In 2019, Australian writer David Hazan won the Mad Cave Studios Talent Search alongside artist Shane Connery Volk. With the 2022 version of the contest in full swing and Hazan and Volk’s creation Nottingham in new release in hardcover, we sat down to talk to him about the contest, his inspirations and what’s next for the scribe.
Tom Smithyman: Mad Cave Studios recently announced the 2022 version of its talent search which you won in 2019. What advice do you have for those thinking of entering?
David Hazan: This is advice for the writers but could easily be applied to art as well: Once you choose which of Mad Cave’s worlds you want to write your story in, you should work hard to identify what the writer and Mad Cave really love about it. What’s the theme, character, motif that really stands out to you? Then, take that thing, and bring your take to it. But don’t forget that you are writing in a world that already has stories in it. Make sure your story doesn’t conflict with those stories because you’re trying to demonstrate your ability to write with someone else’s IP.
I’ve fielded a lot of questions about page count, and for the writers, the answer is 8-12 pages is probably the sweet spot. The contest calls for at least 5 pages. If you can make the story tighter, and the page count fits that story, go for it, but I wouldn’t be submitting anything longer than about 16 pages because you have to keep in mind that Mad Cave is reading hundreds of these.
Tom: Winning the contest led to the publication of Nottingham, a thorough reimagining of the Robin Hood mythology. What made you want to revisit that particular story?
David: Mad Cave asked for a noir, and I was disinterested in using a well-trod setting. So that led me to a medieval noir, which led to the Crusades as this ever-present, morality-warping reality of our character’s past and present, which led directly to Robin Hood. I think I had been reading Infamous Iron Man at the time and the idea of a protagonist reversal hit me. It all coalesced into Nottingham.
Tom: You’re writing the second volume of Nottingham now. What is different about the characters this time?
David: The first volume of the book was transformative for our main trio. For the Sheriff, he is beginning to realize that he’s stuck in a prison that is partially of his own making, but he doesn’t yet have the strength or insight to break free from the cycles that are keeping him bound to the will of Nottingham’s nobility. Robin can no longer hide, but has also garnered a much bigger following, and so the mission becomes ever yet more brutal…and yet all this will not save King Richard, the man he has sworn to serve. As for Marian, she’s the most eager to change, to find a new way to get what she wants in a world that barely sees her.
Tom: Where do you find the inspiration for your stories?
David: Everywhere, but mostly when doing something boring – on a walk, while cleaning, in the shower.
Tom: Talk about your process for writing. Once you have an idea, do you start writing immediately or let it gestate? Do you know how a story will end once you start, or is the process more improvised and organic?
David: I feel that if it’s good enough an idea, it will stick with me. And for the most part, that’s been true. Once I’ve let it percolate enough, I’ll jot down a few details. And then it will turn into some form of pitch document or synopsis.
Tom: How has your career changed since winning the contest?
David: It exists, I guess. I probably would have gotten there eventually, but I’ve certainly been provided with opportunities I never would have been able to access were it not for the Talent Search.
Tom: What can we expect to see from you after Nottingham’s second volume is complete? More about Everard Blackthorne’s sheriff or are you moving in a different direction?
David: Your Sheriff ain’t going anywhere. There is more Nottingham to come. What it is, I can’t say. Beyond that, I have some new and different stuff at a bunch of different publishers that’s yet to be announced.