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26. Steampunk queen: an interview with Gail Carriger

gail brookline parasol Steampunk queen: an interview with Gail Carriger

Tea time! Photo: Elissa Gershowitz

Gail Carriger introduced readers to her alternate Victorian London — chock-full of steampunk technology and supernatural characters — in 2009 with Soulless, the first volume of her five-book adult series The Parasol Protectorate. The Finishing School series, a YA prequel series set in the same world, soon followed, beginning with Curtsies & Conspiracies. Espionage lessons, a dirigible boarding school, a girl inventor, vampires and werewolves, witty banter: what more could a steampunk fantasy fan ask for? Gail is currently working on another companion YA series, The Custard Protocol, which will kick off with Prudence in spring 2015.

brooklineinvite Steampunk queen: an interview with Gail Carriger

You’re invited… Photo: Elissa Gershowitz

My beloved local Brookline Public Library (hi Robin!) hosted Gail on November 10th for a lovely evening tea party — cucumber sandwiches and all! — and Q&A event to celebrate the release of Waistcoats & Weaponry, the third book in the Finishing School series. I spoke with her over tea just before the event. In addition to being a prolific and (ahem) fantastic author, Gail is also an archaeologist by training, Elissa’s college roomie (Oberlin represent!), and a very stylish lady — she told me she had a different Waistcoats & Weaponry–cover coordinated ensemble for each stop on the book tour.

The Parasol Protectorate books are adult books and The Finishing School series is YA — although there’s been a lot of crossover, with the YA books being read by adults and the adult books being read by teens. Have you found that there are things you can do in adult books that you can’t do in YA, or vice versa?

For me, YA has to be — and this is what I like about it — it has to be very clean and sharp. As a writer, it requires me to do a lot more editing because it needs to be very sparse. You don’t sacrifice details, but you sacrifice a certain amount of waffling. In adult books you’re allowed to put in extra little bits and distract the readers with pretty description for a while. In young adult, you just can’t do that. You have to be very structured and paced. Pacing is always really important to me, but I think in YA it’s even more important. That’s one of the biggest differences. And I allow myself to be a little more racy when I’m writing the adult stuff.

carriger waistcoats and weaponry Steampunk queen: an interview with Gail CarrigerYour Finishing School protagonist Sophoronia Temminnick has quite the name. Do you have other favorite Victorian-era names that you’ve come across in your research (or that you’ve come up with yourself)?

I tend to use them if I come across them. I love the name “Euphrenia”; I don’t know if I’ve leaked it into the books yet, but it’s one of my favorite ultra-Victorian names. I really like first names that are traditionally Victorian but are not used anymore. That’s one of the reasons I chose “Sophronia.” It’s still a pretty name, and sort of like “Sophia,” but just old-fashioned enough for you to know immediately, the minute that you read her name, that she’s not of our time. “Dimity” was another actual name from the time period. Alexia [from the Parasol Protectorate books] only got named “Alexia” because she was one of those characters that announced herself as being named that. Sometimes characters just enter your head and they’re like, “This is my name!” “Soap” is one of those as well. “Pillover” is another one — it’s not a real name; I just made that one up completely. But “Sophronia” and “Dimity” I picked.

Is there a mythological creature that you’ve been wanting to introduce into this world that you haven’t gotten to yet?

I’m pretty strict with myself with world-building. I’m sticking to motifs of vampires, shape-shifters, and ghosts, probably because almost every ancient culture has some version of them, like the kitsune in Japan. But I excavated in Peru for a while and there is a legend in the Peruvian highlands of a creature called a pishtaco (which is fantastically ridiculous-sounding, first of all). It’s essentially a fat-sucking vampire rather than a blood-sucking vampire — which is comedy gold. I’m dying to get [Custard Protocol protagonist] Prudence to the New World at some point so that she can meet one of these creatures and I can write all about them.

gail standing brookline Steampunk queen: an interview with Gail Carriger

Ensemble #1 at the Brookline Public Library. Photo: Elissa Gershowitz

Are we going to see more mechanimals like Bumbersnoot in the Finishing School books? (Or do you say “mech-animals”?)

I say “mechanimals,” like “mechanicals” but with an “animal” at the end. You will see more of them, but you’re not going to see a named little friend like Bumbersnoot. There’s quite a few in the last book but that’s all I’m going to say.

If you were going to have a mechanimal pet yourself, what kind of animal would you pick?

Probably something like a hedgehog. I would like a round, roly-poly, friendly sort of critter. I have a very demanding cat who’s svelte and overdramatic, so I think I’d like a calm, rodentia-style, chubby little creature. Something in the porcupine, hedgehog arena. The cat would probably be very upset with it.

What would your dream teatime guest list and menu look like?

Oh, goodness. Do I get to pick fantastic characters? Or historical people?

Sure. Living, dead, fictional — anyone you want.

There’s part of me that has to be true to my archaeological roots and pick Nefertiti, Hatshepsut, Boadicea… I’m attracted to super-powerful female historical figures, the queens and mistresses, so I’d probably concoct a party that was all these fantastic women from history. The problem, of course, would be interpretation, but it’s my fantasy so everyone would speak English. I’m an adventurous eater, and I’d like to cater to the guests, so I’d have foods from all of the different places and times they came from. One of my favorite things is cooking ancient food, sourcing the ingredients and re-creating it myself. I think if you can taste the flavor of the past, you can get a better impression of it. I’d try to do that so everybody got to try everybody else’s dishes.

What’s your specialty, your pet era as an archaeologist?

I’m not an area specialist; I’m a materials specialist. My focus was on ceramics. To this day I have a propensity to pick up a piece of pottery and flip it over to look at the back side — which can be terribly embarrassing if I’ve forgotten that there’s food on the front side — to look for the maker’s mark.

gail cambridge Steampunk queen: an interview with Gail Carriger

Ensemble #2 at Cambridge’s Pandemonium Books and Games store. Photo: Elissa Gershowitz

Are there other historical eras that you’d like to write about?

The series I’m writing now [The Custard Protocol] is set in the 1890s, which is basically the dawn of female emancipation. Mostly because of trousers — women gained a great deal of autonomy due to education and to the bicycle. The two combined started the New Woman movement, these educated young ladies with self-motivation and autonomy. I’m excited to move closer to the turn of the twentieth century and to have a bit more realism behind my super-strong female characters, because they’re not quite realistic to their time. There’s certainly other time periods I’d love to write in. I’d love to set an ancient story in some of the places I’ve visited.

What would be the most useful gadget for a Finishing School student to have on her person in the case of an espionage emergency? (This is a very difficultly worded question!)

It sounds like something I’ve written! The voice-acting talent [for my audiobooks] is always calling and complaining because I love tongue-twisters. I don’t even realize I’ve written them until somebody’s like, “Why did you write that?!” “I didn’t think about you guys reading it out loud.”

“Handiest gadget?” is the short version!

I love Sophronia’s fan, but I think it’s really handy for her. She becomes comfortable with it and adapts to it, but it’s not necessarily something that would be useful for everybody. In the final book, the chatelaine really comes to the fore. The girls keep going to balls, and they keep having to have chatelaines on them. A chatelaine is like the base for a Swiss Army Knife; it hangs off your belt and there’s a bunch of little chains and clips so you can hang multiple little things off it. Customarily you’d have a bit of perfume and a dance card, maybe keys or a little sewing kit. But of course Geraldine’s girls have a whole different set of things dangling! I love the idea that you could just attach something that has everything useful hanging off of it. Why can’t we still do that?

More fabulous photos at the Brookline Public Library Teen Room Tumblr.

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27. 7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Mike Meginnis

Fat_Man_and_Little_Boy_COVER_WEB_V1 (1)BY MIKE MEGINNIS

This is a recurring column called “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers at any stage of their careers can talk about writing advice and instruction — by sharing seven things they’ve learned along their writing journeys that they wish they knew at the beginning. This is installment is from Mike Meginnis, author of Fat Man and Little Boy.

1. Write for your own pleasure. My goal is always to write sentences, paragraphs, scenes, and chapters that satisfy and surprise me. Trying to guess what other people want will lead you into dead ends quickly — there are so many people, they all want different things, and you can’t know who will be your audience, or if you’re even going to have one. All you can know for sure is whether you’re having fun. And if you’re not, your readers—whoever they turn out to be—will feel it.

Besides, the rewards of writing fiction are often small and few enough that if the writing itself isn’t a pleasure then there really is no reason to continue.

2. Write “love it or hate it” stories. No one buys a book because there’s nothing wrong with it. You don’t build a lasting audience by winning the mild approval of a broad swath of people. You win readers by deeply pleasing one person, then a second, then a third. The people who truly love one thing you write will always remember that experience, and the people who hate something you write will remember that too. The people with feelings between love and hate are the ones who will forget, who will never buy a second book with your name on the spine.

3. Worry about sentences first and last. Some things make good sentences in your voice and style; others don’t. I have a lot of great ideas that I will never write because I can’t make them conform to the sentences that I write best. There’s a story that takes place entirely inside computer hard drives that I would absolutely love to tell, but that sort of abstract, high-concept setting just doesn’t work in the simple, declarative sentences I do best. (Believe me, I’ve tried.)

Once you’ve found a way to write your story in your best sentences, trust that: in my experience, if you attend to the sentences, the macro-level issues (structure, character, tone) will attend to themselves. If a section isn’t working for what you suspect are macro reasons, fix the sentences until that section works.

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4. Make arbitrary rules to simplify your process. The thing about writing is there are far too many options, many of which are equivalent or very nearly so. I will sometimes spend fifteen minutes typing the word “that” in the middle of a sentence and then removing it. Arbitrary rules can help you to move past these traps. My rule used to be that I would not use “that” if I could help it. In every book, I make rules about page-lengths for chapters—the chapters in this book will be eight pages long, four, or sixteen. In this book, the chapters will be ten pages long, twenty, or five. I avoid three-syllable words where two- or four-syllable words will suffice. None of these are good or bad rules, and none of them should necessarily be yours. You should make up your own. All that matters is that they make decisions easier.

These rules change all the time, of course: now I use “that” wherever I can tolerate its presence. If a rule leads you to make a mistake, you can always fix it later.

5. Get to the good stuff as soon as you possibly can, if not sooner. Inexperienced writers often begin stories with their main character waking up to the sound of an alarm clock. The character showers, brushes his or her teeth, and dresses. Maybe there’s a breakfast scene. Writers do this because we can’t find the story’s actual beginning, or worse, because we think we have to work up to the good stuff. We think it needs context, that the reader needs to be prepared to understand and appreciate it in the right way. Most of the time, we’re wrong; we should be jumping right in. To help myself do this, every time I have a good idea for any part of a story, I try to write it right away, even if it probably won’t happen for hundreds of pages. This helps me to remember to get to my best material as soon as I possibly can.

6. Embarrass yourself as much as you can. When you feel strange about what you’re writing, when you worry what your family will think, when you begin to be just slightly concerned about your future prospects for employment in light of what you’ve written, that’s how you know you’re onto something good. Nothing is less interesting than a story designed to imply that the author is a cool, smart, moral person with good ideas and opinions.

7. Don’t try to make something smart, subtle, wise, or beautiful. These qualities will emerge on their own in ways you could never predict or contrive. Your job has nothing to do with the mind or the soul. Your responsibility is the body. What does the body want? What do your characters want? What do you want for them? Are they hungry? Are you? If you are hungry, then maybe so are they. Maybe you should feed them. Or maybe they will have to wait.

If someone were to ambush you and shout, “SAY SOMETHING PROFOUND!” you would sputter and fail. When you try to say something dumb, you’ll usually fail at that too—you’ll say something smart or strange or beautiful instead.


Mike_Meginnis_AUTHORPIC_WEB_Greg_Bal_V1Mike Meginnis is the author of the novel Fat Man and Little Boy (Fall 2014, Black Balloon Publishing). The Brooklyn Book Festival called Mike one of “the year’s most impressive debut novelists” and The Japan Times said Fat Man and Little Boy “straddles a hybrid genre of historical magical realism.” Mike has published stories in Best American Short Stories 2012, The Collagist, PANK, and many others. You can find him on Twitter @mikemeginnis.

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28. Call for Submissions: Thin Air Magazine

Thin Air Magazine is reading submissions from now until Dec 15 for our Spring 2015 issue and our Web Features.

Founded in 1994, Thin Air is a nonprofit operating at an altitude of 6,910 ft, on the mountain of Flagstaff, Arizona, a popular stop along Route 66. The magazine is managed and edited entirely by Northern Arizona University graduate students on a volunteer basis, with faculty support from Nicole Walker. 

Thin Air is published in print once a year and on the web on an ongoing basis. We seek work that represent the forefront of contemporary American prose and poetry, work that tear up our hearts, and work that matter. We care about sharp aesthetics, cultural relevance, artistic cohesion, and are especially excited about writings that bend rules and surprise readers while sneakily winking at tradition. 
We are supportive of emerging writers and diverse voices, and aim to represent a wide range of talent in every issue we publish. We encourage submissions from writers of non-dominant, traditionally underrepresented backgrounds.

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29. Call for Submissions: Tiferet

Tiferet is currently accepting new writing submissions! 

We look for high-quality creative work that expresses spiritual experiences and/or promotes tolerance. Our mission is to help raise individual and global consciousness, and we publish writing from a variety of religious and spiritual traditions. 

We seek and publish the following types of work:  

Fiction: We interpret the word "spiritual" broadly. First, we seek well-written stories, pure and simple, that engage us in some small pocket of humanity.  

Nonfiction: We like to publish essays and interviews that shed light on personal experiences of grappling with the invisible...or different aspects of spiritual traditions.  

Poetry: We look for the highest quality poems that display mastery of content and craft. Technical proficiency is extremely important, along with clear expression of various aspects of the human spirit.  

Art and Photography: We seek original art and photography which in some way captures the spiritual or contemplative in a visual representation. 

For complete submission guidelines or to submit your work, please visit our website.

The deadline for all submissions is December 31st, 2014.  

Thank you for being a part of the global Tiferet community. We look forward to reading all submissions!

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30. Interview: Joe Hill on HORNS, NOS4A2 and Stephen King

Joe Hill (14778218361)" by Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America - Joe Hill. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Joe_Hill_(14778218361).jpg#mediaviewer/File:Joe_Hill_(14778218361).jpg

Joe Hill via Wikimedia Commons


Author Joe Hill worked as a writer for nearly a decade before revealing his relationship to legendary horror author Stephen King. (For the uninitiated, Hill is King’s son.) Hill has stated that he wanted to prove himself on his own terms, and so chose to work under a semi-pseudonym. His three novels—Heart-Shaped Box, Horns and NOS4A2 (pronounced Nosferatu)—are all bestsellers, and his collection of short fiction, 20th Century Ghosts, won the Bram Stoker Award for Best Fiction Collection in 2005. And now his novel Horns is a movie starring Daniel Radcliffe, and his latest release is his bestselling book yet.

Here, Hill talks about his family, his writing, and what it’s like to step back and let someone make a film from your book.

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DT: How involved were you with writing the screenplay for Horns?
JH: I spent about three years writing Horns, and after that length of time I was ready to be done with it. Mandalay optioned it and wanted to make a film, and they asked if I had any interest in writing the script. I said ‘Not really,’ so they passed it onto Keith Bunin, who did a wonderful, wonderful job.

In terms of my contributions, we had a lot of great conversations when Keith was working on the script including Keith and I, Cathy Schulman who is a producer at Mandalay, and Adam Stone who’s also a producer on the film. And eventually Alexandre Aja when he came onboard.

We had lively arguments and broke the story down a dozen times and built it back up. It was a lot of fun. When Alex actually began filming, I viewed my role as to not get under foot and not to create trouble so I showed up on set for a couple of days to goof off and watch what people were doing and then I made myself scarce again. I came back in on the end to talk about editing, as they put the film together and I had some suggestions and some ideas. But at the end of the day, I felt like the film could only work if it was Alexandra Aja’s version of the story.

I told my version; it was time for him to tell his. I hoped that he would be true to the spirit of the characters and he was. Daniel Radcliffe and Juno Temple made sure of that. But beyond that I wanted Alex to feel free to have fun and to make a movie that lived on the screen, not something that was trying so hard to be faithful it just kind of plods along. I think he found a nice balance.

You know the thing about the film and about Alexandre Aja, he has a very light touch. And I know that’s a strange thing to say about the guy who directed The Hills Have Eyes, but he does have a very light touch. The film has this kind of lush romanticism to it. You know, I think that Alex has a romantic heart, and that’s sort of wonderful. It comes through in the film even in the most painful scenes.

DT: Do you have the distance yourself from it to some extent because it’s someone else’s baby?
JH: Yes, this is why I didn’t write the screenplay, too. I have written screenplays and I have fun doing that but I’ve never tried to adapt my own work. I don’t think I’d be a good collaborator if I were the screenwriter of something I spent three or four or five years writing as a novel because after I’ve spent three or four years meditating on a set of characters and on the situation, I’ve really got to have it my way. I just don’t think I could be flexible. I don’t think I could adapt.

I can do that if that’s my starting point. I wrote a pilot for a TV show called “Dark Side,” which is a reboot of an 80s TV show, “Tales from the Dark Side.” My version’s pretty different. But I had no trouble taking notes and collaborating and working with the network on that. It was fun and exciting. And I liked the challenge—if something’s not working, coming up with a fresh set of ideas. But there my starting point was the screenplay; however, with Horns I [had] just spent so much time with those characters and situations. Best to stay out of the way in a situation like that.

DT: Is it tricky to keep that distance?
JH: Yeah, it is. I always feel uncomfortable saying this. I was in so much pain when I wrote it. And you always find people like that annoying, right? Because it’s like they sound so self-important, so full of themselves and so full of their own sense of drama, you just want to smack them up the side of the head. But I kind of understand. I was in a really bad place mentally when I wrote Horns.

It’s a really unhappy and paranoid book by a really unhappy and paranoid man. That’s not to say I’m not very proud of the book—I think it’s a lot of fun, I think readers enjoy it. But I have a hard time revisiting it. And so for me, it’s actually easier to enjoy it as a film than it is to enjoy it as a book. I just don’t like thinking about where I was mentally when I wrote the story. … But it all turned out okay at the end.

My first novel was Heart-Shaped Box and it was a tremendous success. And I know it’s a cliché, but fell into that second-book trap and at one point I had 400 pages of a novel called The Surrealist Glass and every scene was terrible. Everything about it was bad. I was 50 pages from the ending and I threw the whole thing away. I just couldn’t stand it and I remember thinking, Forget it, I’m done. If there’s never another book, there’s never another book. I don’t want to be a guy who wrote a crappy book just to have a follow up. I’d rather just be a one-book writer. 

And so I stopped the writing for a little while. And then at some point after I stopped writing, the mental fist came unclenched. I started thinking about what I needed to make a story work. I decided that what I needed was the devil. Stories always come to life when the devil walks on stage, a character to tempt people into sin and to reveal secrets and that was sort of the starting point of Horns.

DT: Were you afraid that the rich inner lives of your characters wouldn’t translate to the screen?
JH: Well, it is hard, but that’s the challenge—that’s an actor’s challenge. One of the things I’ve said over and over again is that, in the course of the story, Perrish (the hero) covers this enormous emotional terrain. He experiences grief and loss and rage and madness and delirious joy. He goes from innocence to experience, and a lot of that is internal. Daniel Radcliffe was able to bring all those emotions to the screen and make it look easy, make it look effortless. I always think that whenever you see an artist do something that’s difficult and make it look easy, you’re seeing someone who’s worked incredibly hard. I do think that Dan is a really remarkable young actor, and with every role he shows more range and an almost athletic range of skills. We were just so lucky that he wanted to play the part.

DT: So do you have any plans or action on movies of any of your other books?
JH: Some good things have happened with a short story called “Best New Horror.” Some interesting things have happened with my novel NOS4A2 that I’m not allowed to talk about yet, but they’re sort of trucking along in an interesting way. Universal is waist-deep in the preliminary work on adapting Locke & Key as a film trilogy. My understanding is they have a pretty big chunk of the script that they’re all really happy with. My tendency is not to say too much about any possible film or TV stuff until the cameras are actually rolling because until then I don’t really believe in it.

DT: Have you ever thought about acting?
JH: Well, I’m a former child actor. I was in Creepshow. I was the little kid with the voodoo doll. My feeling is that that particular performance was gold, and so perfect that there’s really no reason to return.

I explored everything there is to explore in the field of acting with that film and there’s no reason to tarnish the greatness of that initial performance with another role. I view myself as very much like Daniel Day-Lewis, you know—years and years between parts. Daniel Day-Lewis and I are almost exactly the same guy.

DT: You definitely showed some incredible range in that role.
JH: I think so. It was right there. Way better, way better than those, way better than those second-rate child actors who worked on Harry Potter. Oh my God, blew that right out of the water!

DT: That Daniel Day-Lewis guy, what’s he got on you really?
JH: Nothing. He’s got longer hair.

DT: You and your father seem happy for the worlds of your books to cross paths a little. So it seems that you don’t want to be too disconnected from his work.
Well, not so much anymore. When I was a younger guy, I was really insecure. I was afraid if I wrote as Joseph King that publishers would publish a lousy work because they saw a chance to make a quick buck in the last name. I was afraid of that. So I decided to write as Joe Hill. I was able to keep it a secret for about a decade.

