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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Interviews, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 2,328
26. Interview: Micol Ostow

micolIn 1974, Ronald DeFeo Junior killed all six members of his family in their home in Amityville, New York. A year later, another family moved into that home only to move out 28 days later, saying they were terrorized by something paranormal in the house. Their story was captured in a book by Jay Anson, then subsequently retold in various films and other adaptations.

In Micol Ostow's new novel Amity, we meet two teenagers who live in Amityville at two different times. This is not time travel; instead, they alternate narrative duties, weaving their stories together chapter by chapter. Inspired by the real story but wholly fictional, this YA book is now available for late night reading. But I promise, this interview is not scary, and neither is Micol.

Do you recall the first time you heard about the Amityville Horror?

The first time I heard about the Amityville Horror was when reading Stephen King's Danse Macabre, where he talks about the components of an effective horror movie. In fact, I didn't realize it was based on a true story (and that there was a bestselling book about the original crime!) until much later. Once I became interested in a riff on Amityville as a possible subject for a novel, I went back and read the original book by Jay Anson, as well as High Hopes, the book written specifically about the DeFeo family (as opposed to the Lutzes, who moved in after the DeFeos' murders and claim to have experienced hauntings within).

When did the seed for your novel Amity firmly plant itself in your brain?

Around Halloween, 2011. My novel Family had come out in April and I was tossing around ideas for the next book under contract. My husband was out of town and I was indulging in my favorite guilty pleasure: horror movies and Red Vines. The Amityville 2005 remake was on, and something clicked. But it wasn't until several months later that I had a pitch to show my agent, and it was a few months after that before we put something together for my editor. I went back and forth a lot trying to decide whether I wanted to tell the Lutz family's story, or the DeFeos' story. Both concepts – the "possessed," murderous son, and the beleaguered, haunted successors to the house – were equally compelling to me. Ultimately that's what led me to tell two alternate narratives, set ten years apart. That way I didn't have to choose!

amityWhen you started writing the book, did you know the ending? (Readers, don't worry - we kept this answer spoiler free!)

I one hundred percent knew the ending, and it didn't change one bit, strangely. Maybe a hint of clarification here and there. Some of the supernatural bits tend to read more straightforward in my brain than on a first-draft page. But it was an interesting process as compared specifically to Family, my first book with Egmont. The ending to Family changed three times, as did my feelings about where the protagonist needed to be, emotionally, by the story's end. This one was much more clear-cut. The two narratives needed to converge and I could only really see one way for that to happen.

Have you ever been to Amityville, New York?

We have family out on Long Island and therefore drive past the Amityville exit on the LIE several times a year, at least. I always point it out, like a huge dork. But I've never visited the house and to be honest, at this point, I probably wouldn't. It's been renovated heavily so specifically, those iconic half-moon “eye” windows are gone. And more to the point, there's also the fact that 1) it's a little icky to make a spectacle of a place where a family was murdered and 2) it's actually a private home, where people live. Personally, I prefer the make-believe versions of the Amityville story and am happier to spend my time there.

You've written for a number of different audiences - kids, teens, adults, fantasy, comedy, mixed media. Do you consciously try to mix it up?

I really don't try to mix it up, believe it or not! It just seems to work out that way! I was fortunate enough to come into publishing through the back door, in that I worked as an editor in the work-for-hire realm. So some of my earlier contracts were the results of editors seeking me out and offering me the chance to work with them. (Note: this is not the typical author's path to publication and I am very, very lucky. Trust me, I know!) The Bradford Novels were the product of an editor's original concept, and Emily Goldberg Learns to Salsa came from a publishing friend suggesting I mine some of my own adolescent experiences and pitch her a story. Even So Punk Rock was actually originally conceived of by my brother, David Ostow, who worked with me on the story and illustrated the book.

Family was the first novel I sat down to write, as they say, "on spec." And because it wasn't under contract and was coming purely from me, I was free to experiment. I had no idea when I sat down to my computer that what would come out was going to be such a massive departure from my previous work. But once it was published, it was treated as a sort of literary debut. So for Amity, I was much more conscious of trying to write something that would match Family in tone and audience.

What genre or audiences would you like to write for that you haven't yet?

As far as what's coming down the pike that's different, I have a chapter book series releasing this spring called Louise Trapeze, about a little girl in a circus family who wants to learn to fly on the trapeze but is afraid of heights. Talk about a departure!

Have you always been drawn to the horror genre?

Yes! My mother is a huge horror buff and always had the TV set to old B-movies, and scary-covered novels on her nightstand. They completely terrified me but obviously burrowed into my subconscious.

I've known people who can watch horror movies but can't read horror novels, and I've known people who can read horror but can't watch it. Do you lean more towards one than the other?

Love them both! Although in general, I watch a broader range of horror movies than I read horror novels. The only category of horror I really stay away from is the straight-up torture. The extreme gore really doesn't do it for me. With the books I tend to lean more heavily toward literary horror or dark thrillers as opposed to paranormal... and basically anything in the Stephen King cannon.

QUICK DRAW! Time for simple questions:

First horror story that gave you goosebumps: The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright
(Little Willow adds: I liked that book, too!)

First scary film that gave you nightmares: Frankenstein

Horror movie or book that you love but can only watch or read in the daylight: It by Stephen King

Favorite funny spooky story: Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

Favorite funny spooky movie: Shaun of the Dead

Favorite horror authors: Stephen King, Joe Hill, Shirley Jackson, Daniel Krause, Sarah Waters for purer horror. Adele Griffin (Tighter), Barry Lyga (I Hunt Killers), Libba Bray (The Diviners), Nova Ren Suma (Imaginary Girls), Mariana Baer (Frost), Thomas Harris (The Silence of the Lambs) for creepy psychological thriller/suspense-y stories. Robert Bloch's original Psycho was great. But that's really just the tip of the iceberg.

Favorite season of American Horror Story: Season One, Murder House, was amazing for just flinging all the fundamental tropes at the wall, and doing something different – and genuinely scary! – on TV. And I absolutely loved that finale.

Favorite Halloween costume you've worn: I'm super boring on Halloween! I love celebrating and decorating and eating treats and watching movies, but I rarely dress up. I'm kind of a party pooper that way. Last year I wore my “Overlook Hotel” tee-shirt and called it a day. But my daughter usually cycles through at least three costumes over the course of the festivities so I think that evens us out.

Ouija board: Wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole or bring it on?
I'm a little superstitious. I'd rather not tempt fate.

Ghosts and/or haunted houses: Believe, don't believe, or open-minded?
I have not had any paranormal experiences myself, but as per the above and being slightly superstitious – I do believe, actually. Kind of. Let's call it open-minded. That works.

Amity Giveaway!

What's your favorite ghost story? EGMONT USA is giving away a signed copy of the finished book to one lucky USA/Canada resident. Leave a comment below with the title of a book, movie, or play that chills you -- or even a personal story! -- along with your email address. You may mask the address, like myname (at) eeemail (dot) com - but we must be able to reach you to get your mailing information. The first comment with the proper info will get the signed book!

Follow the blog tour!

Micol is also visiting the readergirlz blog today. Check out the full schedule at the Egmont USA website.

Related posts at Bildungsroman:
Interview: Micol Ostow (2006)
Interview: Micol Ostow (2007)
Book Review: Popular Vote by Micol Ostow
Book Review: So Punk Rock (and Other Ways to Disappoint Your Mother) by Micol Ostow with art by David Ostow

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27. Micol Ostow Blog Tour for Amity -- Interview

As you know, I really liked Amity by Micol Ostow. And by "liked" I mean "had the heck scared out of me."

So when I found out about the Blog Tour for Amity, of course I said I wanted in!

You know what I like about doing author interviews, like this? I get to ask questions! Which means that the things I wonder about, I can get the answers to.

I hope they are things that you also find interesting!

First, here's a short bio of Micol Ostow (from her publisher):

Micol Ostow has written dozens of books for children, tweens, and teens, but Amity is her first foray into horror. I turns out, writing a ghost story is almost more terrifying than reading one. (In a good way.) Her novel family was called a “Favorite Book of 2011” by Liz Burns at School Library Journal, and her illustrated novel, So Punk Rock (and Other Ways to Disappoint Your Mother), was a Sydney Taylor Notable Book for Teens.

In her spare time, Ostow blogs with the National Book Award-winning literacy initiative readergirlz.com. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband, her (utterly fearless) daughter, and a finicky French bulldog named Bridget Jones. Visit her online at www.micolostow.com or follow her on Twitter @micolz.

Liz: I vividly remember the first time I read THE AMITYVILLE HORROR, and the first time I saw the original movie. When were you introduced to the story? The book or one of the movies?

Micol Ostow: Actually, my first introduction to the Amityville legend came via my favorite master of horror, Stephen King. In his early nonfiction treatise on horror, Danse Macabre, he dissected what he felt worked and what didn’t work in the movie, specifically. Ironically, if I recall much of his criticism of the original movie had to do with its focus on the physical manifestations of the house’s evil spirit rather than a build of psychological terror or dread. I didn’t end up seeing the movie until the 2005 remake, which I found really effective. Afterward, when I was kicking around ideas for my follow-up to the novel family, that remake was on tv and sparked something in me. That was when I went back and finally watched the original movie and read the book. So it was a surprisingly long time coming for a horror buff, in addition to my coming at it with a weird amount of preconception and bias given my total ignorance of the original subject matter!

Liz: While AMITY is a scary haunted house story about the supernatural, it's also a scary haunted house story about a very real haunting: the very real family dynamics that trap people, as well as the evil that people can do even without ghosts or hauntings. What type of research did you outside of the AMITY references and homages?

Micol Ostow: The “research” question is always hard to answer because the answer is slightly embarrassing: I’m very drawn to dark stories and I’m fascinated by the question of evil from within versus evil from without, so much of the research I did both for family and Amity was actually just background reading I’d done before I even had the slightest notion to write either book. Putting aside the obvious Amityville source material, though, I’d say the book’s most clear-cut influences to me are The Shining and The Haunting of Hill House.

To me, Connor is basically Jack Torrance – a flawed character who is driven to evil deed via the energy of the house, the way Torrance is driven mad by the Overlook Hotel. And Gwen is a successor to Hill House’s Eleanor, the fragile, overlooked (no pun intended) woman whose history of madness renders her fear unreliable. Both are to some extent tropes of the genre and there are plenty of examples of each throughout pop culture, but those two are my very favorite iconoclasts. I probably reread The Shining in particular at least twice a year. Does that count as research?

Liz: What was the scariest book you read as a teen?

Micol Ostow: The Shining! (That was a gimme.) I wasn’t quite a teen though, and definitely wasn’t supposed to read it. My mother was a Stephen King fanatic and kept those terrifying 1970’s library hardcovers on her nightstand, perhaps unaware of how they were imprinting on me (or maybe that was her plan all along?...) Pet Sematary made an impression, but The Shining was the one I actually snuck out of the children’s room to read in furtive fifteen-minute increments. I think I was maybe twelve? At most.

Liz: What was the scariest movie you watched as a teen?

Micol Ostow: Again, I wasn’t quite a teen – maybe eleven-ish? – but my younger brother had been home sick with something icky and lingering, and as some kind of pity-bribe thing my mother, I guess, allowed him to rent A Nightmare on Elm St. #s 1-5. I stumbled in as they were queuing up the first movie and got sucked in. TERRIFYING. That one and #4 are the two that still get me, every time.

Liz: Thank you so much!

Check out all the stops on the Amity Blog Tour.

Two stops for tomorrow: readergirlz and Little Willow.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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28. Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Mike Curato


Debut author-illustrator Mike Curato is visiting for breakfast this morning to share lots of art and talk about his new book, Little Elliot, Big City (which I think actually comes out today — I swear I don’t plan these things, but I just get lucky with my timing sometimes). Clearly, based on the sketch of Elliot above, we must have cupcakes for breakfast. Actually, Mike agrees, when I ask him what he’d like on his plate. “If I could choose whatever I wanted without consequence,” he told me, “I’m sure I’d start off my morning with a cupcake. (Aren’t muffins just really boring cupcakes anyway?)” He went on to say that he usually starts his day with something a bit healthier, but I’m all for this cupcake plan (healthy schmealthy), so let’s just DO IT.

Little Elliot tells the story of a tiny (cupcake-loving) elephant, who heads intrepidly into the big city and eventually makes a new friend. Booklist praises Mike’s “almost cinematic artwork,” and the Kirkus review notes “the meticulous beauty” of the illustrations. Mike’s here today to show us some of that, as well as some other illustrations. I’ll get the cupcakes and coffee out, and I thank him for visiting.

* * * * * * *

Jules: Are you an illustrator or author/illustrator?

Mike: Both!

While thinking about this question, I started wondering if I should just go by “storyteller,” since I love to tell stories whether it’s visual, written, or spoken. But then people might roll their eyes if I say that, so let’s stick with Illustrator/Author.

An animated GIF showing Mike’s process;
this is a spread from
Little Elliot, Big City

Jules: Can you list your books-to-date?

Mike: My very first book, Little Elliot, Big City, comes out August 26th. It’s the first in a three-book series with Henry Holt Books for Young Readers (Macmillan), starring my favorite polka-dotted elephant.

Books of Wonder’s storefront window
(Click to enlarge)


Also, before that I illustrated a self-published book called Mabel McNabb and the Most Boring Day Ever by Amy Jones [pictured below].


Jules: What is your usual medium?

Mike: Usually, I draw in graphite-on-paper, then scan and color in Photoshop. For a super detailed explanation, click here.

Jules: Where are your stompin’ grounds?

Mike: I currently live in Brooklyn, NY. I actually grew up in the NYC suburbs, then went to college upstate at Syracuse, then lived in Seattle for ten years, and I just moved here last November. I think what I like most about Brooklyn is that you could throw a kneaded eraser and you’d hit two or three illustrators.

(Click to enlarge)

Jules: Can you tell me about your road to publication?

Mike: You mean aside from wanting to do this forever?

Well, in 2012 I attended my first SCBWI Winter Conference here in NYC. I entered the portfolio show and won. Everyone was smitten with Elliot, who appeared throughout my portfolio. The week after was filled with emails and calls from agents and publishers. I signed with Brenda Bowen, a literary agent at Greenburger (who is now officially my favorite strawberry blonde person). I worked on a manuscript for several months. We took it to several houses, and then it went to auction. I signed with Holt for a three-book deal and have been blessed to be able to work with my editor, Laura Godwin.

(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

Jules: Can you please point readers to your web site and/or blog?

Mike: You can see my portfolio at www.MikeCurato.com.
You can read my blog at mikecurato.wordpress.com/.

Jules: If you do school visits, tell me what they’re like.

Mike: I just had my very first school visit this July at a preschool on the Lower East Side. In addition to reading Little Elliot, Big City, we wrote our own Elliot story: “Elliot woke up. Elliot ate breakfast. Elliot brushed his teeth. Elliot went to the beach. Elliot ate ice cream.” The kids told me what to draw in each scene, and some details were quite interesting. It was super fun, and I can’t wait to do it again!

(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

Jules: Any new titles/projects you might be working on now that you can tell me about?

Mike: I just finished the second book in the Little Elliot series, Little Elliot, Big Family, which comes out Fall 2015. Soon I’ll start working on the third, and I honestly have no idea what it’s going to be about yet.

Meanwhile, there are two projects I just agreed to illustrate, but I can’t talk about them just yet. (Eep! I can’t wait to shout them from the rooftops!)

I have also been working on an idea for a YA graphic novel, but it will be some time before it’s ready to be shown to anybody.

Mmm. Coffee.Okay, I’ve got coffee and more cupcakes, and it’s time to get a bit more detailed with seven questions over breakfast. I thank Mike again for visiting 7-Imp.

1. Jules: What exactly is your process when you are illustrating a book? You can start wherever you’d like when answering: getting initial ideas, starting to illustrate, or even what it’s like under deadline, etc. Do you outline a great deal of the book before you illustrate or just let your muse lead you on and see where you end up?


: DANCE. My “process” isn’t sequential. I jump back and forth between writing and illustrating, almost like a dance. Doing one will inspire the other, or sometimes when I’m feeling stuck, I’ll switch to get back in the rhythm. So, I start with sketches, then do some writing, then back and forth.

(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

KEEP IT LOOSE. The initial dummy is very loose. The sketches just show enough to convey what is going on in the spread; that way I don’t get too hung up on the details. However, I did start out both Little Elliot, Big City and Little Elliot, Big Family with one finished piece of art that I made before the book deal.

RESEARCH. When you’re illustrating a non-abstract scene, you need reference materials. Little Elliot is set in the late 1930s/early ’40s, so I had to do my homework on the look and feel of the time period. One of my favorite parts of the research was going to the MTA archives to look at photos of the subway and then going to the MTA museum to see vintage subway cars. (High-fives to my fellow history nerds!)

(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

DRAW, DRAW, DRAW. Once my thumbnails are approved and I have all the reference materials I need, I create a detailed comp for each spread. Sometimes I’ll create a mock-up by stitching together all of my reference materials in Photoshop. I check in with the editor one more time with the comps before taking everything to finish, giving me a window to make adjustments to the drawings. Once all adjustments are made, based on feedback, I will finish the drawing.

COLOR. After I scan, I touch up anything that sticks out, then start coloring. Each color is a separate layer in Photoshop with different opacities, almost like a glazing technique one would use in painting.

(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

2. Jules: Describe your studio or usual work space.


: I have a workroom in my apartment. It’s a pretty easy commute! It’s spacious (by New York standards) and gets good light. I love being there.

Mike: “Let there be light!”
(Click to enlarge)

Mike: “The wall to the right houses some illustrations by friends (and artists I WANT to be friends with). I made that picture of a cat when I was four. The image of Elliot above the desk appears in Little Elliot, Big Family.”

(Click to enlarge)

Mike: “Books and flatfiles of drawings and books and art supplies and books.”
(Click to enlarge)

3. Jules: As a book-lover, it interests me: What books or authors and/or illustrators influenced you as an early reader?


: My Mom says that my favorite books when I was little were The Little Red Caboose and The Poky Little Puppy. She used to read to me all the time from a Golden Book compilation entitled Tibor Gergely’s Great Big Book of Bedtime Stories, which I still have and I still love. I think Gergely’s work still influences me today. I also loved Richard Scarry’s What Do People Do All Day?, Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham, and Mabel Watt’s Hiram’s Red Shirt (illustrated by Aurelius Battaglia?).

4. Jules: If you could have three (living) authors or illustrators—whom you have not yet met—over for coffee or a glass of rich, red wine, whom would you choose? (Some people cheat and list deceased authors/illustrators. I won’t tell.)

