Nick Antosca is a lifelong creator. Having a passion for storytelling since he was a child, Antosca would become the author of several books, such as Fires, Midnight Picnic, The Obese, The Hangman’s Ritual, and The Girlfriend Game. Antosca leveraged his success as a writer to get work making television shows (Teen Wolf, Believe, and Hannibal). He is now the creator and executive producer of Syfy’s series Channel Zero. (You can now find Channel Zero on iTunes.) Wanting to learn more about his career and approach to writing, Antosca allowed me to interview him for ScifiPulse.
Nicholas Yanes: Growing up, when did you know you wanted to be a storyteller? Was there a novel or movie that you think pushed you in this direction?
Nick Antosca: I was always a reader. I wrote stories about dinosaurs before I could write. I drew the dinosaurs on sheets of computer paper and had my dad put dialogue in the word bubbles. Then later I wrote short stories. When I was nine or ten, I saw Night of the Living Dead. That made me want to make movies.
Yanes: You were born in New Orleans, which has a gothic and haunted place in the American imagination. How has this city influenced your writings?
Antosca: One of my earliest memories is hearing my mom and talking about a murder victim who was beheaded not far from our house in New Orleans. Another is picking caked mud off our car after it was stolen and dumped in the Bayou St. John. We moved away when I was young but I think the atmosphere stayed with me.
Yanes: You have published several manuscripts that readers have loved. Reflecting on these works, what are some of the themes you find yourself revisiting?
Antosca: Hm, not sure. I just explore what I’m interested in at the moment. I like to write about dogs and fire. Or actually, I used to write a lot about dogs. Now I write more about cats. I wrote a cat into Channel Zero: No-End House but we were running behind on the day and didn’t get to shoot him. A beautiful Bengal cat, and he’s not in the show.
Yanes: How did you leverage your books into a career writing for television? Did television producers find you or did you pitch to them?
Antosca: I did it with Ned Vizzini, my best friend and writing partner. He passed away in 2013 but we started our TV writing careers together. He was a much more successful novelist than I was, and it was really his books that we leveraged into getting TV agents. We taught ourselves how to write TV and moved to LA. Then we got staffing meetings to write on TV shows. Screenwriting and TV writing is a hard business to break into when you have no connections to the world — I was very lucky.
Yanes: Writing a novel or short story is a largely solitary task. What was it like adapting to the group dynamic of writing and producing a TV show?
Antosca: The creative part of showrunning is a completely different job from the production management part. The two sides of the job are basically at war all the time. It’s just a balancing act. I don’t have any tips for it, other than be nice to the people who work for you
Yanes: You created the Syfy show, Channel Zero. What was the inspiration for this series?
Antosca: I mean, creepypasta are the inspiration. Kris Straub’s story “Candle Cove” specifically. Max Landis had optioned that and tried
Yanes: On this note, how does it feel to be the creator of a TV show? Were there any positives or negatives that you didn’t expect?
Antosca: I love making this show. As someone who started as a novelist and short story writer, it’s an unfamiliar experience — getting to write something a ton of people will see. Relatively, at least. And paying the bills by writing. Again, I’m very lucky. The positives — I am shocked at the amount of creative freedom I’ve had and amazed that I’ve been able to get things like the Tooth Child on TV. The negatives — it is psychologically grueling. You never get to turn your brain off. Which is fun sometimes, but not always.
Yanes: For Channel Zero, you executive produce the show with Max Landis. I think the insights he provides on his YouTube channel about storytelling are brilliant. Could you take a moment to describe what it’s like working with him?
Antosca: Max is showrunning Dirk Gently and doing a bunch of movies that should be cool. I haven’t seen him in almost a year. We have different creative approaches. He was giving notes back when I was writing the pilot script and he was not a fan of the Tooth Child, for example.
Yanes: Season one of Channel Zero was incredibly well received by fans and critics. With season two on the horizon, what are some ways you think you improved as a storyteller because of season one?
Antosca: I got a better idea of what translates from the page to the screen and what doesn’t. And what’s producible and what isn’t. I learned that writing scenes with lots of blood are incredibly costly and expensive to produce on a tight schedule.
Yanes: A lot of your work falls under the label of horror. How do you define ‘horror’?
Antosca: I don’t define it, I let it horrify me.
Yanes: Specifically, when writing a scene, how do you write it so that it is horrifying?
Antosca: I try to make it personal.
Yanes: Finally, what else are you currently working on that fans can look forward to?
Antosca: Right now I’m editing Channel Zero: No-End House with the season 2 director, Steven Piet. It’s really fucking cool. I could not be more excited about it.