In the course of that time, I made my mistakes in private—which is where you’re supposed to make them. I worked my craft and learned the things I needed to learn and, eventually, when I did sell my first book of stories, I sold it to a small press in England. I felt like it sold for the right reasons because the publisher didn’t know anything about my dad. He didn’t know anything about my family. He just really liked those stories. Each of the short stories sold individually for the same reason, in little magazines where the editor said ‘This is great, we really like this story. We’d be happy to publish it.’

I desperately needed that encouragement. I needed to feel like I was succeeding on my own merits, not because my dad was someone famous. I’m a little bit more secure now, and in many ways NOS4R2 has a lot of joking references to Stephen King novels in it. In some ways, NOS4R2 is a book about Stephen King novels. It is a kind of response to my dad’s book It, which I loved as a kid. If you scratch the surface, it’s possible to see that NOS4R2 and It share the same underlying structure.

A brain isn’t very big. It’s just a few pounds of gray matter stuck in a very small living space. You’ve only got so much space to move around in, and so you are stuck writing about the facts of your own life. You may be inventing fiction, but you’re stuck using your own childhood and your own experiences and your own emotional responses to things. So it’s really impossible to have a lifelong career as a novelist and not write stuff that is occasionally reflective on my parents.

Far off lands set among the stars. Creatures that go thump-bump-crash in the night. Stories you can’t wait to sink your teeth into. With this exclusive collection from Writer’s Digest, you will be on your way to being the next Isaac Asimov, Stephen King or Charlaine Harris.


Drew Turney is a filmgoer, movie industry watcher, technology expert and books and publishing reporter with more than ten years experience. He writes about everything from the latest mobile phones to special effects to book reviews to author profiles, and everything in between. Find more at drewturney.com and filmism.net.

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31. Cartoon-Me Interviews Red Panda and Hippo …

As you can see, I’m doing something totally different today.

That’s the cartoonized version of me up there, interviewing the two main characters of an upcoming graphic novel for children, called Hippopotamister. Springing from the mind of comics creator John Green (pictured right), who lives in Brooklyn and is best known for Teen Boat, his collaboration with Dave Roman, Hippopotamister is Green’s solo debut. It’s a comic geared at younger children and tells the story of Hippo and his friend, Red Panda (who are pictured above). They live in the city zoo but head out to get jobs in the bustling world of humans. (Hippo becomes the titular Hippopotamister — just to survive out in the big city.) Red Panda finds the occupational world challenging, and even though Hippo excels at each job he secures, Red Panda manages to get them fired. The book is scheduled for an early-2016 release from First Second.

You can read a great process essay from John here at School Library Journal, as well as this interview at The Beat. (P.S. Mr. Schu got cartoonized, too.)

I thank John for visiting. This makes the second time I’ve interviewed wise-talkin’ animals. (Punk Farm was my first.)

* * * * * * *

Art is copyright © 2014 by John Green and used by his permission.

Photo of John Green taken by Ellen B. Wright.

3 Comments on Cartoon-Me Interviews Red Panda and Hippo …, last added: 11/17/2014
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32. Composer Michael Finnissy in 8 questions

We asked our composers a series of questions based around their musical likes and dislikes, influences, challenges, and various other things on the theme of music and their careers. Each month we will bring you answers from an OUP composer, giving you an insight into their music and personalities.

Here’s what OUP composer Michael Finnissy had to say:

Which composer were you most influenced by?

Charles Ives, when I was twelve or thirteen. I think Anthony Hopkins introduced the Concord Sonata in his BBC Radio ‘Talking about Music’ series, from which I learned so much about aesthetics and the craft of composing.

Can you describe the first piece of music you ever wrote?

The first piece I ever wrote was called ‘The Chinese Bridge’, I was just over 4 years old, and had been told the ‘story’ of the willow-pattern pottery. The piece was one line long, clumsily pentatonic, and all in the middle octave of the piano. I thought my mother’s sister had kept the music-book it was written in, but in several moves of house it got lost.

Photo credit: Ben Britton
Michael Finnissy. Photo credit: Ben Britton.

Have the challenges you face as a composer changed over the course of your career?

The main challenges for a composer, to maintain integrity and authenticity, take quite a battering from the UK ‘music business’ — pressures to conform, to be intelligible, to be ‘amusing’. Teaching keeps me up to speed, but I still suffer terrible uncertainties and depressions. Being stubborn, intensely obsessive and passionate probably helps. None of this ever seems to get any better.

What is the last piece of music you listened to?

The last thing I listened to properly was some Chinese traditional music, wonderfully played on a recent visit to Taipei. But I am half-way through watching a DVD of a slightly irritating production of Richard Strauss’s ‘Die Liebe der Danae’, having to close my eyes to focus on the sound.

What might you have been if you weren’t a composer?

You don’t choose to be a composer, it’s what you are put here to do. My parents wanted me to teach English. I had to fight.

Is there an instrument you wish you had learnt to play and do you have a favourite work for that instrument?

I only played the piano ‘by accident’, and if I had chosen the viola (the sound of which I love), could I have endured the stupid jokes and insults? I would have liked to sing well, but was told I sounded like a corncrake.

What would be your desert island playlist? (three pieces)

Busoni’s Doktor Faust, Stravinsky’s Les Noces, and Tippett’s The Midsummer Marriage. All singing, all dancing. I would also hope to have the scores of a couple of late Beethoven quartets, Matthijs Vermeulen’s 2nd Symphony, and — right now — some of the Voices and Piano pieces by Peter Ablinger, which I need to investigate further!

How has your music changed throughout your career?

Oddly enough I never intended to write the same piece over and over again: so of course I think my music, and my life, has changed, and I’ve been lucky enough to get older and research a bit more deeply. But in other respects it is said that ‘leopards don’t change their spots’. I am thinking about the NEXT piece, not my ‘career’! Working in a university has made me aware that there are many people better qualified than I am, and musicians who – if they are interested – can better tell you HOW my music (and anyone else’s) has changed.

Headline image credit: Music Piano Keys by geralt. CC0 via Pixabay.

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33. Interview: Gannon Beck Rallies The Troops for ‘Space Corps’

By Matt O’Keefe

In the world wide web there’s a lot that goes unnoticed, even in more niche industries like comics. For the last few years artist Gannon Beck, along with various writers, has been telling tales of the Spaces Corps, a guild reminiscent of the Green Lantern Corps at DC or the Nova Corps at Marvel. What separates it from those is its authenticity in depicting actual military life, thanks in large part to Beck’s time in the Marines. The zero issue is currently funding its print run on Kickstarter while the third issue is going strong as a webcomic. I talked with Gannon Beck about the evolution Space Corps from how it started to what’s coming next.

11 Interview: Gannon Beck Rallies The Troops for Space Corps

What was your background in comics before Space Corps?

In high school I did comics with a friend. We did them for fun, but looking back, I have to say that those comics projects were instrumental in developing my illustration ability.  We also did a few gag strips—one strip about aliens that crash landed on earth that we tried unsuccessfully to get syndicated, and another strip called The Big Gap that was about a retired Marine living with his grandson.  We did The Big Gap as a webcomic for a few years. It eventually petered out, but it was fun and helped hone our writing and drawing skills. It’s actually really hard to write captivating strips in four panels.  I like the long form format of comic books much better; however, because of how we set up the grid for Space Corps, which is 4 x 4 panels, I can smuggle a daily strip style of writing into the pages.

You explain well how Space Corps got started on the Kickstarter page, but how did you connect with your other collaborators on the project?
Joey Groah was the instigator. Joey heard about an art class that I taught every week at the local comic book shop and stopped by to introduce himself. He was already a member of Comics Experience and introduced me to a bunch of people on the workshop. He also introduced me to his childhood friend and writer, Bryan Richmond. Especially at the beginning of my time at Comics Experience, I did a bunch of short stories with various writers. The collaboration with Bryan led to Space Corps and stories just kept erupting from it. Rather than fight it, we just went with it.

21 Interview: Gannon Beck Rallies The Troops for Space Corps

You’re a very capable writer, so why did you collaborate with other writers for Space Corps #0 and beyond?
There is no question that Space Corps wouldn’t be the same, and wouldn’t be as good, had I tried to do it on my own. In a creative collaboration like ours, the ideas spark off of each other to form new ideas and concepts.

Take issue 3, for instance. In coming up with the characters in that issue, it was Bryan and I throwing ideas back and forth that made them what they are. Once those characters inserted themselves into the story structure, it took on a life of its own. Once you place a character like Sheg into a boot camp environment, there is a logic as to what that story alchemy is going to be. It was important to me to do an issue on boot camp because it’s one of those touchstone military experiences that all military people share. The idea of Sheg as a character, however, started with Bryan. Even though we’re only half way through the issue, try to imagine the story without Sheg. For that matter, try to imagine the story without Cazarez, who also started with Bryan. I can’t do it. It just wouldn’t be the same story.

I love the story we’re telling, and I love the characters. I also love the process of working these things out with Bryan. We’re having a good time doing this, and I think that shows up in the work as well.

Sketches Interview: Gannon Beck Rallies The Troops for Space Corps

Rewards from the ‘Space Corps’ Kickstarter.

How have you been promoting Space Corps the webcomic and, more recently, Space Corps the Kickstarter?
For the most part, it has been social media and conventions. It’s a looong road, though. It can take a long time to build an audience.

Recently we’ve been experimenting with breaking up the pages into dailies. The 16 panel grid lends itself to that really well. We post the dailies on Facebook and Twitter, and that has increased engagement a lot. In the documentary, Stripped, Bill Watterson talked about how when daily newspapers were thriving, comic strips became a part of people’s daily routine—a part of their ritual. Breaking the pages into dailies is our attempt to get back to that.

All of this is ironic.  The first comic books were just repackaged daily strips from newspapers. Eventually, publishers started commissioning new material, and the form evolved. Now, with the internet and people’s limited attention spans, we’re reverse engineering the comics page to get back to where it all started—the daily strip.

The point is to make it easy to keep up with—give people bite-sized chunks. Even though we read strips like Calvin and Hobbes in collected volumes, the way people initially fell in love with it was in tiny bits at a time.  So that’s why we want you to be able to read Space Corps from the comfort of your own feed.

Is that a smart marketing move? We’ll see, but that’s the thinking behind it.

31 Interview: Gannon Beck Rallies The Troops for Space Corps

The military community is known for being an especially supportive one. Has your background played a role in the success of the campaign so far?

It has helped, for sure. People who have been around the military really have supported the comic. Not only veterans like it but their families as well. It feels really good when I put a thought in Deven’s head and a whole bunch of veterans say they’ve had the same thoughts. The first page of issue #3 when Deven is thinking about how to get through the day, for instance, particularly seemed to hit home.

The cultural authenticity in Space Corps is very important to both Bryan and me. When we get it right, people in the military will see a little of themselves and those they serve with in the story. In turn, they’ve been among our biggest supporters.

Aside from the military audience, there are comic book people who really like it as well. That’s been such a boost to us to get all the encouragement we have from people we meet at cons and on the Comics Experience. It gives us the confidence to think maybe we’re not entirely crazy for thinking this is good.  Because we’re producing pages without pay, the encouragement we get from both the military and the creative community really helps. We don’t take it for granted at all and are so appreciative for those who have taken a chance on it and liked it.

Kickstarters for single issues are difficult because with shipping you have to charge a high price for one comic. You’re offering the print copy of Space Corps #0 for $8, which is cheaper than some I’ve seen. Still, are you getting any blowback on the cost?
It doesn’t seem to be the case. Sure, we would probably get more if we had a 120 page volume we were offering, but it would also be more expensive to print, so we would need more money. With crowdfunding, it has as much or more to do with helping the endeavor than it does getting the cool thing. At least that’s how I feel about it when I’m supporting someone’s campaign. Don’t get me wrong, I want the thing, but it’s more than that; I want the thing to exist, and I’m willing to pay a little more to help it exist.
When people give us $8 to cover the shipping, I think it’s because of a “help-get-it-off-the-ground” kind of thinking. They know they are helping us bring this into the world. They become a part of the art creation, not just the consumption.

space corps coin Interview: Gannon Beck Rallies The Troops for Space Corps

Buttons Gannon designed as a stretch goal for the ‘Space Corps’ Kickstarter.

Do you have stretch marks in mind if you exceed your goal?
We do.  The first stretch goal will be a challenge coin. Military units routinely get challenge coins with their unit logo on them. We think it would be cool to do one for Capt Brockett’s unit, the one Deven will end up attached to.  If we reach that, we’ll see if we can come up with something else. We really can’t dangle things like, “If you give us more money, we’ll give you more Space Corps,” because more Space Corps is coming no matter what. Bryan and I are committed to telling these stories.

What do you want out of this Kickstarter, other than funding?
Other than funding, the marketing Kickstarter provides is helpful. We want to keep growing our audience. We’re proud of the work, and we think a lot more people, military and civilians alike, would like it if they just read it. If more people have read Space Corps because of the Kickstarter, then that’s a success in addition to the funding.

It doesn’t look like we’ll go ridiculously over our Kickstarter goal, so none of this money is going to go to Bryan, Joey and me. If we go over the amount we’re asking for, it’s going to go into printing more books.  The more books we can get into circulation, the more people have a chance to fall in love with the characters. At this stage of the project, that’s our focus.

10557262 10152304017010771 6613600441784672249 n Interview: Gannon Beck Rallies The Troops for Space Corps

An example of a sketch cover reward offered by the Kickstarter.

The subsequent issues of Space Corps are gray wash, not color. Is that how you’ll print them?
We treat the short stories differently than the ongoing series. After issue #0 we really want to break the series off into two different series. One series will just contain 8 page short stories like we saw in issue #0. I’m not even sure that we know what we want to call the short story series.  With the short stories, though, we can be expansive– go forwards or backwards in time to tell a story. I can get experimental with the art and work with other creators. A lot of writers have expressed interest in writing Space Corps short stories, and I think it’s a great idea. Most of those, if not all, will be in color.

The main story, which is more linear than the short stories, is a part of a grand structure. The gray tones are important because, even though it’s science fiction, we intentionally want to invoke a connection with WW2 and WW1. Most photos and film we see of those periods are in black and white, so by using gray tones, we can tap into those motifs thematically and emotionally.  I experimented with different styles, even water color in the way Matt Kindt works on MIND MGMT, but thematically gray tones made more sense.

I also want the main series to look hand drawn. I love looking at combat art, and most work done by combat artists tends to be gestural. I want the readers to be aware they are looking at something that is drawn by hand.

Space Corps 3 5 Interview: Gannon Beck Rallies The Troops for Space Corps

A recent page of ‘Space Corps’ utilizing a 16-panel grid.

I’m really excited to see future issues hit publication, because you really open up your work. I’m astounded with how effortless you make a 16-panel page look. I can’t imagine asking for that panel count from an artist, but you co-write this so you must enjoy them.
Thanks.  It’s a function of knowing how to use the grid. Because we want to make each issue about something, even if it’s a part of a larger arc, we sometimes need to have high panel counts. Sometimes we’ll fit 2 to 3 pages of story onto a single page. A strict grid used with strict rules helps organize the information in a way that make it work.  I can easily use repetition and contrast in the layout in a way that makes the reader pause or shift gears on a page when I want them to.

You’re in the midst of Issue 3 of Space Corps as a webcomic. When does the first arc end?

The first arc ends in issue 6. In the first three issues, we wanted you to get a feel for who Deven is before he joins the Space Corps. The internment camp, leaving home, and boot camp are all important stories. They give context to Deven’s evolution as a person as he deals with becoming a cog in the machinery of war. In issues 4, 5, and 6 the situation is going to get exponentially more harrowing for Deven. If you’ve been loving it so far, you are in for a ride.

After that, what’s next for Space Corps?
After the first arc, we need to figure out what the second arc will be. We’ve got plenty of ideas, and it’s just a matter of narrowing it down and picking the next story we want to tell. Ultimately we’ll pick the strongest and most logical story to tell after issue #6.

It’s possible we may find a publisher for the first arc, but if not, we’ll Kickstart the trade.

Beyond even the first and second arcs, we know where the story is headed, and we’ve got tent poles of the story figured out along the way—at least in broad terms. Whether it takes 20 issues to get to the end or 70 issues, we don’t know. It’s way more than six, though.

What have you been working on recently other than Space Corps?
As far as comics, I’m doing the layouts for Past the Last Mountain with Paul Allor and Louie Joyce. It’s been a ton of fun.
I also do some parody comics for kicks.  I’ve done a Batman parody with my friend, Troy McDevitt, where Batman is interviewing a new Robin because he goes through so many. Troy and I also did a Star Wars parody about how the Death Star was so poorly designed they only included one bathroom. The whole story is about Emperor Palpatine hogging the bathroom.  Troy and I have known each other since we were teenagers and these stories come about from us cracking each other up making jokes.  I do the parody comics very loose, just to get the jokes out of my system.  I don’t spend a ton of time on them but they’re fun.

What are your short term goals as a comic book creator?

Just to keep getting better at the craft and figuring out ways to increase production on the cheap. There is nothing really sexy about it. I read everything I can. I see what’s working for other creators, and when I see a process or tool that’s interesting, I try it out to see if it works for me.

42 Interview: Gannon Beck Rallies The Troops for Space Corps

How about long term? Where do you want to be in [x] years?

Space Corps is it for the foreseeable future. It’s going to take years to get this story out.  I’m not opposed to work-for-hire on small projects, but I’ve never viewed Space Corps as a stepping-stone to work-for-hire. Space Corps is what I want to do.

For me, Space Corps more than just a cool science fiction story. It’s a vehicle to help process a lifetime spent around the military. Military service has been a family affair. The heaviest fighting seen in my family, and possibly in all of history, was on Tarawa and Iwo Jima, where my grandfather served as a Sea Bee. It’s why Cpl Hive is full of bees. He is an homage to my grandfather. In a larger sense, though, the world has grown up in the wake of WW2. I’ve grown especially aware of how we’re still affected by the ripples of the war. I’ve lived in Japan both as child and an adult as a part of the treaty signed at the end of the war. I lived in Berlin at the end of high school, surrounded by a wall erected in the aftermath of how Germany was divided when the Third Reich fell. That gave me a front row seat to the end of the cold war when the wall fell. I stood on the wall, shoulder to shoulder with East and West Germans, the night freedom took hold of all of Germany.

WW2 isn’t the only historical inspiration for Space Corps. That said, even Vietnam, Korea, and the wars in the Gulf have to be looked at a little through the lens of WW2. WW2 brought on the nuclear age. Also during WW2, America reflexively emerged as a world military power that has remained unrivaled until this day.  The military we have today is a result of the military that was built during the 40s. We had a strong military in place for the conflicts in Korea and later, Vietnam. Caught in the current of history, my dad fought and was wounded in Vietnam. Two of my uncles fought in Vietnam as well, one who was killed in combat, leaving behind his pregnant wife.

My older brother was the first to join out of my family in my generation. He joined the Marine infantry and was in one of the first units into Kuwait during the first Gulf War.

My own military experience, while unremarkable, helps give me insights I wouldn’t otherwise have.  While my brother was liberating Kuwait, I was in boot camp. The cease fire was called days before I graduated from Parris Island, and I enjoyed a hero’s welcome on boot leave for doing nothing. The nation reflexively and consciously made sure it treated veterans better than it had after Vietnam. As a result, I received the free sodas and thanks my brother earned.  In March of 1991, while I got to soak it up, he was still living in a shallow hole in the desert. Whereas I got to witness the cold war break down in Berlin as a bystander, I helped monitor its end doing intelligence work in the Marines. In Korea I stood on the DMZ and listened to both countries blast propaganda on loudspeakers like quarrelling children. The contrast of standing on a demarcation of oppression as it dissolved, like it did in Berlin, and standing on one that was still festering, like in Korea, was stark to say the least.

When out of the Marines, as a volunteer, I helped high schoolers get in shape for boot camp. As a result, I’ve met the kids in my community as they signed up for service in the midst of two wars. I’ve seen the mix of pride and apprehension on their parents’ faces as they said their good-byes, knowing their children would likely end up in a warzone.

Then there is the logo work I do for the military, which has given me yet another perspective. Through the most recent wars I’ve talked almost daily with the men and women doing the fighting.  For over a decade I’ve collaborated with Marines, soldiers, airmen and sailors about artwork that best captures how they view themselves.  I’ve done over 2000 of these designs —each and every one of the logos a collaboration with the unit. The resulting art is a record of the mindset of warfighters as they prepare for and fight wars.
War is the most serious of human endeavors. The stakes couldn’t be higher for civilizations and the individuals who wage it.  Space Corps is a way to get at themes and topics related to war that we don’t think about maybe as often as we should. Lurking in Space Corps are a lot of stories I need to explore. In comics, my long-term goal is to keep telling this story.

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34. Five questions for Sharon G. Flake

Flake Sharon © Richard Kelly Photography Five questions for Sharon G. Flake

Photo: Richard Kelly

Is Mr. Davenport a vampire, as Octobia May insists? The answer is not so cut-and-dried in Sharon G. Flake’s Unstoppable Octobia May, a historical-fiction-cum-mystery-novel with more than a dash of social commentary (Scholastic, 9–12 years). From the 1950s boarding house setting to the vivid characters — some plucky, some humorous, some downright sinister — the story is thoroughly, enthrallingly unique.