Mike: Since moving to Brooklyn, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting so many amazing illustrators, but I have yet to meet this handful of heroes. (Okay, okay. I know I’m only supposed to choose three, but who do you expect me to cut from this list?)

Chris Van Allsburg, Ian Falconer, Peter McCarty, and Renata Liwska.

5. Jules: What is currently in rotation on your iPod or loaded in your CD player? Do you listen to music while you create books?

Mike: I often listen to music while I’m illustrating (or I have a movie playing in the background). While working on the latest book, I listened to a lot of Fiona Apple (The Idler Wheel), Robyn (Bodyrock), Mark Ronson (Record Collection), Gossip (A Joyful Noise), MS MR (Secondhand Rapture), and everything/anything by Vampire Weekend and Rufus Wainwright. I’m also really into soundtracks such as Amélie, Chicago, Pride & Prejudice, Sleepless in Seattle, and Pina. And when I really want to burn the midnight oil, I usually default to either my ’80s pop or ’90s grunge playlists. Oh, and Weezer’s Blue Album is always playing at some point when I make art. It’s a tradition that my former college studio-mates and I share.

6. Jules: What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?

Mike: One thing I must confess is that I was not a voracious reader in my teens. I’m not sure what happened, but once I grew out of picture books, the idea of reading seemed like such a chore. It was cutting into my drawing and TV time! Thank goodness for comic books. They are pretty much all I read from the ages of 12 to 15. I was very passionate about my X-Men collection from then into my early 20s. I did dream about making my own picture books when I was very young, but for the duration of middle and high school, I aspired to be a comic book artist. Though my interest in classic superheroes has diminished, I am hoping to break into graphic novels one day.

7. Jules: Is there something you wish interviewers would ask you — but never do? Feel free
to ask and respond here.

Mike: One question I’d like to hear is: “Aside from other children’s books, is there anything that influences your work?” And the answer would be: “YES!”

I am really inspired by film. Good cinematography, like picture books, can tell a story with very few words. My favorite movies (and picture books) have both amazing imagery and compelling narrative. Movies like Amélie, The Last Emperor, American Beauty, Inception, Marie Antoinette, The Royal Tenenbaums, and Lord of the Rings are not only riveting stories; everything is also visually stunning. There is attention to detail in every scene. Every object is carefully placed — and the color adjusted to convey the feeling in the atmosphere. The framing of each scene is dynamic and directs the eye. I could watch any of these on mute and just revel in their beauty. I try to take the visual lessons I learn from films like these and apply them to my work.


* * * The Pivot Questionnaire * * *

Jules: What is your favorite word?

Mike: “Cake.”

Jules: What is your least favorite word?

Mike: “Literally.” When it’s misused.

Jules: What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Mike: See: What is your favorite word?

Jules: What turns you off?

Mike: Celery.

7-Imp: What is your favorite curse word? (optional)

Mike: I couldn’t possibly choose one.

Jules: What sound or noise do you love?


Jules: What sound or noise do you hate?


Jules: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Mike: Maybe acting. Or ice cream-taste-tester. (That’s a thing, right?)

Jules: What profession would you not like to do?

Mike: Anything involving customer service. Been there. Done that. Next.

Jules: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Mike: “Don’t worry. You can still keep making books.”

All artwork and images are used with permission of Mike Curato.

The spiffy and slightly sinister gentleman introducing the Pivot Questionnaire is Alfred, © 2009 Matt Phelan.

3 Comments on Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Mike Curato, last added: 8/27/2014
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29. Interview: Julie Danielson and Betsy Bird

If you appreciate children's literature and want to know the stories behind your favorite stories, pick up WILD THINGS! written by Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson, and the late Peter D. Sieruta. Packed from cover-to-cover with funny stories and little known facts about famous authors, secret feuds, inspired illustrations, and classic characters, this is a great resource for readers and writers alike. The authors - all three proud bibliophiles and bloggers - clearly had fun putting this book together.

Little Willow: This book is filled with anecdotes. Is anyone in your family a master of tall tales?

Betsy: In my family we've all had a predilection towards storytelling, but then I went and married a clear cut storyteller as well. Now I'm so steeped in them that it's only natural that a book like this would be the result. Here in New York City a children's literature gathering often involves members of the old guard (people who've been working in the field for decades) so you get all kinds of fascinating stories. Seems only natural that they should have ended up in a book at some point. As for me, I actually prefer to hear anecdotes to telling them, but some of them are just too good NOT to tell.

Jules: My family isn't necessarily filled with storytellers, but I'm fascinated by storytelling. In fact, I once took a grad course on the very subject, and I loved every second of it. For my final course project, I memorized every word of Rudyard Kipling's "The Elephant's Child." That is a wonderful story to tell. I no longer have it memorized word-for-word, but it'd probably not be that challenging to re-learn, since it's probably still hiding in the cobwebbed corners of my brain. "In the High and Far-Off Times the Elephant, O Best Beloved, had no trunk...." (I love that singular beginning.)

Little Willow: That's impressive. Did any of the real-life stories change how you viewed a particular author or book?

Betsy: Well, I don't think I'll ever look at The Cricket in Times Square the same way again. That's all I'll say.

Jules: There's a very tender story about James Marshall and his mother, a story that didn't make it into our book. We did, however, share it at the site, where we are sharing stories cut from our manuscript. I'm a big Marshall fan, but this made me want to learn even more about him.

Little Willow: How did the three of you come together to write this book? Who had the first inkling that you should and would write a book together?

Betsy: That was me. I had this notion that there were some pretty amazing bloggers out there and that their sites would naturally adapt into a book format pretty well. Ironically, of the three blogs that came together here (A Fuse #8 Production, Collecting Children's Books, and Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast) mine is probably the least book-worthy. But I've an eye for talent and these guys were talented. So I reached out to them and asked if they'd be keen to work together on something. As luck would have it, they were!

Little Willow: Describe the writing process. How did you divvy up tasks between the three of you?

Betsy: First we decided which chapters should be in the book. Then we pooled all the stories we wanted to tell. Once each story was slotted into the right chapter we assigned chapters. There was a lot of swapping of stories between chapters and a lot of rewriting and editing of one another. That may account for the single "voice" found in the book.

Jules: Yep, we each worked on assigned chapters and then passed them around. We made suggestions for editing, adding, deleting, you-name-it. At one point, Peter and I were working on the same chapter and didn't even realize it. So, we eventually merged what we'd written. Whew. That worked out well!

Little Willow: What's your favorite part about collaborations? What does working with others bring out of you?

Betsy: For me, it makes me more confident about the final product. When I write something entirely on my own I may love it but there will always be this little voice in the back of my head that says I could have done more. When I work with other people who are as smart as Peter and Jules, that little voice disappears. I can feel safe and secure in the knowledge that no matter how much I screw up, they'll be there to point me in the right direction. It's an enormous relief, I can tell you.

Jules: I learned so much more about writing, I think, just by watching Betsy and Peter do their thing. And when someone edits your work, you learn TONS. I feel like if I'm a better writer at the close of this project, it's thanks to them. I love collaborating. I mean, no one likes, say, those grad school projects where you're stuck with people who don't pull their own weight OR you're assigned to a topic you hate, but if I dig my partners-in-crime and I love the subject, I'd much rather work in a group.

Little Willow: As a kid, did you have any teachers, librarians, or booksellers that you went to regularly to get (and give) book recommendations?

Betsy: Nope. And what's more, I couldn't tell you single one of their names. That said, my mom worked in an independent bookstore in Kalamazoo, Michigan and she was always suggesting books or handing books to me. My Aunt Judy was the same, so that's where I found the bulk of my recommended literature.

Jules: I didn't read a TON when I was a kid, which is why I'm trying to get caught up now! I did have a high school English lit and drama teacher who really got me fired up about reading, and I'm still friends with her. She's one of those amazing teachers you'd like to clone.

Little Willow: What aspects of blogging do you find the most enjoyable?

Betsy: I think it's a combination of the pleasure of the regularity (I am required to blog four times a week on my site), the fact that I can highlight books, people, or events that may not be getting a lot of publicity (I always alternate big publishers with little publishers in my reviews), and the different ways in which I can make my opinions known.

Jules: Hands down, I love the community. I love getting to know those folks who are as passionate about children's lit as I am. It's even better when you get to meet them in person.

Little Willow: How has blogging has changed how you read and recommend books, and how you interact with readers and authors?

Betsy: Since I work for New York Public Library and blog for School Library Journal I see a LOT of books in a given year, but there's always this sense that I'm not seeing ALL the books. And boy howdy do I want to see absolutely everything. So blogging, for me, is a way of filling in the gaps. It also allows me to recommend sites to friends who are looking to specialize in certain areas.

Jules: Well, before blogging I rarely interacted with authors and illustrators, but since I do a lot of interviews, I talk to many of them now on a pretty regular basis. As for how blogging has changed my reading habits, I tend to have less time for novels (though I still read them as much as I can), since I'm blogging about picture books and illustration. But it's worth it. I love writing about picture books and art.

Little Willow: What books did you love as a child that you still love just as much today?

Betsy: I was recently weeding my bookshelves, so this question was already in my mind. On my part, I think I'll always love Edward Eager, E. Nesbit, Tasha Tudor's A Time to Keep, various Steven Kellogg titles, The Secret Garden, The Girl With the Silver Eyes, and any number of Apple paperbacks found via the Scholastic Book Fairs.

Jules: Shel Silverstein, the Grimm Brothers, Trina Schart Hyman, Maurice Sendak, Beverly Cleary.

Little Willow: Would you rather travel with Max to meet the Wild Things, or go with Harry Potter and attend Hogwarts?

Betsy: Hogwarts. Is there any question? I wonder about folks who would say Wild Things. You'd have to be a very particular kind of person, I suspect. For me, there's no contest.

Jules: The Wild Things, without any doubt. Because maybe perhaps possibly if Sendak is there, too, we can chat.

Little Willow: Would you rather visit Narnia or Never Never Land?

Betsy: That is a very hard question. I go back and forth. Narnia, I guess. Though they both dwell in very distinct metaphors. But I should like to see a faun, so Narnia wins.

Jules: You're going to think I'm just saying the opposite of Betsy now, just to mix things up, but honestly I'd go to Never Never Land. I want to meet Mrs. Darling first, though.

Little Willow: Would you rather have a sip at the tea party in Wonderland or snag a treat from Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory?

Betsy: Wonka. Admittedly, you'd never be entirely certain what the Wonka treat would do to you, but I also suspect that the food at that tea party can't be entirely hygienic (there's a dormouse in one of the teapots, for crying out loud!). Plus there's always a chance that Wonka will look like Gene Wilder and I've always had a hardcore crush on that guy.

Jules: Well, given the theme of my blog, I gotta attend the Mad Tea-Party, yes?

Little Willow: Would you rather have the job of The Giver or be the head gamemaker for the Hunger Games?

Betsy: I don't think I'm skilled enough to pass muster as a gamemaker. I suspect I'd construct some little landscape and forget to do something essential like install the video cameras. And I'm always telling and retelling stories of the past ad nauseum anyway, so maybe I'm halfway to Giver-ship already!

Jules: Oh, The Giver! Definitely that. I recently read that book again---this time I read it aloud to my daughters---and it blows my mind how good it is.

WILD THINGS! Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature by Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson, and Peter D. Sieruta is now available at a bookstore near you.

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30. Milo Manara speaks (in English) and reaches out to the farms of Oregon and Maine

Italian fanzine
Fumettologica has made an English transcript of their interview with Milo Manara available, and offered it to run at The Beat. And it’s…a thing. Like I’ve been saying all along, Manara is Manara and he can draw all the butts in thew air he wants. However, he trots out every bingo card argument there is, from “men are sexualized too!’ to blaming this on the spread of Islam (????!!!!!????). Also women evolved to be sexy.

Also censorship is a red herring here. The issue is a MARKETING one, and I still haven’t seen anyone address that from Tom Breevort on.

I must say, I like the idea of Spider-women advancing like a jaguar. Perhaps focusing on her rump was not the best way to convey this concept.

All that said, this Spider-Woman variant has now become a symbol for many things. It really isn’t just about her butt any more.

Fumettologica: How do you interpret the debate generated by your cover?

MANARA: Reading on the internet, I saw that the criticisms have two different motivations. One is the sexy and erotic side, the other is the anatomical error. Now, about the incompetence in the drawing I do not know what to say. Let’s say I’ve tried to do my best for 40 years. Nobody is perfect, and I may be wrong; simply put, I’m a professional, doing the best I can.

On the erotic side, however, I found it a bit ‘amazing. Apart from the fact that there is a mandatory thing that I have to start by saying: it seems to me that both in the United States and around the world there are things much more important and serious to worry about. The events at Ferguson, or the drama of the Ebola. That there are people getting angry for things like that … Unless there is, these days, a hypersensitivity to more or less erotic images, due to this ongoing confrontation that we are supposed to have with Islam. It’s known that the censorship of the female form should not be a feature of our own Western civilization. This is what I find also quite surprising.

QUESTION: The main criticism to your picture – although not new, neither in discussions about comics nor in your work – is that it represents a woman who is the ‘object’ of sexual desire, through a shape and a pose that is provocative, not very ‘natural ‘

MANARA: “What I wanted to do is a girl who, after climbing the wall of a skyscraper, is crawling over the roof. She finds herself on the edge, and her right leg is still off the roof. So the criticism about anatomical issues that were made, I think they are wrong: she’s not to have both knees on the roof. One leg is still down, and the other is pulling up. Precisely for this reason, also, then this back arched. This is what I tried to do”.

That said, it’s not my fault if women are like that. I’m only drawing them. It’s not me who made women that way: is an author much more “important”, for those who believe … For evolutionists, including me, on the other hand, women’s bodies have taken this form over the millennia in order to avoid the ‘extinction of the species, in fact. If women were made exactly as men, with the same shape, I think we would have already been extinct for a long time.

Also, I do not consider it one of the covers most erotic I’ve done. I think I have chosen, out of all the poses imaginable – and the proof is there, if one goes on the Internet, where I documented myself, to see all the photos of Spider-Woman – the one that is , even framing, less problematic . If fact the view is a bit from above. You do not see hardly anything. We see only that she has an ass, drawn this way. And it’s a girl with a nice ass, indeed, at least from my point of view.

That’s the way Superheroes are: they are naked, covered in whatever color of paint. Superman is naked painted blue, Spider-Man is naked painted red and blue, and Spider-Woman is painted red. But that’s part of the “trick”, so to speak, that publishers use to create these forms of superheroes nude – of which I do not find anything wrong – but without real nudity. When we see them later in the stories, going beyond the cover, these are characters whose bodies are “in view”.

QUESTION: In addition to the form, however, it’s also the position. Don’t you see it as something provocative, if not problematic, in itself?

MANARA: It is actually a girl who is crawling, or rather, advancing at the pace of the jaguar. After climbing the wall of the building, she is pulling herself on the roof of this building. That’s how I see it. Sure, of course, since women are built in a certain way, any movement they make, if they are nude … and to some degree, more or less, all super heroines are naked. And this cover isn’t any different. And Spider-Woman is not gonna be sitting in a chair, right? But if one goes on the internet to see all the other images of the character, there are many far more erotic, and if they were naked, they would be more vulgar than what I did. Instead, as we know, this leotard, this – let’s say – ‘colored plastic wrap’ is what saves all appearances.

QUESTION: The debate remains open, however, and very timely. To add an item to the discussion, there’s also the intervention of the vice president of publishing at Marvel, Tom Brevoort, who said ” It’s, for a Manara piece, one of the less sexualized ones, at least to my eye. Maybe others feel differently.

But given that the character is covered head-to-toe, and is crouched in a spider-like pose, it seems far less exploitative to me than other Manara pieces we’ve run in previous months and years. (…) I think a conversation about how women are depicted in comics is relevant at this point, and definitely seems to be bubbling up from the zeitgeist.” 

It seems that this cover has come at a time when even in the comic field there is a somehow new sensitivity: it’s not acceptable anymore to see some excesses in the ‘provocative’ representation of women.

MANARA: I can understand, of course. As I also understand people who have felt offended. But I understand in the sense that it suddenly opens my eyes, and I have to acknowledge that what I think is a beautiful picture, nice, attractive, seductive – that is exactly my purpose, or what I want to achieve – for others it is disturbing. But this is something that I have to face every time I. And by the way it keeps surprising me more and more.

If you go to the beaches now, you see girls whose scanty swimwear totally let see the shapes of their bodies. Of course, for someone that can be an image that is disturbing, but not for me. In fact, I’m sorry, but my aim – when I’m asked to draw – is trying to communicate serenity, more than seduction.

QUESTION: What has struck some commentators and writers – Dan Slott for example – is that we have raised so much amazement on a job perfectly in synch with your extensive career, which is known to everyone. Others have instead asked why all this has happened with one of your drawings and not others, suggesting how in your touch there is a graphic load that, for better or worse, makes the strongest erotic impact of the bodies you draw.

MANARA: If that were so, it would be a great compliment. I tend to believe that maybe I was already in the crosshairs of some commentators or bloggers who have seized the opportunity, even though it wasn’t the most convincing one, to raise such a problem. I understand the controversy over the fact that the use of women bodies is a sensitive issue. And I couldn’t agree more on the fact that the female body should not be used in advertising, for example, to sell … silicone sealant. The thing that I do not agree is not so much the fact that these images are erotic, but the fact that they are banal. Everyone is capable of assign beautiful image to any product: it is clear that you transfer to your product the beauty of that image. A trick so trivial that I find cloying. But when it comes to draw a character in red tights, whose line of work is skyscraper crawling, I see no scandal in the fact of drawing her in a seductive way. Because I imagine that’s how she is.

I don’t know if this character will also become a movie, but it does, I think they would have their sweet problems to make her do what Spider-Man does (frame her in the same vicissitudes and athletic performance and so on) without her becoming seductive. If she’s played by an actress endowed with an ass, it is clear that her ass will be seen. I0m reminded that her tights are “painted on” … I also noticed that some website says that more than a suit, what you see in my drawing, it’s body painting. It’s true. Sure it is. But because it is so in all the superhero comics: These tights are painted on them. You don’t see a crease, a wrinkle. You read the muscles perfectly.

I’m not so convinced, though, by the last part of the controversy. That is, those who accuse Marvel that while trying to take a stab at capturing the female audience, by using a cover of that kind, they’re commissioning it to me, an artist who, you know, has a male audience. I totally reject this. My audience is at least 50% female. I know it for a fact because when I go to festivals, and I see the queue of those who put themselves in line to get signed books, there are more women than men. Therefore, I also reject the notion that the celebration of the female body interests only to males: I do not think so.

