After his first novel was published in 1999, when Barry Nugent went on to self-publish his second novel Unseen Shadows: Fallen Heroes five years later, he couldn’t have seen what was coming. Ostensibly the first novel in a trilogy (he’s currently working on the second book, which is tentatively scheduled for next year), Fallen Heroes grew from a novel into a spinoff comic book, which then grew into a series of comic stories, which have now grown into a small empire of audio books, graphic novels, anthologies and more.
As you can probably guess, he’s very gifted at promotion, and always trying new ways to tell his stories. You’ll find Fallen Heroes on Amazon, reviewed all across the internet, and even stocked in stores like Waterstones. The amount of work he puts into getting his work seen is absolutely tremendous. I spoke to Barry at Thought Bubble about how so much came about from just one story, and how he’s seen his original story develop into such a vast array of different projects.
Steve: You’re launching your second Fallen Heroes anthology today, and have just announced plans on a series of graphic novels next year? Can you tell us anything about them?
Barry: We have three graphic novels in the works, all feature-length in size. The anthologies have been made up of four stories, each focused on a diferent character — but these graphic novels will all contain just one long-form story, with a different character the lead each time. The first one is about our character The Reverend – who is a mix between The Shadow and The Punished – and is called Blood Cries Out. It’ll be written by Cy Dethan, with Steve Penfold on art.
We have Swagger and Steel written by Corey Brotherson - although there’s no artist yet, we’re going through submissions and looking for somebody at the moment. And then the last story is also for next year, and is set 70 years after the novels end.
Steve: How did you move from novels to comics?
Barry: It’s been a journey. It started when Cy Dethan read the book, liked it, and as a result approached me and said he’d like to do a one-shot story as a comic. I said sure, and we talked about which character he wanted to do the story about – he picked The Reverend, and then went about writing the issue. But because Cy knows a lot of people in the industry, word spread around about the project and I started getting emails from other writers and artists asking if they could get involved. It’s been an amazing experience for me, having these guys take my characters and work with them in ways I couldn’t even have imagined.
It’s been a great journey, collecting everything together. Last year we released the first anthology and launched it at Thought Bubble, and after that again I started to get emails from other writers and artists, asking if I was going to do any more. So I said yes — my philosophy is that as long as people still want them, I’m going to keep putting them out. So we started work on this second one.
Steve: Was it tough to assemble the creative teams for the second anthology?
Barry: I was obviously nervous about approaching writers and artists about a full-length graphic novel, because it’s a big job. I can’t pay anyone, so everybody involved is doing it because they love the work – any money we make goes back into printing. I don’t take any money at all. Cy was excited to be asked back onboard, and the rest of the creative team from that first Reverend story also said yes to continuing on with the character, which has been brilliant.
Having them agree to come back gave me confidence to ask other people. I can’t believe how lucky I am to be involved in this – in some ways I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Steve: There’s also [I made a flamboyant gesture across the table at this point] a whole range of other things spinning out of the book too, I see. What other storytelling mediums have you been trying out?
Barry: We now have an audio drama with a full cast, as well as an audio book. I’m releasing a DVD collection of everything we put out this year, with the audio drama as well as the books and anthology. There are also special features on the DVD, such as production art. I sold the rights for a TV series – they did a script treatment, but for lots of reasons it never made it to screens – but I still have the original pitch for the show, which is on here too.
My philosophy is to try and get as this story across on as many different mediums as I can. That’s why I made sure that the anthology stands alone from the book, which stands alone from the comics, which stands alone from the audio drama. There are easter eggs across the different projects, and if you pick up everything you’ll get different flavours of everything that’s going on.
Steve: And the second novel will be out next year?
Barry: Hopefully. The novel is the first in a trilogy, and I’ve been working on the second novel. I’m quite a slow writer, but also with everything taking off, I’m very busy! I try to oversee everything, all the different spinoffs, and that does slow me down. I was originally hoping to launch the second novel today!
But I am getting there – I’m on the third draft now, and after that I’ll send it over to test readers. the story is done, and now I’m getting to the point where I’m happy for it to come out.
Many thanks to Barry for taking the time to talk to me. If you’d like to know more, you can visit his website, or find him on Twitter @fhcomic. Because he plans for everything, he also recorded the Thought Bubble panel he appeared on this year, which you can watch in its entirety over here. Phew!