his process, marketing, etc.  The artist is Atagun Ilhan and the book is edited by Chuck Pineau.  A link to the comic’s kickstarter is at the end of the interview.

WTN: So, first off, what is Swords and Sorrows about?

Conner: Swords and Sorrows is a One-Shot about Ninja Assassins, Katana fights, and deep personal regret.

The story centers around a master assassin, and his Apprentice who he calls Rat. Their relationship is the centerpiece of the story as well as their regrets. They are part of and Assassin’s Guild that recruits young and requires you to fight your master to the death if you want to leave the guild. Our main character, Rat, decided a long time ago that one day he was going to challenge his master to the death to gain his freedom. And the story starts on the day that he finally believes he’s trained enough to pull it off. But as Rat learns more about how his master feels about the Assassins life, it becomes less black and white.
WTN: That sounds very intriguing with a lot of potential for exploring both external and internal conflict. How did you come up with the idea for this book?
Conner: Well our first and previous project was Grimwood Crossing. Grimwood Crossing is a six-issue miniseries. I knew my next project had to be smaller but I still wanted to tell an impactful story. This led me practice writing more personal stories. I started doing writing exercises that forced me to write a story that took place in one room. This required character interaction and relationships to take center stage. This is why I love movies like Reservoir Dogs. Since Comics are a very visual medium, I wanted to combine this idea with the type of story that is visually intriguing. That’s why I chose Japanese martial arts. Swords and Sorrows evolved from that thought process.
WTN: You mentioned a little bit about some different inspirations with your thought process. Where would you say a lot of your inspiration comes from both inside and out of comics?

Conner: Atagun Ilhan, the artist for Swords and Sorrows, is a fan of Akira Kurosawa and takes a lot of inspiration from his films.

As for the writing, I take inspiration from all kinds of mediums because all kinds of mediums have very inspirational writing. For instance, The Last of Us (a videogame by naughty dog) is about a Duo where one is trying to keep his regrets and remorse from bubbling to the surface while pretending it has no effect on them while the other one doesn’t think it’s too late for peace and is fighting towards that goal. As mentioned before, Reservoir Dogs is a about a bunch of character relationships battling it out in one area. These are pieces of writing that I kept in my head while writing this story.
WTN: Now with Grimwood Crossing you’ve had 2 successful Kickstarter campaigns, and are going for a third with this project. What do you believe is paramount to having a successful campaign?

Conner: Simply put, getting the word out there is the most important thing to do if you want to be successful in crowdfunding. That doesn’t just mean marketing and networking. A lot of people underutilize the loved ones in their life. Having a very successful first day sets the tone for the entire campaign, and when is your first campaign, it’s your friends and family that are coming out on that first day. So make sure you let them know how important it is to you. But also keep in mind that personal friends and family aren’t a renewable resource for backers as you get more successful in later campaigns. So make sure you’re still trying to build that audience.

And of course, be respectful and thankful to them.
WTN: Do you think crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter have contributed a lot to the evolution of the comics industry?
Conner: Very much so. I personally get 90% of my Comics off of Kickstarter now. It’s where the most Innovative and unique stuff is coming out. Kickstarter provides a direct line to your perfect audience. Now a comic doesn’t have to be appealing to the general audience to reach a certain popularity. Publishers only want proven creators or proven genres. But guess what? Proven creators and proven genres aren’t the only source of Kick-Ass comics. Plus having the audience so involved in the making of the product or the process of the Creator speaks to me immensely. All of my favorite creators (not just in comics) are my favorite not just because of their product, but because of the unique way they get their product out there.
WTN: Do you have any other advice for new creators looking to self publish?
Conner: Start an email list with a newsletter. Email is the best way to connect with readers besides kickstarter. Offer them a free copy of your comic if they sign up for your newsletter. This will give you a list of people that have read your comic, while giving you a way to send them content that they can easily click on. On social media, you have to compete with all the other stuff on their newsfeed, but when someone gets an expected email from you, they will open it and are more likely to click on the links. Only email the people that have signed up themselves, and make sure you give them good content on a regular basis.
If any readers want more advice on crowdfunding or comic creation from Conner they can go to  https://www.connerbartel.com/workshop.  Swords & Sorrows Kickstarter launches on July 20th at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/conner/1734135157?ref=511743&token=4e48d3aa