Ah, there’s also those who insinuate the whole controversy is manufactured on purpose. I can only say I did not know anything until I was informed about it. If anything, from my point of view, I have to congratulate Marvel, who showed respect for a drawing that, as horrible as it might be, no one asked me to do any kind of change. I do not think it was worse than others, or more scandalous than others. And in front of an image of seduction I feel joy, not repulsion.

QUESTION: The author of the regular cover, Greg Land, it’s been noted that he is known to sometimes use photos of porn actresses to draw poses in his comics.

MANARA: I wasn’t aware of that. I respect very much Land as a draftsman. I see that he is one of the most realistic, and I assumed that he used models, but that he traced pictures of that kind, that I did not know. Unless it’s not just unsubstantiated slander? I like his art because it has a certain evocative power, sometimes strong, impressive, so he’s among the ones I like. I have seen, anyhow, that some have given anatomy lessons to him too. You never stop learning.

And anyway, I have to say this: the last thing I want is “épater les bourgeois” (shock the bourgeoisie), or offend someone. I just want to make something seductive that provides five minutes of relaxation. It’s all there is. The reason why I agreed to do some covers for Marvel when they asked me is because I think that in some remote farm in Maine or Oregon there was anyone who would read these comics, perhaps saying “ah, what a beautiful girl “. It’s all there is. I’d be more than satisfied if such a thing were to happen. But I do not think a design like the one on the cover of Spider-Woman could have masturbatory consequences. I do not think; it must be seductive, and I’ll do my best for it to be that way. As I said, the perspective that I chose – I have not framed her from behind, from beneath, etc. – is from above. And from height you see her sinuous back and you see her two buttocks. But it is not what you see, it’s what you know.

I’m tempted to circle back to the beginning: I think there are other things to worry about. but if you please, however, one last thing. To date I have not heard from Marvel (these days there are some communication difficulties, but I think I’ll hear from them soon, next week). But it seems to me that this cover has not yet been published. This is to say that it may well be that Marvel, seeing these controversies, withdraws it and does not publish it. Who knows, maybe we are talking about nothing: Marvel decides not to publish it so then it’s “goodnight to the bucket” (Italian expression that means “and then we’re screwed”). In any event, just for completeness, I remember that they asked me to enlarge a little bit the costume of one of those covers. So in general, if they have any objections, they tell me. And I concur: since the responsibility is theirs, it is their right to be cautios. Furthermore, it’s the American market, so whatever… Also, I was given this assignment 3-4 months ago. It was and remains only a celebration of the body, without any manipulation. I’d understand if they were real girls, forced to do things they do not want to do, for commercial purposes. But it’s just drawings, santa pazienza (holy patience).”

7 Comments on Milo Manara speaks (in English) and reaches out to the farms of Oregon and Maine, last added: 8/23/2014
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31. What I’m Doing at Kirkus and BookPage This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Gary Kelley

“Dismissed by much of white America as ‘darkies playing soldiers,’ porters, butlers, hotel doormen, elevator operators—2,000 strong—volunteered for the cause.”


Today over at Kirkus, I’m shining the spotlight on Barbara Bottner’s Miss Brooks’ Story Nook (where tales are told and ogres are welcome!), illustrated by Michael Emberley. That link will be here soon.

Also, yesterday at BookPage my interview with author-illustrator Cece Bell went up, as well as my review of El Deafo, her graphic novel. That is all linked here. And remember: I featured art from El Deafo back in June. That’s here.

* * *

Last week, I wrote here about J. Patrick Lewis’ Harlem Hellfighters (Creative Editions, August 2014), illustrated by Gary Kelley. And guess what? I saw yesterday that it up and won an Original Art Award from the Society of Illustrators. See here for more information and the other winners.

I have some art from this book today. Enjoy.


“Somewhere in the mid-Atlantic fog of history, two dark ships passed in the night …”


“The Harlem Hellfighters defined courage, / none more than red cap Albany porter / Henry Johnson …”


“Relieved from trench duty, Jim Europe found a modest farmhouse
in a remote hamlet alive with birdsong. …”


“Three days later, / the first black man ever to be given / a public funeral in the city of New York / rolled through the streets of Harlem / past a delirium of mourners. /
In black armbands, the Hellfighters / marched last, their hushed instruments /
at their sides.”



* * * * * * *

HARLEM HELLFIGHTERS. Copyright © 2014 by J. Patrick Lewis. Illustrations © 2014 by Gary Kelley. Illustrations used by permission of the publisher, Creative Editions, Mankato, Minnesota.

0 Comments on What I’m Doing at Kirkus and BookPage This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Gary Kelley as of 8/22/2014 4:11:00 AM
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32. Interview with Dixie Lee Brown, Author of Whatever it Takes and Giveaway

Please give special guest Dixie Lee Brown a warm welcome to the virtual offices!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in five words or less.

[Dixie Lee Brown] Independent; persistent; reliable; animal lover

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about your book?

[Dixie Lee Brown] WHATEVER IT TAKES is the fourth book in the Trust No One series. Nate Sanders is a detective for the Portland (Oregon) Police Bureau. His deceased uncle has left some serious trouble behind and now it’s found Nate.

Who should save his bacon but the beautiful and mysterious Alex Morgan, the woman he hasn’t stopped thinking about since she wrecked his classic car in book #3? Alex’s past haunts her day and night. She has a smart mouth, a chip on her shoulder, a dagger on her belt, and knows how to use them all.

Nate sees through her bluster and signs on to help her rescue a kidnapped boy, but his own trouble just might get her killed—or is it the other way around?

[Manga Maniac Café] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Dixie Lee Brown] Nate and Alex both appeared in the third book in the series, IF YOU ONLY KNEW. Their character descriptions and backstory were already set, as well as the setting for the beginning of the story at Nate’s house. Combine that with two minor unanswered questions that suddenly become very important and a “crazy” heroine, and I had my concept.

[Manga Maniac Café] What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

[Dixie Lee Brown] I love the relationships in this book. Alex and Nate are right for each other. Most of Joe’s team from the first three books put in appearances, plus Alex’s best friend from book #1. I love having the whole team show up. Also, being a romantic suspense, there’s a lot of action in this book. Action is just plain fun to write!

[Manga Maniac Café] What gave you the most trouble with this story?

[Dixie Lee Brown] It’s the same problem I have with every book. I’ll write two chapters leading up to a specific event and then handle the event and its aftermath in a paragraph! Lol! My editor calls me on it every time!

[Manga Maniac Café] If you had a theme song, what would it be?

[Dixie Lee Brown] Being the hopeless romantic I am, it would be “I Won’t Let Go” by Rascal Flatts

[Manga Maniac Café] Name one thing you won’t leave home without.

[Dixie Lee Brown] My Kindle – of course.

[Manga Maniac Café] Name three things on your desk right now.

[Dixie Lee Brown] Laptop, notepaper, and a jump drive

[Manga Maniac Café] If you could trade places with anyone for just one day, who would you be?

[Dixie Lee Brown] Assuming something would also make me magically capable of doing her job, I’d want to trade places with my wonderful Avon editor, Chelsey Emmelhainz, cuz she’s terrific!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are some books that you enjoyed recently?

[Dixie Lee Brown] The Golden Key Chronicles by AJ Nuest

Asking For Trouble by Jannine Gallant

The Dysfunctional Test by Kelly Moran

Hard As You Can by Laura Kaye

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Dixie Lee Brown] You probably hear this all the time, but if I have spare time—I read!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Dixie Lee Brown] I’d love it if readers would check out my webpage: http://www.dixiebrown.com/

Or like my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dixie-Lee-Brown/311618418919108

Or follow me on Twitter: @DixieLeeBrown

Whatever it Takes

Trust No One # 4

By: Dixie Lee Brown

Releasing August 12th, 2014

Avon: Impulse


Assassin Alex Morgan will do anything to save an innocent life – especially if it means rescuing a child from a hell like the one she endured.
But going undercover as husband and wife, with none other than the disarmingly sexy Detective Nate Sanders, may be a little more togetherness than she can handle. She’s used to working alone, and no man is going to change that – not even a man who makes her heart pound and her defenses crumble with just a touch
Nate has dodged more than a few bullets over the years, but fighting his attraction for Alex may be the bullet that does him in. Still, Nate’s determined to help her find the missing kid. There’s no doubt in his mind that they’re walking straight into danger, but Nate’s willing to face anything if it means protecting Alex. She might have been on her own once, but Nate has one more mission: to stay by her side – forever. 

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2014/07/whatever-it-takes-trust-no-one-4-by.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21150710-whatever-it-takes

Buy Links

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Whatever-Takes-Trust-One-Novel-ebook/dp/B00GG08JAG/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1406816764&sr=1-3&keywords=whatever+it+takes

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/whatever-it-takes-brown-dixie-lee/1119738830?ean=9780062328304

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/whatever-it-takes-24

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/mx/book/whatever-it-takes/id738454204?l=en&mt=11

Author Info

DIXIE LEE BROWN lives and writes in Central Oregon, inspired by what she believes is the most gorgeous scenery anywhere. She resides with two dogs and a cat, who make sure she never takes herself too seriously. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, movies, and trips to the beach.

Author Links

Website: http://www.dixiebrown.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dixie-Lee-Brown/311618418919108

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DixieLeeBrown

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6583364.Dixie_Lee_Brown

Rafflecopter Giveaway (Print copy of another installment in Dixie Lee Brown’s Trust No One series, IF YOU ONLY KNEW—where you get to meet Alex and Nate for the first time!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The post Interview with Dixie Lee Brown, Author of Whatever it Takes and Giveaway appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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33. Frank Miller speaks from the NY Times to Playboy, on sex, violence and masculinity


With Sin City 2 finally opening this weekend, creator and co-director Frank Miller is making the PR rounds, speaking out at length publicly for the first time since the mixed reception of Holy Terror and his incendiary Occupy comments. First up was a very nice front page of the Arts & Leisure piece in the Sinday Times — which is as close to anointment as a cultural figure as it gets. There was a polite Dave Itzkoff profile (ALERT: I am quoted in the piece):
Purveyor of a Stylish Brutality in which he talks about the reception of The Spirit for the first time:

“It tossed me back on my heels,” Mr. Miller said of the film’s failure. “And it made me smarter. There are a million things that can go wrong with a movie, and you’ve got to get them all right. I still approach the set with great confidence.”

There’s also a positive review of his books by Dana Jennings:

His loose line often jumps the tracks into raw Expressionism. Many of the drawings look as if they were backlit by chain lightning, and his renderings make snow, rain and cigarette smoke look as sentient as his characters. His panels are all slash and shadow, evoking the bold ink work of old comics masters like Milton Caniff and Alex Toth.
One of the most exquisite sequences in “Big Damn Sin City” comes in the brief story “Silent Night,” as the hulking Marv shambles through a blizzard, the snow whipping in an almost galactic darkness. Marv is a crucifix-wearing bruiser trying to set the world as right as he can, and in these few pages Northern Renaissance woodcut precision meets graphic novel guts.

20Q Frank Miller p. 100 101 by Gavin Bond.jpg

And today there’s a 20 Questions with Miller in Playboy (NSFW) condustced by Rob Tannenbaum. A publicist made an excerpt available:

On his early Hollywood experiences:  “I came back from RoboCop2 convinced that writing a screenplay was the equivalent of building a fire hydrant and then having dogs run around and piss on it.  I swore I’d never touch movies again.  I don’t see how I could function in film if I didn’t have my comics.  I think screenplays are essentially stupid.  I certainly do not regard working in Hollywood as a step up from comics, by any means.”
On why he changed his mind and helped adapt Sin City for the big screen:  “Because Robert Rodriguez said he wanted to show me what he would do with Sin City.  The irony here is that I designed Sin City so it could not be adapted to film.  I wanted to show people what comics would do that movies couldn’t.  When Rodriguez showed up, I was so ornery.  I ignored his first three phone calls.  I wouldn’t even meet him in my home.  I met him at a Hell’s Kitchen bar.  He showed me some rough work he’d done, and it was impressive.  I thanked him and told him the answer was no.  He went back to Texas.  Then he said maybe we could shoot a scene just to see what it was like.  It’s not the sort of offer you turn down.  So I went to Texas, where he had built a fully functional set, and at one point Marley Shelton looked at me with her beautiful big eyes and said, ‘Why did my character hire somebody to kill her?’  Marley grasped it all and went out and gave three times the performance she had before.  I walked over to Robert, kicked him in the shins and said, ‘I’m in.’”
On his current relationship with Robert Rodriguez:  “He’s the P.T. Barnum, the overall boss of the crew and t
20Q Frank Miller Playbill by Gavin Bond.jpg
he most energetic force on the set.  I’ve often joked with him that if he were Elvis Presley, I’d be Bob Dylan, because I like to go off alone and work quietly with people.  I’m the guy actors go to when they need to ask a question about the characters.  On my comic strips I work alone.  When I first got involved in filmmaking, which I never thought I’d do, my biggest fear was working with actors.  And it ended up being my greatest joy, because I know the backstories of all the characters and I finally have somebody to explain them to.”
On the prevalence of sex and violence in his films:  “It’s not possible to tell a good story without conflict, and the best forms of conflict are sex and violence.  I make no apologies for the kind of work I do.  You’ll find plenty of violence and sex in grand opera and epic poetry too.”
On how 300 rattled Iranian politicians:  “I’m ready for my fatwa now.  [laughs]  I’m banned from Iran, but believe me, I’ve made much greater sacrifices.  What I love is that I actually made the Iranian government change its historical policy toward Persia.  It went from despising the empire of Persia to all of a sudden loving it, after 300.  Persia had been a globe-spanning empire, then Muhammad came along and changed the mentality and rewrote all the histories.  Iran’s days of empire are long gone, and they were just looking for something to get pissed off about.”
On his thoughts about movies adapted from comics he wrote:  “When people come out with movies about characters I’ve worked on, I always hate them.  I have my own ideas about what the characters are like.  I mean, I can’t watch a Batman movie.  I’ve seen pieces of them, but I generally think, No, that’s not him.  And I walk out of the theater before it’s over.”
On whether or not the stigma of being a comic-book artist will ever vanish:  “I hope not.  I hope we never lose it.  People like to refer to comic books as graphic novels or sequential storytelling, all kinds of crazy words.  Graphic novels sounds like we’re porn.  I like the term comic book, because it sounds like something you fold up and put in your back pocket.  I like the goofiness of them.  One reason I enjoy the Marvel Comics movies is that they’re fun.  A lot of superhero movies are pompous.  At one point I was watching Superman, and all I could do was an impersonation of him saying, ‘Hi, I can fly and you can’t.’  Whereas Captain America, the Hulk and Iron Man are a bunch of mixed-up crazy kids, just like the readers.”
On his “maladjusted” childhood:  “I was maladjusted only in that I didn’t get along with the rest of the world very well.  But I was a happy enough kid.  I had an idyllic childhood in the country.  My grades were pretty good until high school, when I discovered girls, marijuana and beer.”
On his views about masculinity:  “I believe there has been a crisis of masculinity in modern times, and the 1940s-style gentleman needs to make a comeback—the sort of man who opens the door for women and compliments them and does things for them.  I believe it’s a biological function of men, because we tend to be larger than women, to be protective of them.  If I were to try to zero in, comic-book-like, on when masculinity went awry, I’d say it was when Rod Stewart sang, ‘You are my lover, you’re my best friend,’ rather than allowing there to be two people in his life who served two very important functions.” 

Oh, Frank Miller.

Miller’s frail appearance at San Diego has elicited many comments and emails. Whether you think the above is wacky or not, clearly his personality is intact.

Sin City 2 opens this Friday.

Photo credit: Playboy/Gavin Bond

16 Comments on Frank Miller speaks from the NY Times to Playboy, on sex, violence and masculinity, last added: 8/21/2014
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34. Interview: How To Organize 250 Animators For A Crowdsourced ‘Sailor Moon’ Remake

Since debuting last month, the fan-made episode of "Sailor Moon," entitled "Moon Animate Make-Up!," has garnered over 1.2 million views. Cartoon Brew interviewed the organizer of the project, Kate Sullivan, to learn more about how the project was produced.

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35. Interview with 16-Year-Old Artist Reyes Rosa

Today, Kid L it Reviews is pleased to bring you an interview with Reyes Rosa, a sixteen-year-old, up-and-coming illustrator. He is here to also showcase some of his work which I think you will enjoy.  (All art copyright © 2014 by Reyes Rosas.)


Hi, Reyes. Let’s start at the beginning. How old were you when you began seriously drawing?

I’m 16, now.   And I began seriously drawing last year.

The illustrations here, how old were, Reyes when you created them?HNI_0094

I drew most of them recently.

What is it about illustrating that you like so well?

I find it fun and exciting to give characters life.

 Is there anything you don’t like?

I love everything I do.

Reyes, who is your favorite artist and why?

I do not have a favorite artist. I don’t watch other illustrators.


Has a piece of art or character that influenced your art?

This is Kirby and he was my inspiration to start drawing when I was younger.

Kirby is your muse. How does Kirby influence you? 

At the time, he seemed so fun and lively. And he could become anything he wanted, simply by inhaling it!


How old were you at the time?

I really don’t remember, but I think I was about 11

Until Kirby came along, how much did you draw?

Before that I really didn’t draw at all.

I love the interesting character study you did of a Kirby. I really like all the expressions and positions you included.



I love your art I have seen. The digital illustrations are fantastic an on the level of much I see today in picture books. How did you learn to make digital art?

I am a self taught artist and the program I mostly use is Colors 3D for digital art.

Did you have any help? Maybe a book on drawing?

I didn’t use any outside sources, I just started drawing.

Some of those art programs have a large learning-curve. No one helped you learn any of it?

No. I have done everything on my own, thru trial and error.


Color 3D is a new one for me. What are the advantages/disadvantages of using Color 3D?

Some of the advantages are that it is a very comfortable, easy to use program. It isn’t cluttered by any unnecessary options. And some of the disadvantages are that the program is a little limited in terms of image resolution and tools.

Was Color 3D difficult to learn?

The program itself did not take long to get comfortable with, but acquiring  the skills took quite some time.

HNI_0008_JPGHave you tried using any of the usual programs illustrators like? (Illustrator, Photoshop, Manga 5, Corel Draw, or the open source Gimp)

I have not used any others because this one is the most comfortable for me to use. I have tried Gimp, but found that it is a little overcomplicated. And the others, I just don’t have the funds for.

Do you use a graphic pad?

I do not have a graphic pad, but I have wanted to try one. I use a stylus.


What is your normal process when creating illustrations?  Do you sketch and then scan, paint and then scan to finish other areas? How do you get such great looking illustrations?