1. Were you a mystery reader as a kid?

SGF: Oh my goodness, no. When I was young, I was afraid of my own shadow. I preferred stories with few surprises, where nothing out of the ordinary happened. Since childhood, however, I’ve become more emboldened. I like to tour graveyards, for instance, something my protagonist Octobia May also enjoys. I imagine who the people buried there were, how they may have lived, and what might have caused their deaths. It’s a hobby that gives some people the creeps, I know.

2. Why did you decide to set the book in 1953?

SGF: I’ve always wanted to write a book set in the fifties. It was, I think, the best of times and, simultaneously, the worst of times for many African Americans. As a nation we were feeling optimistic about a lot of things, and our music, dances, modes of dress, and outlooks often reflected that. Blacks were no different from whites in that respect. Yet so much injustice still plagued the nation — much of it around race, gender, equity, and access to power.

I wanted to capture both the optimism of the times as well as the complex nature of race relations in our country — along with the promise, and challenge, America still held for both African Americans and women. A tall order, but one I believe I’ve accomplished.

flake unstoppable octobia may Five questions for Sharon G. Flake3. What kind of historical research did you do?

SGF: I spent months at the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh (where I live) poring through newspapers, the Courier especially. The black press played a critical role in dismantling Jim Crow; galvanizing the black vote; exposing the inequity of segregated schools; reporting on the valiant role black soldiers played during War World II; and pushing America to end segregation in the military. Because of the black press, America is a better nation — I never understood that more fully than I did while researching this book.

Next I came across an exhibit at the National Museum of American Jewish History (in Philadelphia) about Jewish professors who taught at historically black colleges during and after WWII. I created the character of Mrs. Loewenthal’s husband, who fled Germany and became a professor at Lincoln University. An expert in the field of Jewish studies helped ensure the accuracy of what I’d written — from Mrs. Loewenthal’s name, to what she ate, to her experiences in Germany.

Finally there was my family. My parents often recalled the fifties with both fondness and frustration. From what people wore, to the jobs African Americans could and couldn’t get, they remembered it all and shared eagerly. My mom has since passed, and the time I spent talking to her, my sister, and my dad about this era means even more to me.

4. Aunt Shuma is such a great character. Is she based on someone you know?

SGF: No, she isn’t. But as I was writing Unstoppable Octobia May, what became clear to me was how determined Aunt Shuma was to be her own woman, and to raise a girl with similar values. It’s the fifties, so women were expected to be polite, have children, obey their husbands, and take care of the home. Aunt Shuma makes it clear that this sort of life is not for her. When she tells her entrepreneurial dreams to women who hold more traditional values, she is met with opposition and dismay. Nonetheless, she is bent on changing the face of acceptable womanhood by enhancing the opportunities for her niece, Octobia May. It was a radical idea for many women in 1953.

5. Just how unstoppable is Octobia May? Will there more be books about her?

SGF: I am already hearing from readers who love Octobia and are very excited about reading more of her adventures. I have also come up with Aunt Shuma’s rules for raising unstoppable girls (of any age) and will share them with folks who message me at my website, sharongflake.com.

From the November 2014 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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35. Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Rick Allen

It’s such a pleasure to have printmaker and illustrator Rick Allen visit 7-Imp this morning, especially to read his thoughtful responses to my questions below — and, of course, to see his compelling prints as well.

Rick is up in cold, windy Minnesota in a city on Lake Superior’s north shore, and as you’ll read below, it’s just the right place for him to be. His first book was self-published via Kenspeckle Letterpress, which he describes as “original letterpress artwork, giclees, notecards, prints and posters…[with] his creative muse: Marian Lansky.” His other two books were published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and written by award-winning children’s book author and poet Joyce Sidman. The first, Dark Emperor & Other Poems of The Night, received a 2011 Newbery Honor. And I wrote here at Kirkus about their latest collaboration, Winter Bees & Other Poems of The Cold, released just last week. Allen’s illustrations for each are exquisite.

For our fake cyber-breakfast, which I very much wish were real and in-person, Rick’s going to be brave and go for coffee. “Breakfast,” he told me, “is multiple cups of tea, usually black tea of varying strength, depending upon how long I forget it’s been steeping. In the last few years, I’ve been experimenting with drinking coffee in the morning; to make it palatable I generally lash in great quantities of half-and-half, so perhaps it’s coffee-tinted cream that I’m drinking. We had a Swedish great-grandmother, who used to slurp coffee from a saucer into my siblings and me when we were just months old, and it may have taken a half-century to overcome that early cultural conditioning to try coffee, or near-coffee, again.”

I can always help people find their way to coffee!

I thank him for visiting.

* * * * * * *

Jules: Are you an illustrator or author/illustrator?

Rick: Illustrator — and definitely not author slash illustrator. I tend to be wordy but haven’t ever tried to push those words around into anything like a narrative, beyond the title for a print. And since book illustration itself hasn’t been a primary focus for me, I should probably say I’m a printmaker/illustrator, just for accuracy’s sake.

Rick working on a block

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






Jules: What is your usual medium?

Rick: I most often work in wood engraving and linoleum block prints, both traditional relief print media, with some drawing and painting (usually in gouache) wrapped up into that process. Relief printing involves cutting away material from the block until only the image remains to take ink and print the image, and it’s cut in reverse to make the image print right. The farther you get into the cutting and the more time you’ve got invested into the block, the less room you have to make a mistake and the more probable it is you’re going to make that mistake. It’s like playing a game of graphic Jenga: How much can you remove before you cause the whole thing to collapse? And until you pull a proof of the image, you can’t be entirely sure you haven’t made a slip of the hand that is either a fatal mistake or an inspired accident that makes the picture. I’ve frequently had to start the whole thing over and begin a new block because of a cut too far. It’s exciting, in the way watching two snails race can be exciting — you’ve got to have a long attention span and an appreciation for the small detail.

Rick: “Our oldest platen press, an 8×12 (the size of the printing chase in inches) Chandler & Price, built in 1897. Still works beautifully.”


Rick: “Our trusty 1897 C&P with a load of ink cans stacked on it,
as we print blocks.”


Lino and engraving tools on Rick’s desk

Jules: Where are your stompin’ grounds?

Rick: Duluth, Minnesota. Where the winds hit heavy on the borderline.

Rick: “What my desk looks like while working on a multiple-block printing project …”

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

Rick: We self-published The First Chinook, a Robert W. Service-like epic poem featuring a true-life sled dog story from the 1920s. (We’re still astonished that Disney hasn’t ever found and wagged this amazing tale.) It was written by a friend whose journalistic day job was writing and editing for climbing and mountaineering magazines. I did almost forty wood engravings in six months and developed a nearly permanent squint. My wife, Marian, digitally colored the engravings and designed the book. In this adventure, we learned that book publishing is a noble undertaking and that we didn’t want to do it again.

Image from Joyce Sidman’s Dark Emperor,
printed from three blocks and hand-colored


Rick: “Working on Dark Emperor, owls and raccoons became sort of a leitmotif
in our shop. This is a sheet of random pen and ink doodles,
exploring the possibilities of owl personalities.”


For Dark Emperor, I was contacted by Ann Rider, Joyce Sidman’s incredible editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, who lives just a little bit farther up Lake Superior’s north shore and had become aware of my work through a local gallery.

With Winter Bees, both Ann and Joyce were willing to take me along on the ride again.

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

Rick: www.kenspeckleletterpress.com/ and


“Dream of the Tundra Swan” spread
(Click to enlarge)

“Winter Bees” spread
(Click to enlarge)

“Vole in Winter” spread
(Click to enlarge)

Pictured above: Spreads from Joyce Sidman’s Winter Bees
(Houghton Mifflin, November 2014)

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

Rick: No new titles in hand for the now, so I’m working on drawings, paintings, and prints for the annual gallery show we do in April. Which in Duluth truly can be the cruelest month, with measurable snowfall still being more likely than green grass and with lilacs that won’t bloom in the dooryard for another two months.

Rick: “A random pen and ink sketch of two girls, actually. The soccer player might could be my wife as a soccer player in an earlier alternate life.”

Rick: “Another doodle of favorite shop animal, possibly from an unwritten story.
We might have a name for the raccoon, but no story.”


Mmm. Coffee.Okay, we’ve got more coffee, and it’s time to get a bit more detailed with seven questions over breakfast. I thank Rick 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?


: Definitely that thing with the muse and seeing where we all end up. But I’ve only worked on three books (and, oddly enough, they’ve all been poetry) and each book has been done differently, so it’s hard to say that I’ve got a process in place.

The first book was done in wood engravings, the second (Dark Emperoror) consisted of 12 multiple-block linoleum prints finished with hand coloring, and the last (Winter Bees) was made from nearly 200 individual blocks that were printed, hand-colored, and then scanned and digitally composed for the final spread. Most of my time early on is spent reading and re-reading the poems and trying to track the visuals which occur to me as I go, like walking through the woods and noticing the small half-heard or almost-glimpsed animals as you pass through.


Rick: “A progression of sketches from the first scrawl with pen and watercolor, to a photocopy of the next-stage chalk and pencil sketch, to the cut-and-pasted working comp [for the 'Under Ice' spread in Winter Bees]“


I recall poetry being defined as something that explains nothing but makes everything understandable, and I think of images accompanying the poetry as being similar: There has to be enough room left in an image for the viewer to bring their own imagination to it — and take away their own meaning from it. I’ll do some very rough sketches, rough enough so that they’re entirely cryptic to anyone else without a paragraph of explanation accompanying them. Those rough sketches leave me ample sea room to continue changing and refining the image as I get the drawing onto the block and then begin cutting the block for printing.


Rick: “Progressive proofs of the beaver lodge from ‘Under Ice’ –
from sketch to initial color separation trials of two registered blocks.”


Rick: “The sketch, cut block, and first proof from the bullet-like swimming beaver
in ‘Under Ice’ [in
Winter Bees]” …


As I mentioned earlier, printmaking by its nature can be an extremely controlled and controlling medium, but since I’m largely self-taught as a printmaker, I’ve contrived my own left-handed ways of going about it that encourage a degree of improvisation throughout. For example, if the drawing on the block is too tightly finished, you’re apt to just reproduce its lines in the cutting, which may take a little life out of the final print. So I keep the drawing on the block loose enough to serve only as a suggested starting place and to cut the image as freely as I can, departing from the drawing as seems advisable or necessary as it goes along. This process also requires an extremely patient and tolerant editor, who can accommodate a deal of uncertainty, which I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have in Ann Rider at Houghton.

Rick: “Our assistant and colleague, Janelle Miller (a.k.a. the Warrior Printress, or Jenspeckle), working on pulling the print for Dark Emperor
on our little Vandercook proof press #1 …”

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


: I currently work with my wife and creative partner, Marian, in a warren of three randomly connected offices in an old factory building in Duluth, about a block from Lake Superior; in one form or another we’ve been in the building since 1989. The largest room houses our four presses (the oldest dating back to 1897 and the youngest to the mid-1950s) and cabinets of wood and metal type, flat files of paper, paper cutter, ink, and all the outdated odds and ends that we use in the lino blocks, wood engravings, and typeset projects we produce.


Rick’s desk


Marian has her own office where she spends time in the 21st-century work (she was an early adopter of Mac computers in her graphic design business back in ‘89) with an array of computers and their attendant scanners and giclee printers. I’m located in still another studio/gallery space with an old drafting desk, bookshelves, and an easel; we open the gallery space in a random sort of way to show and sell our work when we can. All the rooms have huge north-facing windows that make for a fantastic working light. We couldn’t be more fortunate in our workplace; this building is its own village, with shops and offices and people we’ve come to know over more than 25 years of residence, right on the shore of the greatest of the Great Lakes.


Rick, working on a project and using a variety of tools on a lino block

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


: How early is early? I think reading became important to me first in high school under the influence of several memorable English and history teachers, who got the canon of classic Western lit drilled into our bones. Melville, Dickinson, Whitman, and Twain. Shakespeare, Tennyson, Yeats, and Dylan Thomas. Frost and Lincoln.

And illustrators? There are far too many: Winslow Homer, Arthur Rackham, Elizabeth Shippen Green, Beatrix Potter, Howard Pyle and N. C. Wyeth, Rockwell Kent, Lynd Ward, Robert Lawson, Wanda Gág (there’s an accent in there I can’t manufacture), the d’Aulaires, Gorey, Sendak. …


Rick: “A detail from our shop, featuring the 16th president, wearing a pressman’s paper hat (just like the carpenter in Alice), and an ad from the 1920s offering big bucks for a career in art; we still make those very same big bucks now,
not adjusted for inflation.”


We had a Carnegie Library here in Duluth as I grew up, with a large, comprehensive children’s room that I escaped as soon as I was old enough to head up the stairs to the large copper-domed adult reference room and the thick translucent glass floors in the stacks that allowed spectrally-diffused feet to appear above you and shadows that passed quietly beneath your own feet as you browsed through books that had been on the shelves since Moses, or at least since Andrew Carnegie put them there. It was a place that gave books a living presence for me — and where I first had the sense that you could use books to help create your own interior life.


Rick: “Another unwritten story of ours featuring our very own The Trapper’s Daughter, which has gone through 12 or so prints over as many or more years. We do a new one every Spring, making hers a story without words, or a story looking for words.”


Rick: “An early Trapper’s Daughter print: tone block and lots of hand-coloring …”


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.)

Rick: While I’d really like to see (and talk to) dead people, at least some of those listed above, among the living I wouldn’t mind having a pint with Christopher Wormell, Michael Sowa, or Tomi Ungerer.


Rick: “The print of The Trapper’s Daughter and The Long View, midway through the printing process on our #14 Vandy press, with about 12 of the 26 blocks printed.
A work literally in progress….”


Rick: “The final drawing for The Long View,
taped together in preparation for transfer to the first block …”



Rick: “Our inking table with brayers and inks laid out for The Trapper’s Daughter
The Long View. Some of the inks….”


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?

Rick: For most of my life, I listened constantly to the radio while I worked: pop, classical, or talk. (Once, pulling an all-nighter on a project, I listened to the BBC World Service interview a farmer in the English Midlands, who collected potatoes that resembled famous people, which has left me with an almost hallucinogenic-seeming memory.) The last few years I’ve gone through a period of not listening to anything while working, and I’m just now starting to have an iPod, shuffling music at my desk. The shuffle function may be the most wonderful technological advance in my cast-iron shop: the resulting playlists are often startling and, occasionally, gobstopperingly magical. Today’s shuffle started with bagpipes and then moved on to Finnish accordionist Maria Kalaniemi; June Tabor, singing “Body And Soul”; a local blues guitarist, named Charlie Parr; Mary Gauthier from New Orleans; and a Swedish fiddle trio called Väsen. This was followed by Handel, Ella Fitzgerald, Hot Tuna, Bach, The Pogues, Keith Jarrett, Bonnie Raitt, Dire Straits, The Roches, Leonard Cohen, Jim Hall, and Tom Waits. And, always, there’s the uneasy memory of a British tuber that may have resembled Margaret (or was it Dennis?) Thatcher lingering in the background of my ear’s mind.

A 5×7 wood engraving Rick did for their friend in Ireland, who does their website development and who is an ardent Tom Waits fan …

Rick: “The sketch transferred onto the block with the engraving in process.
Very squinty work.”

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

Rick: I didn’t learn to tie my shoes until first grade. But I did learn it well enough then to retain the skill up to now.

Rick: “The final print of The Trapper’s Daughter and The Long View.
Twenty-six blocks, no hand-coloring. It almost beat us.”

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

Rick: I haven’t been interviewed enough to know. I’m still surprised by the questions that are asked.

Rick: “The most recent Trapper’s Daughter
– from 12 blocks with some hand-coloring.”


* * * The Pivot Questionnaire * * *

Jules: What is your favorite word?

Rick: That’s like being asked to choose a favorite child. I love ‘em all, each in their own way. Although “hystricine” is very nice. And “phillumeny.” Or “flosculation.” …

Jules: What is your least favorite word?

Rick: “Should,” as in what you should do, or should be, or should have done. …

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

Rick: Damp, drizzly November-in-your-soul weather, like a nor’easter with great waves and horizontal rain/sleet/snow driving in off the lake. Wonderful, as long as you’re on shore. And words. Music. Printing shops. Surprising and random idle associations of unconnected ideas. My wife, always.

Jules: What turns you off?

Rick: Emotional conflict of nearly any kind. Hot humid weather; I’m primarily a psychrophilic animal, which made Winter Bees a good fit for me. Nothing like spending a couple of years in winter on a book.

Jules: What is your favorite curse word? (optional)

Rick: Entirely situational.

Jules: What sound or noise do you love?

Rick: Any kind of boat moving through water. A brayer rolling up ink — and a platen letterpress in operation.

Jules: What sound or noise do you hate?

Rick: A boat’s keel hitting ledge rock, or a case of six-point metal type falling to the floor — the unpleasant knell of an incipient disaster in either instance.

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

Rick: I’ve taken a long and indirect path to reach a point where I’m doing pretty much just what I want to do and can make a living by doing just that; it’s so rare a condition for someone working at their art that I don’t for a moment wish there were anything else I could be doing. Before getting here, I had years and years of varied and odd jobs: I was a canoe guide in the very-nearly-far north and a partner in an ice-climbing school in the even-slightly-further north. I worked retail in an outdoor gear store and in a tiny neighborhood bookstore, specializing in children’s books (back when neighborhood bookstores weren’t all that rare), which was conveniently located next to a bakery that made chocolate croissants fresh every morning. While living in Germany I had a part-time job as a kindermaedchen—a nanny—for three kids aged two, three, and five. And like many failed humanists with a degree in History (in my case, in the relationship between art and science during the Italian Renaissance, which predictably proved to have little traction in the real world of gainful employment), I worked as a paralegal for a large law firm, as I pondered a possible future as an attorney. And I delivered a large wooden sloop from the far western end of Lake Superior to New York City via the Great Lakes and the Erie Canal without once sinking it in 1,500 miles. Now I stay in the print shop to pet the presses and to be mindful of my immense good luck in being able to do what I most want to do, for as long as I can do it.

Jules: What profession would you not like to do?

Rick: Anything, absolutely anything, requiring numeracy.

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

Rick: “You certainly took your time getting here.”


All photos are used with permission of Rick Allen.

WINTER BEES & OTHER POEMS OF THE COLD. Text copyright © 2014 by Joyce Sidman. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Rick Allen. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston.

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

10 Comments on Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Rick Allen, last added: 11/12/2014
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36. Meet Wade from Victoria Vane’s Slow Hand and Giveaway

Sexy Wade from Victoria Vane’s Slow Hand dropped by the virtual offices to answer a few questions. Check it out!

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

[Wade Knowlton] Tall, handsome, charming, witty…and modest ;-)

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you share a typical day in your life?

[Wade Knowlton] It usually involves, work, work and more work. I divide my time between two law practices, one in Bozeman, the other in Virginia City, and help out at the Flying K, our family ranch, on the weekends. I haven’t taken a day off in four years.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words come to mind when you think of Nicole?

[Wade Knowlton] Damsel. In. Distress. Though I admit the first two words that came to my mind when I first saw her were “hot ass.” It was the first part of her I saw and unavoidable, really, given that it was parked in front of me at eye level.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s her most appealing quality?

[Wade Knowlton] Nikki is honest, insecure, fiercely independent, and endearingly vulnerable, but most of all, she’s genuine.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What just drives you nuts about her?

[Wade Knowlton] She’s stubborn as hell once she makes her mind up about something. It was really hard to convince her to give us a chance after she’d sworn off anyone in boots.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you could change one thing you’ve done in your life, what would it be?

[Wade Knowlton] I don’t believe in do-overs as all of our experiences shape who we are. Just a few years ago I suffered a major personal tragedy that sent me on an 18 month bender. It was really hard to get my shit back together after that. Part of me would like to take it all back, but then I never would have met the woman I love.

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

[Wade Knowlton] Depends on where I’m going. If I’m at the ranch, I don’t leave without my rifle.

Other than that I guess, my iPod. George Strait helps me think.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How do you relax after a hard day of work?

[Wade Knowlton] I don’t relax, or I should say I didn’t until Nikki came along. She’s teaching me and I think I like it. A Lot.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you share your dreams for the future in five words or less.

[Wade Knowlton] I want to make a difference. (Sorry that was six!)

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

[Wade Knowlton] Thanks for having me!


Victoria Vane is an award-winning author of smart and sexy romance. Her works range from historical to contemporary settings and include everything from wild comedic romps to emotionally compelling erotic romance. Her books have received more than twenty reviewer awards and nominations to include a 2014 RONE Award for Treacherous Temptations and Library Journal Best E-Book romance of 2012 for The Devil DeVere series. Look for her hot new contemporary cowboy series coming from Sourcebooks in Fall of 2014.

Social Media

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Pinterest | Email | YouTube

Slow Hand By Victoria Vane

Sourcebooks Casablanca

ISBN: 9781492601128

$7.99/£5.99 Mass-Market Paperback


In rural Montana…

Wade Knowlton is a hardworking lawyer who’s torn between his small-town Montana law practice and a struggling family ranch. He’s on the brink of exhaustion from trying to save everybody and everything, when gorgeous Nicole Powell walks into his office. She’s a damsel in distress and the breath of fresh air he needs.

