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Interview: Nick Pollotta by Drew Bittner
Review by Drew Bittner
SFRevu.com  
Date: 29 September 2009

Links: Nick Pollotta's Website /

Nick Pollotta has done it all: stonemason's assistant, farmhand, armed courier for IBM, stand-up comic, SMOF (if you have to ask...), and novelist. He has 56 novels to his credit, many of them under house names or pseudonyms, but is perhaps best known for the BUREAU 13 novels--a surreal mix of humor, horror and high-caliber action.

Bureau 13 novels:
Judgment Night (#1)
Doomsday Exam (#2)
Full Moonster (#3)
Damned Nation
Nick recently sat down with SFRevu for an interview to celebrate the reprint of the BUREAU 13 novels by Double Dragon Press.

So without further ado...

Nick, tell us about Bureau 13--how did this series (which I think of as supernatural comedy with apocalyptic overtones) come about? What's given this series such longevity?

Nick: Hi Drew, a pleasure to be here.

At the time, I was working on a novel, The Wolf Pack based upon my old friend, Richard 'Wolf' Anderson. He was a real-life ghosthunter, who went to every investigation armed with a cross and a Colt .45. Sometimes, he found spirits, occasionally high school jokers, and once a pack of Hells Angels cutting off the heads of homeless people just for fun (hence the gun).

In the novel, a pair of supernatural investigators, Wolf Anderson and Mindy Jennings were working for an eccentric billionaire, George Renault (who paid for the silver bullets and such). They convinced him it would be more fun to hunt demons than own the Dallas Cowboys. (cheaper, too!)

Now, I was starting to shop around the sample chapters when somebody told me it reminded them of the RPG game, "Bureau 13". I had never heard of the game, but went out and got a copy. The universe was great--a delightful mix of the supernatural, military ordinance, and just plain goofiness. I was hooked! After rewriting the sample chapters, I sent them along to Richard Tucholka, the creator of B13, and asked, could I base my book in his world?

He was delighted with what I had done (the original 'Initiation' section of the first book) and gave me free reign to run amuck. We shook hands on a deal and I took off, adding volumes of new material, updating weaponry, adding new spells (including the dreaded Ignite Underwear!), and even creating other supernatural agencies, such as The Farm in the United Kingdom, The Sons of Van Helsing from Germany, and Wally's Spook Club in Australia.

Suddenly, the group of three became a covert team of FBI agents battling supernatural criminals--as well as a couple of very human ones. Ed Alvarez became the main character, Wolf became a wizard, Mindy stayed exactly the same, and George switched into a plump US Army soldier hauling a M60 machine gun magically disguised to look like a banjo.

Okay, humor tried to take over, but I managed to maintain a balance between the combat and jokes - which is probably what makes the series so enduring. It has a little something for everybody: monsters, guns, jokes, sex, and of yes, more jokes.

SFRevu: Do you have a favorite character in the group? (Personally, I like Ed but maybe that's because he's so grounded compared to most of the others.)

Nick: You would think Ed would be mine too, but actually, it's the good Father Donaher. In my short story "The Collar", a freelance hitman discovers that demons are real; he becomes a priest to try and not be sent to Hell for his many sins. He would rather die than harm a human, but happily slaughters hordes of monsters in the name of the Lord...mostly to try and save his own ass.

There's nothing more fun than a former villain trying to be a hero. Fighting monsters is only half of his personal battle.

SFRevu: How did you come to be a writer?

Nick: Whew, long story, but I'll condense. I used to hang out at a little coffee shop, and got friendly with some of the comics performing on stage. Since I have always been a smartass, I started telling them jokes, and ended up writing new jokes for them. Even sold to a few, now and then. Money for writing? Cool.

Moving to Philadelphia, I got involved with the Philly in '86 WorldCon bid, and tried to help them out by performing comedy at the bid parties. That went well, but I could not generate new material fast enough.

I fell back on the old gimmick of a sitcom, and started doing old-fashioned, but brand new, radio plays, live at the bid parties; I was telling the misadventures of Phil A. Delphia, fannish Secret Agent 86. To say the least, those went over like gangbusters, and soon I had a cast of six, including a Sound Effect Master on stage, and we were performing my radio plays live on stage at SF cons from coast to coast. For almost a year, I was writing a five minute sketch every month.

As the number of my fans grew, people started saying that I should get the scripts published. Me? Go pro? Hmm. Then I got a fan letter from Hugo Award winner Phil Foglio; he said that he loved my radio plays, and would be delighted to do something together. We met, talked, found out that we were both lunatics, and soon we were working on my first novel, Illegal Aliens. The rest, as they say, is history. Fifty six novels later, I'm still going strong, and showing no sign of ever slowing down.

SFRevu: You've published in several genres--is there one type of fiction that you find more enjoyable or more engaging?

Nick: Not really. The story is much more important than the genre. Although, I do like the freedom of Fantasy.

SFRevu: Is there such a thing as "an easy novel" to write?

Nick: Good lord, no. Stephen King once said that every novel is easy to write - just open your wrists over the paper, and let the words bleed out! That's pretty much it. Writing a novel is the most enjoyable torture in the world. I've been a farmhand, and writing is much harder work.

SFRevu: What's the next novel in the pipeline?

Nick: LOL. The next to be published, the next to be finished, or the next one to start?

I just had a Deathlands (post-nuclear holocaust) novel published last month, the Bureau 13 (fantasy/humor) trilogy will be reprinted this month, I just finished writing a paranormal romance novel, and tomorrow I start writing another Deathlands novel (due in January), followed by a Mack Bolan (action/adventure) novel (due in May).

After that, I go fishing for a weekend, then start a Stony Man novel (contemporary military/thriller).

SFRevu: What is the one piece of advice you wish you'd been given when you were starting out?

Nick: Buy low and sell high.
Never miss a deadline.
Always look a gift horse in the mouth.
Save every receipt for taxes.
Aim for the belly, so that when the gun jerks up you'll still hit the guy.
In the small world of publishing, always be polite, even when the other person is a major jerk. You will meet them again, and again, in this business.
After eating, wait 30 minutes before swimming.
Read other genres to make yourself a better rounded author.
Never try to date the sister of your present girlfriend. Even if she says okay, you're still a dead man.
There is no such thing as too much advertising.
Never tell jokes about the president while inside the White House. (The US Secret Service has no sense of humor)
Consider every grenade, and microphone, as live. They're equally dangerous.

SFRevu: Good advice from a guy who's been there, readers! Check out Nick Pollotta's BUREAU 13 novels--coming this month from Double Dragon Press! You can find out more about Nick by visiting his website.

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