I usually just sketch within the program and then build the drawing from there.

Which part of the process do you enjoy most – sketching, painting, or digital illustration?

I love sketching and digital illustration. I don’t like the initial starting process of getting a rough sketch down, but I love the process of coloring and shading.


I know you would like to illustrate children’s books. Have you any experience? 

I have worked with my mother on her kids cookbook doing the illustrations for it.

What you interests you about a career illustrating children’s books?

I like working in the children’s market because it’s more creative and less limited and lets me have more freedom in what I create.


Reyes you are a young man with lots of time ahead of you. Have you decided the life path you will take? Will it include art?

Yes, it will definitely include art and I would like to do 3D rendered animation in the future.

Have you thought about college and the art programs they have?

I have not thought about it yet, because I am only 16. But, my mom has thought about sending me to the Art Institute Of Chicago.

HNI_0009You’ve got to love moms. They are always one step ahead.

What do you do to relax?

I like to play video games.HNI_0011






What would be the most important advice you would give to young artist following you?

Never give up on any drawing, it might look bad at the start, but that’s only part of the process.

 What would you like to get out of this interview?

 I would like for you to share my art with others.

What is the next step for you and your art?

 I want to take my art to where I can do this professionally and have someone represent me.


Thank you for stopping by Kid Lit Reviews. In kids lit, an up and coming new artist interested in creating children’s books is exciting. Your innate talent is inspiring. I hope you become and accomplish all you wish to achieve.



Reyes is a self-taught digital artist and
pencil illustrator with a focus on character
art for video gaming and children’s literature.
He has been drawing since he was old enough
to hold a crayon. Reyes is a passionate guy who is
ready to take the next leap by pursuing art as a career.
Reyes is off the grid, but as been encouraged to build a blog so others may find him and his art.
Copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews

Filed under: Children's Books, Debut Illustrator, Favorites, Illustrator Spotlight, Interviews Tagged: artist, children's books, digital medium, illustration, kidlit, Reyes Rosas

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36. Interview: Kelly Jensen

Today, I'm celebrating the publication of It Happens: A Guide to Contemporary Realistic Fiction for the YA Reader by Kelly Jensen, a fellow blogger and book reviewer. We share an appreciation for literature and libraries, and I've been following her blog for a long while. It was fun to conduct this interview and learn more about her academic background and literary inspirations.

How old were you when you started reading teen fiction?

I was a teenager when I was reading teen fiction. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson and The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky came out in 1999. I was in 8th/9th grade then, and I remember picking both up somewhere around my sophomore or junior year of high school. I read what was out there then, and I carried on reading teen fiction through college and grad school. It wasn't always the first thing I picked up -- I read a lot of adult fiction and non-fiction -- but it was always there.

What was the first YA book (or series) that you read over and over? Have you re-read it as an adult? If so, did your opinion of it change?

I don't really reread. It's not because I'm opposed to it. It's just that there's so much out there I want to read, so it's not the first thing I think to do.

That said, I've really been wanting to reread Megan McCafferty's Jessica Darling series, especially with the release of the middle grade novels in the series. I read those books starting in high school and I looked forward to picking up each one as they published. Jessica and I went through the same life stages at the same time, and even though we didn't have any actual life similarities, I always related to and "got" her.

Congratulations on the release of IT HAPPENS! How did you land that book deal?

I approached my editor about doing an article on contemporary realistic YA for VOYA, and then on a whim, I asked if she thought maybe it was something she'd be interested in seeing as a full manuscript. It happened really fast. I was asked to put together a proposal and outline, which took me about a week. I sent those to her on a Thursday and had a contract on Saturday (I woke up to it on a vacation at a friend's house at 5 am and it was hard not to wake everyone up and share).

Had you always wanted to write a book guide?

It wasn't always a plan, but it made sense. What I'd envisioned for an article was something much bigger and after I did the research of what was out there, I saw there was a gaping hole in solid resources for contemporary realistic YA fiction.

Did anything get cut from the book?

I'd included book talks with a number of my book annotations, but I ended up cutting them all. I didn't keep them since many felt like they were just variations on the annotations themselves.

Should readers keep their eyes peeled for outtakes/bonus content at your blog?

There likely won't be outtakes or bonus content but that doesn't mean there won't be updates to some of the things I talked about in the book that show up on Stacked.

Any other books up your sleeve?

Last month, I turned in an essay that will be part of Amber Keyser's The V-Word, out with Beyond Words/Simon & Schuster in spring 2016. I'm also putting together a Q&A for the same book that looks at the representations of virginity and female sexuality in teen media.

I'm working on a chapter for another library reader's advisory resource with Liz Burns about "New Adult" fiction, being edited by Jessica Moyer. There's also a possibility of another chapter on a topic I'm supremely passionate about from a professional-development standpoint, but that's a project that's not completely set in stone yet.

There is a novel in me. I've been picking at it bit by bit. I'm really not good at committing to long-term fiction projects, but it's something I really want to do, and I think this story might be the one that gets me to follow through.

How did your college education/college experience prepare you for the jobs you've had?

I can't cite specific examples of how my education prepared me for my jobs, but I can say the experiences I had outside the classroom were what helped shape my career. I went to a non-traditional undergraduate college, which trained me how to think differently about time management and project management. I spent 4 years working on the school's newspaper -- first as a writer, then 2 years as an Arts and Entertainment editor, then finally as a Co-Editor-in-Chief. I spent three years working on the school's literary magazine, too, as both a reader and an editor. Those experiences taught me a lot about working with other people and rallying for things I care deeply about (the newspaper faced budget cuts during my last year, but my co-editor and I went to student senate budget meetings and fought hard to keep our money -- and we did).

While in undergrad, I worked at the library and I did an internship at my college library. The college library doubled as the town's public library, so I got to see both sides of the picture and knew working with the public -- and teens, especially -- was something I wanted to do.

What classes would you recommend for those who plan on becoming librarians?

I went to grad school immediately after undergrad and took many classes across the board in librarianship. If I'm being honest, though, few of the public library/teen services classes did a lot for me preparation wise. My YA fiction course was bad -- I knew more from my own reading and research than I got out of the class. But the one good thing that came of it was meeting my co-blogger Kimberly...and here we are, still blogging about YA at Stacked. Hopefully we're helping people learn about YA in a way we didn't get to.

But if I were to offer suggestions for those who want to go into libraries, it's this: work in libraries. Figure out where you want to work. Figure out how you work. Then read, read, read. And if you feel inclined, write. Blogging can give you a leg up if for no other reason than you have a record you can point to showing that you're willing to learn, explore, and create.

I'm not working in libraries now, since I took on a job at Book Riot as an editor/community manager. But my experiences in libraries, in a variety of good and less-than-good work environments, helped prep me for it, too. The best preparation for any job is working the job and understanding how you work, not what you'll get out of the classroom or your homework.

You've spoken about contemporary literature at a variety of conferences. Have you always felt comfortable with public speaking? Any advice for folks reading this interview who need a confidence booster before their next professional event or school presentation?

I still get nervous all the time about speaking. But I like pushing myself out of my comfort zone, and this works for me.

The reason it works for me doubles as my advice/confidence booster: you aren't invited to speak unless you know your stuff. So when you're at the front of the room, you are the expert. There's something in that knowledge that helps me feel better -- people are listening to me because they believe I can teach them something or I can make them rethink how they look at an idea.

In undergrad, I once spoke at a college-sponsored feminist symposium. I had written a paper in my Harlem Renaissance Lit class about the main character in Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God and how her name changes and shifts throughout the story and what that meant about her power in those situations. Little did I know that a renowned Hurston scholar was on campus during the symposium but I was alerted to it when I was presenting, since she was in the room listening to me.

I never felt more nervous as I did then. She asked me some tough questions during the Q&A portion, and I thought I was going to die right there. But after, she came up to me and said she came because she was curious to hear my take on this and she asked me those questions because she knew I could think about them and articulate a response. That may have been the presentation that sort of turned things around for me, knowing that even if someone in the room is smarter than me on a topic, they don't have the same take on it that I do, and they're there because they're interested, not because they want to bring me down.

You've been blogging at stackedbooks.org for five years now. What do you enjoy writing and sharing the most -- a book review, a list of books with similar themes, general book news, or a completely unplanned but suddenly inspired post?

If it's a book I love and want people to read immediately, then it's a book review. I love writing fun booklists. But the most fun are those unplanned and inspired posts, for sure.

Kimberly and I believe we'll do this as long as it's still fun. When it stops being fun, we stop. And at this point? It's still a lot of fun. If I don't like what I'm writing, I just stop and do something else.

How did you become a contributor for Book Riot?

Rebecca asked me! She and I have been following each other on Twitter for years, and so we've always sort of known what's going on with each other in the book world. Last June she approached me and said if I ever wanted to be a contributor, then I should apply. I did and the rest is history.

When you read a book summary, what are the magic words? What immediately makes you think, "I've got to read this book!"?

Dark, gritty, and edgy are three words I love. They don't have to be in relation to realistic fiction. I'll read most genres, especially when those words are involved.

Other things that grab me: dancing, a midwest setting outside of Chicago, anything feminist or that sounds like it's going to focus on navigating girlhood.

The words "magical realism" can catch my eye, but I approach those a little more cautiously/critically.

What are your top ten favorite books?

This is the worst question. The WORST. And the reason this is the worst question is because my favorite books are all favorites for different reasons -- it can be about the story or about the writing as much as it can be about the sensory experience of where I was or what that particular book brought to my life.

I'm not going to give you ten. Instead, here are three of my favorite books, off the top of my head, as I am writing this answer: The Magician's Assistant by Ann Patchett, The Girl in the Flammable Skirt by Aimee Bender, and All the Rage by Courtney Summers.

Little Willow adds: I also love books by Courtney Summers + Check out my interview with Courtney Summers!

Visit Kelly at kellybjensen.com and stackedbooks.org and get IT HAPPENS from your retailer of choice today.

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37. Interview with Juanita Kees, Author of Under Cover of Dark



[Manga Maniac Cafe] Good morning, Juanita! Thanks for stopping by to chat this morning.

[Juanita Kees] Thank you for having me over at Manga Maniac Café, Julie.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in five words or less.

[Juanita Kees] Wine-loving, romantic, shoe-crazy bookworm

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Under Cover of Dark?

[Juanita Kees] You met him in Fly Away Peta. He starts a murder investigation in Under the Hood. When will Detective Mark Johnson have his chance at happiness and what’s next for the bad guys?

Under Cover of Dark is a romantic suspense follows Under the Hood, about a Western Australian drug gang, the teenagers they recruit, and the cop who wants to bring them down.

When Mark Johnson delves deeper into his investigation into the murder of Tiny Watts and the involvement of a teenage gang with sleazy lawyer, Gino Bennetti, and his drug world ties, the last thing he expects is to be interviewing Gino’s widow, a woman in a world of trouble.

When her husband is shot and killed, it is both a relief and a disaster. Lily has her son to protect and secrets that run deeper than the scars she bears. Mark Johnson is the last person she wants uncovering those secrets, especially the truth about her son, Luke’s involvement in Tiny Watts’ murder.

As the investigation continues and Lily’s wounds begin to heal, she finds the detective easy to trust and the friendship between them blossoms into more. But the secret Lily holds places everyone in very real danger. When it is finally revealed, Lily will lose everything: her son, the man she’s grown to love, her freedom, and her life.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you share your favorite scene?

[Juanita Kees] Mark loved the Perth hills at night. The stars shone brighter without the glow of the city lights. The bush was alive with sound, a chorus of creatures of the night. The frog calls merged with the chirping of the crickets, somewhere close a possum shimmied up a tree into its nest. The hypnotic calls of the nightlife blended with the laughter around the table. For a moment, Mark could forget about murder and petty theft, and enjoy the peace.

His thoughts turned to Lily. While she’d relaxed somewhat in the glow of wine, warmth and friendship, he knew by the way her hands gripped the thin wooden arms of the chair her troubles weren’t far from her mind. He had to admire her strength. All that had happened in the last couple of months alone would have most women hunched over in a hysterical heap. But not Lily. Lily was holding it together quite admirably. How long could she keep it up before it broke her?

She must have sensed him watching her. The laughter froze on her lips as her eyes met his. For a long moment, she held his gaze across the table, searching until she seemed to find what she was looking for. Mark felt the impact of her acceptance and his heart skipped a beat. Suddenly the cop was at war with the man. While his instinct rejoiced at the hint of a break in the case, his body reacted to the intensity of the woman. Good God! Gino Bennetti had not deserved this brave, intelligent, beautiful spirit.

Lily leaned across the table towards him. Still entranced, it took him a moment to process her words.

‘We need to talk, Detective.’

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

[Juanita Kees] I loved bringing the bad guys to justice because it’s not always that easy in real life. The characters from Under the Hood (TJ, Scott and Marty) were so much fun to write and I had a ball bringing them back in Under Cover of Dark. And of course, the gorgeous Detective Mark (if I may say so myself?) has been with me for such a long time and I thought he deserved to find a love of his own but I wasn’t going to make it easy for him. ?

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s one thing you won’t leave home without?

[Juanita Kees] My Sony Xperia notebook! I’m hooked on it. It’s my own personal assistant. I can make notes for new stories, edit with office suite and still make calls and text. (Oh, and play the odd game of Mah Jong!)

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name three things on your desk right now.

[Juanita Kees] My herbal tea and teacup, my whiteboard for ideas, and my writing angel — a gift from my friend Jodie at my first RWA Conference.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s your favorite snack when you’re working on a deadline?

[Juanita Kees] Definitely chocolate! Jamaican Rum and Raisin, gotta have it!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you could trade places with anyone for just one day, who would you be?

[Juanita Kees] Deborra-Lee Furness … I’d give my right arm to have dinner with Hugh Jackman ?

[Manga Maniac Cafe] You have been granted the use of one superpower for one week. Which power would you choose, and what would you do with it?

[Juanita Kees] It sounds a little cliché, but it’s true …the power of Peace — I’d use it to bring peace to the world so everyone could live together in harmony, the wars would stop and hatred would be eradicated.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are some books that you enjoyed recently?

[Juanita Kees] Wow, where do I start?? I love telling the world about books I enjoy.

Yes, Chef! – Lisa Joy

The Nanny Proposition – Rachel Bailey

Almost Invincible – Suzanne Burdon

Bet on It – Cheryl Adnams

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Juanita Kees] I love hearing from readers, so pop in and say hi ?

Author Site: http://juanitakees.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Juanita-Kees-Author-Page/119574648138202

Twitter: @juanitakees

Authorgraph: https://www.authorgraph.com/authors/Kees2Create

On Goodreads: Goodreads

Blog: The Other Side

New Australian romantic suspense follows Under the Hood, about a Western Australian drug gang, the teenagers they recruit, and the cop who wants to bring them down.

When Mark Johnson delves deeper into his investigation into the murder of Tiny Watts, and the involvement of a teenage gang with sleazy lawyer Gino Bennetti and his drug world ties, the last thing he expects is to be interviewing Gino’s widow, a woman in a world of trouble.

When her husband is shot and killed, it is both a relief and a disaster. Lily has her son to protect and secrets that run deeper than the scars she bears. Mark Johnson is the last person she wants uncovering those secrets, especially the truth about her son Luke’s involvement in Tiny Watts’s murder.

As the investigation continues and Lily’s wounds begin to heal, she finds the detective easy to trust and the friendship between them blossoms into more. But the secret Lily holds places everyone in very real danger. When it is finally revealed, Lily will lose everything: her son, the man she’s grown to love, her freedom and her life.

The post Interview with Juanita Kees, Author of Under Cover of Dark appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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38. Five questions for Judith Viorst

judith viorst by milton viorst Five questions for Judith Viorst

Photo: Milton Viorst

Judith Viorst, creator of Alexander (he of the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day), writes about another little boy who might just wish he could curl back up in bed. The young protagonist of And Two Boys Booed (Farrar/Ferguson, 4–7 years) is excited to perform in the school talent show… until it’s almost his turn. With equal parts realism, reassurance, gentle humor, and inventive wordplay, Viorst sets up a familiar stage-fright scenario and gives her main character an ingenious way to get himself out of it.

1. What was your inspiration for this multilayered book?

JV: My inspiration was my granddaughter Olivia, daughter of Alexander, who came over to my house one afternoon after a talent show at her summer day camp. When I asked how her portion of the talent show had gone, she replied, “Two boys booed.” To my shame I didn’t immediately offer her a hug and sympathy. Instead, my first response was, “Great book title!” I then had to figure out a story to go with the title.

2. Who thought of those terrific flaps?

viorst and two boys booed Five questions for Judith ViorstJV: I believe it was Sophie Blackall, the amazing illustrator of the book, who came up with the brilliant idea of doing flaps. But her brilliance is evident in all kinds of other ways as well: in the richly detailed double-page spread of our narrator’s many, many varied activities during the course of which he practiced singing his song; in the delicious specificity of every child in the story; and in the depiction of our narrator shrinking deeper and deeper into his shirt as his stage fright mounts.

3. Those two boys: were they jealous? Mean-spirited? Or just acting like boys?

JV: The two boys were being rather unkind, booing a kid because he was too scared to do what he was supposed to do, and then continuing to boo even after he did it. I wish they had been more sympathetic, and I hope their teacher had a little talk with them after the talent show.

4. Would your Alexander be onstage with the narrator? Or in the peanut gallery with the boys? (Maybe it would depend on the day!)

JV: Alexander could be fierce, frustrated, grumpy, but I don’t think he’d be either scared to perform or unkind to those who were.

5. Do you get stage fright?

JV: I had terrible stage fright all the way through college. I remember being told I had to stand in front of one of my history classes and read a paper I had written and offering to write a second paper if I could just please hand them both in and not read them aloud. I now give talks to large audiences without the slightest flicker of stage fright, but don’t ask me how that happened.

From the August 2014 issue of Notes from the Horn Book

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39. Interview: Marc Tyler Nobleman on Bill Finger and the Secret Origins of Batman

Photo by Kendall Whitehouse

For years, comics’ professionals have been hiding a well-kept Batman secret. Batman has been listed as being created by Bob Kane for decades, but the secret creator of the other half of Batman has been in hiding, signing bad deals and contracts, and being lost to the general public. Despite the immense popularity of Batman, only a fraction of people that enjoy the character have any clue as to who created the hero. Bob Kane has been listed as the sole creator of Batman in almost every piece of media that fans have devoured since his initial appearance in May 1939. Marc Tyler Nobleman has led a crusade to make it known that Batman was created by both Bob Kane and Bill Finger. He did so via a meticulously researched all-ages illustrated book entitled Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman. We caught up with Nobleman for an interview on the secret origins of the creation of Batman.