Even the lawyers wear boots…

Nicole Powell is a sassy Southern girl who has officially sworn off cowboys after a spate of bad seeds—until her father’s death sends her to Montana and into the arms of a man who seems too good to be true. Her instincts tell her to high tail it out of Montana, but she can’t resist a cowboy with a slow hand…

 Buy Links

Amazon | Apple | B&N | BAM | !ndigo | IndieBound

GIVEAWAY (5 handmade Victoria Vane bookmarks)

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37. Interview and Giveaway: Eliza Freed, Author of Forgive Me


Please give a warm welcome to Eliza Freed!  She dropped by to answer a few questions, and you can enter for a chance to win Forgive Me!


  1. A la Twitter style, can you describe your book (or series) in 140 characters or less.

A stubborn, sarcastic, and fearless girl searches for a home in a life destroyed by tragedy. She discovers love can save you, if you let it.

  1. What would readers be surprised to find out about you?

I’m actually quite shy. I like to be at the party, but I never want the party to be for me. I discovered this at my wedding. (Not great timing.)

  1. What’s one thing you must have when writing?

Music, preferably through a headset. And if I’m reading my own work I need silence.

  1. What’s one book you read in the last 6 months that has left a lasting impression and why? (Doesn’t have to be romance!)

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. This is my absolute, hands down, favorite book of all time. I think it is a gloriously screwed-up love affair, and I have reread it every summer since I was first assigned it in high school.

  1. What is your favorite line/scene from the book and why?

When I’m away from you I am lost.

But, when I’m with you I am lost in you.”

For me, it perfectly depicts the relationship Charlotte and Jason had which was so intense, so all-encompassing, it almost swallowed them whole. (sigh)

FORGIVE ME by Eliza Freed (November 4, 2014; Forever Yours E-Book; $3.99)

The thing he loves most in the world will kill him. It’s only a matter of time . . . “
College student Charlotte O’Brien is lost and she can’t find her way home. Devastated by her parents’ tragic deaths, she aches for any kind of connection…and finds it in a man who is all wrong for her. Jason Leer is a rough-hewn steer wrestler from Oklahoma-and the hottest thing Charlotte has ever laid eyes on. Yet he has his own dark secrets…
Burying herself in Jason, Charlotte soon discovers that life doesn’t have to be so painful. When they’re together their passion eclipses everything-and Charlotte can finally begin to see a way out of the darkness of her past. Fighting for a future with Jason won’t be easy, but for the first time since her parents’ deaths, this lost soul might have finally found a place that feels like home.

Buy Links:







About the author:

Eliza Freed graduated from Rutgers University and returned to her hometown in rural South Jersey. Her mother encouraged her to take some time and find herself. After three months of searching, she began to bounce checks and her neighbors began to talk; her mother told her to find a job.
She settled into Corporate America, learning systems and practices and the bureaucracy that slows them. Eliza quickly discovered her creativity and gift for story telling as a corporate trainer and spent years perfecting her presentation skills and studying diversity. It’s during this time she became an avid observer of the characters we meet and the heartaches we endure. Her years of study have taught her laughter is the key to survival, even when it’s completely inappropriate.
She currently lives in New Jersey with her family and a misbehaving beagle named Odin. An avid swimmer, if Eliza is not with her family and friends, she’d rather be underwater. While she enjoys many genres, she has always been a sucker for a love story…the more screwed up the better.

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Fall is officially upon us. The leaves have turned and are already beginning to float to the ground with the mid-October breeze. The first to land crunch under our feet as we walk the two blocks to Kirkpatrick Chapel.

“What is this thing we’re going to again?” I ask Julia, who’s slipped her arm through mine.

“It’s a benefit concert. There were only five hundred tickets sold so it should be intimate.” Julia says this with an air of romance. All five hundred of us are filing into the chapel at the same time. I haven’t been here since my first days at Rutgers. It’s probably similar to what it looked like in 1873 when it was built for Rutgers students to worship.

We walk through the double doors held open by ushers with buckets soliciting additional donations and the rose red walls engulf the chapel. White pillars stretching to high ceilings highlight the dark wood floors and the wooden pews. We file in, moving as close to the front as possible. It hits me that Kirkpatrick is the first church I’ve been in since the death of my parents. A cold air runs across my neck and I remember my grandmother’s warnings of “catching a chill.” I think I just caught one.

Within minutes of us sitting down, the lights fall and the band plays their soulful drums and harmonica-filled songs. I’m in the middle of the pew, flanked by Julia and Violet. Noble, Wes, and Sydney make up the rest of our group. More people file into the church and plead for everyone to squeeze together. We’re all standing now so the number of people in the pew no longer matters. The acoustics in the chapel are eerie, designed for an organ, but equally moving with this blues rock band.

All I can think of is my mom. She would want me to go to church. I’m not sure this counts. But I haven’t done anything she’d want, have I? I have. I came back to Rutgers. I’m studying. I just happen to be in love with Jason Leer. The one guy she specifically told me not to love. The very last piece of advice she gave me before she died.

The music and the lyrics are too much and I find myself fighting back tears. I lean over to Julia. “I’m thirsty. I’m going to find a drink.”

“Do you want me to come with you?”

“No. I’ll be back in a few. Save me a spot,” I say, and try to appear unaffected. I slide past Noble and Wes and rush out of the chapel as I hear the last of the harmonica lightly sounding. I walk down the hill and rest my head on my arm, leaning against a tree that has probably been here since 1873 too, and I cry. I cry for my mother bleeding in a car, I cry for my father dying before he had a chance to say good-bye, and I cry for me on a tree, unable to tolerate a song about prayer in a chapel, so filled with hate for our heavenly father. I am so going to hell. This makes me cry even harder, which a small part of me recognizes as a good sign.

“Hey,” Noble says as he turns me around to face him. “What’s wrong? Did something happen?” His kindness aggravates the crying and I cover my face with my hands, too embarrassed to face him. Noble pulls my hands away and pulls me to his chest. He’s so tall my face hits square in the middle of it and I wrap my arms around his back and hold on for dear life. “Charlotte, please tell me.”

“I haven’t been to church since my parents died and…” And what, Charlotte? “And I miss my mom.”

“Charlotte, I’m sorry.” I try to keep it this side of a sob as I unleash my utter sadness right into the center of his chest. He rubs my back and never says a word. My violent sorrow eases and Noble pulls my hair from my neck and lays it on my back.

“Noble, I’m sorry. I know I am a tremendous buzz kill.” Noble keeps petting my hair.

“No, no. Crying girls are fun.” No one can kill a party like I can; one more thing to feel guilty about. I try and catch my breath and calm a little.

“Noble, what do you think we owe the dead?” Noble’s hands still and he lifts his face to the fall sky.

“What do you mean?”

“My mom didn’t want me to be with a cowboy. She told me the day she died not to fall in love with a cowboy, that it’s not safe. That it’s not what she wanted for my life,” I say, and wipe the last tears from my face. Relief courses through me at sharing my mother’s words with someone else. Noble is searching my eyes for more information. “She was specifically talking about Jason.” My heart breaks at the words released to the world. “So I’m just wondering what you think we owe the dead.” He’s silent, trying to find an answer to a question he would never have to answer if he wasn’t burdened with my friendship.

“I don’t think you owe the dead a thing. Not one thing more than you owe anyone else in this life. But Charlotte, you owe yourself to be happy.” I consider his words. “Judging from the way you’re running from churches you think you owe them a life without Jason Leer.” His words cut me and I pull back a little. Noble’s reflex pulls me to him again and I lay my head on his chest, considering the debt I’ve imposed on myself. What if it’s not a debt? What if it’s intuition? What if she’s right?

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38. Interview: Isaac Cates Talks Weaving All-Ages ‘Cartozia Tales’

By Matt O’Keefe

There’s no one doing as pure a form of worldbuilding as indy fantasy comic Cartozia Tales. Not only does it have a map that it intends to explore every part of (unlike the majority of fantasy stories that leave most of their maps untouched), it has a rotating list of creators who take turns furthering the adventures of characters created by their peers. The world of the characters and Cartozia itself is expanded every issue with charming short stories by some very talented cartoonists. It fills a lot of voids in the mainstream comic book market today as a black-and-white fantasy that can be read by kids but doesn’t talk down to them. I interviewed the man running the show, Isaac Cates, to learn more about the inner workings of the fantastic, ambitious Cartozia Tales.

Cartozia Map webly Interview: Isaac Cates Talks Weaving All Ages Cartozia Tales

The map of Cartozia.

How did Cartozia Tales come together?
If you mean “where did the idea come from,” it was mostly developed from three sources:
1. An experimental world-building “jam” that I’d tried a few years earlier, using the same format where cartoonists move to a different part of the map in each issue. That was a really fun project, but it was sort of doomed because no one could give it priority.
2. A series of books that I really love, the Dungeon comics by Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim, that just always make me want to create a shared fantasy world every time I read them.
3. My sense that there aren’t nearly as many smart, engaging all-ages fantasy comics as there ought to be.

I figured that to make the “map-jam” idea work, to justify printing enough copies that I could afford to pay the contributors enough to get the stories off the back burner from time to time, we’d need a substantial audience — and kids (and grown-ups) who like magic and odd creatures are a pretty big audience of readers.

After I’d put those three things together in my head, I spent maybe a month trying to dissuade myself from doing it, because I knew it would involve a huge commitment of time from me. But I couldn’t let it go, because I kept thinking that it might turn out amazing. And, thank goodness, Cartozia Tales has been more awesome than I could have hoped.

2014 10 27 22.13.52 e1414473580671 Interview: Isaac Cates Talks Weaving All Ages Cartozia Tales

How did you connect with the wonderful contributors to Cartozia Tales?
That’s actually a long and cool story. Gathering the group of core contributors — the people without which there would be no Cartozia Tales, because we’re inventing the world and its stories together — was sort of like the first act of Seven Samurai or Magnificent Seven. I recruited people I knew were good storytellers, with different but compatible drawing styles, most of whom hadn’t worked together before.

I’ve been friends with Sarah Becan for a long time, since meeting her and reading her comics at some SPX many years ago; I’ve known Shawn Cheng for even longer (he was a student of mine when he was in college, back in 2001); Mike Wenthe and I have been collaborating on comics for like thirteen years. Once they all said they wanted to do this thing, I was pretty sure I’d be able to gather a good group.

I’ve been exchanging weird formalist experimental comics with Tom Motley for almost as long as I’ve been making comics. Lupi McGinty and our secret eighth core cartoonist Caitlin Lehman are both people I met online during the “Animal Alphabet” Tumblr project, and they were both people that I really wanted to collaborate with based on what they’d done there. I knew Jen Vaughn from her CCS days (and from conventions). I tracked down Lucy Bellwood on someone else’s recommendation, and invited her in after reading a couple of her minicomics. And that completed the core group.

As for the guest artists and cover artists, it was mostly a matter of asking my most high-profile friends, like Dylan Horrocks and Jon Lewis, first — then letting their participation embolden me to ask people I don’t know quite as well. A lot of people said no, but a lot of other people were willing to pitch in, given that there’s a sort of mission for the project (smart comics for kids) and the page-count commitment isn’t very high.

2014 10 27 22.25.38 e1414474872379 Interview: Isaac Cates Talks Weaving All Ages Cartozia Tales

It takes a lot of faith for someone to leave a character they created in another creator’s hands. Has that been hard for the writers and artists of this series, including yourself?
You know, I think we see it kind of the opposite way. I mean, we all have that faith in each other, I think, and mostly we are really eager to see what everyone else will do with our characters. I know I’ve been really blown away with the things the other cartoonists have done with Minnaig (the otter-girl) and Ibbacod (the heron-headed incantor), two characters that Mike Wenthe and I created together. I really love to see other cartoonists “recognize” or “get” the characters, and the other cartoonists help me understand the characters better.

Think of it like this: If you have cool toys, you want to share them with your friends. Maybe your toys are special to you, but if the person you’re sharing with is really your friend, then you have to trust them to play nice.

Can you walk me through the process of creating and sharing a character?

Here is the way we came up with Wick the Wind-Up man:

First, during the early planning stages for the first issue, Shawn Cheng suggested that there might be wind-up men in Cartozia:

1 Interview: Isaac Cates Talks Weaving All Ages Cartozia Tales

Then I suggested that Mike Wenthe and I might use a wind-up man in among the characters we were including on the image that wound up on the back cover of the first issue. Some of the other characters in that image (Ottie the phibbit, Reshii, Blip, Lila, Tierce and Gandria) were from stories that we had already seen; we just needed a short creature to be in front.

These are my “thumbnails” (a doodle, really) for the image:

2 Interview: Isaac Cates Talks Weaving All Ages Cartozia Tales

… and this is how the little wind-up man wound up looking in Mike’s completed inks, which I would color later.

3 Interview: Isaac Cates Talks Weaving All Ages Cartozia Tales

Around the time we finished this image, Dylan Horrocks gave me an outline for his story in issue 1, which featured a wind-up man named Wick. Dylan didn’t have a design in mind for Wick yet, so I sent him the drawing Mike and I had done, and suggested he might do something like that.

That’s why Mike and Shawn get co-creator credits when Dylan introduces Wick in the first story, though Wick’s personality in that story is totally Dylan’s doing.

4 Interview: Isaac Cates Talks Weaving All Ages Cartozia Tales

In the next issue, when Lupi McGinty drew Wick, she gave him what has become his signature catch-phrase, “Oh, Cogs!” …

5 Interview: Isaac Cates Talks Weaving All Ages Cartozia Tales

Though it’s only in the moment when Kevin Cannon repeats the line that it really becomes a catchphrase:

6 1000x497 Interview: Isaac Cates Talks Weaving All Ages Cartozia Tales

… And a little later Mike and I added the detail that wind-up men, like some other robots, have storage compartments, though we don’t know yet what Wick is or isn’t carrying. (The drawing here is Caitlin Lehman from my thumbnails on a script Mike and I worked out together.)

7 Interview: Isaac Cates Talks Weaving All Ages Cartozia Tales

Wick’s personality has been sort of gradually evolving as we’ve taken turns writing him, though most of it is in place when Dylan writes him: talky, oddly formal, willing to sacrifice everything for Taco (the servant girl who wound him up). I can guess now that he (and, probably, those other wind-up men) will have something to do with deposing Prince Malo and restoring the true prince of Neenorra to the throne, though of course when Dylan finished his first story there was no necessity that Wick and Taco would even appear again.

It’s a big part of the fun of working on this book: you add what you can to the creation of a character or a place or a story, then hand that work in progress to someone else who takes it a little farther, expands it a little more, makes it a little more complete.

I was talking to some people last week about the way Cartozia Tales gives you the same character drawn by a bunch of different hands, and I think it actually makes the character seem more real — as if there has to be some objective entity that all the different cartoonists are referring to, and you as reader are sort of triangulating the actual character through a series of versions.

back cover6 web 676x1028 Interview: Isaac Cates Talks Weaving All Ages Cartozia Tales

Back cover of Issue 6. Art by Mica and Myla Hendricks

You make it a goal to challenge kids instead of making content that’s easily digestible. I love that; the opposite seems like a big reason some all-ages comics don’t catch on.
Yeah. When I was a kid, I could always tell when a book or a show was simplified because it was pitched at kids, and it bothered me. I felt condescended to. I would always rather read something I don’t totally understand, instead of being pandered to, and I think a lot of kids enjoy the challenge of slightly complex reading.

At comics conventions, what I tell parents is that we use big words, but not bad words.

It’s actually pretty easy to tell interesting and compelling stories without getting into “adult” levels of violence or sexuality — you just have to make the stories about some other aspect of our emotional lives. Curiosity about the world, social acceptance, friendship, justice … none of those require gore or strong language or anything else a parent wouldn’t want to explain to his or her kids.2014 10 27 22.17.38 e1414473892839 Interview: Isaac Cates Talks Weaving All Ages Cartozia Tales

How wide-reaching was the Cartozia fanbase before the Kickstarter? After?
We had about a hundred subscribers before we launched the Kickstarter; now I think we have about five hundred, plus another hundred or so who have subscribed for PDF delivery.

That’s enough to keep us in the black for about one more issue, maybe two. But, fingers crossed, we’ll get enough new subscribers in the coming months to keep me from going into debt before we reach issue 10.

Charges Interview: Isaac Cates Talks Weaving All Ages Cartozia Tales

The breakdown of where the money from the Kickstarter went.

What happens if you fall into the red?
If I don’t have working capital for the last few issues, I’ll have to eliminate some of the extras—no more map inserts or paper dolls— and I’d print fewer copies so it’s really mostly going to subscribers. I’ll still pay the artists and put the book out. It might hurt me financially, but that’s the risk I took when I signed up for this thing.
An unfortunate stumbling block for a lot of Kickstarters during the fulfillment stage is that things cost more than the runners of the campaigns expected. Have you experienced anything like that for Cartozia?
International shipping is just absurdly expensive, and the rates have gone up since our Kickstarter campaign. Regular domestic postage is a little more expensive, too, and our print shop is charging me a little more now because the price of paper has gone up. But mostly what I mis-estimated was time.
2014 10 28 00.33.46 e1414475272752 Interview: Isaac Cates Talks Weaving All Ages Cartozia Tales

Cartozia Tales #5 is now available to order. Art by Eleanor Davis.

I didn’t realize this until preparing for this article because the release of Cartozia has seemed pretty dependable, but your original goal was to release all ten issues by September. Have you had any backlash for not being able to meet that goal?
There are like one or two backers who have complained, but I think everyone is still happy to get it at the pace we’ve been managing, which is about one book every two or three months. Some backers might like to get updates from me more often, but I bet there are even more who would prefer that I not fill their inbox with gradual updates.

When you gather up the first six issues, it’s definitely a good stack of reading (about 250 fairly dense pages). Plus there are the various bonus books. I was just at a convention, and people looking at the whole full table would ask me how long we’d been putting out Cartozia Tales; when I said “a little over a year,” they seemed pretty stunned.

What’s your audience like? Is there a lot of enthusiasm there?
I don’t get to see a lot of the audience in person, but I can tell you that the kids who subscribe are often seriously into the book, which is exactly what I had hoped. I mean, when I have met some of these kids they have just sort of gushed about their favorite characters, and the places on the map that we haven’t explored yet, and the things they’re wondering about upcoming issues.

Fans Interview: Isaac Cates Talks Weaving All Ages Cartozia Tales

The core contributors to Cartozia Tales: Shawn Cheng, Jen Vaughn, Mike Wenthe, Sarah Becan, Tom Motley, Lupi McGinty, Lucy Bellwood and Issac Cates.

Who’s your youngest reader? Oldest?
I know at least one five-year-old is really into it, because Mica Hendricks collaborated with her daughter on a really fun drawing of Minnaig and Wick for the back cover of issue 6.

I think we’ve got a lot of readers between ages seven and fifteen, but we’ve also got a lot of grown-up readers who are enjoying the book just as much. There are parents who read the book to kids who are too young to read; there are probably also some grandparents who enjoy the book on the same terms, but I haven’t heard from them yet.

2014 10 27 22.27.59 e1414474491855 Interview: Isaac Cates Talks Weaving All Ages Cartozia Tales

Back cover of Cartozia Tales #1. Art by Mike Wenthe.

Is there any one thing you want people to know about Cartozia other than the information that I’ll include in the opening paragraph?
One of the things I’m loving about it as the books grows is that Cartozia itself feels like a coherent world — full of strange things, as any fantasy world would be, but unified by tone and oddball imagination in a way I didn’t exactly anticipate. Everyone involved is imagining stuff in his or her own way, and there are a lot of different flavors of influence making up our world, but they all make sense together. Partly that’s because everyone is so generous about collaborating carefully with each other. It’s really like a shared world, and not like a world where each balkanized fiefdom runs by its own logic. I think it’s one of the most satisfying things about the experience of reading the book: you feel like you’re visiting someplace that’s personal and idiosyncratic, but it also belongs to a bunch of different people.


You can sample Cartozia comics and subscribe to the series at its online shop.



Matt O’Keefe is a writer for hire of comics, comics journalism and even things mostly unrelated to comics. Visit his blog to see his current musings and his portfolio to view his previous work.

1 Comments on Interview: Isaac Cates Talks Weaving All-Ages ‘Cartozia Tales’, last added: 11/6/2014
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39. Interview and Giveaway: Elizabeth Boyle, Author of The Viscount who Lived Down the Lane

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

[Elizabeth Boyle] Always curious.

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

[Elizabeth Boyle] The Viscount Who Lived Down the Lane is my version of Beauty and the Beast. I love the notion of a beastly man who’s turned his back on society and the plucky heroine who dares to open that door. Louisa is only there to “help” but being Louisa it all tends to backfire—from her cat hurling on the hero’s bare toes, to her knocking the poor man over with a door. The more she tries (or tries NOT) to help, the more the viscount falls in love with her.

