We had the good fortune of connecting with Alston Novak & Sarah Landauer and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Alston and Sarah, why did you pursue a creative career?
Alston: I’ve just always been drawn to fields and hobbies where I create things. Pinpointing the specific thing I wanted to do in the realm of writing vs. animation vs. comics vs. illustration, etc. has always been a challenge, but the constant in my life was “create.” There’s just nothing in the world quite so satisfying as having a story or an idea and being able to communicate that vision to other people. Or to see the world someone else is creating and help them commit that universe to paper.
Sarah: In the same vein as Alston, I’ve always known I need to create things. I’m just not very good at physically creating things. I’ve always been a person of many varying passions—I’m sure there’s some alternate universe where I pursued a degree in astrophysics and became the astronomer my 2nd grade self imagined becoming… But in the end, everything in my heart and soul told me to put my imagination to paper. I’ve always longed to share my imagination with others; that makes me happier than almost anything else. If I wasn’t pursuing a creative career, I doubt I’d ever end up finding happiness.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Alston: Honestly, the entire GLITCH ride has been a roller coaster speeding by at approximately 120mph from day one! It’s been incredibly challenging (and fun!) and SERIOUSLY taught me the importance of Just Making The Thing. I’m a perfectionist at heart and building our own independent business in Wasteland Comics, trying to figure out how to self-publish, and eventually getting picked up by Macroverse has taught me get a LOT more flexible and embrace the imperfections! We’ve made so many mistakes along the way, but we’ve stuck with it and I’ve learned to let the old mistakes go and make the next version (chapter, social media post, etc.) better than the last. (Also, having an actual platform with deadlines and an audience? That really teaches you to quiet the inner critic and just get the work done!)
Sarah: From the very beginning, my writing has always been about exploring the vast worlds in my head and getting to know the many, many, MANY characters who inhabit them. I always half-joke that the characters I write about are more like friends I’m getting to know than characters I’m creating. My focus on world-building and characters also means that plots are a bit more difficult for me, but that’s okay. There’s always more to learn, right? While I’m still not at a point where my writing is my full-time job, I’m still happy where I’m at. I just keep writing. That’s probably the biggest lesson I’ve learned over the years: Just keep writing. Even on days when I think what I’ve written is utter garbage, just keep writing. When the blank page seems to laugh at me, just keep writing. When you get negative criticism, constructive or not, just keep writing. I feel like I’d be abandoning my characters if I didn’t. I originally wanted to go into screenwriting, and the constant failure when it came to contest submissions and showing my portfolio to others was pretty disheartening. But I think I’ve really found where my writing belongs in comics. GLITCH is a very special project—it’s the reason I helped start Wasteland Comics. It’s the first story that I decided I’d just write for the fun of it, regardless of where it would end up or if anyone else would see it. And now it’s on the Macroverse app for the world to read! It still doesn’t quite feel real, to be honest.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Alston: My favorite thing to do is hit up tourist areas and then go slightly off the beaten track to find the neat hole -in-the-wall places. For instance on Hollywood Blvd. if you sneak around, you can find a set of piano stairs leading up to the best candy store in town! (Sweet Hollywood.) Also you can never go wrong checking out Santa Monica Pier. That area’s amazing on its own, but you can also head south and walk to Venice Beach in ~20min or head east for excellent bars, restaurants, and ped malls. Oh, and my new favorite hot spot are the Venice Canals! It’s just a collection of unique homes with brilliant architectural flourishes on a small man-made “river” in Venice. You absolutely have to charge your phone/camera before you go. For food, my favorite underrated hot spot is Bella Vista Brazilian Gourmet Pizza in Culver City. They have a terrifyingly HUGE menu of pizza options and when you dine-in, you can get the buffet deal and try a single slice of loads of different flavors. I cannot recommend it enough!
Sarah: I’m pretty partial to the Grove since I work right next door. My favorite yoga studio, Alo, is there right across from Barnes & Noble and The Cheesecake Factory, so it’s hard to resist. Plus the Farmer’s Market has some amazing options. And the park nearby is a nice place to get away. The Chinese Theatre is also fantastic. Oh, and eating at Phillipe’s! Getting a French dip sandwich from there before a Dodger game is a must. It’s so crowded but so good!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Alston: The original shoutout always has to go to my grandma who inundated us with art supplies growing up, and read countless books to me growing up. In fact, when my family moved from Virginia to Iowa, she got into the habit of double-buying books. She’d mailed me one and keep the other for herself so I could follow along in my copy as she read to me over the phone. Because of her (and my parents and my aunt, and really my whole family of bookworms) reading was as automatic as breathing to me. The follow-up shoutout goes to my oldest friend, Jane. She’s the one that introduced me to comics and encouraged me to write my first story. Growing up, the two of us would build expansive universes together and improvise endless soap operas in our basements. She introduced me to Studio Ghibli films, and between that and the Disney classics I grew up on, it was a little bit inevitable I’d end up in comics with a heavy animation influence. HUGE thank you to Jane for basically kick-starting my entire career!!
Sarah: My parents have always been extremely supportive of my love for writing, so of course I have to mention them. But I think the first major push I got toward pursuing writing was in elementary school. My first grade teacher, Mrs. Simmons, awarded me this cute “Awesome Author” award that I remember being so proud of. From then on, I wrote whenever I had the time. My second grade teacher, Mrs. Gutierrez, had the class actually make our own little books—that was probably my all-time favorite assignment and I loved showing off my cardboard-bound copy of “The Shadow Monster.” I got permission in 3rd grade from Mrs. Tanori to write fiction in my daily journal entries, so I had ongoing stories of the adventures of my pets as well as kids with superpowers. And in middle school, Mrs. Watkins would let me write my novel during Sustained Silent Reading time. I really owe my passion to all of my teachers growing up who just let me be me.
Photographs by Kat Veldt Artwork by Alston Novak