How do you think Bill Finger would react to the resurgence of different media finally coming together and seeing his contributions to Batman?

Humbly and gratefully.

What do you find interesting about the men and women who have created various superheroes?

With respect to the three I have written about (Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Bill Finger), I find it especially interesting is how these young men were building modern myths from unassuming apartments and (at least in Finger’s case) seemingly without a sense of their cultural significance. Finger’s creative influence could not be more disproportionate to the recognition he got for it in his lifetime. In other words, staggering influence, almost no credit for it.Bill the Boy Wonder - cover sketches 1 (six total)

Is there any information on Finger’s exact contribution to some of the other DC heroes and villains such as Green Lantern (Alan Scott) and Wildcat?

He wrote the first stories to feature both.

Have you studied the reactions of younger fans when they read the book? What are their reactions like?

Because I have the privilege of speaking in schools around the world (including Tanzania, Chile, and the United Arab Emirates), I regularly experience the reactions of fans both young and young-at-heart. It has been immensely gratifying to see how impassioned kids can be over what they perceive as an injustice to Bill Finger. Here’s one of my favorite projects in response to the book – kids pretending to be Bill’s only child Fred and writing a letter as Fred to Bob Kane: http://noblemania.blogspot.com/2013/11/letters-from-bill-fingers-son-to-bob.html. There are some profound thoughts in there.

Did you find any conflicting reports on the research of Finger based on a ‘he-said, she-said’ basis?

Other than the absurd amount of Batman aspects Kane originally took credit for but later attributed to Finger, no.

How did the collaboration with industry veteran Ty Templeton come about?

Having been a longtime fan, I emailed him to ask if he’d be interested. He said yes with more than a passing knowledge of Finger’s tragic career, and I loved that he was already passionate about the subject. My publisher (obviously) also liked Ty, so we were on.

Bill the Boy Wonder - title treatment - black on yellow Have there been any talks about adapting this story into a different medium?

Yes, daily – in my head. And quite often after I speak, someone in the audience will say “This HAS to be a movie.” I have had a few talks with film people. So far nothing has gotten past the exploratory phase but I am confident one day it will. I just hope I am involved!

Aside from the obvious accreditation being taken away from Finger, are you satisfied with the nature of comic books nowadays being more creator-driven among fans of the industry?

On one level yes, but I continue to hear stories of contemporary creators who have felt exploited by comics’ publishers. Certainly the Internet and the explosion of proactive fandom have done much good in the way of acknowledging the talent no matter what the publishers do or don’t do.

For more information, take a look at Marc’s blogBill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman is on sale now. Kendall Whitehouse shot the featured photograph seen at the top of the page.

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40. The Beat Podcasts! – Mike Dawson interview

logo-pod-more-to-come-1400.pngRecorded at Publishers Weekly, it’s  More To Come, the weekly podcast of comics news, interviews and discussion with Calvin Reid, Kate Fitzsimons and The Beat’s own Heidi MacDonald.

In this week’s podcast  Heidi interviews comics creator, Tumblr personality and podcaster Mike Dawson, creator of Freddie & Me and Troop 142 about his trials as a mid-career creator, his recent Tumblr musings on the subject and the unexpected comics blogosphere notoriety that followed.

Download this episode direct here, listen to it in streaming here and catch up with our previous podcasts on the Publishers Weekly website, or subscribe to More To Come on iTunes

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41. Interview with Anna Kashina, Author of The Guild of Assassins and Giveaway

  [Manga Maniac Cafe] Good morning, Anna! Describe yourself in five words or less.

[Anna Kashina] A self-questioning over-committed dreamer.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about your book?

[Anna Kashina] “The Guild of Assassins” is an adventure fantasy featuring the elite Majat warriors, best described in present day terms as ninjas in a medieval European setting. This is book 2 in the Majat Code series, but I hope it can be read as a stand alone. In addition to fast-paced action, this book also has strong elements of romance.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Anna Kashina] In a way, when I wrote this book, it all came to me on its own. The overall concept that always fascinated me was the idea of extreme power confined by very strict outside circumstances. In the case of the Majat warriors, their deadly fighting skill comes at a price of absolute obedience to the code of their guild. And then, you throw real people into this situation, with passions, desires, and a strong sense of honor, and watch it all go awry.

In my story, the two central characters are Kara and Mai, both of them top-ranked Majat warriors. Kara has acted on her honor and disobeyed her guild, earning a death warrant. Mai had been sent after her, but at the critical moment he chose to spare her life. Now Mai has to pay for what he has done, and Kara is determined to interfere and draw the heat away from him. Of course, all this is bound to trigger some feelings on both sides. I just loved playing it out.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

[Anna Kashina] I have to shamefully confess that in this book I enjoyed writing the romance, and the ensuing tension between the characters. There is a love triangle between the three main characters, which infuses all their interactions with so much feeling that the air tended to crackle in the room as I wrote. I could not wait to get to writing every day, and finished the first draft in less than a month. To me, the whole book was driven by these feelings. I only hope I managed to convey some of them to the readers.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What gave you the most trouble with this story?

[Anna Kashina] The fact that some of the relationships were bound to end up badly, as is inevitable for a love triangle. Kara must choose between two men who are very different from each other. I felt very bad for the one who ended up alone.

I went with the characters when I wrote the book, so until very late in the story I kept wondering if things will resolve differently, but in the end I felt everything happened the only way it could possibly have gone. This, in itself, was gratifying.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had a theme song, what would it be?

[Anna Kashina] I am not good at theme songs. I have to say, however, that even though I don’t normally write to music, a lot of this novel was written to the soundtrack of “Totem” by Cirque du Soleil. A lot of that music combines middle eastern build with ethnic rhythms, and is made for very fast action. It was perfect for the mood of the story.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing you won’t leave home without.

[Anna Kashina] My purse? OK, that envelops a whole bunch of things. In these days, probably my cell phone would be one, closely followed by my Kindle.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name three things on your desk right now.

[Anna Kashina] A pen, a note pad, and a flash drive. These were first the first three out of many, my desk tends to get messy.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you could trade places with anyone for just one day, who would you be?

[Anna Kashina] My all-time favorite fantasy author is Terry Pratchett, so I would love to be in his head for one day and get a glimpse of where all this beautiful writing comes from.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are some books that you enjoyed recently?

[Anna Kashina] One of my favorite recent books is N. K. Jemisin’s “The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms”. More recently I enjoyed the “Hearts and Thrones” trilogy by Amy Raby and “The Assassin’s Curse” duology by Cassandra Rose Clarke.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Anna Kashina] Reading, when I am not too tired. When I am tired I like watching adventure movies or playing computer games. Sadly, not much time for those.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Anna Kashina] I have a blog at http://www.annakashina.com

I am also on Facebook and Twitter:



Please stop by. I love to hear from readers at all times on any topics!


The Guild of Assassins

Majat Code #2

By: Anna Kashina

Releasing Aug 5th, 2014


Kara, an elite warrior from the Majat Guild, has escaped execution and achieved something that no Majat has ever managed – freedom from the Guild!
But the Black Diamond assassin Mai has been called back to face his punishment for sparing her life. Determined to join his fight or share his punishment, Kara finds herself falling for Mai.
Is their relationship – and the force that makes their union all-powerful – a tool to defeat the overpowering forces of the Kaddim armies, or a ploy sure to cause the downfall of the Majat?

Link to Follow Tour: http://tastybooktours.blogspot.com/2014/06/now-booking-tasty-virtual-tour-for_7.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/19325184-the-guild-of-assassins

Buy Links

Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Guild-Assassins-Book-Majat-Code-ebook/dp/B00I75ET7A/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1402088430&sr=1-3

Barnes and Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-guild-of-assassins-anna-kashina/1117541969?ean=9780857665270

Random House: http://www.randomhouse.com/book/239563/the-guild-of-assassins-by-anna-kashina

The prequel, The Majat Testing, is FREE!

Author Info

Anna Kashina grew up in Russia and moved to the United States in 1994 after receiving her Ph.D. in cell biology from the Russian Academy of Sciences. She works as a biomedical researcher and combines career in science with her passion for writing. Anna’s interests in ballroom dancing, world mythologies and folklore feed her high-level interest in martial arts of the Majat warriors. She is a recent medalist in the ForeWord Book of the Year and Independent Publishers Book Award contests.

Author Links




Rafflecopter Giveaway (Print copy of BLADES OF THE OLD EMPIRE and THE GUILD OF ASSASSINS (US Only))

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The post Interview with Anna Kashina, Author of The Guild of Assassins and Giveaway appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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42. Interview: Jen Wang

If you like multiplayer RPGs and graphic novels, then you should pick up IN REAL LIFE by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang when it hits the shelves on October 14th. This full-color graphic novel, which has a front-cover blurb o' praise from Felicia Day of Geek & Sundry, is based on Cory's short story. Thanks to Gina at First Second Books, I had the opportunity to read the book early and then virtually meet writer-illustrator Jen Wang. Let's dive right into our interview:

Creative types the world over have had to take day jobs to pay the bills, and many have stories about their worst day job - but let's stay positive here and ask, what has been your favorite day job?

My favorite day job was working the front desk at a hostel in San Francisco, sometime after college. Every day was a different set of people and it was fantastic for observation. Being the host can be challenging but you also got to talk to a lot of cool people who want to know all about your city. I was actually inking KOKO BE GOOD at the time and would try to do a page or so during the slow hours of my shift. There weren’t that many!

What are your favorite mediums and tools of the trade?

I’m pretty standard when it comes to tools. I draw comics with a mechanical pencil and ink with a #2 Raphael 8404 brush. I also have an assortment of Pentel brush pens at various stages of dryness that I like to play around with. I held off for the longest time but I’m ready to get a Cintiq. I think that’s the next step for me!

KOKO BE GOOD, your first full-color full-length graphic novel published by First Second Books, is set in San Francisco, your old stomping ground. What are/were your favorite San Francisco haunts?

I haven’t lived in San Francisco for a while so things have probably changed a lot, but I still love the Castro Theater. They have great programming and nothing is better than that pre-show organ player.

Any cool writing courses, groups, or spots you'd recommend to aspiring authors and artists in the Bay Area?

Unfortunately I didn’t take advantage of many art and writing resources in the Bay Area when I was there, but there’s always volunteering for 826 Valencia, which does great writing workshops for students. There’s also events like Litquake and SF ZineFest that can get you in touch with other creative members of the community. A met a ton of peers just going to A.P.E. (Alternative Press Expo) every year!

What inspired KOKO BE GOOD?

KOKO BE GOOD started with the main character in a short comic I drew my second year of college. Like most people that age I was going through a lot of big changes in my life and she encapsulated all those feelings I couldn’t quite articulate and gain any sort of perspective on. After college I wanted to expand on the story and close out that period of my life with a big project and KOKO the graphic novel was born.

How was it writing a full-length book versus single comics and anthology contributions?

The main difference between the full-length book and the short comic was it took a super long time! Drawing the short comic took maybe less than a week but the book took more than a year to complete.

IN REAL LIFE was based on a short story by Cory Doctorow. Tell us about the journey from short story to graphic novel.

After KOKO I was struggling with my follow up project and First Second approached me about doing the adaptation for ANDA’S GAME, Cory’s short story. I’d never talked to Cory before but he had previously written a great review of KOKO for Boing Boing and was looking forward to working with me and that was super exciting.

Was this your first adaptation based on someone else's story?

Yes! I’d never adapted anything before and part of the appeal was First Second allowed me a lot of flexibility in translating the story to comics. Cory’s prose is very dialogue driven, which would’ve been a little visually static, so I was able to move it in a more action-driven direction. It allowed me to use my skills as a writer too, which made the overall experience more fun for me.

Describe the collaboration process - Did you and Cory review the original short story together, decide what would be changed and what had to be kept, and then you put pen to paper following an agreed-upon beat sheet or storyboard, or did you launch right in and get notes as you went?

I wrote a couple different drafts of the script, and Cory would go over each one and make notes and suggestions. Interestingly the first draft was a very literal translation of ANDA’S GAME, and it was clear I wasn’t very good at faking a Cory voice. The more I followed my gut instincts and wrote as myself the more natural the story became. The final story is very different from the original but it is a combination of my voice and Cory’s vision.

I love the shift in the colour palette between the story's real world and the gaming world. Which colour scheme did you decide on first? Which world was "easier" to create and plot?

The real life material came more naturally, so it was easier to draw as well. I liked drawing real life Anda with her fuller figure and messy hair. For the color palettes, I put a more monochromatic filter over the real life stuff and in the gaming world I just added more textures and didn’t skimp on the color!

Which parts of Anda's story resonate with you?

On a very basic level I indentified with Anda as a teenager who spent all her time afterschool holed up in her room talking to internet friends. I started meeting other cartoonists online at her age and having a place where I could meet peers and indulge in my interests really changed my life. But also Anda is naïve and learning a lot about how the world works. She doesn’t have a lot of life experience, she’s just reading about everything on the internet and thinks she understands it all when she doesn’t. The idea of being well-intentioned but still making mistakes and learning from that is something that really resonates with me.

Are you a gamer?

I’m not that much of a gamer, but I like a lot of indie games.

What games do you play and recommend?

More recent ones I’ve played that I’ve liked are Gone Home, Analogue: A Hate Story, and Monument Valley. There’re also a bunch of cool interactive fiction games out there like the Twine game Howling Dogs by Porpentine. Of course I also play a lot of games on my phone. IN REAL LIFE would not have happened without a lot of Tetris and Plants Vs. Zombies.

I love Tetris. 

What artists -- musicians, actors, painters, authors -- have inspired your personal style?

My drawing style came out of reading lots of manga and watching Disney cartoons as a kid. The weirdest thing about that is I don’t really watch Disney movies or read manga anymore but those roots are so strong they’ve stuck.

Who would you love to collaborate with, if such things were possible?

I think it would be super fun to collaborate with a game designer! Indie games and comics have a lot in common and they’re both exploring new and exciting ways to tell stories. Doing it on my own seems daunting, but working with someone would be so cool!

You hear that, game designers? Contact Jen! :)

Do you have any beta readers who read your early drafts?

I don’t share early drafts with peers because I don’t want too many opinions muddling my focus, but I do share them with my boyfriend, Jake. He’s the perfect sounding board because we have different individual tastes but we tend to agree on what does or doesn’t work. It’s a good way to have perspective on what I’m doing.

Any words of encouragement for female artists and/or gamers who love being creative but are hesitant to realize their potential, who think of their art as a hobby but ought to really turn it into a career?

I can’t really speak for games but the advice I’d give to female artists is, just do it! There’s no reason not to! Indie comics are a very robust and female-friendly community. Put your work online, go to conventions, meet people online, and I promise you’ll find lots of people who will support your creativity. Everyone just wants to read more cool comics!

Visit Jen at http://jenwang.net

Get a sneak peek at IN REAL LIFE at firstsecondbooks.com!

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43. SDCC ’14: Ben Costa on Kung-Fu, Gelatinous Goo, and Good Game Design

By Matthew Jent

Ben Costa is a maker. He makes comics, games, and deadpan jokes.

I caught up with Ben at the tail end of this year’s San Diego Comic Con to chat about the Kickstarter-funded second collection of Pang, the Wandering Shaolin Monk, his new webcomic Rickety Stitch and the Gelatinous Goo, and making the kinds of games you want to be able to play.

Ben exhibited in the Small Press area of SDCC as Iron Crotch University Press.

Photo courtesy of Ben Costa

Ben Costa at the Iron Crotch University Press booth.

How long have you been coming to SDCC?

I’ve been exhibiting for five years. I attended for a few years before that.

How’s your show been this year? What are you most excited about?

The Sakai Project. I have an illustration in there, and Stan Sakai has been one of my inspirations for a long time. Every year everyone says the show isn’t about comics anymore, but it’s still one of my best shows of the year.

And that’s probably because it’s five days long? It’s usually consistently good, but this year wasn’t the same way. Wednesday through Friday were kind of bad. A show like SPX is my best show, per day. One day at SPX I sold 40-something books, which I don’t do at San Diego.

But there were noticeably more people coming through Saturday and Sunday. The aisle would get full sometimes. And on Sunday, it felt like a bunch of people who have walked by and maybe didn’t buy anything came by, like, “Alright, I’ll take that print.” So I sold a bunch of prints on Sunday, whereas on previous days it was very few prints.

Do you still mostly sell the first volume?

Yeah, it seems that way. 90% of people coming past still seem like they have no idea what it is. One out of ten people will be like, “Kung-fu, this is awesome!,” or I’ll recognize them from previous years.

The last time we talked, your Kickstarter had been successfully funded but the book wasn’t out yet. How has the publication of volume 2 of Pang been?

Pretty good, overall. It’s been a little harder to get the word out than the first volume. It seems to be getting less press. I got several reviews from the first one, but I’ve only gotten one for the second one. I sent out review copies for both books. It wasn’t ordered into as many comic book stores. But both volumes were in Previews, and both volumes were Previews Staff Picks.

Pang started online, and you’ve self-published the two hardcover volumes that are currently out. Are you interested in working with larger publishers, or doing more work-for-hire projects?

Work-for-hire, on the right project. Like if it was Star Wars, or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles — sure.

Twist your arm, and you’ll write Star Wars. Do you have a Turtles story you’re dying to tell?

No? I’ve never been a great plot generator. If I sit there a long time and think about things I can come up with stuff. But the relationships are what draw me in. But with Turtles, you can also have cool ninja fights.

A lot of Turtles stories, after the first 10 original issues, are good stories, but they don’t get the core of the characters. What’s at the core for me.

What’s at the core of a good Turtles story?

They’re brothers. And Raph, he jokes and acts like he’s having a good time, but really, you know — it’s painful inside. So it’s that family dynamic.

Let’s talk about webcomics. Your new project is Rickety Stitch & the Gelatinous Goo.

It’s a fantasy. It’s about a skeleton minstrel and his trusty gelatin sidekick.


Rickety Stitch, caught up in a march to monsterdom.

You’re serializing it online, like you did with Pang — do you want to collect it as a physical volume somewhere down the line? Or partner with a larger publisher to put it out?

There are webcomics that gain enough of a following that when they produce merchandise — books, shirts, prints, whatever — they can make a living through their audience without having to go through a publisher. But you have to be really popular, and it’s geared more toward gag comics that update every day. Although there are exceptions.

I didn’t want to work on this, get it to a publisher, then have wait and just be silent for 2-3 years while everyone forgets I exist. So, we’re putting it online. I dunno if that will effect how a publisher might react to it later. On the first volume of Pang — the beginning is a little rough, compared to the rest of it, so I could see why publishers might not want it. But once I self-published the first volume, the vibe I got was always, “This is great. Show me what you’re doing next.”