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

[Elizabeth Boyle] The concept for the series was to have a small village, Kempton, that had been laboring under the confines of a curse that left the ladies of the village unable to marry—not unless they wanted to go stark raving mad and end up murdering their newlywed husband. In this new book, The Viscount Who Lived Down the Lane, with the curse apparently broken, two more of the Kempton ladies travel to London to find true love. The heroine, Louisa Tempest, had been mentioned in several of the previous Rhymes with Love stories, along with her twin sister Lavinia. As with all the ladies from Kempton, they love to “improve” things—which translates into meddling—and Louisa lives to improve. A beastly hero who lives shut away in his town house would be catnip to someone like Lavinia—and the temptation to “fix” the viscount usually ends up with a lot of kissing. LOL!

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

[Elizabeth Boyle] Hannibal the cat. Finding ways to use the cat as both a catalyst for the love story and using every quirky, infuriating cat habit I could come up with (many of which I have lived with—having owned cats all my life) made for a lot of laughter as I wrote.

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

[Elizabeth Boyle] The hero’s storyline presented a lot of challenges. Having returned from the wars, wounded and broken, I had to balance what we know today as PTSD, and what was barely understood back then. I wanted to make sure I gave his struggles their due respect and understanding.

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

[Elizabeth Boyle] I Can See Clearly Now by Jimmy Cliff.

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

[Elizabeth Boyle] My keys. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to get back in.

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

[Elizabeth Boyle] Three used coffee mugs. I know when I hit critical mass I need to get them up and in the dishwasher.

Manuscript pages. I’m putting the final edits on a short novel, Mad About the Major.

A folding guide to Birds of Seattle. I bird watch as I write.

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

[Elizabeth Boyle] Someone on vacation at some fancy beach resort where I don’t have to do anything.

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

[Elizabeth Boyle] Laura Lee Guhrke’s How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days, The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness, and Cat Sense by John Bradshaw.

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

[Elizabeth Boyle] Knitting. A lot of knitting. I want to try spinning but I think it would cause a serious marital riff if I brought a spinning wheel home. I also love to putter around in my gardens—vegetables, peonies, roses, and asters. In the late summer and early fall I am a canning fiend—just about anything that can be shoved in a jar and boiled in a hot water bath is fair game. I did a pizza sauce this fall that is out of this world! And a spiced apple marmalade that has become my go-to-on-toast for elevensies.

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

[Elizabeth Boyle] At my website: elizabethboyle.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorElizabethBoyle

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ElizBoyle

Ravelry: http://www.ravelry.com/people/Elizbo

Instagram: http://instagram.com/elizboyle

The Viscount Who Lived Down the Lane

Rhymes with Love # 4

By: Elizabeth Doyle

Releasing October 28th, 2014

Avon Romance


In New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Boyle’s fourth novel in the Rhymes With Love series, a resolute young woman goes toe-to-toe with the Beast of Mayfair…
She has no desire for love…
As she arrives in Mayfair, Louisa Tempest is horrified when her incorrigible cat bolts from the carriage and dashes into a neighbor’s house, where she comes face-to-face with the reclusive Viscount Wakefield. But even more dismaying than his foul temper is the disarray in which she finds his home. Convinced his demeanor would improve if his household were in order, Louisa resolves to put everything to rights.
…until she meets the viscount who lives down the lane.
Much to his chagrin, Wakefield finds it impossible to keep the meddling Louisa out of his home, invading his daily life with her “improvements,” and his nights with the tempting desires she sparks inside him. Wounded in the war, he’s scorned society ever since his return . . . until Louisa opens the door to his heart and convinces him to give love a second chance.

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2014/10/the-viscount-who-lived-down-lane-rhymes.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20705700-the-viscount-who-lived-down-the-lane?ac=1

Buy Links

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Viscount-Who-Lived-Down-Lane-ebook/dp/B00I7V11L6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1414455222&sr=8-1&keywords=the+viscount+who+lived+down+the+lane

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-viscount-who-lived-down-the-lane-elizabeth-boyle/1118477568?ean=9780062283818

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/viscount-who-lived-down-lane/id814111582?mt=11

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/the-viscount-who-lived-down-the-lane

Amazon | Barnes | iTunes | Kobo

Author Info

Elizabeth Boyle was an antipiracy paralegal for Microsoft before settling down to write full-time. Her first novel, Brazen Angel, which won Dell’s Diamond Debut Award in 1996, also won the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Award for Best First Book, and was a finalist for Best Long Historical Romance. She lives with her husband in Seattle, Washington. She is also the author of Brazen Heiress.

Author Links

Website: http://www.elizabethboyle.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorElizabethBoyle
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ElizBoyle
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19842.Elizabeth_Boyle


Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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40. Telling Stories with Marshall Arisman

Martin Wittfooth
(Click to enlarge)


Brian Floca
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I have a regular feature here at 7-Imp where I spotlight the work of student or recently-graduated illustrators. In fact, just two days ago my readers and I saw the work of one such new grad, Olivia Chin Mueller.

For these posts, I rely on the recommendations of working children’s book illustrators who also teach, though sometimes students will reach out to me directly. However, it just so happened that—after featuring the work of students from the School of Visual Arts in New York City over the years—I found myself communicating with someone from the school and hearing about a really fabulous upcoming exhibit. I won’t be attending, ’cause hey, I’m way down in Nashville, but I can at least tell my readers about it. (Anyone in NYC wanna go and give me a full report?) It begins today, ends in mid-December, and is called We Tell Stories. It’s an exhibition of work by more than 250 alumni of SVA’s MFA Illustration as Visual Essay program, and here’s how the school describes the exhibit:

Thousands of illustrations, books, comics, graphic novels, animations, products, paintings and more will be on view. In addition, a Children’s Reading Room within the gallery will hold hundreds of children’s books by SVA alumni. Many of these author-illustrators will participate in a Saturday morning storytelling event for families.

The chair for this Visual Essay program, the first art school program of its kind, is artist and storyteller Marshall Arisman. He founded this program 30 years ago. Arisman has trained the likes of Brian Pinkney, Brian Floca, Sara Varon, Shadra Strickland, Stephen Savage, and more. “Marshall,” Shadra told me, “has such amazing insight and really taught us to trust ourselves and make work that speaks to us as individuals instead of trying to pander to one specific market. I learned from him that, if I made work that really mattered to me, everything else would fall into place. He was right.”

And here’s what John Hendrix, who graduated in 2003, had to say:

Looking back on my experience in the MFA Illustration as Visual Essay program, despite the huge range of themes and processes I explored, it all seemed to have been anchored to Marshall’s personality and presence. On my first ever trip to New York, I had somehow made an appointment with the Marshall Arisman to ask about his program. This was way before was I had applied, let alone be selected, and I was terrified that I was going to find a character out of a Stephen King novel (based on his work!). But in the first five minutes, I knew this man was not an intimidating icon; he was a teacher. Between puffs of smoke, plenty of smiles, all while flipping through my sketchbook, he said, “See, you’ve got something in there, John.” … Throughout my time in the program, he would wander into my studio from time to time and say one or two things. Virtually all of these visits I can remember clearly to this day for how much his thoughts changed my work and my thinking. It was like he could find the exact right time to turn the key on the back of the clock. Winding it up and walking away was all he had to do. I could go on, certainly, but in short, I would not be the artist I am today without Marshall and his inexplicable, almost instant belief in me and my work. I would like to think I’m unique in that regard, but I know that isn’t true. His gift is that he always sees the best version of every young person that sits in front of him.

In celebration of this upcoming exhibit, I chat briefly today with Arisman. And I’ve also got (pictured above and after the Q&A) some art from the exhibit, which is a mixture of both children’s book illustration and editorial art, comics, graphic novels, paintings, and more. Pictured under each image is the artist’s name. Within the Q&A itself, I have a couple of pieces Arisman created, as well as book covers for illustration books he’s co-authored.

Arisman credits his creative development to his grandmother, who was a noted medium, as well as his upbringing in a Spiritualist community. A one-hour documentary about this just screened. Arisman talks a bit more about this below.

All the exhibit’s details are here. I thank Marshall for visiting 7-Imp today.

* * *

Jules: Describe to people who know nothing about what “Visual Essay” means what this MFA degree offers.

Marshall (pictured right): Visual Essay, as it pertains to the MFA Illustration as Visual Essay program at the School of Visual Arts, is a story told in time — turning a page in a children’s book, graphic novel, comic book, or magazine introduces the element of time. The content, based upon personal experience, can be developed with or without a written component. The form the storytelling takes is decided by the graduate student. Walking through a series of pictures in a gallery or sitting watching an animated film, the element of time passing becomes essential to storytelling.

Jules: It’s been 30 years since you founded the MFA degree. What do you think has been the most rewarding change over the years in illustrated children’s books?

Marshall: In the 30 years since I founded the program, children’s books have been an important outlet for many of our of our students and alumni. In We Tell Stories, we have a children’s book room, designed by alumni Sara Varon and Aya Kakeda, which features over 200 published children’s books by alumni. A brief glance at 30 years of children’s books suggest that good stories, told well, haven’t change that much. Books based upon personal childhood memories continue to resonate with all children. The list of possible topics that children are concerned with has expanded. Divorce, adoption, race, bullying, etc. now appear in children’s books. My guess is that the best ones were written and illustrated by authors who have had personal experiences with the subject matter.

From Marshall’s Cave Paintings series

Jules: How has technology most helped illustrators? Do you feel like technology hinders them in any way(s)?

Marshall: Each year the program receives well over 150 applicants. The entire faculty, all figurative artists, all storytellers vote. We accept 20 students per year. In recent years, we have seen an increase in too many applicants who have jumped to technology (computers) without a solid based in drawing, composition, color theory, or content. The result is multi-layered, airbrushed, saturated images that attempt to hide the defects of a solid art foundation.

Jules: You’ve mentored such artists as Brian Floca, Brian Pinkney, Sara Varon, and more. You’ve also written about how artists need to develop a unique personal voice. Is that teach-able? If not, how do you nurture someone (if at all) whose personal artistic voice is lacking.

Marshall: The criteria for developing a unique a personal voice in pictures and words relates directly, in my experience, to the content of the story you are trying to tell. If the story is yours, if it has meaning for you, you will struggle long hours to express it. Nurturing a genuine dream means providing a solid base in writing, drawing, history, concept, painting, computers, guest speakers, and personal attention from the faculty. The MFA program is a full-contact, intense two-year program. An artist’s voice will emerge. It is fair to say no one leaves the program the way they came in. New illustrators place a so-called “style” above content. That’s backwards. Find your content — you will find a way to express it. Other people will call that your “style.”

Jules: I hear you credit your creative development to your grandmother, who was a Spiritualist. Tell me more about how she nurtured your creative life.

Marshall: I owe much of my artistic lief to my grandmother, who was a noted medium Spiritualist minister and gifted artist. She taught me to keep my third eye open, trust my intuitive instincts, and learn to stand in the space between angels and demons.

From Marshall’s Angels and Demons series

Jules: What are you reading now?

Marshall: At the moment, I am reading a series of short stories titled Mr. Bones by my friend Paul Theroux.

Jules: When will the feature-length documentary on you be released?

Marshall: I have just finished (the first screening was held on October 14th, 2014) a one-hour film, titled A Postcard from Lily Dale. The film is the how and why of the impact of my grandmother on my art. For more information, go to our website.


More images from the exhibit:


George Towne
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Lauren Castillo
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Yuko Shimizu


Ansel Pitcairn
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Gustave Blache III
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Aya Kakeda
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Katie Yamasaki
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Anna Raff
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Eddie Guy
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Adam Gustavson
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Ada Price
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Andrés Vera Martinez
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Sam Weber
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Lauren Redniss


Jonathan Bean


Maria Berrio
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Sara Varon
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Yumi Heo
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Rance Jones
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Olivier Kugler
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John Malta


Jonathan Bartlett
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Stephen Savage
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Steven Tabbutt
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Chi Birmingham
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Keith Negley
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Jonathan Twingley
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Rich Tommaso


Andy Rash
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Viktor Deak
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* * * * * * *

All artwork used by permission of the School of Visual Arts.

5 Comments on Telling Stories with Marshall Arisman, last added: 11/7/2014
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41. Interview and Giveaway: Amber Hart, Author of Until You Find Me


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

[Amber Hart] Thanks for having me on the blog!!

About me: Loyal. Artistic. Reader. Passionate. Hope-driven.

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

[Amber Hart] I’d love to!

Until You Find Me is set in the treacherous African rain forest, and is about the daughter of a conservationist who follows a set of chilling messages left behind by her father, and falls—unbeknownst to her—for the heir to a powerful poaching empire. Raven, a college student from Michigan, is displaced in the jungle, but soon learns that she will have to rely on a native rugged hunter, Jospin, to show her the ways of the trees. Both Raven in Jospin, told in duel POV’s, get more than they bargained for.

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

[Amber Hart] The idea was planted years ago. It started with the story of one endangered gorilla. I fell in love with the gorilla species, and the people who save them. And then I wondered why people killed gorillas illegally in the first place. I imagined the perils lurking deep within the trees—the rain forest and all its secrets. I pictured myself there, amongst the danger. I researched it restlessly. I thought: What would happen if the one who saves gorillas fell in love with the one who kills them? From this, Until You Find Me was born.

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

[Amber Hart] The unique points of view of both characters were fun for me. Raven comes from a history of saving gorillas. Jospin comes from a history of killing them. Lending a voice to both sides—regardless of where I stood on the topic—was challenging, and I liked that.

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

[Amber Hart] Writing Jospin’s father was the hardest, I think. He’s the leader of a poaching empire. He has an acute, severe personality—the type that only cares about himself and how much money he can make with little regard for human or animal life. He’s the opposite of what I know and love in real life, and he made me step outside of my comfort zone. Which, ironically, I appreciate immensely. It’s always good to see life from different points of view.

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

[Amber Hart] Wow, what a good question. I don’t know because I actually don’t usually equate writing with music, though I know a lot of authors that do. I need total quiet when I write, and so music is not on my radar. I do, however, listen to it outside of writing, and it can sometime inspire me.

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

[Amber Hart] A reminder to myself that every day is a new opportunity to be a gentler, more compassionate human being.

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

[Amber Hart] Computer. Chocolate. A book. (Currently, The Queen of Zombie Hearts by Gena Showalter)

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

[Amber Hart] A teenage version of myself. I would tell her worry less and laugh more, that half of the stuff I think is important won’t matter in 10 years, and I’d remind myself that circumstances don’t have to define a person.

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

[Amber Hart] The Inventor’s Secret by Andrea Cremer

Burying Water by K.A. Tucker

Fire and Flood by Victoria Scott

What I Though was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick

The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings

(To name a few ?)

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

[Amber Hart] Read. Daydream about future stories. And eat chocolate—I like to do that a lot.

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

[Amber Hart] I’m often on social media. Meet you there?

Facebook: www.facebook.com/AuthorAmberHart

Twitter: www.twitter.com/AmberHartBooks

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/AmbersShelf

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/AmberHart

Amazon: www.amazon.com/auhtor/AmberHart

Until You Find Me

Until You Find Me # 1

By: Amber Hart

Releasing November 11th, 2014

Loveswept: Flirt


Amber Hart pushes contemporary romance to its wildest limits in this heart-pounding novel, the story of a girl who travels to Africa to protect the legacy of one man . . . and stays for the love of another.

Raven Moore, a twenty-year-old college student from Michigan, feels out of place in the beautiful, treacherous jungles of Cameroon, staying in the habitat where her father gave his life to help protect endangered gorillas. He left home years ago; now Raven refuses to return home until she unravels the truth about his last days.

Raven certainly doesn’t count on crossing paths with a handsome young hunter—especially one as charismatic and intense as Jospin Tondjii. Instantly, she’s hooked. But Jospin is hiding a dark truth: He is the heir to a powerful poaching empire, part of a ruthless black market that is responsible for the dwindling gorilla population.

Their fathers may have been enemies, but Raven and Jospin forge a bond that goes beyond blood, a relationship that is tested as Raven draws closer to the source of her father’s death. Can she and Jospin bear the weight of the secrets of the wild—and the secrets of their pasts? Or will the rain forest destroy them both?

Advance praise for Until You Find Me

“If you think the jungle is hot and dangerous, wait until you meet Jospin. He and Raven turn up the heat to scorching and burn the jungle down!”—Lisa Desrochers, USA Today bestselling author of A Little Too Far

“A beautiful, unconventional story that takes you to the jungles of Africa to fall in love, Until You Find Me contains the perfect balance of angst, thrills, and page-turning appeal.”—K.A. Tucker, USA Today bestselling author of Ten Tiny Breaths

“Wonderfully unique and utterly unputdownable, Until You Find Me is a breath of fresh air. Each page is sexier than the one before.”—Lauren Layne, author of Isn’t She Lovely

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2014/09/until-you-find-me-until-you-find-me-1.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18874653-until-you-find-me?from_search=true

Buy Links : Purchase Amazon | Barnes | iBooks | Kobo

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Until-You-Find-Me-Novel-ebook/dp/B00KEPJS3G/ref=sr_sp-atf_title_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1410214799&sr=1-1&keywords=Until+You+Find+Me

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/until-you-find-me-amber-hart/1119980311?ean=9780553391589

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/until-you-find-me/id884923847?mt=11

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/until-you-find-me

Author Info

Amber Hart is the author of Before You and Until You Find Me. She grew up in Orlando, Florida, and Atlanta, Georgia, and now resides on the Florida coastline with her family. When not reading, she can be found writing, daydreaming, or dipping her toes in the sand.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Website: http://www.amberhartbooks.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorAmberHart

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/AmberHartBooks

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7265942.Amber_Hart

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42. The Hermit of Shooters Hill – An Interview with Steve Moore, Part 6

Here’s the sixth part of my interview with the late Steve Moore, with more to follow. The 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th parts are already online, along with some explanation of how the interview came about.

One note on the text, which is particularly relevant in this section, so worth repeating: As we went along, I would ask supplementary questions, which got inserted into the previous text. To make it clear where a question has been added in later, I’ve included little arrows for those subsidiary questions, like this: ->. Occasionally, there were further questions, which are indicated by an ever expanding length of arrow, like this –> or this —>. Hopefully this will help to understand how the interview unfolded. So…

PÓM: You were a young man in a very vibrant and modern London, at that time. Did you have any interaction with the kind of things we hear about it, like the emerging drug culture?

pow1967 212x300 The Hermit of Shooters Hill – An Interview with Steve Moore, Part 6SM: Well, I had a couple of nice hippy bells [bell-bottom jeans, for those of you too young to know what he's talking about - PÓM] when I was working on Pow! (Ken Mennell was most derisive!) But in many ways I was more of a passive participant. I read things like International Times and Oz and I bought psychedelic albums by people like Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix, and occasionally I’d go to hip bookshops like Indica and Compendium (and, of course, Bookends was quite hip, though that was 1972, rather than the late 1960s). But I didn’t go on protest marches and I rarely went to see bands or to events like the 14 Hour Technicolor Dream at the Alexandra Palace (and I rather missed out on the ‘free love’ too, unfortunately). I listened to John Peel’s Perfumed Garden show on Radio London in the summer of 1967, and he encouraged listeners to meet up, wearing Perfumed Garden badges to identify one another. So I made myself a badge and when a meeting was announced on the radio at Greenwich Park I went off and met a few people. I’d guess there were about a dozen people there, one of whom was Phil Bevan, with whom I became quite friendly for a few years, and who also worked at Fleetway House for a while as an art assistant, shortly before I left. We produced a little booklet together for the fanzine market in 1971 called Doomlore, a rather twee fantasy story that I wrote and he illustrated, and he also contributed to the unpublished Orpheus #2. And we’d occasionally drop acid together.

Dark They Were 235x300 The Hermit of Shooters Hill – An Interview with Steve Moore, Part 6From which you’ll gather that, if I had a fairly marginal involvement with the culture, I had an amiable relationship with the drugs. I first smoked hashish in 1969 with the set of friends I mentioned that had gathered round the founding of Dark They Were and Golden Eyed and, of course, they’re absolutely right when they say it can lead you to much more addictive drugs. In my case, it was tobacco. I only started smoking cigarettes as a result of smoking dope, and that was a habit I didn’t kick until 2000.

Hashish was something I mainly indulged in when it was easily available, as it was at Bookends and during the time I worked at and hung out at DTWAGE, especially in the final years in St. Anne’s Court, when it was delivered by motorcycle courier. Otherwise, friends would get it for me when they got theirs; I had very little contact with actual dealers. So a lot of my work in the first period of my comic career, from 1972 to the late 1980s, was written on dope; I seem to recall this was particularly the case on Warrior. These days I can’t work on it at all, but since I gave up smoking I’ve had to eat it, and that can have a tendency to just wipe out all inclination to work anyway. Especially the way I tend to overdo it.

There were psychedelics around in the late 1960s and early 1970s as well, of course, though I tended to be a bit timid about those. Where friends would say ‘I’m taking two (or three) tabs of acid!’ I’d tend to say ‘I think I’ll stick to one.’ As a result I rarely got completely blitzed, though I had some interesting experiences; but I think I liked to stay in control a bit too much (though that hasn’t stopped me, on occasion, eating so much hashish I passed out, or laughed so much I went into cataplectic fits). There were a few LSD trips, a couple with mescaline (if that was, in fact, what was in the tablet it was sold as) and rather more with psylocybin mushrooms, which are probably my favourite psychedelic, though I hardly ever indulge these days.