The question I have is — at what point do you start pitching it? I feel like comic book publishers like to get in early on the editing process. When you have a novel, you’re supposed to just write it, completely, and then show it to people. But with comics, it seems like they don’t want to see a completely finished thing.

Is it fun to make? Rickety Stitch?

Yeah, it is. James Parks, my co-writer, and I could have easily let this project die. We showed it to Slave Labor a while back, and they turned it down. But it was so fun to make that we wanted to just do it.

Stitch searches for a song. The Goo is afraid of the dark.

Stitch searches for a song. The Goo is afraid of the dark.

The Pang table-top role-playing game was a Kickstarter reward, and you’ve been selling some physical copies at the show this year.

One of the guys from Fantasy Flight came by and bought a copy. He says they have a group there that gets together and plays indie games.

Are you interested in game design? Or is it more about adapting the story and the spirit of Pang, and fitting that into game mechanics?

Adapting the story and spirit is more appealing to me, though I do like design mechanics. My friend Amir Rao, from Supergiant Games, is my regular Dungeon. All his life he’s been making games and RPGs that we would play. It rubbed off on me.

What did you approach adapting Pang’s story and turning it into a game?

The obvious things is kung-fu fighting. I wanted to have a combat system that felt different, that wasn’t just “I attack, you attack, I attack.” I wanted defense to be something you actively think about.

Having played it — it feels like really squaring off with an opponent. You spend points or save them, and you can react based on your opponents actions. You can hold back and defend, or make a big offensive move but leave yourself open to be pummeled.

I thought there was good opportunity to make abilities around that. And trying to make it feel Ancient China.

How did you do that?

I started with choosing stat names that were a little different. Stuff you couldn’t just pin down as exactly representing the skills. Like “Benevolence” — you can’t exactly know what you would put under that off the top of your head. It was a long process. It took way longer than I thought it would.

I also made a Star Wars game, for fun, from which I pulled a lot of the abilities for Pang. I made a Rickety Stitch game, then Star Wars, then Pang. So I have a fully functional Star Wars game.

When did you make a Star Wars game?


Why did you make a Star Wars game?

I had three-year campaign in the d6 system that was great, but we could probably never play it again. I started working on the new game towards the end of that. I’d added a bunch of custom rules to the d6 game, which has no classes. I added a “rebel ranks” ability system, so as you go through the ranks with rebels you get new powers. Sort of like Pang, they build on skills. You use your skills to activate them. Same idea as the Class Masteries in Pang.

It was sort of in response to the Fantasy Flight game, because I’d gotten the Beta book, and I was really excited about it, but for my own personal taste there was something lacking. I’m particularly proud of the space combat, which in my own games, has not been satisfying.

I like that spirit. If there’s something you don’t like, you just create the thing you do like.

I justified it to myself by saying I would use this game for a science fiction comic I want to eventually do.

I love it. Almost everyone else in comics is making a comic book to spinoff into a movie. And you’re making comic books so you can spin off role-playing games.

It’s like the way to not make money.

The hope — in any of my games — is to capture the abstraction of the story.


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44. ‘Annedroids’ Creator J.J. Johnson on Developing Amazon’s Latest Original Series

"Annedroids" creator J.J. Johnson talks to Cartoon Brew about science-based kids programming, the challenges of making live-action/animation hybrids, and why not understanding the animation process can work to a producer's benefit.

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45. SDCC ’14: Michael Cho on ‘Shoplifter’ – Influence of Advertisement & Social Media

by Zachary Clemente


Michael Cho is an illustrator, cartoonist, and writer currently residing in Toronto. He has worked with Marvel, DC, and others. His graphic novel, Shoplifter is out this September from Pantheon Books.

Comics Beat: How much is this story and these sort of emotions at this age [of the character] come from personal experience?

Michael Cho: It’s kind of hard to separate that. I think that almost all fiction is somewhat autobiographical. I didn’t go through this experience – I never worked at an ad agency and I don’t shoplift. But the emotions certainly come from that – part of the story is about being in your mid-20s and feeling like you’re sort of drifting and not going in the direction you want to get to your goals. I’m keenly aware of that because that’s what I felt like in my mid-20s – I was graduated from school, I went to art college, and I had a series of jobs but since I was outside of that structure of school where you’re told what to do, I was aware that what I wanted to do and what I was doing were two different things.

CB: I was under the impression, based on how personal the work feels, that you had worked in advertising before.

MC: No, but I am a freelance illustrator, so I’ve worked in and done assignments for advertising; and I know someone close to me who worked at an ad agency and a little bit of my inside knowledge of working in an agency comes from that. He went into the ad agency with the best of intentions and then when there was an economic downturn, their next account was cigarettes. I thought then “okay – this happens.”

CB: One of the things about Shoplifter I loved was your perspective on people in a city and your representation of advertisement in a city. Do you feel that comes from wanting to show ads as a large part of city life?

MC: Yeah, I think advertisement is ubiquitous and part of the theme of the book is the impact or influence of advertising in subtle and not so subtle ways. Whether it’s through social media or through [physical] ads, I was keenly aware when drawing it that I wanted to depict the advertising that permeates the city. Bus shelters, on the street, TV commercials – things like that; I wanted those things to be represented and be fully surrounding you at all times, so that was important for me to convey. Also, the city itself […] to be something of a character in the book; I wanted that city to be not just a background for the figures, but also to have scenes where the city itself is the character.

CB: Based on bits and pieces in the book and where you’re from, is this city Toronto?

MC: It’s based on Toronto because it’s grounded in what I know and it’s not a made-up world; Toronto is my hometown, so I tend to draw that. But it’s not actually Toronto – for instance the drawings of the subways are not Toronto subways.

CB: Those seem very New York.

MC: Yeah, they’re actually subways from Brooklyn. What it was for me is that it’s not meant to be a specific place; I never named the city – it’s meant to be any large city that that people gravitate to from smaller towns.

CB: The only way I could piece it together was during the airplane scene on TV – where the flight was coming from.

MC: That was a real event, actually. One of the reasons I included that was that I was watching broadcast coverage of an air crash that didn’t happen – it unfolded very much like it did in Shoplifter, I just changed a few bits around, but when I was watching it, all I could think was “Wow, this station really wants a disaster to happen.” Canadian media is always a little behind American media in the way it tries to sensationalize things, but in that case is it was one of those moments, and it was one of those things that had some parallels to the story.

CB: I got a sort of black and white depiction of social media in certain respects of our daily lives-

MC: In what way?

CB: Specifically in the club scene, there was a guy talking about how connected he is 24/7 and I feel that recently this is a very prevalent discussion – whether how social media affects us is “good or bad” and I feel a couple of the scenes spoke to me trying to say one or the other, but in the end I feel it said both.

MC: I definitely wasn’t trying to depict it as “bad” because I don’t think social media is bad, but I do think it has an impact and subtly influences the way we live our lives. There is a scene in there where one of the characters, says that as a result of social media, people are doing to their own lives what advertising does with products; they’re actually being pitchmen and marketers of their own lives, but that isn’t necessarily a negative. What I was trying to point out was that while we feel more connected to people, more than ever, there are moments where we are isolated, despite all this, and for all the connectivity we get – daily updates and awareness of others – people can still slip through the cracks and different kinds of walls get put up.

Vice versa, to flip that, with people whom we might not have any connection with at all, there might  be surprising connections that we may not be aware of that exist – and that’s a part of Shoplifter.

CB: That’s very thoughtful. I feel those themes were successful, considering I brought my own notions of social media and how it’s treating in fiction to the work.

MC: Yeah, I wasn’t trying to show it as negative in anyway because I don’t think you can say that about any communication medium. It’s the communication itself that may be positive or negative – but the medium itself is neutral. It’s like saying movies are bad because this one movie sucked. That’s ridiculous – you can’t blame the film stock or the process for that.

CB: This is your first full sequential story to come out?

MC: Sort of. I’ve done shorter stories – I kind of straddle all aspects of comics. I’ve drawn mainstream comic stories for Marvel and smart art jobs for DC. Chip [Kidd] and I did a nice Batman: Black & White story featuring Batman and Superman and I’ve also painted covers. I’ve also written and illustrated shorter comic pieces of my own that are sort of similar to Shoplifter in the sense that they’re just fiction – not genre-based at all and I used to put out a webcomic once a month which started out pretty short but got bigger as I got more confident at it; going from an 4-page story, to an 8-page story, to 16-page story; and I’ve had those types of stories published in some unusual places. They’ve appeared in literary magazines in Canada, and Houghton-Mifflin put out an annual anthology called The Best American Comics for which I did a story about the making of the atomic bomb which was picked by Neil Gaiman for the 2010 edition. So I’ve drawn other comics, it’s just that they’ve been outside mainstream channels.


CB: Do you see Shoplifter as your entrance into a different part of your career – a different stage?

MC: I knew for a long time that I wanted to write and draw my own comics and graphic novels of the kind that influenced me when I was younger. In my teens, for example, when I felt like I was starting to drift away from comics, I discovered the Hernandez brothers [Jaime and Gilbert] and all the comics that came out from Fantagraphics in that era and I realized there was more to comics than I had originally thought. It opened up my mind to the idea of comics as a medium, not a genre. In some ways, I knew then that the comics I would write and draw would just be fiction and any stories I had intended to just write as prose could be comics instead.

Years later, when I was a freelance illustrator, I still knew that’s I wanted to go eventually. I wanted to be able to sign my name on a cover knowing that it was something I did completely from beginning to end myself. I set about putting together a few outlines of graphic novels I wanted to do, while also doing shorter stories, and Shoplifter was the first. There’s five somewhat interconnected stories that I want to work on as graphic novels over the next few years.

CB: Out of personal interest, when did you move from Korea?

MC: Oh, I moved here when I was about six and a half. I didn’t go to school in Korea, so my Korean is very poor; my mom and dad think I speak way better now just because I’ve started using the politeness terms. Are you Korean?

CB: On my mom’s side, yeah. She moved when she was 16 and has very fond memories of hanging out in little shops, reading until very late at night, when her father would pick her up, very upset.

MC: My vivid memories of Korea are drawing, giant robots mostly. In that era, there wasn’t much TV – it was all 6PM to 11PM, stuff like that. Since then it’s boomed and Korea’s now the high-tech capital of the world or something. I have very fond memories of that but I just never went to school there, so in some ways, English is kind of my first language. I’m in that 1.5 generation or whatever they call it.

I grew up in a town where there wasn’t as large an Asian community as Toronto, so I cultivated an “outsider” viewpoint on things and it’s been really helpful to me and I would never trade it for the world. It’s like there’s a Korean side of me and a Canadian side of me and I can relate to both, letting me see different sides of an issue; I’m very happy I have that ability.

CB: Thank you very much, Michael.

MC: Thank you.

0 Comments on SDCC ’14: Michael Cho on ‘Shoplifter’ – Influence of Advertisement & Social Media as of 8/1/2014 10:14:00 AM
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46. SDCC ’14: Tula Lotay on Supreme, Thought Bubble, and Career

by Zachary Clemente

tula profile

Tula Lotay (aka Lisa Wood) is a comic artist hailing from the UK. Her work includes ElephantmenBodies, and the new Image book Supreme: Blue Rose with writer Warren Ellis. She also consults for the well-regarded Travelling Man comic shop and heads the annual comic arts festival Thought Bubble. I was fortunate enough to speak with Tula about her work in comics, illustration and otherwise.

Comics Beat: How has the convention been going for you so far?

Tula Lotay: It’s amazing! I was kind of expecting it to be super busy, but I wasn’t expecting to be personally busy because I don’t think anyone knows who I am as my comic’s only just come out. I wouldn’t have thought anyone would have read it but it’s gone nuts. I’ve been having signings with Image, DC, and Comicraft; every one has been full up with queues. I’ve never had that before!

CB: It’s exciting, I think. Supreme with Image has Ellis on it, who is a big name; Comicraft and Elephantmen have been around for some time, and you’re working on Bodies over at Vertigo now?

TL: Yes! It’s with Si Spencer and three other artists – Dean Ormston, Phil Winslade and Meghan Hetrick – it’s a murder mystery that spans four different time periods, the same body turns up in each one – it’s a fascinating story and that’s what really appealed to me, plus the character Maplewood who I got to draw, she’s a sassy amnesiac.

CB: What’s the time-frame for all these projects happening for you?

TL: Well, I’ve been working on Supreme since last year actually, but because of Thought Bubble organizing I had to put it on hold for two months which is unfortunate. I’m getting so much illustration work right now, but I can’t just let Thought Bubble go. I needed to make sure that it was all okay last year especially; this year the same thing worries me again but I’m hoping that more people can take on the running of the show and I can just continue to draw. Bodies was similar – I started it about three months after I started Supreme and I’m well ahead on both of those titles.

CB: You’ve been around for a while – running Thought Bubble with Travelling Man, which has been going on for seven years now?

TL: Yeah, Thought Bubble is seven years old. I’ve been with Travelling Man for maybe 11 years and I still act as a consultant for them. I was super proud to see Travelling Man short listed at the Eisners last night.

CB: How do you see your place in comics changing with the new projects you’re working on – the new way people may view you and your work?

TL: I definitely want to continue what I’m doing and make my illustration a priority – it should have been a priority years ago. But I’m doing it now and that’s great. I’d ultimately like to work on my own stories. But I felt I needed a bit more experience before putting it out there. I love that story thought and want to tell it soon. I do love working with great writers that allow me space to explore new ideas and different styles though. Working with Warren is amazing. He’s so good. I’d like to keep learning – I think there’s so much for me to learn still and I think there’s so many ways for me to channel my art so I can maybe simplify it more, tighten it. I’m quite excited about how that’s going – moving forward into the future and becoming more confident so things can be simplified.

I’m a big fan of simpler art that’s done perfectly and I think only great masters can do that, like Toth for instance, obviously I don’t think I would ever be anywhere near his skill, but that’s my goal.

CB: Toth is definitely a name thrown out as very inspiring – along with Moebius and Miyazaki. Who do you look to as inspiration for the direction you want to go?

TL: Oh, there’s so many people I’m inspired by – I’m like a kid in a candy shop wherever I go! My friends joke with me and call it “Lisa’s World of Wonder” (that’s my real name) because I get so excited about everything! With regards to art , I like looking back to a lot of Saturday Evening Post illustrations from the 50s and 60s – I’m really inspired by that kind of stuff. Bernie Fuchs, Bob Peak, Robert Fawcett, Robert McGinnis, Robert McGuire – I love all that pulpy stuff.

Growing up, massive influences that have still stuck with me were people who did more painterly art styles like Kent Williams, Bill Sienkiewicz, John J Muth, Dave McKean; so I think I sort of edge towards that style more often than the typical stuff. But still I adore Steranko, Bernet, Mazzucchelli or anyone who masters their style – I’m inspired by any great artist.

CB: I’m reminded of another artist, in career path and a bit of style; Christian Ward, currently on Ody-C with Matt Fraction.

TL: Oh yeah? How so?

CB: Mostly in style – I see a lot of dashes and touches of affection and emotion that isn’t necessarily just about the figure.

TL: I can see that! Christian’s stuff is amazing and his color is just out there – it’s so intense and just adds to his beautiful lines. So that’s a really nice comparison, thank you.


CB: Even on the career side – he just got on with Fraction, who is a really big name right now, as is Ellis. There’s things going on there…

TL: Yeah, both British too.

CB: I wasn’t going to say it!

[General laughter set to the sounds of the very loud Star Wars display looping in the background.]

CB: Do you see your involvement in Thought Bubble lessening as your illustration picks up?

TL: I have to do that and I’ve been trying to, really. I should probably give it up completely and pass it on, but it’s a business I built from scratch seven years ago and it’s been more successful than I ever could have anticipated. As a business person – doing something like that, succeeding at it, and then just passing it on…that’s not something I can do because it’s something I’ve invested so much time, blood, sweat, and tears into. I’m still planning to continue with things and I still want to continue being Director but I think this year is going to be very telling as to how much I can actually do.

I’ve got some great people that I work with, I couldn’t do it without them. I’m managing to pass on the running of the show more and more, but one of the problems I have is that I’m not great at delegating. I have real issues with it, people are always willing to help but It can be hard to let go of something you’ve built up. But fingers crossed, this year will be okay.

CB: Why do you think Though Bubble has become such a well-regarded show?

TL: There’s definitely a reason everyone says it’s brilliant and that it’s so well-organised….. but … I don’t think I’m well-organized; I didn’t have any experience of event management when I set it up… But I think because I and so many of the people I work with care so dearly about what we’re doing – we make it work. Everyone; guests, exhibitors, and attendees must see that, shining through.

I’d like to think it’s successful because people can see that it’s put on by people who just adore the art form and, we may not always do things right, but we’ll do everything in our power to ensure everyone has a nice time. On top of that, we have the best people working in the industry – in the world – coming to our show – I think that’s kind of spiraled. The incredible talent that comes ends up leaving with quite a nice opinion of us – it gets passed around and it’s sort of snowballed.

CB: It seems like the passion shines though, as with your illustration. Jumping back to Supreme, how did the project come to be?

TL: I think it first came about when Eric Stephenson came to Thought Bubble, Richard Starkings had showed him my work. Eric really liked it and asked for a meeting and was keen for me to do something with Warren at Image. So I started chatting with Warren, since we’ve known each other for a little while. We went back and forth with ideas, talking about movies and music because we love a lot of similar things. Then Warren decided to re-work Supreme and asked if I was interested and obviously I was super interested because I love Warren’s writing.

It went on from there. Warren fed a lot of our interests into the book – a lot of sci-fi and film references – it’s kind of just an amalgamation of everything we love. I’m really happy with how it’s going.


CB: Without giving anything away, what kind of winks, nods, or references will we see in Supreme?

TL: There’s a lot of [David] Lynch in there. Since the title is Supreme: Blue Rose, anyone who’s an avid Twin Peaks watcher will know what “Blue Rose” means. There’s some Philip K. Dick in there, little nods to Kubrick and Jacques Tourneur, mainly  sci-fi  but a little mystery and horror as well.

CB: That sounds like it would mesh really well.

TL: I hope so. The response so far has been amazing. I can’t answer all the tweets I’m getting! I’m not used to that. But it is really nice hearing people say so many positive things about Supreme - it’s blown me away, really.

CB: Do you have fears or concerns about this change in your career?

TL: Yeah, I think anybody entering into something that’s new can feel a little bit fearful of it and certainly, with creatives, it is always a worry as to whether people are going to appreciate or like what you’re doing especially when you create something you’re so passionate about.

But you’ve really got to be fearless – you’ve got to feel the fear and do it anyway.

CB: Thank you very much, Tula.

TL: Yeah, thank you!

0 Comments on SDCC ’14: Tula Lotay on Supreme, Thought Bubble, and Career as of 8/2/2014 3:02:00 PM
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47. The Hermit of Shooters Hill – An Interview with Steve Moore, Part 4

Here’s the fourth part of my interview with the late Steve Moore, with more to follow. The first, second, and third parts are already online, along with some explanation of how the interview came about.

Steve apologizes CU

PÓM: You mentioned that you worked with Dez Skinn at Fleetway House. How did you get on with him?

SM: It was okay at the time, though I’ve never really got on that well with men from the north of England. I’ve generally found them opinionated, pig-headed and sexist; on the other hand, I know they tend to think of us southerners as over-intellectual wimps. Both of these are completely clichéd generalisations, and I’m sure the first is no more true of all northern men than the second is of all southerners, but in my experience there seems to be a bit of a gulf in attitudes. So at Fleetway, relations with Dez were generally cordial, though occasionally a little caustic, and we weren’t actually working on the same magazine which meant we didn’t spend the whole day together. He was never someone I really wanted to actually socialise with, though. I tended to hang out with Steve Parkhouse and left all thoughts of Dez behind when I left the office.

On the other hand, my professional relationship with Dez, between writer and editor, was very close for several years and generally problem-free, and we worked together on House of Hammer, Starburst, Hulk Comic, Dr Who Weekly and, eventually, Warrior. At that point things started to go wrong, but until then he was another editor who’d accept everything I gave him with virtually no changes and we did a lot of stuff together, some of which, I like to think, was pretty good.

->PÓM: Didn’t you end up working for Dez as a freelancer, later on?

SM: Yes, I did work for Dez, but I can’t honestly remember how it came about. I’m pretty sure the first thing was House of Hammer, which was published by Thorpe & Porter (otherwise known as General Book Distribution or Top Sellers; the same outfit seems to have had a multitude of names and, as I mentioned, they’d also picked up the Brown, Watson name too). John Barraclough had ended up there after Target folded, and it’s possible he may have mentioned that he’d worked with me to Dez; but if not that it’s probable that Dez knew that both Steve Parkhouse (who also worked on HoH) and I were now freelance and, of course, we all knew each other from our days at IPC. So if Dez was looking for contributors, we would have been a natural choice. And as Dez moved on to other jobs, he just kept on offering work to the same stable of contributors, both writers and artists, that he already knew and had worked with.

–>The first issue of HoH was dated October 1976, so I’d guess we started working on it in the summer, or maybe a bit earlier. Looking back, I see that John Barraclough and Chris Lowder were mentioned as associate editors on the early issues, so it’s the same little clique that had first got together at IPC again.<--

I wrote a number of features in the early issues, despite the fact that there were far more competent film-journalists also working for the magazine, and Dez and I also took a day-trip to Elstree when Hammer were shooting To the Devil a Daughter, which meant another feature I got to write up, in issue 2. We did actually get on the set briefly, while they were filming (I only got round to watching it recently – dreadful movie), but we spent most of the time talking to special effects man Les Bowie, who took great delight in showing us how gory effects could be got with latex skin and artificial blood. A charming man who really seemed to enjoy his work.

The articles had my name on, but they weren’t so good at crediting the comic-strips, at least early on. I did quite a number of movie adaptations, where we were generally working from copies of the original scripts, plus photos; and also some of the short stories, ‘Van Helsing’s Terror Tales’.

Despite not having my name on it, I wrote the adaptation for Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires in issue 4, which, being a Hammer/Shaw Brothers co-production and a Dracula/kung fu mash-up, was an obvious one for me. It had some lovely artwork by Brian Lewis, who I was delighted to be working with, but it seemed the feeling wasn’t all that mutual: the single time I met him, he immediately complained that my scripts gave him too much to draw!

Issue 8 saw my first ‘Father Shandor, Demon Stalker’ solo story, with John Bolton artwork. Shandor had first appeared in Dracula Prince of Darkness, which we’d adapted in issue 6, though Donne Avenell wrote that (John had been the artist on that as well). I think Dez suggested the idea as a way of stretching the material, though obviously it would have been quite a while before we ran through all of Hammer’s horror films. He told me we could do the strip because, unlike in the Dracula movie where the name of the character was given in the credits as ‘Sandor’ (the correct Hungarian spelling), we’d be spelling it phonetically as ‘Shandor’, and that would make it okay. I took his word for this, though I never actually discovered what Hammer’s feelings on the matter might have been. The second story, again with John, appeared in issue 16, and a third in issue 21 … and, of course, we revived the character later for Warrior.

Other adaptations I did included Curse of the Werewolf (issue 10), Plague of the Zombies (13), One Million Years B.C. (14), The Reptile (19), Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter (20, with Steve Parkhouse doing the artwork, which was nice), The Mummy (22) and Brides of Dracula (27-28). From this level of detail, you’ll gather that my copies of HoH were actually accessible! I know I did a few of the ‘Terror Tales’, but these were frequently uncredited, so it’s a bit hard for me to remember which were by me. I think I wrote three or four of those.

I’m not quite sure why the title changed from House of Hammer to House of Horror with issue 19, and then to Halls of Horror with 21, but I suspect this may have been something to do with the contract with Hammer. Effectively, the magazine folded in August 1978 with issue 23, though Dez revived it as a ‘Quality’ publication in 1982, as a companion to Warrior. By then I was no longer writing for it, though, and the Brides of Dracula adaptation was a left-over script from the original series. The magazine finally folded for the second time in 1984.

I had a fair amount of fun on HoH, as well as getting a reasonable amount of work out of it. I found script adaptation really quite easy, and we had a good bunch of artists and writers, including John Bolton, Brian Lewis, Steve Parkhouse, David Jackson and Chris Lowder, as well as some more ‘old school’ writers like Donne Avenell and Scott Goodall. And that basically set me up as one of Dez’s main writers, when he moved on to Marvel UK.<-

PÓM: Did you find it easier working on your writing away from home, or did it make any difference?

SM: Frankly, this is a question I’ve never really had cause to think about before, and since 1973 I’ve pretty much done all my writing at home anyway. And when I still had family here, they always understood that I needed to work and left me alone. So, I think the first answer would be no, it wasn’t easier working away from home. But whether it was harder I’m not really sure. When you’re 23/24 and just starting out, you’re full of energy and enthusiasm, and that carries you through an awful lot … including, I suspect, having to deal with customers while you’re typing.

PÓM: Who else did you end up writing for at this time?

SM: Actually, my memory of the period around 1973/4 is a bit fuzzy. I suspect after Target folded may have been the period when I was writing for Mirabelle, and I’m not sure how long I continued writing Tarzan for Sweden. If I’d known I was going to end up doing this interview, I would have kept all those old account books!

The next major thing to come up was the first Kung Fu Annual, based on the TV series starring David Carradine. At the time there was a big Christmas market for hardback annuals, both things like the Beano Annual and books based on popular TV shows. I got the job on the recommendation of John Barraclough, who both knew of my interest in martial arts movies and my capabilities as a writer. I don’t remember who the editor on that first book was, but the publisher was Brown, Watson Ltd., which I rather liked, because formerly they’d been behind the Digit line of paperbacks that published a lot of the SF adventures I’d read in the early 1960s, though by now the company name had been bought up and was just part of the larger Thorpe & Porter conglomerate. That first Kung Fu annual appeared in the autumn of 1974, so I would have written it in the winter of 1973/1974, as there was always a fairly large lead-up time. It was 64 pages, with comic strips, text stories and features, and I wrote the whole book for a flat fee of £200. I was told later it sold a quarter of a million copies, and there was a Dutch edition as well. Of course, no one even thought of royalties in those days, but I did get my name on the book! It was the only annual I ever did get a credit for.

By the following year, John Barraclough had taken over as editor of Brown, Watson’s annuals, working from offices in Wardour Street, and that started an association that went on until 1986. After a few years, the Babani brothers, Brian and Peter, bought out the annual department from Thorpe & Porter and set themselves up as Grandreams Ltd., with offices in Kentish Town, but John continued as editor, I continued as main writer, and the annuals continued to look exactly the same.

That was pretty much my winter work taken care of, over those dozen years, though obviously I’d frequently be writing for weeklies at the same time. I’d get a call from John around September, and he’d tell me what we were going to be doing that year for publication the following autumn, and I’d generally get between four and six annuals to do, which would keep me busy until the spring. Sometimes I wrote the entire book. I’d nearly always write all the strips and text stories, while sometimes I’d do the features, and sometimes someone else would. If he wanted to include things like puzzle pages, they were definitely by someone else! In the end, I wrote 69 annuals for John, in whole or in part, doing things like Kung Fu, Planet of the Apes, The Bionic Woman, The Fall Guy, Knightrider, Dick Turpin, Sherlock Holmes, The Dukes of Hazzard, Battlestar Galactica and even some dreadful old rubbish like Supergran.

Usually for each annual I’d be writing three 8-page scripts and three or four 2,500 word text stories, though sometimes I’d link things up as serials, and do the strip as, say four chapters of six pages each, or link the text stories. By now, John just trusted me to give him what he wanted, so I pretty much handled things the way I liked. I remember by the time we got to the fourth Kung Fu annual he called me and said something like: ‘We’ve got to do it again, but we haven’t got the budget to include any comic-strips this time, so you can just fill up the 64 pages with whatever you like.’ Like I said, John wasn’t exactly a control freak.

The money wasn’t all that great (I think it was about £10 a page for strips, though by the time it got to the 1980s, I told John I couldn’t afford to work for that any more, and got an immediate pay-rise to £15), but there was a lot of work there, which made up. Even so, it had to be done quickly to make it economical, so I was often doing a story a day … though a ‘day’ was actually lunchtime to lunchtime. After lunch I’d start thinking about a story, and if it was a strip I’d make sure that by the time I went to bed I’d sorted out the plot, broken it down into frames and usually scribbled out the dialogue; then in the morning I’d type up the script, mail it to John, and then after lunch, start the whole process again. If it was a text story, I’d just sort the plot out in the afternoon, then write the story the next morning, straight onto the typewriter in one draft with no revisions at all. If it looked like I had too much plot, the action would suddenly speed up toward the end; if too little, it’d slow down! But generally, after a couple of years, I’d got things sorted out, and knew pretty well how much plot I needed to write a 2,500 word story.

We had some decent artists on those books, though frequently fairly early in their careers, including Paul Neary, Ian Gibson, David Lloyd, David Jackson and John Hudson. And I talked John into taking some Alan Moore cartoons for the BJ and the Bear annual. Even more unlikely, when it came to the ‘History of Magic’ features for the Mr. Merlin annual, I actually persuaded him to let me illustrate them myself!

If the TV programmes were already showing, I could just watch them, or if we were doing the annuals for the second or third time, there was no problem. More often than not, though, the programmes wouldn’t start showing until after I’d written the book, so then I’d possibly be taken to a little preview theatre in Wardour Street to see an advance showing of the pilot, or sometimes the only reference I’d have to work from would be a script and some publicity photos. Fortunately, though, I seemed to have a knack for picking out the essentials of the characters and what the show was about almost instantly (and perhaps even more fortunately, I had a very easy-going editor!), so I managed to get away with it. Knightrider was one of the shows where I only saw the pilot and, as it happened, I really didn’t like the programme very much, so I couldn’t bring myself to watch it when it started on TV … but I still wrote five annuals for the show, just on the basis of the pilot.

The worst case was writing the strip adaptation of the Roger Moore James Bond movie, Octopussy, which was published as a hardback annual by Grandreams, and as a magazine in the USA by Marvel. As usual with James Bond movies, the film company were incredibly secretive, so they wouldn’t let me have any production photos, and they wouldn’t let me take the script away either. Instead I had to go into their office in central London for three or four days running and sit there alone in a private room with the script, jotting down the essentials of the plot in a notebook. And that was all I had to write the script from … but I still ended up with the film company congratulating me on the job I’d done. Paul Neary drew the strip, and I’m not sure if he got any reference either, but everyone seemed happy, so we just moved on to the next project.

So, like I said, this went on until 1986, and that autumn the phone didn’t ring, and I was busy with other stuff, so I didn’t ring either, and that was the end of it. I never heard from John again, and have no idea what happened to him, though I occasionally think it would be nice to know. But I think the TV-based annuals had pretty much passed their sell-by date by then (the previous year I’d only done one or two), so even if I’d wanted it, there probably wouldn’t have been a great deal of work to be had anyway. At some point I’ll have to read some of that stuff again, just to see if it really was any good (or otherwise) after all.

PÓM: Tell me about those movie scripts you mentioned.

SM: As I said, it came about through my knowing Roy McAree, and I’m guessing it would have been about 1976, as I’d seen a few movies scripts by then, either from adapting them for House of Hammer, which was starting up around then, or from seeing them for reference to the TV-based annuals I was writing by then. The first explosive kung fu boom was starting to blow out by then, and Roy knew what I did for a living when I wasn’t goggling at gorgeous Chinese actresses, so one day I got a call from him telling me he wanted to set up his own production company, and was looking for someone to write a script. The deal was that there’d be no money up front, but if the movie was made I’d be on a percentage and, in terms of usual movie industry rates, quite a large percentage too. As far as I recall, I think he had some sort of basic plot idea or outline, which never actually had a title. It was just referred to as ‘Snutch’, which Roy derived somehow from ‘no such’ movie, as he didn’t want to give anything away in the trade. It was intended to be a vehicle for Wang Yu, which suited me very well as he was one of my favourite Chinese actors, and was going to be set in Iran (this was obviously before the Islamic Revolution of 1979).

There are basically two types of movie script. The first is a ‘first draft’ script, which describes the action and gives the dialogue, and is what most people present when they’re trying to sell something. And then there’s the ‘shooting script’, which has all the camera directions, such as ‘pan left’ or ‘tight close up’, which is usually written much later in the development process. Roy asked me to write ‘Snutch’ as a shooting script, so I said ‘sure’ and went away and wrote it. I’d seen at least one shooting script, and in the same way as with the annuals I seem to have a facility for picking up these sort of things, so I turned it in and Roy’s partner (whose name I forget) said ‘this is great … we can just give this to some monkey and he can get on with it’ (‘some monkey’ giving you some idea of his attitude to directors) and ‘where did you learn to write scripts?’ To which I could only reply: ‘Well, I didn’t …’ They told me to get a passport and prepare to fly out to Iran to check out locations, which frankly made me a little nervous, as it wasn’t quite clear who was supposed to be going with me.

This same partner had also written a script called ‘The New Spartans’, and they then decided to go with that first, with him directing as well. They’d raised money from Germany and elsewhere, and the cast included Wang Yu, Toshiro Mifune, Harry Andrews, Britt Eklund and others of similar calibre. They got a couple of days into shooting when the Germans pulled their money out. In later years, one of my Chinese movie dealer contacts actually managed to get me a DVD of the rushes they’d shot, and frankly they were absolutely appalling, so I’m not surprised the Germans pulled the plug. But that caused the collapse of the entire enterprise, and I think Roy lost quite a lot of money. Eventually he moved to Hong Kong, where I know he produced at least one documentary about kung fu movies, and of course by then I lost contact with him. Shame. Roy was a nice man, and though I never got paid for my work, I never held it against him.

Before he left, though, and some months after ‘Snutch’ went down, he put me in touch with a gent called Paul de Savary and his Chinese partner. They’d acquired the film rights to Dan Dare, and now wanted to do an updated version which basically turned Dan into ‘James Bond in space’. They had a fairly detailed plot outline of about 30 pages, and they wanted me to turn this into a first draft script for a two-hour movie. With this kind of script you usually reckon on one single-spaced page per minute, so they wanted a 120-page script … and they wanted it written in a week. So once again I said ‘sure’ and we actually signed a contract that would give me £1500 for my week’s work, which was an enormous sum to me at the time. So I spent the next seven days doing nothing else but write and sleep, with my Mum bringing me cups of coffee and meals at my desk and, eventually, I turned up at their office on time and script in hand. A couple of days later they phoned me up and said the script was great but they’d changed their minds, and were now going to do a series of 10-minute Dan Dare TV shows instead, and they wanted to pay me £750. As you can imagine, I wasn’t greatly pleased about this, but the best advice I could get (from Roy) was that it wasn’t worth taking them to court, so I’d be better off accepting what they offered.

At some point in all this, though I’m not sure of the exact sequence, another of Roy’s producer friends offered me £200 to revise the script of his Mary Millington soft porn movie into something ‘good’, but I took one look at the script and told him that no one could make that sort of rubbish ‘good’, no matter how much he was paid, and didn’t take the job. And that concluded my involvement with the movie industry, with an understandably sour taste in my mouth. So, essentially, I’ve just refused to have anything to do with movies or TV ever since.

PÓM: Did you ever actually learn Chinese, or go visit the country?

SM: I didn’t learn the language in any formal way, though over the years I’ve come to recognise quite a number of phrases while watching movies, so long as they’re spoken in Mandarin (the national language) rather than Cantonese (the southern dialect they speak in Hong Kong). But I wouldn’t dare try to speak it, as the language is tonal, so words can be pronounced in any of four different tones, and you might have, say, forty different words pronounced ‘ming’, the only way you can tell which is the right one being the tone it’s pronounced in, and the context it appears in; so the possibility of asking for a pint of milk and unintentionally saying something like ‘My postilion has been struck by lightning’ is quite high. Not for nothing did someone once describe Chinese as ‘not so much a language as a disease’!

But I’ve always been more interested in reading the language than speaking it, and while I don’t remember an awful lot of characters, I can often pick my way through a short piece of text with the aid of a dictionary. Mind you, learning how to use a Chinese/English dictionary is a bit of an achievement in itself! Fortunately, there are now computerised dictionary programs that make life rather easier. Even so, sorting out a paragraph of Chinese would still take me quite a long time.

As for the second part of your question, like I said earlier, I’ve never been east of Dover. I’m really not much of a traveller and, while there are obviously historical sites it would be fascinating to see, modern China isn’t really what I’m interested in. What appeals to me is a romanticised, traditional China that no longer exists, if it ever did, because that romanticised version is largely coloured by tales of Daoist magicians and the heroics of wuxia fiction. Better to keep to the China in my head, I think, rather than be confronted by contemporary reality.

To be continued…

[Because the above section is, by my standards, quite short, to allow the next section to start where it needs to, I'm adding on a list of All Steve Moore's Brown Watson / Grandreams Annuals in both alphabetical and chronological order. This list was sent to me by Steve himself, and he told me it was compiled with the help of Steve Holland of Bear Alley Books.]