When things got tough at Bookends, toward the end, we resorted to amphetamines for a while, to get the work done, which isn’t at all a good idea; and, being available during the late 1970s when I was hanging out at DTWAGE, I indulged again for a little while (though never since). If someone offered me a free line of cocaine I wouldn’t say no, and I smoked opium once or twice, but it only put me to sleep and didn’t do anything. Heroin and barbiturates I stayed well away from, though, as I could see the damage they were doing to people I knew. So it’s really mainly been hashish. just say no JPG 150x75 The Hermit of Shooters Hill – An Interview with Steve Moore, Part 6I’ve tended to steer clear of modern, laboratory-made drugs, preferring stuff that occurs naturally. But I’m really not into ‘drug culture’ the way some ageing hippies are. If somebody says ‘Oh, but you must try so-and-so!’ I just say ‘no’, these days.

And if you ask: ‘can drugs increase creativity?’ I’d probably say, on balance, that for me, they probably haven’t, though I know some people would have a different view; but they probably haven’t decreased it, either. I neither advocate nor oppose them. When they were there, I took them; when they weren’t, I got on without them. That’s life…

PÓM: You mentioned you thought some of the Chinese clubs might have been run by Triads. Did you have any proof of this, or indeed any contact with the Triads, as you became more immersed in Chinese culture?

SM: No, I can’t prove they were run by Triads, though I rather suspect it. The best I can say is that this is what’s known as ‘informed speculation’. But it turned out that my friend, the young kid who’d been working as a projectionist and letting me in to the movies for free, quite separately managed to get involved with the Triads, and not in a very pleasant way.

For reasons that will soon become apparent, I’m going to call him ‘Chang’, though that wasn’t his real name. Well, by the end of the 1970s, the cinema clubs were starting to close down, to be replaced by Chinatown video hire shops, which meant that I lost touch with my beloved Chinese movies until the advent of the home video market in the mid-1980s. It also meant that Chang lost his job. By then he was in his early 20s and married to a Chinese immigrant who’d illegally entered Hong Kong, and they had a baby, so without the projectionist job he then started working in a takeaway restaurant in Watford. When he was back in London, I’d occasionally meet him for lunch, often accompanied by his equally young Scottish friend ‘Peter’ (again, not his real name), who seemed nice enough. And then the lunches stopped, and we just sort of drifted apart.

Then a couple of years later, in the early 1980s, Chang suddenly turned up on my doorstep (I think on a Saturday morning), in something of a state, which I eventually realised was fear. So I got him on his own (my mother and brother were still here) and a rather complex story came out. It seemed that, like many Chinese, Chang was fond of gambling, and he told me he’d borrowed £500 from a Triad loan-shark to get himself a stake. Obviously, that was worth rather more back in those days than it would be now. I think Chang had been mainly gambling on arcade gaming-machines in Soho but, unsurprisingly, he’d lost all the money. I don’t know what the interest would have been – probably something like 10% a week – but now the Triads wanted their money back, and they meant ‘now’, not ‘soon’. So he was sleeping in his car and hoping they wouldn’t find him.

Chang, however, had a novel solution in mind, involving Peter – of whom, it seemed, I’d gained a rather mistaken impression. Instead of being the innocent young kid I thought, it turned out he was actually both gay (I hadn’t realised) and an armed robber, who sometime previously had attempted to mug a pensioner at Waterloo. Things went wrong, however, when the pensioner not only fought back, but started chasing him as well, at which point Peter turned round and shot the man in the head, leaving him in a vegetative state. He then fled to Thailand with his Thai boyfriend, and I think was about to return now that the heat had died down a bit.

So Chang’s plan was to turn Peter in for the £1500 reward that had been offered, and use the money to pay off his Triad creditor. The only problem with this plan was that the reward wouldn’t be paid out until a conviction was obtained, so he wanted to stay with me in the meantime, in the hope that the Triads wouldn’t look for him here.

I still have very mixed feelings about my reaction to this (I’m not sure it was my finest hour), but I’d had a fairly sheltered upbringing with no direct contact with the underworld, and I really didn’t want my aged mother opening the door to a bunch of armed Triad thugs if they turned up looking for Chang. Or my brother or myself, come to that. I asked Chang if there was anywhere else he could go, and he said he knew someone in Manchester (which itself was a Triad hotbed, so I’m not sure this was the best option). So I gave him a blanket and all the money I had in my wallet, which I think was about £70, and off he went. I never heard from him again, so I don’t know what happened about the plan to shop Peter to the police, or whether Chang sorted out his differences with the Triads. But I find it very difficult to think of a particularly positive ending to the story. Perhaps it’s better not to know…

So that’s as close as I got to the Triads and, frankly, even that was rather closer than I wanted to get. But I still sorta hope that Chang managed to get out of that scrape … somehow …

PÓM: What sort of amount of work were you producing at that time?

SM: I’ve a feeling things may have been a bit slack around 1975/76, and that may have been the period when for a few months I worked a couple of days a week at DTWAGE. Each year I had the annuals to carry me through from about September to February, and on average there’d be four or five books to work on. I also know I did a few projects that never saw publication – I particularly remember doing a comic-strip adaptation of Stevenson’s Treasure Island for someone (which was the first time I’d actually read the book, and I found it far more enjoyable than I’d expected), but it never appeared. That may have been around this time. And it was probably around then that I was writing the movie scripts. But work started to pick up with House of Hammer, and then at the beginning of 1977 there was 2000 AD and in 1978 Hulk Comic, followed by Dr Who and Warrior. So the end of the ’70s and the beginning of the ’80s was one of my busiest periods of comic-book writing. I never made a fortune and (as I may have said earlier), if I’d had a mortgage to pay and a family to support I would have been in some difficulty. But I had enough to buy books, which has always been my first priority!

The News issue 1 November 001 235x300 The Hermit of Shooters Hill – An Interview with Steve Moore, Part 6And apart from the paying work, I was writing stuff for Fortean Times as well. I had a regular oriental column around then called ‘Tales from the Yellow Emporium’ (a pun on the legendary Chinese ruler, the Yellow Emperor), and I’d write up archaeological stories, and occasionally more regular Fortean material. So I kept myself busy.

PÓM: Did you do any work for Dez Skinn while he was in charge of Marvel UK?

SM: Yes, quite a bit. Dez moved to Marvel UK shortly after HoH folded, and started Hulk Comic at the beginning of 1979. The first issue came out in March, so there would have been a bit of lead-time before then when we were working on this. Dez had the idea that we should do original material featuring Marvel heroes, but tailored for the British market, and I think this was around the time of the Hulk TV series with Lou Ferrigno. This was alongside the reprint material as well, so I think the early issues actually had two Hulk strips in each issue, one reprint, one original. I’m pretty sure I wrote at least some of the Hulk stories, though I can’t remember if I wrote all the original stories or shared them with Steve Parkhouse. The main thing I wrote for this, though, was Nick Fury, which I think ran for the first 19 issues. This was drawn by Steve Dillon, who was about 16 at the time, and it may well have been his first strip. I don’t think I actually met Steve when we were doing this. It was still the time when for the most part a writer would have no idea of who’d be drawing his script, and no contact with the artist; a situation that I think only really started to change when Warrior began, at which point I worked very closely with Steve.

Nick Fury 1 202x300 The Hermit of Shooters Hill – An Interview with Steve Moore, Part 6I haven’t looked at Nick Fury for many years, so I’ve no idea how good it was, but I remember really enjoying writing it. The original strip had been one of my favourites, especially when Jim Steranko was drawing it, and it was the sort of non-superhero adventure that I liked to do. Writing it was also very influential on my later work, as the ‘tough dude with smart dialogue’ that was Fury influenced my characterisation of both Abslom Daak and the straight, non-underground version of Axel Pressbutton, though obviously in both cases this got twisted up with a lot of other weird stuff that went into them too.

Eventually the original strips were dropped, presumably because they were less economical than the reprints. And, of course, by then we were starting work on Dr Who Weekly, the first issue of which appeared in October 1979. So I just moved from one to the other, and kept on working for Dez.

PÓM: How aware were you of what else was going on in the UK comics business at that time? Pat Mills and the like seemed in particular to be trying to push what they could get away with.

SM: I was hardly aware of anything at all except what I was working on. Since I’d gone freelance I wasn’t really reading comics for pleasure and no longer considered myself a fan, and I’d never even heard of Pat Mills before 2000 AD. I’d really kept away from IPC, once I’d dropped writing the odd Slowcoach story for Whizzer and Chips (okay, apart from Mirabelle!) as I didn’t like their editorial attitudes when it came to handling scripts, and I much preferred to work for relatively smaller companies, rather than a big corporation like IPC, with its corporate attitudes. I gather that Pat was doing some fairly progressive stuff on Action and Battle, but Battle was a war comic, which of course was revolting to me, so I wouldn’t have gone anywhere near it. And, besides, I really hadn’t envisaged working for IPC again until 2000 AD came along, which only interested me because it was an SF comic.

2000 ad first issue 226x300 The Hermit of Shooters Hill – An Interview with Steve Moore, Part 6PÓM: Did you end up writing for any of those new titles? I’m primarily thinking of 2000 AD here, of course.

SM: It was basically just 2000 AD, though before we talk about that I’d just like to briefly mention the short-lived comic Tornado as it’s a good illustration of my relationship with IPC. Tornado was a mixed action and adventure comic that started in 1979, under the editorship of Kelvin Gosnell, and only lasted 22 issues. I was already working for 2000 AD by this time, and Kelvin asked me to contribute a short strip starting in Tornado’s first issue. He may actually have asked me for a historical story, but anyway I persuaded him to take a three-issue series, which was a true story about the Japanese warrior-monk, Benkei, who lived in the 12th century and was eventually killed by his enemies. There was enough adventure in his life for me to make a decent little three-part series, but I was basically writing a historical biography of a real person, ending with his heroic death. When the comic eventually appeared I found they’d altered the ending into something much more optimistic. I haven’t got a copy to hand, but I seem to remember they’d changed it so that Benkei actually escaped his enemies and ‘became a legend’. This they’d done without consulting me, and they’d put my name on the strip, which, to anyone who knew about Benkei, would have made me look a complete idiot. I was so annoyed I never worked for Tornado again.

I can’t remember exactly how I got involved with 2000 AD. I think I must have heard about it over the grapevine from someone, and it was an SF comic so I got in touch with them, rather than them approaching me. I think at the time my only other work was House of Hammer and the annuals, so I was looking for a bit of extra work. But I never actually felt comfortable working for it, for a number of reasons. One of them was the thing I just mentioned about IPC being a large corporation, and whereas I always felt with a smaller company that I was working with the editor as a collaborator, with IPC I always felt I was working for them, as a hired hand. Successive editors of 2000 AD have always given me the impression that they thought it was an enormous privilege to work for it, and that I should be grateful – presumably because they always had lots of other people wanting to get in on the act. The only editor who I actually felt made me welcome was Andy Diggle, when I returned to work for the title in 2000. I also used to feel that the editors and contributors formed a sort of clique that went to conventions and on signing tours together, and from what I hear a lot of them are heavy drinkers. As I’m not a drinker and can think of nothing more ghastly than spending an evening with a bunch of drunks talking about comics, I never really penetrated the clique, and always felt something of an outsider. And lastly, of course, I don’t actually like the comic that much.

I always thought Judge Dredd was utterly loathsome (though I did write one short strip for an annual). I appreciate that it was often beautifully drawn and that John Wagner’s a good writer, and I’m also told that it’s supposed to be satirical on occasion, but it espouses execution without trial and is basically about a personality-free fascist who I find about as entertaining as that hilarious Mister Hitler. blair1 134x150 The Hermit of Shooters Hill – An Interview with Steve Moore, Part 6Then there are the thinly disguised IPC war stories like Rogue Trooper, and B.L.A.I.R.1, the side-splitting super-adventures of that notorious war-criminal Tony Blair. What could they have been thinking of? Even when I was working for 2000 AD, I couldn’t actually bring myself to read the rest of the comic. And I absolutely hated Tharg, which I thought was utterly stupid and childish, and brought down the tone of what I was given to believe was supposed to be aspiring toward a slightly more adult comic. I still feel the same way – and of course, they’re still continuing with the same dim-witted puerility, even though I gather that the average age of a 2000 AD reader these days is somewhere between 30 and 40. But if they’ll still put up with something as irritating as Tharg, I’m not sure exactly how the term ‘adult’ applies here.

But work was work and, besides, at the beginning I didn’t really know what direction the comic would be going. I was well-established enough by that time for them to offer me the second story-arc on the revamped Dan Dare, which I think ran from about issue 12 to 20, or something like that, and was drawn by Bellardinelli, an artist who didn’t appeal to me much at all. All I can remember about the story is that the villain had two heads, which argued with each other. I didn’t much like the new Dan Dare, and maybe it showed, because they didn’t offer me another series on it.

future shock header 02 02 300x92 The Hermit of Shooters Hill – An Interview with Steve Moore, Part 6So after that, they asked me to write short stories as filler material, which is what turned out to be the Future Shock series (though the fact that they were then called ‘Tharg’s Future Shocks’ and were given dumb introductions pissed me off – as did being described as a ‘script robot’). Essentially I based the format on the old EC twist-ending SF stories and they’ve been doing the same thing ever since. I think I wrote the first dozen or so and, interestingly, the first few could be written to different page-lengths, just depending on how the story came out. I seem to remember writing one that was only two pages long, though later they settled into a more standard five-page format. I think they then began bringing in other writers, though I wrote a few more. And that was pretty much my first period of involvement with 2000 AD. I then got enough work with Marvel UK, and was happy to leave 2000 AD behind.

Rick Random and the S.O.S. from Space 224x300 The Hermit of Shooters Hill – An Interview with Steve Moore, Part 6I returned in the early 1980s (when the editor was Steve McManus, who I found smug, arrogant and unsympathetic) to write some more Future Shocks and, of course, by then Alan Moore was writing them too, so we used to have a bit of a private competition to see just how far we could push the ideas and still get away with it. And at that time I also got the chance to write a revived series of Rick Random, a strip I’d loved back in the 1950s Super Detective Library, and with Ron Turner, the original artist. Apart from beefing the action up a little for a 2000 AD audience, I tried to write it fairly straight … more a tribute than an updated revision … and I think it was about six episodes long. I was really pleased with it until the last episode appeared in print, at which point it turned out that, for some reason I never discovered, Turner hadn’t finished the strip, and (of course, without informing me) they’d given the last episode to Carlos Ezquerra, an artist I hated anyway, and one who really couldn’t have been further away in style from Turner, and who made no attempt to emulate what Turner had already done. If they’d given the episode to someone like Dave Gibbons I would have understood it, and it would probably have been a reasonably close match – but they gave it to Ezquerra. So, you won’t be surprised to hear that after that I didn’t work for 2000 AD again for another fifteen years or so.

PÓM: I know that yourself and Alan Moore are friends, and have worked together on many things over the years. Do you remember how the pair of you first got in touch with one another, and when you first met?

SM: This is a bit vague, but Alan and I spoke about this recently and I think we’ve got it sorted out. Before organising the first UK Comic Convention, Phil Clarke put out a sales list called The Comic Fan (this is to be distinguished from The Comic Fan Special, which was the bulletin of the Convention), and I printed the lists off for him on my duplicator. In the second issue, as well as advertising Ka-Pow #1, there was an advert from me, because, being besotted with the TV Avengers at the time, I was looking for a novelisation called Dead or Alive. Alan saw those ads, wrote to me, and so the correspondence started.

Dead Duck 188x300 The Hermit of Shooters Hill – An Interview with Steve Moore, Part 6Unfortunately, that issue of The Comic Fan carries no date, but as Ka-Pow #1 had already been published, it was some time after July 1967. The odd thing about this, though, is that Dead or Alive is a book that never existed. At the time, Hodder published a couple of Avengers novels, credited to Patrick MacNee but ghosted by Peter Leslie, called Deadline and Dead Duck. Dead or Alive was advertised as the third in the series, which was why I wanted it, but if it was ever written it never appeared. So the whole friendship is basically rooted in a quest for a non-existent, chimaerical book … which is a motif that’s turned up occasionally in the work of one or other of us, in mine as recently as Somnium. It’s not a bad symbol for writers, too, as their job is to bring non-existent books into existence, by writing them. But perhaps more interestingly, in view of our more recent notions about Idea Space, we were brought together by the idea of a text, rather than a real one. Attribute whatever significance you wish to that. Maybe it was just the universe having a laugh.

After that, Alan seems to think that we first met face-to-face at the second Con in 1969. I’ve a notion, though, that we first met on a day-trip he made to London with his parents. I met them in town (where they presumably got the chance to check me out and see that I was, in fact, at least basically human) and then brought Alan back to my house for the afternoon before returning him, apparently undamaged, to the loving arms of his family. But exactly when that trip was (i.e., either before or after the 1969 Con) may be open to dispute. I think it was before. Actually, considering how important that first contact turned out to be for both our lives, it’s surprising how fuzzy the whole thing is. Maybe the Martians have tampered with our memories. Or, more likely, it’s the drugs.

Either way, the tradition we’ve always maintained is that we’ve known each other since I was 18 and he was 14. Going by our respective birthdays, that would mean we’d have to have first got in touch by letter sometime between November 1967 and June 1968, which seems to fit with his being a non-attending member of the 1968 Con. Whenever it was, I think one of the things that drew us together initially was the coincidence of our surnames, absurd though that may seem. Of course, in the decades since I’ve seen myself referred to as ‘no relation’ so many times I rather feel they’ll put it on my tombstone, and it was with considerable glee that when we got to preparing the back-flap biographies of Somnium I was able to describe him as ‘Alan Moore (no relation)’!

Anyway, Alan used to send me entertaining letters decorated with little drawings of ‘The Avenging Hunchback’ (sole line of dialogue: ‘Glerk!’) and before too long we were seeing each other quite frequently. And taking drugs together, of course. Apparently, Alan decided that if I was smoking dope it must be okay for him to do so too (I don’t think his mum ever forgave me, especially after he was expelled from school).

->PÓM: Have you kept any of those letters? And, if so, how likely is it you can scan them for the rest of the world to see?

INT017 300x186 The Hermit of Shooters Hill – An Interview with Steve Moore, Part 6SM: Yes, I’ve kept Alan’s letters, but obviously they have to remain private. There’s no way I’m going to embarrass him by publishing his teenage correspondence. But I’ve scanned one of the sketches of the Avenging Hunchback

PÓM: I have this romantic scenario in my head where Alan is the wild one, always leading you astray, whilst you are the quiet one, being dragged into all sorts of wild scrapes by your friend. But this is really entirely wrong, isn’t it, as regards comics, drugs, and magic? You are quite literally the man who led Alan Moore astray.

SM: Well, I’d like to portray myself as an evil Svengali who took one look at Alan and realised that here was a striking-looking but malleable individual who I could get years of pleasure destroying an inch at a time, but it wasn’t really like that … even if he has said publicly that I was the man who ruined his life! I just wander into these things like writing comics, smoking dope, practicing magic and resigning on points of principle, and the next thing I know Alan’s decided that as I haven’t actually died as a result, he’ll do the same … only he does it much larger. It’s not my fault, honest! Mind you, he doesn’t always follow my lead. I’ve never got him hooked on China or classical music, in the same way that I’ve never really shared his interest in science or stand-up comedy. We just have areas of interest that overlap … and enormous mutual respect in areas where they don’t. And even where they don’t, there’s still a bit of influence going back and forth.<-

embryo 240x300 The Hermit of Shooters Hill – An Interview with Steve Moore, Part 6Alan swiftly got involved with the Northampton Arts Lab, and their poetry magazine, Embryo (and its variously-named sequels). That was another attraction for me: I’ve always chosen my closest friends (at least the male ones) among people who were actually doing things, rather than talking about doing things, and that creative bond has remained central to our friendship ever since. So I submitted a couple of poems too (don’t ask me about the quality!), which they kindly printed, and that rather set the pattern. If one of us was working on a project where we could offer an opening to the other, we did, and it’s been pretty much like that ever since.

There was a time in the mid-1970s when we didn’t see each other quite so often (perhaps twice a year) mainly, I think, because Alan was busy getting married, having kids, holding down a ‘proper job’, etc. And then one day he showed up and showed me a drawing he’d done (I’ve a feeling it may have been some sort of fantasy scene with a sailing ship) and told me he wanted to get back into drawing again. And that really kicked off the second phase of our friendship, which has lasted to this day.

->PÓM: Probably a colossally stupid question, but what was Alan Moore like? What were your first impressions of him, do you remember? What appealed to you about him?

SM: You have to remember that our friendship was first established by letter, and the ones he wrote were always entertaining, funny and a bit mad. When I actually met him he was still very young, with a thick mop of hair that hadn’t yet grown long, no beard and a slightly chubby face. And he was fun. He had a great sense of humour, he was affable, honest, generous, straightforward, interesting and interested in everything, and far more sociable than I ever was. We just took to each other and haven’t been able to get rid of each other ever since.<-

PÓM: Comics legend has it that you taught Alan how to write a comic script. Do you remember this, and what advice you gave him?

SM: It’s a story that Alan has very kindly promoted himself, as well, though I’m not sure what I did really justifies it. As I’m sure you know, at the start of his career in the late 1970s Alan saw himself more as a cartoonist, and was quite capable of writing his own stories when he was just presenting a finished page of artwork. But when he decided to write serious strips for other artists to draw (and editors to read), he wanted a little advice on how to present things. So I basically just showed him some of my scripts, and how they were laid out, etc., which was very much in the British professional tradition of the ‘full script’, as I’d picked it up from people like Ken Mennell and Tom Tully, with several lines of description for each frame (I still think of the pictures in terms of the British ‘frame’, rather than the American ‘panel’).

And he sent me his first couple of scripts to look at, on which I scribbled a few comments (not with the blue pencil that editors usually used, but with a red pen so I looked far more outraged!) … mainly about things like the usual beginner’s mistakes of using too many words … and that was about it. All the rest of it was Alan’s talent. And I should, perhaps, point out that a couple of other people later asked me ‘how to write a comic-strip’; but none of them actually ‘got it’ in the same way that Alan did.

Having said that much, though, I have to add that I’ve also learned an awful lot about technique from Alan over the years. Of course, back then we were writing very basic scripts, and such things as the immensely long frame description was something he developed on his own. Later, especially in my ‘second period’ in comics after 2000, I also wrote pretty long descriptions, and that’s an example of the reverse influence. I think we really started to get interested in technical discussions about the time of Warrior, and from there it just went on. Even when I’d left the comics field for a few years in the 1990s to write and edit non-fiction, we’d still spend weekends together talking about writing technique, in various media. Mind you, Alan was always more interested in technique than I was; I tended to have a more instinctive approach, which has also been the case with things like magic. I think it’s just a basic difference in temperament.

As for why Alan reversed the usual format where frame descriptions were written in lower case and dialogue in upper case, to write his descriptions in upper and his dialogue in lower, I’ve really got no idea. I tend to look at things like that and think ‘Oh, it’s just Alan …

PÓM: You got him some of his earliest work, like the stories he did in Marvel UK’s Dr Who comics, I believe?

SM: Obviously, Alan got the vast proportion of his early work on his own. For example, Sounds and 2000 AD he approached entirely by himself. As for Dr Who, which was a little later, that came about because I was switching from the back-up stories to the lead strip, so a new writer was needed for the back-ups. I think by then Alan had made a few sales and wasn’t a complete beginner, so I felt confident enough to recommend him as a replacement. There wasn’t anything special about this. It was just the sort of thing you’d do for a friend, and it certainly didn’t take any work away from me, so everybody won out. I don’t really remember anything else, script-wise, in the very early days. There may have been one or two other things, but my attitude was basically just that if I couldn’t or didn’t want to handle anything, Alan might as well be offered it.

Before that, though, Alan was still thinking of a cartoonist’s career, and what he mainly wanted was exposure, so he was quite prepared to do stuff for free. Steve Burgess, one of the editors of Dark Star (a magazine about West Coast rock music), worked at DTWAGE, so I knew him quite well; and they occasionally ran one-page underground strips, so I made the connection for Alan. I put him forward for some cartoons for the BJ and the Bear Annual, and I think I suggested him for a spread in the Frantic Winter Special that Marvel did in 1979. The last two, he actually got paid for!

PÓM: Just to clarify on the reference to the BJ and the Bear Annual, is it that Alan only drew the cartoons, to accompany your text? Currently, his bibliographies have his as doing both, for want of clearer information. So you’ll be doing the world of Moore scholarship in general a service by clarifying this! [It's all here, if you're interested - PÓM]

BJ The Bear Ears On 300x226 The Hermit of Shooters Hill – An Interview with Steve Moore, Part 6SM: This was a feature called ‘C.B.? – That’s a Big Ten-Four!’ This was a glossary of C.B. radio slang, and I’m afraid I’ve got no idea who wrote it, but it certainly wasn’t me. Looking at the text, it doesn’t really look like Alan either, so my guess would be that it was an anonymous feature-writer working for Grandreams. Alan provided four cartoons that, printed large, stretched a very slim feature to four pages. It appeared in the BJ and the Bear Annual for 1981, and so the artwork would probably have been drawn in the winter of 1980/1981. The feature was reprinted wholesale in The Dukes of Hazzard Annual for 1982.

PÓM: You worked together on a few strips, starting with Three Eyes McGurk and his Death Planet Commandos. How did that come about?

SM: Actually, the first thing we worked on together was a half-page strip called ‘Talcum Power’ (not ‘Powder’, as it seems to be referred to occasionally), for Dark Star #21 (July 1979). Alan had produced a full page ‘Avenging Hunchback’ strip for #19, which was pretty much a parody of the Superman origin story, and also drawn a second instalment for #20, but the artwork was stolen before it could be printed. So as a replacement for that he then did a half-page ‘Kultural Krime Komix’ in which he committed suicide over the theft, and that was pretty much the end of the Hunchback.

Talcum Power 1000x724 The Hermit of Shooters Hill – An Interview with Steve Moore, Part 6Talcum Power’ was basically a jam session, constructed one stoned weekend when Alan was visiting. We ‘wrote’ as we went along, and then we pencilled bits and pieces alternately, handing the artwork back and forth (along with the joints), though Alan plainly did more of the drawing and filled out the backgrounds in most of the frames. And after he’d gone I inked and lettered the whole thing. We concluded with a tag-line saying ‘Did you spot the hidden meaning?’ to cover up the fact that it plainly didn’t mean anything at all … it was just two hippies out of their minds on drugs having a good time … but for some reason that quite escapes me now, Dark Star liked it enough to publish it. It went under the by-line ‘by Curt & Pedro’ which, as the name hadn’t gone on my ‘Bangkok sex’ article, was the first time, I think, that the Pedro Henry pseudonym appeared in print.

Just as an aside, at around this time Alan was also drawing ‘St. Pancras Panda’ for the Oxford underground magazine, The Backstreet Bugle, and I did actually draw (all on my own!) a half-page silent strip for them called ‘Foobl’, in which an ancient city is attacked by a biplane (again, the meaning probably wasn’t apparent). That appeared in Bugle #30, August 1979, again as by ‘Pedro’. Later, in the first episode of ‘Abslom Daak: Dalek-Killer’ for Dr Who, I included a passing reference to a character called ‘C. Henry Foobl’ (derived from Curt Vile, Pedro Henry and Foobl), which was pretty much the sort of in-joke we used to indulge in back then … and later Alan actually used the character in ‘The Stars my Degradation’.

INT025 1000x720 The Hermit of Shooters Hill – An Interview with Steve Moore, Part 6Anyway, Alan liked my inks on ‘Talcum Power’, and then asked me to write a series for him, which turned out to be ‘Three-Eyes McGurk and his Death-Planet Commandos’, which we did as by Curt Vile and Pedro Henry. We ended up with Alan pencilling while I wrote, inked and lettered, and the four episodes appeared in Dark Star #22-#25 (Dec 1979 – Jan 1981). It took absolutely ages to produce … more than a year, though obviously we had professional work to do at the same time … and Alan, trying to be helpful, produced what was virtually finished pencil artwork, including every dot of the stippling, and as the episodes progressed it just got more and more minutely detailed. While most comic-book pages are drawn ‘half up’ (i.e., half as big again as the reproduction size) or ‘twice up’, we were actually producing this ‘a fifth up’ (Alan had somehow got the completely mistaken notion that this was the ‘right’ size for comics), which meant I ended up inking most of it with a rapidograph nib 0.1mm wide. Later, when I showed the printed copies to Gilbert Shelton, who was interested in reprinting ‘McGurk’ in Rip-Off Comix #8, he guessed the originals must be huge … twice up or more … and seemed completely bewildered when I told him the actual size. Alan and I were both thrilled to be in Rip-Off (a real American underground!) and I think we actually got reprint fees of about $20 a page for it. With Dark Star, of course, we got nothing at all, but that had always been the deal from the start. Many years later, while browsing the web, I discovered that someone had actually liked the strip enough that they’d called their band the ‘Death-Planet Commandos’, though what sort of music they played I’m not sure. It would have been quite nice to know …

Three Eyes McGurk 235x300 The Hermit of Shooters Hill – An Interview with Steve Moore, Part 6One of the reasons Alan wanted me to script for him was that it would be a challenge, in that he’d have to draw stuff at somebody else’s bidding, rather than just taking the easy option of writing stuff for himself that he knew he could draw. I think he was a bit taken aback when I asked him to draw the Numinous Paddlesteamer, though he responded magnificently. Of course, I’d made a rod for my own back, in that I then had to ink the damned thing! We had a lot of fun: I just let myself off the hook and decided to be as mad as possible, and that drew from Alan probably his best pencils to date. But there was so much work going into everything that by the fourth episode he was sending me the pencils a quarter of a page at a time, so I could be inking while he was pencilling the next quarter, before taping together the four sections of the page. But even so I think we only just managed to get the last episode in on time.

McGurk’ saw the first appearance of Pressbutton, a character I’d first come up with in late 1977, and I still actually have the original notebook in which he was first scribbled down:

Character called ‘Press-button’ – he caught Vegan Green Rot years ago, and his body had to be rebuilt from the feet up to above his hips – at the same time they built a button into his chest which, when pressed, give [sic] direct electrical stimulation of the pleasure centres of his brain.
Thus he chats up broads (in bars): “Wanna press my button, honey?”

Thus he is shot to death ‘right on the button’ and dies a happy man – his chest shattered & a hideous grin on his face.

And his companions:
‘Three-Eyes McGurk’
‘Lonesome Henry, the Human Bomb’

INT018 260x300 The Hermit of Shooters Hill – An Interview with Steve Moore, Part 6So, as you see, the plot for ‘McGurk’ is pretty much there from the start, apart from Pressbutton’s cleaver-arm, which evolved in the scripting. Incidentally in the very first frame he appeared in, Alan drew the cleaver on the wrong arm! At the time, though, I just thought ‘There’s no way I’m going to sell a character who has orgasms to IPC or Marvel’ (at least not in 1977) so the idea just got put aside, and it was only when I thought I could do it as an underground strip that I dusted it off. It should also be plain from this that Pressbutton was created before the Abslom Daak character I did for Dr Who. Some people seem to have got the impression that the ‘straight’ version of Axel I did in ‘Laser-Eraser & Pressbutton’, for Warrior, was somehow a ‘replacement’ for Daak, when I wasn’t writing that any more; actually it was quite the reverse … Daak was what I wrote because I couldn’t do a straight version of Pressbutton.

Axel Pressbutton 150x150 The Hermit of Shooters Hill – An Interview with Steve Moore, Part 6Of course, following my original idea, I had actually had Pressbutton shot ‘right on the button’ at the end of ‘McGurk’ and that, I thought, was that.

PÓM: I know Pressbutton turned up in Alan’s The Stars my Degradation strip in Sounds, which you took over writing for him a bit over halfway through its run. What I don’t remember is if he appeared before or after you were writing. So, can you set me straight, and tell me how you ended up taking over the writing of the strip?

SM: What happened was that by the summer of 1980, Alan was winding down his Roscoe Moscow strip, and decided he was going to do The Stars my Degradation, a story pretty much set in the same world as Three-Eyes McGurk (so I guess he must have enjoyed his stint on that … we were actually still drawing McGurk at the time). This sounded good to me, and then a couple of weeks later he phoned me up and asked if he could use Pressbutton in the strip. Well, I wasn’t envisaging using Pressbutton again (he was dead, after all, and I didn’t imagine I’d do any more underground strips) so I said of course he could, and he could use McGurk and any of the other material that he wanted as well. This obviously meant that the Stars material was placed earlier in Pressbutton’s life, and when we eventually did the ‘straight’ version in Warrior, that was set earlier still … so he kind of lived his life backwards. Pressbutton first appeared in the fifth instalment of Stars, and it was Alan who gave him the forename ‘Axel’ … I’d never even thought about a forename for him before that.

SMD Header 1000x134 The Hermit of Shooters Hill – An Interview with Steve Moore, Part 6There were 100 episodes of Stars and a couple of Christmas specials, before it concluded in early 1983, by which time Alan was very busy with a lot of other stuff and was struggling to find time for it. So he asked me write the last third of the series (my first episode was 62), which I was more than happy to do (I was also writing Laser-Eraser & Pressbutton for Warrior by then, so there’s an awful lot of overlapping going on here). I think Alan was getting £45 a week for writing and drawing it, and he offered me £10 for the script, so I said sure and started scripting them in batches of four or five episodes each.

->PÓM: I note that you’re also doing this interview in sets of questions, rather than one question at a time. So, is this the way you like to work, doing things in lots, rather than a piece at a time?

SM: Umm … I’m making this up as I go along, Pádraig! I’ll do it any way it comes!<-

SM: Alan had given me a very rough idea of where he imagined the story-arc going, which was pretty much a ‘back-of-an-envelope’ size synopsis, and after that I just let myself loose and tried to make it as crazy as possible. One of the things Alan had been doing with earlier episodes of the strip was parodying things like The X-Men … but I’m really not interested in parody, so I wanted to make it more of a comedy-adventure in the style of McGurk. And once again, I was challenging Alan to draw all kinds of weird shit, like rubber Episcopalians and battles between newts and Amazons and, of course, the Immolato Tomato … so I was having lots and lots of fun and Alan was probably starting to think this was a really bad idea. And we were trying to get away with as much as we could, of course, which meant the strip was frequently censored, sometimes quite crudely, with whole frames deleted, which we weren’t very pleased about.

->PÓM: What sort of things were they censoring the strips for? I’d have though that the editorial imperatives at Sounds at that time would have been quite relaxed.

SM: We just had too much sexual content for them. Alan had something of a tendency to draw penises everywhere, which usually ended up with ‘censored’ labels stuck over them, and they were obviously less interested in showing acts of sexual congress than we were. There was one occasion where Alan had decided to render the episode in pencil and they simply rubbed out a scene they didn’t like. I should point out that this had been going on before I started writing the strip as well, but I admit it got worse when I took over … but when the story moved to ‘Gomorrah’s World’, on the planet Depravity, what can one expect?<-

SM: Sounds also managed to lose one entire episode, though as this was only about Pressbutton and Harry the Hooper practising before their final showdown, probably no one noticed … except me, and I still had the script, of course.

->PÓM: Are we likely to ever see the script for that episode that Sounds lost? And is there any chance Alan could be talked into drawing it?

SM: I’ve scanned the script, and also the full script for an episode where they deleted a couple of frames entirely. The reason the scans start part way down the page is because I was writing these in batches, rather than starting a new script on a new page. We’ve no objection to these scripts being put online, but I think I can say that the chances of Alan drawing the missing script are pretty close to absolute zero.<-

[Sorry for the quality of these, folks, but this as good as I have them, I’m afraid.]

Stars 12 1 The Hermit of Shooters Hill – An Interview with Steve Moore, Part 6

Stars 12 2 The Hermit of Shooters Hill – An Interview with Steve Moore, Part 6

Stars 12 3 The Hermit of Shooters Hill – An Interview with Steve Moore, Part 6

Stars 33 1 The Hermit of Shooters Hill – An Interview with Steve Moore, Part 6

Stars 33 2 The Hermit of Shooters Hill – An Interview with Steve Moore, Part 6

PÓM: But you were just scripting now, rather than contributing to the art?

SM: The only other art involvement I had was with the special ‘Christmas on Depravity’ story that we did in December 1981, which was just before I took over scripting the strip. The script was mainly by Alan, though we’d discussed the story when he’d been down to visit previously, and there are one or two of my gags in there. It was also the one that ‘reunited’ Axel and Mysta Mystralis, even though they hadn’t actually appeared in Warrior by this point.

Christmas on Depravity 1 722x1028 The Hermit of Shooters Hill – An Interview with Steve Moore, Part 6It was a four-page story, and thus the equivalent of eight normal half-page episodes, and it had a second-colour overlay on every page. It was due for delivery on a Monday shortly before Christmas, and Alan turned up at my place on the Friday with about half the strip drawn and none of the colour overlays done; I’m not even sure if he’d actually scripted absolutely everything. So we basically just worked through the weekend on it, with Alan drawing the foregrounds and myself contributing bits of background, often on the colour overlays, where we were just drawing in black ink on tissue-paper overlays. So I was tracing pictures of Japanese monsters, the interior of blood vessels, rains of carrots and anything else I could think of. It was basically work, fall asleep and then work again, but Alan left on the Monday morning to take a finished job into the Sounds office, and I went back to bed. The only trouble was, we’d been told that the overlay would be red on the first and fourth page and blue on the second and third, so we designed the overlays with those colours in mind. Of course, it came out with the colours reversed and, worse than that, the tissue-overlays had actually shrunk under the hot lamps in the scanning process, so everything was out of register, too! We were not amazingly happy about this. But those are the sort of things where you look back and think ‘did we actually do that?

->PÓM: You did at one stage interview yourself in the guise of Pedro Henry, for Warrior. How did that come about?

Warrior Pedro Henry The Hermit of Shooters Hill – An Interview with Steve Moore, Part 6SM: Dez wanted to do a series of text fe

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43. Interview and Giveaway: Erin Lindsey, Author of The Bloodbound

I enjoyed The Bloodbound, so I was thrilled when Erin Lindsey dropped by the virtual offices to answer a few questions.  Be sure to enter the giveaway for a chance to win a copy of her book!

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

[Erin Lindsey] Constantly daydreaming lover of words.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about The Bloodbound?

[Erin Lindsey] I wanted to write a classic fantasy adventure that was genuinely fun to read. A lot of the stuff out there in SF/F right now is pretty grim. That’s not a criticism – I’m including my own work in that category. The Nicolas Lenoir novels, which I write as EL Tettensor, are about as dark as it gets. But sometimes you’re looking for something lighter, something you can take to the beach on your summer vacation and enjoy every page. A cast of flawed, likable characters caught up in a heroic struggle, with enough romance and humour to keep the mood balanced. That’s what I was going for in this book.

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

[Erin Lindsey] This is tough, because I don’t want to give anything away, but there’s a scene about halfway through the book where the heroine, Alix, has just been reunited with someone important in her life, and she ends up really pouring her heart out. Up to that point, she’s been struggling with a lot – her new role as the king’s bodyguard, her first taste of real battle, some pretty tough personal decisions – and to have this person back in her life to share that with comes as a tremendous relief. The scene feels a little like sitting on the foot of your best friend’s bed, chewing over the things that are most important to you. It’s comfortable and intimate and peppered with laughter, and it leaves the reader feeling almost as relieved as Alix. It really came out well.

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

[Erin Lindsey] Everything! Okay, I know that’s not an answer, but really – it was a joy to write. I’ve never written anything so fast, so flowing, in my entire life. I think I had the whole thing done in about three and a half months, which for a novel of 120K+ is pretty crazy. Part of that, I think, is that I was finally getting to tap into some themes that I’ve wanted to play with for a long time. Some of my favourite moments in literature, films, and even comic books inspired certain scenes in The Bloodbound. A relationship, say, or a particular type of dilemma, trying to capture the feel of that moment in a different way. There’s a lot of real-life history in there too. It felt like finally getting to play with a bunch of toys you’ve coveted for a long time.

I think, I hope, that the fun I had writing it comes through on the page, and will infect the reader as well.

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

[Erin Lindsey] Chapstick. I know, I know! I’m trying to cut down, but it’s just so addictive!

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

[Erin Lindsey] A stuffed gorilla, a chunk of black crystal from the Congo, and an extremely smug feline called Charlie Richard Parker.

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

[Erin Lindsey] Biltong. It’s a South African type of beef jerky. If you haven’t tried it, DON’T; it’s even more addictive than Chapstick.

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

[Erin Lindsey] Sherlock Holmes. Oh, wait – does this have to be a real person? In that case, Benedict Cumberbatch. Or his coat.

[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?

[Erin Lindsey] I already have a superpower. I am Logic Woman, able to jump to a conclusion in a single bound. One day, I would like to do an appearance on Fox News. We’ll see if they’re as impervious to logic as they appear to be.

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

[Erin Lindsey] My editor at Ace/Roc, the lovely Danielle Stockley, recently turned me on to Guy Gavriel Kay. I’ve read several of his books now, and enjoyed them all, but I particularly recommend A Song For Arbonne.

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

[Erin Lindsey] Through my website, www.erin-lindsey.com, where you’ll find ways to reach me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, and email. Stop by and say hi!

Of all those in the King of Alden’s retinue, the bloodbinders are the most prized. The magic they wield can forge invaluable weapons, ones that make soldiers like Lady Alix Black unerringly lethal. However, the bloodbinders’ powers can do so much more—and so much worse…

A cunning and impetuous scout, Alix only wishes to serve quietly on the edges of the action. But when the king is betrayed by his own brother and left to die at the hands of attacking Oridian forces, she winds up single-handedly saving her sovereign.

Suddenly, she is head of the king’s personal guard, an honor made all the more dubious by the king’s exile from his own court. Surrounded by enemies, Alix must help him reclaim his crown, all the while attempting to repel the relentless tide of invaders led by the Priest, most feared of Oridia’s lords.

But while Alix’s king commands her duty, both he and a fellow scout lay claim to her heart. And when the time comes, she may need to choose between the two men who need her most…


Erin Lindsey likes her stories the way she likes her chocolate: dark, exotic, and with a hint of bitterness. She has visited fifty countries on four continents, and brought a little something back from each of them to press inside the pages of her books. Erin Lindsey is also the pseudonym for E.L. Tettensor, whose Darkwalker series is published by Roc.