Brown Watson/ Grandreams Annuals with Work by Steve Moore

C = Cover
F = Features
I = Illustrations
R = Reprint
S = Strips
T = Text Stories
U = Unknown
W = Whole Book

Illustrators named where known


1977 – T?, S? (I must have written something for this, or I wouldn’t have a copy! But a lot of it doesn’t read like me. Maybe one T?) (I – John Bolton)

1978 – T, S (F???) (John Higgins)

1977 – T, S, some F (Ian Gibson)
1978 – T, S (Ian Gibson)

1981 – T, S (cartoons – Alan Moore [here])

1982 – T, S

1979 – T, S (Felix Carrion)
1980 – T, S (Felix Carrion)

1981 – T, S
1982 – T, S (Cartoons – Alan Moore, reprinted from BJ & THE BEAR)

1981 – T, S (David Lloyd)
1982 – T, S (David Lloyd)
1983 – T, S (David Lloyd)

1979 – T, F? (S = R. I – Evi DeBono)
1980 – T (S = R. I – David Lloyd)

1977 – F (S = R. I – John Britton)

1977 – T, S (S, I – Ian Gibson. I – John Bolton)

1980 – S (From synopses by Phil Redmond?) (T by David Angus, from Redmond synopses) (I – John Cooper)

1979 – T, S, F? (John Higgins + R )
1980 – T, S (David Lloyd + R )
1981 – T (S = R. C – Paul Neary, I – David Lloyd)
1982 – T (S = R. C, I – Paul Neary)
1983 – T (S = R. C, I – Paul Neary)
1984 – T (S = R. C – Paul Neary. IU)

1987 – T, S, 1F

1982 – T, S (F???) (David Lloyd)
1983 – T, S (David Lloyd)
1984 – T, S (Jim Eldridge)
1985 – T, S (Jim Eldridge)
1986 – T, S (Jim Eldridge)

1974 – W (S – Desmon Walduck, I – Melvyn Powell)
1975 – W (SU, I – John Bolton)
1976 – W (S – Paul Neary, I – Ian Gibson)
1977 – W (I – John Britton, John Bolton?)

1978 – T, S (David Lloyd)

1984 – T, S, 1F (John Higgins)

1986 – T (S = R )
1987 – T (S = R)

1981 – T, S

1980 – T, S (John Higgins)

1982 – T, S, some F (Mick Austin. 2F, I – Steve Moore)

1977 – 1 S, some F (John Bolton)
1978 – 2 T, 1 F (John Bolton + U )

OCTOPUSSY (James Bond movie adaptation)
1983 – S (Paul Neary)

1975 – T, S , F (S = U. I – John Bolton)
1976 – T, S (S = John Bolton + Oliver Frey. I = John Bolton + U )
1977 – T, S (John Bolton)

1977 – T?, S? (I must have written something for this, or I wouldn’t have a copy! But a lot of it doesn’t read like me.) (I – Edmond Ripoll)

1979 – T, S (Carlos Cruz)

1979 – T, F? (S = R. I – Evi DeBono)
1980 – T (S = R. I – David Lloyd)
1981 – T (S = R. C – Paul Neary. I – David Lloyd)
1982 – T (S = R. C – Paul Neary. I – Paul Neary + Mick Austin)
1983 – T (S = R. C, I – Paul Neary)
1984 – T (S = R. C, IU )
1985 – T (S = R. C, IU )

1983 – T (S = R. I – Leigh Baulch + Jerry Paris?)

1979 – F (S = R)

1978 – F (S = R)

1985 – S

1978 – F (S = R)

1976 – T (S = R. I – John Bolton)
1977 – T (S = R. I – John Britton, John Bolton)

1983 – T, S (John Higgins)

1982 – T, S (David Jackson)

1976 – T (S = R. I – John Bolton)
1977 – T (S = R. I – John Bolton)

1983 – T, S (John Higgins)

1979 – T, S


1974 (1)

1975 (2)

1976 (4)

1977 (10)

1978 (6)

1979 (7)

1980 (6)

1981 (6)

1982 (8)

1983 (8)

1984 (4)

1985 (3)

1986 (2)

1987 (2)

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48. Call for Submissions: Muzzle Magazine

Muzzle Magazine publishes poetry, visual art, interviews, book reviews, and performance reviews. We are currently open to submissions in all categories. Please use our online submissions form.

Issue Deadline
Non-Themed Fall 2014 August 15, 2014 (extension)

Mental Health Issue November 1, 2014
(Guest Edited by Rachel McKibbens)

Only previously unpublished work will be considered for publication. Simultaneous submissions are fine, but please let us know immediately if your work is accepted elsewhere. Please include a 50-100 word bio in the "Cover Letter / Biography" field of the online submissions form.

For questions about submissions, please email:

muzzlemagazineATgmailDOTcom (Change AT to @ and DOT to . )

(Note: Submissions sent via email will no longer be considered as of 1/16/2011; submissions must be sent via our online submissions form).

Poetry Submissions: Please send 3-5 poems at a time. Include all poems in one DOC or PDF file.

Additionally, please make sure your name does not appear anywhere in the document or submission title; our editors like to view submissions blindly.

Upon acceptance of poetry submissions, poets will be invited to send audio recordings of their work.

Visual Art Submissions: All art submissions must be attached as JPEG files. Please send no more than 5 pieces in one submission. In the file name for each piece, please include the title of the piece (ex: Alight.jpeg).

Interviews: Interviews should be less than 2000 words. Each interview must be attached as a PDF or DOC file.

Reviews: Reviews should be less than 1500 words. Book Reviews should be of poetry books published within the past 2 years. Performance Reviews should be of poetry performances that occurred within the past 6 months. Each review must be attached as a PDF or DOC file.
Want a Muzzle Editor to Review Your Poetry Book? If you would like Muzzle to consider reviewing your book, please send a hard copy to:

Muzzle Magazine
ICO Stevie Edwards
312 N. Geneva Street, #5
Ithaca, NY 14850

PDF's for pre-release books may also be sent via email to:

muzzlemagazineATgmailDOTcom (Change AT to @ and DOT to . )

Please note that sending your manuscript does not guarantee it will be reviewed.     

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49. Interview with Terri L. Austin, Author of His Every Need and Giveaway


[Manga Maniac Cafe] Good morning, Terri!  Welcome to the MMC!

[Terri L Austin] Hi! Thanks so much for having me on today. It’s a pleasure to be here.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in five words or less.

[Terri L Austin] Funny. Inappropriate. Hello Kitty lover.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about His Every Need?

[Terri L Austin] Allie Campbell is determined to take care of her family, no matter the cost. But when her father loses their home to British tycoon Trevor Blake, Allie finds herself forced to plead for more time to pay off the loan…and if she has to use her own body as collateral, then so be it.

Trevor isn’t moved by Allie’s story. But when Allie impulsively offers to do anything to keep the house, he’s intrigued enough to raise the stakes: for the next two months, she must cater to his every need, no matter how depraved. To his amazement, she agrees.

Allie has no intention of enjoying her time with the arrogant, domineering Brit, but it doesn’t take long before he’s got her aching for his touch-and he’ll do whatever it takes to make her beg…

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  Can you share your favorite scene?

[Terri L Austin] After Allie and Trevor have a terrible argument, neither one will apologize or back down. Things escalate from there and that scene in the hotel room makes my heart pound every time I read it. They’re pushing each other’s buttons like crazy, and it’s heart-wrenching.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What gave you the most trouble with the story?

[Terri L Austin] I always grapple with the ending. First of all, I never want to leave the characters behind. I know their story is over, but I find myself hesitant to say goodbye. And finding that perfect final line can be tricky.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s one thing you won’t leave home without?

[Terri L Austin] A book. Or my Kindle. I need reading material at all times!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name three things on your desk right now.

[Terri L Austin] A stone Dracula book end. A Hello Kitty Pez dispenser. A leg lamp (from A Christmas Story) nightlight.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s your favorite snack when you’re working on a deadline?

[Terri L Austin] Goldfish crackers. My go-to stress food.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you could trade places with anyone for just one day, who would you be?

[Terri L Austin] Kate Middleton. I’d want to live like a royal for a day—yet still retain the common touch, you know.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] You have been granted the use of one superpower for one week.  Which power would you choose, and what would you do with it?

[Terri L Austin] Without a doubt, teleportation. I’d visit all the places on my bucket list and I wouldn’t get jetlag. Win-win!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are some books that you enjoyed recently?

[Terri L Austin] I’ve been reading Kresley Cole’s young adult series, The Arcana Chronicles. I’ve also been waiting for the next Karen Marie Moning book to be released, so I plan on re-reading Iced soon to get ready for the next installment.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Terri L Austin] TerriLAustin.com, Twitter, FB, Goodreads

Thanks again for having me. What fun questions!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

His Every Need, the first book in The Beauty and the Brit series, is available from Sourcebooks August 5, 2014.

Allie Campbell is determined to take care of her family, no matter the cost. But when her father loses their home to British tycoon Trevor Blake, Allie finds herself forced to plead for more time to pay off the loan…and if she has to use her own body as collateral, then so be it.

Trevor isn’t moved by Allie’s story. But when Allie impulsively offers to do anything to keep the house, he’s intrigued enough to raise the stakes: for the next two months, she must cater to his every need, no matter how depraved. To his amazement, she agrees.

Allie has no intention of enjoying her time with the arrogant, domineering Brit, but it doesn’t take long before he’s got her aching for his touch-and he’ll do whatever it takes to make her beg…

“Austin, clearly enjoying a change of pace from her more comedic Rose Strickland mystery series, infuses her characters with relatable problems and hot chemistry that will keep readers turning pages.”—Publishers Weekly

“…this is an engaging work on a number of levels—the sum total is a novel that is unique, erotic and passionate.”—RT Book Reviews, 4 ½ Stars, Top Pick!

Buy Links:


Amazon Print

Barnes and Noble




As a girl, Terri L. Austin thought she’d outgrow dreaming up stories and creating imaginary friends. Instead, she’s made a career of it. She met her own Prince Charming and together they live in Missouri. She loves to hear from readers. Drop her a note at TerriLAustin.com.

Social Media Links:

TerriLAustin.com, Twitter, FB, Goodreads

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The post Interview with Terri L. Austin, Author of His Every Need and Giveaway appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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50. Interview: Rick Geary on Kickstarter, Murder, and Billy the Kid

Anybody who has read any amount of my writing, either here and elsewhere, will probably know who my favourite comics writer is*. But I also have a favourite comics artist, whose work is a constant delight to me, and by whom I have pretty much everything I can get my hands on. It’s Rick Geary. He mostly works in black & white, has almost never done any work for The Big Two, and you could just about be forgiven for not having heard of him, but he’s been making his living as a cartoonist and comics artist for nearly forty years now, and is, for me, the comics artist whose work I cherish the most.

He worked on all sorts of things for Dark Horse Comics, and many others, over a number of years, much of which has been collected, and on a shelf right beside me, as I write. In 1987 he started work on a series called A Treasury of Victorian Murder for NBM Publishing, which now stands at eight volumes of true murder tales, which has since been joined by A Treasury of XXth Century Murder, which is up to six volumes, both of which feel like his true life’s work. I’ve always been a fan of true crime stories anyway, and to have them drawn in Geary’s gorgeous black line work is wonderful. If you want to try one – and you should – they’re all available on his Author Page at NBM. It’s not for nothing that Our Glorious Leader, Ms H. MacDonald, said ‘

No season would be complete without the latest in Rick Geary’s ongoing series of 20th-century murders: with elegant, unsettling penwork, Madison Square Tragedy: The Murder of Stanford White tells the notorious story of architect Stanford White, who was murdered by a jealous husband in a theater atop the original Madison Square Garden.

As well as his ongoing work with NBM, Rick Geary has recently taken to selling books through a series of Kickstarter campaigns, with the most recent, for The True Death of Billy the Kid, still running, until Monday the 11th of August, a week from today. It’s going to be a 60-page black-and-white hardcover graphic novel, and I can pretty much guarantee it’ll turn up right on time, too, because I’ve backed his other two projects, and they did – which is more than can be said for other fundraisers I’ve ante-ed up for, but that is something I’ll wait to address here another day, in the not too distant future.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s a quick interview with Rick Geary, which I was thrilled to be given the chance to do…

Billy the Kid

Pádraig Ó Méalóid: This is your third Kickstarter campaign, at this stage. First of all, what made you decide to try out fundraising like this as a way to get your work out there?
[Link to The True Death of Billy the Kid Kickstarter.]

Rick Geary: The first time I tried fundraising on Kickstarter was about a year ago, simply out of curiosity as to how it works and to see how well I would do. I thought I should start out with the kind of true crime graphic novel I’m known for. This was The Elwell Enigma, and it succeeded beyond my wildest imagination. After that, I thought I’d try something different. A is for Anti-Christ: Obama’s Conspiracy Alphabet, a kind of satirical children’s book, was a bit of a harder and slower process, but it finally came through. At last, I thought I’d use Kickstarter to fund the kind of historical and non-fiction subjects that fascinate me but which aren’t precisely murder cases. The True Death of Billy the Kid comes out of my life here in Lincoln County, and has now exceeded my funding goal with several more weeks to go. So I have to say I’m very happy with my Kickstarter experience. I also must say that the experience has been made as smooth as possible by my friend and agent and production genius Mark Rosenbohm, who has managed all three campaigns.

PÓM: Yes, I’d noticed that all your campaigns were under Mark’s name. So, is he effectively acting as your publisher on these, or is that the wrong way to look at it?

RG: I suppose he could be technically called my publisher, although I like to think of these books as self-published. They all have come out under my little imprint, Home Town Press.

PÓM: What led you to want to try out an internet fundraiser like this in the first place, and why did you choose Kickstarter to do it on?

RG: There are certain projects in my mind that I know would never be taken on by a mainstream publisher. The Obama Alphabet was certainly one of them. I began my career publishing my own work and I’ve always believed in it. Why Kickstarter? At the time, it seemed to be the only one out there.

PÓM: Are there any drawbacks to using Kickstarter, do you find?

RG: The hardest part of a Kickstarter campaign, though I’d hate to call it a drawback, is the work that comes on the back end. I try to be very conscientious about packaging the books and other premiums and sending them out in a timely manner. Almost 200 mailings for my first project. It’s all well worth it, though.

PÓM: Are you still producing work through more conventional means, like with NBM, for instance? I know they published your Madison Square Tragedy – The Murder of Stanford White around December 2013, so is there anything more scheduled from them?

RG: Yes, I’m still producing murder stories for NBM. I’m currently in the midst of a project that’s a bit of a departure from the true-life cases. Louise Brooks: Detective is a fictional mystery featuring the actress Louise Brooks solving a murder in 1940′s Kansas. After that I plan to return to non-fiction with the story of the Black Dahlia murder.

PÓM: Am I right in thinking you’re somehow related to Louise Brooks?

RG: She was my mother’s second cousin. Though they never met, they grew up in the same area of southeastern Kansas. Brooks was my mother’s maiden name (and my middle name). My mother was born and grew up in the tiny town of Burden, Kansas, as did both of Louise’s parents. The graphic novel I’m working on, Louise Brooks: Detective, takes place during the brief time (1940-42) that she returned to Kansas after her Hollywood career collapsed. The action unfolds in Wichita and Burden.

PÓM: What is it that draws you towards these murder stories, do you think?

RG: It’s become kind of a cliché, but for as long as I can remember, I’ve been attracted to the dark side of human nature. Perhaps because I have such a light and sunny nature myself. Stories of anti-social behavior have the most drama and excitement. And the unsolved cases are the best of all, for the mystery they embody and the speculation they engender. I’m a big proponent of the essential unknowability of things.

PÓM: With the unsolved cases, do you have opinions of your own on who might have done them, or does that not matter to you? With things like Jack the Ripper, for instance, which has virtually mutated into fiction, do you have any ‘favourite’ suspects?

RG: In most cases my goal is to keep a journalistic detachment and not express opinions of my own. Some of the unsolved murders have, as you say, mutated into fiction, but I try to give equal weight to all the theories out there, no matter how ludicrous. Jack the Ripper is the perfect example. The endless speculation linking him to the royal family or other well-known people is pretty flimsy, though entertaining. My belief is that the Ripper had to be some faceless, anonymous East End resident, someone you wouldn’t even notice on the street.

PÓM: What is it about Billy the Kid, that made you want to do this particular book?

Billy 21 (1)

RG: Upon moving to Lincoln County, New Mexico, seven years ago, I found that the Kid is a very big deal here. The town of Lincoln, where he spent much of his brief life, is a perfectly preserved little western settlement, and the local historical society is very protective of his story. Accuracy is the top priority. I noticed that no graphic novel has been published that told his true story, and it seemed a natural for my next project on Kickstarter.

Billy 22 (1)

PÓM: How much research goes into doing one of these books?

RG: I do as much as I can and still fit within the deadline. I start by reading as many books with as many different points of view on the subject as I can find, and take copious notes. I fill this out with online sources, but what I find there is usually not as detailed as the information contained in books. Then I condense all the material into what I hope is a clear and compelling narrative structure. As for picture reference for period costumes, interiors etc, I usually rely on my extensive personal library. But I can also find pretty much anything I want online.

Billy 23 (1)

PÓM: Have you any plans to do more ‘Wild West’ based stories, or is Billy the Kid a one-off?

RG: Nothing specific on the horizon, but I wouldn’t rule anything out.

PÓM: What’s your feeling about fundraisers like Kickstarter, now that you’ve been through it three times? Is it the future of comics publishing, or just an interesting sideline, for you?

RG: I can’t speak for others, but my own experience with Kickstarter has been nothing but positive thus far. I don’t know if it’s the future of comics publishing, but it’s certainly my future. I plan to use it, perhaps once a year, for graphic novel projects that treat broader historical subjects and wouldn’t overlap with the murder stories I do for NBM.

PÓM: Will this, and your previous Kickstarter projects, be available for the general public to buy later on, or is this the only way to get hold of them?

RG: All of my Kickstarter books are, for the moment, sold personally by me at the SD Comic-Con and at APE, or else are available via the “RG Store” on my Website. I’ve also been selling them, on consignment, through a retail outlet in my tiny burg of Carrizozo. Whether they will eventually gain a wider distribution remains to be seen.

PÓM: Thanks very much for taking the time to do this interview, Rick.

RG: Entirely my pleasure, Pádraig. Thanks for everything.

Some Links:
The True Death of Billy the Kid Kickstarter page
Rick Geary’s own Website
Rick Geary’s Author Page at NBM
Rick Geary’s Facebook Page


[*It’s Alan Moore, in case there was any doubt.]

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