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44. Comics Illustrator of the Week :: Noah Van Sciver

















Cartoonist Noah Van Sciver has been crafting his own special brand of throwback indy comix since the mid-2000’s. His one man anthology, Blammo, is up to issue #9, and it would fit quite comfortably between classic Eightball’s & Yummyfur’s on the funny book racks! It was with Fantagraphics’ critically acclaimed anthology series, Mome, that Noah started to reach a wider audience, and soon after that his first graphic novel would be published; The Hypo: The Melancholic Young Lincoln. Van Sciver was born in New Jersey, but has lived in Denver, CO for most of his adult life, where his oft times publisher Kilgore Books & Comics is located.

AdHouse Books recently published a collection of his comics titled Youth is Wasted, and Fantagraphics has 2 more upcoming projects with Noah in 2015: Saint Cole & Fante Bukowski.

Noah has been nominated multiple times for an Ignatz Award(which is sort of like an Oscar for Small Press comics…), and has had his work featured in the prestigious Best American Comics annual.

You can check out more of Noah Van Sciver’s comics like his day-to-day “Diary Comics”, and other serialized stories on his tumblr site here.

For more comics related art, you can follow me on my website comicstavern.com - Andy Yates

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45. Interview with JaNay Brown-Wood and Hazel Mitchell, creators of Imani’s Moon

One of the fun things of being friends with illustrators is getting sneak-peaks at art spreads before the book is published. I fell in love with this story back last Christmas when Hazel was busy working on the front cover, … Continue reading

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46. Miriam Toews: The Powells.com Interview

Some people are compelled by a restlessness from within; others are shaped by the unwieldy forces around them. In Miriam Toews's poignant new novel following two sisters raised in a small Canadian Mennonite community, siblinghood is a bond strengthened by this dynamic. Elf is now a world-famous concert pianist with a happy marriage, while her [...]

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47. Interview: Michael McDermott on Cooking His “Imaginary Drugs”

I was lucky enough to come across the Kickstarter for indy anthology Imaginary Drugs earlier this year. I received my PDF copy a few months ago and it was an entertaining, eclectic piece of comic book entertainment with a wide variety of talented writers, artists, colorists and letterers. IDW even ended up picking it up and is releasing an expanded version of the softcover in January. Here’s the solicit for that:

Imaginary Drugs is a 208 page comics anthology coming from IDW in January and is currently available for preorder: TPB • FC • $24.99 • 208 pages • ISBN: 978-1-63140-198-5. After running a successful Kickstarter campaign in January of this year and printing a 700 copy self-published print run, the creators behind the endeavor are teaming up with IDW Publishing to provide Imaginary Drugs to comic shops, bookstores and finer bodegas the world over. The book will also feature an additional 40 pages of brand new comics content exclusive to the IDW release and not available in the self pubbed volume.
1069955 10201013684098572 1669184917 n Interview: Michael McDermott on Cooking His Imaginary Drugs

Art by Jonathan Brandon Sawyer and Christine Larsen.

I wanted to learn more about the trip of Imaginary Drugs from its beginning to today, so I spoke to one of the men behind it, Michael McDermott. I talked to him about everything from his beginning with the Small Press Commandos community, the creation of Imaginary Drugs, Kickstarter success and the upcoming release from IDW. Enjoy this interview with writer and editor Michael McDermott.

How did you get involved in FUBAR?

YEARS ago, when ComicSpace was a new thing, I had worked on a pitch for an ongoing 2 story split book called Banned in Japan.  NC Winters gave us an amazing cover, Felipe Cuhna handled art duties on half the book titled ‘The Bombed Squad’ and this dude Jeff McComsey handled the art on the other half called “Murder Culture” (I actually repurposed the concept for an Imaginary Drugs short with the same name).  Pitched around, heard no word, found McComsey a while later via social media, saw his call for short stories for Volume 2 of this FUBAR thing he was assembling and the rest is history.  FUBAR was really a huge blueprint for me when it came to putting together Imaginary Drugs.

Commandos Interview: Michael McDermott on Cooking His Imaginary Drugs

Art by Steve Becker.

Do you know how the Small Press Commandos came about?

I THINK it was started by the relentless core group of indie creators that had put out the first FUBAR Volume: European Theatre of The Damned, and were then working with 215 Ink.  I think I stumbled onto it around the time I started working with FUBAR and perhaps it’s best its true origins lie slightly shrouded in mystery.  It was a tremendous resource at the time for someone who was interested in getting their work into the hands of an eager audience.  A lot of my peers in the group have really blossomed over the last few years and it’s exciting to see the likes of Jason Copland and Christopher Peterson go on to Marvel or Dark Horse gigs.  Or to watch the terrifying Kickstarter success of FUBAR: Mother Russia campaign.

How does such a close-knit group help you market each other’s comics?

It’s nice because when you promote someone else’s work in the group, you’re usually literally endorsing the product they’ve put together and not just recycling some spammy PR release.  We’ve probably watched the project grow through art or pitch postings so we’re really pulling for a lot of what comes out of the community.  Rising tide lifts all ships and all.  Seeing what some of our fellow Commandos are capable of and achieving also fuels the fire under our own asses as creators to KEEP WORKING as well, I’d think.

2014 10 24 01.32.48 Interview: Michael McDermott on Cooking His Imaginary Drugs

“Pretty Lights” by Christine Larsen.

Do you think that community played a part in getting everyone, including artists, to work for royalties instead of upfront pay?

Well, it definitely helps, because again, you trust a lot of the people and the work they’re capable of producing.  You’ve been seeing them grind for years in some cases.  When it came to Imaginary Drugs, really Jeff McClelland and Christine Larsen are the other two legs of our creatively unstable tripod of power.  They signed on to ID when a lot of creators didn’t have the faith.  They offered up content, Kickstarter rewards, design work… On my creative end, Jonathan Brandon Sawyer and K Michael Russell were the first to offer up work for stories.  We actually agreed upon a page rate/backend split for our work, but these guys were huge in making ID a reality.  Once the Kickstarter launched and we could show some audience interest and financial backing it opened us up to a lot more creative opportunities for ourselves and other creators we’d eventually bring on board for the anthology.  THEN, when you announce IDW is publishing your book, yeah, opens up a whole new avenue of creative legitimacy and interested parties.

What do you think of Kickstarter as not just a fundraiser but a marketing tactic?

Well, I can definitely give you a more informed opinion in a month or so once our preorders close on ID, but I can’t see how it hurts!  It’s empowering having this independent stable of interested consumers willing to financially back your creative endeavors. No matter what, throughout the entire process of bringing Imaginary Drugs to fictional life, I’ve kept my loyalty firmly focused on our Kickstarter backers. Treat them right, don’t suck, and you have a fanbase of rabid supporters that you want to create for.  Seriously, my dealings with most backers has been purely positive and inspiring when need be.  An anthology like this is a lot of work, and it’s awesome to hear from people who appreciate the effort and the fruits of the labor.

packaging Interview: Michael McDermott on Cooking His Imaginary Drugs

$10 is a low price point for a 64-page comic on Kickstarter, let alone the 160 page one it turned into. How did you decide on that price point?

Well, originally we were shooting for a 56-page anthology.  As we added stretch goals and the beast grew, it didn’t dawn on me to sell out the $10 reward tier and raise the price point until much later in the campaign.  So… bad math 101!  Once we got the IDW publishing deal in place, it took a lot of the stress off of us mass distribution wise and allowed us to focus solely on making the Kickstarter version of the book and rewards as ass-kicking as humanly possible.

I am drugs Interview: Michael McDermott on Cooking His Imaginary Drugs

“21” by Eric Esquivel and Will Perkins.

How did ID land at IDW?

On a leaf (You… I know you know what I’m talking about).  Hahahaha, you want me to reveal my secret pitch process?!  Raise $13,000 on Kickstarter, email the people you’d think you should email about such a thing becoming a reality and see if they think they can move your product on a larger scale.  I was very careful about who I invited to work on ID.  I wasn’t just looking for talent, but people that’d pick up the vibe the title was laying down.  I think our finished product was enticing and competent enough to turn the heads it needed to turn.  My advice for anyone looking to attempt such an anthology in the future, from your creators to your legal team: Draft. Strong.
Was the intention always to get picked up by a big publisher?
Nope, but I think anybody aware of the financial realities of creating comics ultimately wants some of that sweet, sweet, big publisher or work for hire money.  It was a thrilling surprise when Chris Ryall at IDW expressed interest in publishing our book.  The analogy I make is I went from having to sell Imaginary Drugs at the bottom of my driveway at Mike’s Comic Stand to guaranteed access to every comic shop with a Previews catalogue.  IDW is an innovative, forward thinking publisher comfortable operating outside of the box with a proven track record of delivering quality material to retailers and fans for over 15 years.  It was almost a no-brainer to let them handle the distribution of ID and see what we could learn from the process.

Why do you think anthologies on Kickstarter have been so successful, both in raising money and getting deals at publishers like IDW?

As a reader, I like the idea of getting a finite product.  Creators aren’t going to ask me to invest in their 80-issue epic, aren’t going to ask me to blindly trust their ability to have it all make sense by issue #25.  Nope, it’s get on the stage, entertain me and leave me wanting more.  An anthology is a much safer way for a reader to test the waters on talent they may be unfamiliar with or unsure of.  As for publishers, again, it’s probably a safer way to test the waters with newer talent and see if there’s an audience response to any particular work.  Pure speculation on my end however.  I think for Imaginary Drugs it was all in the title.  How could you not want that TITLE alone on your publishing roster?

saint Interview: Michael McDermott on Cooking His Imaginary Drugs

Art by Jonathan Brandon Sawyer.

How did you decide on that title?

Pure shamanic inspiration.  I was totally digging on the old Milligan/Ewins/McCarthy Strange Days mini from Eclipse at the time I was brainstorming for ID and was searching for a title as resonant as theirs.  Something a kid could find in a long box 15 years from now, rightly assume was dangerous for him to read and immediately purchase with malevolent glee.  All the best comics were comics I shouldn’t have been reading as a kid.  I wanted to dip my toes into the waters of the long corruptive legacy of sequential storytelling and felt the title played to my needs.

By telling all the crazy stories in Imaginary Drugs, you’ve already built a big, interesting world. Do you want to tell more stories in it, either with another anthology or as a series about some of the characters?

I went into ID writing every short as a killer pitch.  I’d love to be able to expand or tell more stories about any of the properties in ID and I’m sure a lot of our creators are game for their properties as well.  There are years worth of backstory and material for damn near any story I wrote and yes, there’s a fictional multiverse in which all the tales in Imaginary Drugs exist in my head.  We’re creeping towards her eventual release in January ’15, and would LOVE to revisit the anthology as a monthly 32 page maxiseries/ongoing.  I’ve done a story with JM Ringuet for our IDW version of the book that is screaming for more room to tell the tale.
shipping tables Interview: Michael McDermott on Cooking His Imaginary Drugs

How is Kickstarter fulfillment going?

I think it’s going well but the ultimate opinion lies with our backers.  As you mentioned, we wound up with our Kicksrtarter/self published version of Imaginary Drugs coming in at 160 pages.  The vast, vast majority of backers made out like bandits, because well, they’re getting a 160-page full size tpb shipped for $10. That’s an absolutely insane deal even if you think the work sucks. We’ve got about 400 of our 650 rewards shipped and I’m regularly getting the rest out.  I swear to god, out of those 400 I have not had one single complaint about product, shipping (every comic bubble wrapped, taped, boxed, stuffed… I’m anal) or damages. We blew our April estimated delivery date… adding 100 + pages of comics that needed to be created in order to make it into the book knocked us off target a bit… but I’m pretty damn proud of what we’ve been able to deliver to our backers.  We’re not some low level throw-away-amateur Kickstarter hour over here.  The creators I have lined up, Jeff, Christine, Jonathan, K Michael, Jeff McComsey, Shawn Aldridge, Christopher Peterson, Stacy Lee, Alexis Zirrit, Eric Esquivel, Chris Lewis, Eryk Donovan, Aluisio Santos, Mark Bertolini, Rafer Roberts, Will Perkins, Magnus Aspli, Fabian Rangel Jr., Ryan Cody and MORE have been grinding out their own indie comics the last few years. I’ve watched them. They’ve earned their spots in Imaginary Drugs and they helped make our book and our deal a reality. They are my Spiritual Warriors (Jodo… Stand UP!).

ringuet1 Interview: Michael McDermott on Cooking His Imaginary Drugs

“Old Blood/New Star.” Story by Michael McDermott. Art by JM Ringuet.

What did you learn, about the industry and yourself, as you’ve been in the process of getting a graphic novel published by a Big Five publisher?

Well, Alan Moore taught me to always get a lawyer, even when you think you don’t need one. I’ve learned that my editor David Hedgecock, is a bad, bad man with immaculate taste in comics and a similarly driven lunatic love for them as myself. We both can trace the blame for our respective pursuits in the graphic medium back to Drew Hayes’ Starting Notes column at the beginning of every issue of Poison Elves. And that’s weird. I’ve learned That Chris Ryall is a fearless, balls to the wall leader that will shock you with what he’s willing to push to get published… CBLDF fo’ life. I’ve learned if you’re generally awesome, unselfish, dedicated and relentless, you can get a lot of things done, catch the attention of people that can make serious things happen and turn your chemically fueled fever dreams into cold hard comics reality.
And most importantly… and this is for ANYONE interested in making comics… go out and create them. Make them real. Have people work to show. Find your peers that are interested in doing the same. Work together, grow together… get books made. Viva la Revolucion!
And find at least one brilliant copy editor smarter than you that you can blame any mistakes on. Jeff McClelland is taken.



Imaginary Drugs is now available for pre-order, and will come out in January. I’m high on it, and you should be, too.

1 Comments on Interview: Michael McDermott on Cooking His “Imaginary Drugs”, last added: 10/29/2014
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48. Interview and Giveaway: Shannyn Schroeder, Author of Her Perfect Game

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

[Shannyn Schroeder] Quiet, shy, hard-working, blunt

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

[Shannyn Schroeder] Her Perfect Game is the second novella in the Hot & Nerdy trilogy. It’s about a gamer/hacker girl who spends her spring break at a Comic Con-like convention. She’s there to network and hopefully win the hackfest, which will get her to DefCon in the summer. She wants to find a job, but she doesn’t have a degree. What she doesn’t count on is running into her ex, who is the one that got away three years ago.

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

[Shannyn Schroeder] The concept was simple. I wanted to write three loosely connected stories about nerdy girls falling in love over spring break. I wanted the three girlfriends to be able to relate, but I wanted them to be nerdy in their own ways. So I have a math nerd, a computer nerd, and a science nerd.

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

[Shannyn Schroeder] I LOVED writing Charlie (the heroine). She’s smart and capable, but she’s also vulnerable. She’s at a point in her life where she needs to make decisions about what she wants and she goes after it, even though she feels like a loser (we’ve all been there). She’s fun and a little snarky. I also enjoyed the research I had to do for the story. I am not a gamer, so I had a lot to learn.

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

[Shannyn Schroeder] As much as I enjoyed doing the research for this story, it was also the most difficult part. I don’t play any video games and I know absolutely nothing about hacking. Doing the research was like entering a different world where everyone spoke a language that I didn’t understand.

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

[Shannyn Schroeder] “Brave” by Sara Bareilles

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

[Shannyn Schroeder] My phone – which is funny because I hate talking on the phone

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

[Shannyn Schroeder] Diet coke, M&Ms, and piles of paper

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

[Shannyn Schroeder] Make It Count by Megan Erickson and Falling for Max by Shannon Stacey. I also read a novella by my friend Hanna Martine, Play for Me, that isn’t released yet, but it’s so good.

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

[Shannyn Schroeder] I hang out with my three kids. I read every night before bed, and I watch lots of TV. The only reason I love fall is because there is so much to watch. The DVR is the best invention ever. I also love to bake, mostly cookies. I bake a lot when I’m stressed, so deadline time means lots of cookies around my house.

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

[Shannyn Schroeder] Web site — http://www.shannynschroeder.com

Goodreads — https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6575201.Shannyn_Schroeder

Twitter — https://twitter.com/SSchroeder_

Facebook — https://www.facebook.com/pages/Shannyn-Schroeder/536050196443173

Her Perfect Game

Hot & Nerdy # 2

By: Shannyn Schroeder

Releasing October 26th, 2014



Spring break is supposed to be a week of fun in the sun for three childhood friends about to graduate from college. But one of them is ready to get her game on somewhere else…

Charlie Castle is an expert archer and a fierce warrior—in her favorite video game, anyway. But college life was a program she couldn’t quite master. To land a cybertech job without a degree, she’s entering a “hackfest” over spring break—where she also hopes to meet the sweet gamer who’s been flirting with her online. Instead, she runs into the hot guy who walked away years ago, and can’t fight the desire that comes rushing back.

Jonah Best has never gotten over Charlie, whose kisses were always as deliciously creative as her coding. But now that they’re face to face again, he doesn’t know how to admit that her online admirer is really him—or how to convince her that he’s offering her a job for her incredible skills, not her sex appeal. Can Jonah cut through their communication glitches and persuade Charlie that the next level up for them should be forever?

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2014/08/her-perfect-game-hot-and-nerdy-2-by.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23000375-her-perfect-game?from_search=true

Buy Links Amazon | Barnes | iTunes







Author Info

Shannyn Schroeder is the author of the O’Leary series, contemporary romances centered around a large Irish-American family in Chicago and the new Hot & Nerdy series about 3 nerdy friends and their last spring break. When she’s not wrangling her three kids or writing, she watches a ton of TV and loves to bake cookies.

Author Links Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Website: http://www.shannynschroeder.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Shannyn-Schroeder/536050196443173

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SSchroeder_

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6575201.Shannyn_Schroeder


It took a second for Charlie to realize that she was being called a cheater. She stood. “What?” She looked up at the board. She and Override were still in second place, now only by five points, but Jane and her partner were fifty points behind.

“She had an unfair advantage. I wasn’t sure, but I suspected. It’s just not possible.”

Charlie glared at her. “I am not cheating. How could I?”

A nasty smirk stole across Jane’s face. “Someone fed you the answers.”

Charlie’s heart sank. She knew exactly where this was going. “No one gave me anything.”

“Should we ask your boyfriend over there?” She pointed at Jonah sitting by the door.

“First of all, he’s not my boyfriend. Second, he didn’t give me shit. I’ve worked through each task just like everyone else.”

Jane crossed her arms and waited. Carl looked back and forth between Jonah and Jane.

Jonah slid from the stool. “I didn’t give her anything. I didn’t create the challenge. Carl did.”

Of course, Jonah wouldn’t lie about their relationship.

Carl crossed the room to talk to Jonah. The harsh whispers carried across the room. Carl was asking about having a personal relationship with a competitor. Jonah nodded. She was screwed.

Her stomach sank. There was no coming back from this. “Fuck this.” She slammed her laptop shut and looked at Override. “Sorry if you get screwed here too. I did not cheat, but I refuse to get thrown out for doing nothing wrong.”

She slid her computer into her bag and rushed out the door.

“Wait,” Jonah called.

She didn’t, but then he caught her by the arm. “What are you doing?”

Charlie yanked her arm from his grasp. “I’m not going to sit there and be accused of cheating because I slept with you.”

“Carl wasn’t going to throw you out. He knows I didn’t have access to anything he created.”

“Doesn’t matter. If I win, everyone in that room will question whether it was legitimate. Thanks for fucking this up for me.” She turned away, tears clawing at her throat.

“Whoa. What do you mean me? I didn’t do a damn thing.”

“That’s right, you didn’t. All you had to do was deny we had any kind of relationship.”

“Why the hell would I do that? I know you didn’t cheat, and lying wasn’t going to change that accusation.”

“Whatever.” She took a couple more steps before he moved in front of her.

“What’s the big deal? It’s a stupid small-time hackfest.”

“Not for me it wasn’t. I needed this win.”

“Charlie, you have to know that you didn’t really have a chance against Poison.”

Tears welled and burned her eyelids. “Thanks for the vote of confidence. I guess we’ll never know now.”

She tried to push past him, but he laid a hand on her shoulder. “Why are you so upset?”

Charlie swallowed hard. “I needed this win. This was my chance. The prize is Def Con. I can’t afford to get to Vegas and pay for a hotel and shit. And I need Def Con to network and find a job.”

“No, you don’t, Charlie. You’re good enough that all you have to do is send out your résumé after graduation. You won’t need to network. The jobs will be there.”

She swiped at her face, hating every tear that fell. “No, they won’t because there won’t be a graduation. I dropped out.”

He looked stunned, his mouth hanging open, and Charlie skirted around him. She couldn’t look at his face knowing in a moment it would be filled with disappointment. She raced to her room, packed her stuff, and checked out to go back to her regular life.

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49. Interview and Giveaway: A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev


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

[Sonali Dev] A creative, idealistic, feminist mother.

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

[Sonali Dev] A BOLLYWOOD AFFAIR is the story of Mili, a child bride who was married at the age of four in a tiny village in India and then abandoned by her husband. She’s all grown up now and finds herself at Eastern Michigan University in an attempt to make herself worthy of her husband so he will finally come claim her. And of Samir, a successful Bollywood director who owes everything to his big brother and will do anything to help his brother get rid of the wife who just crawled out of his past. It’s a story of two people trying to reconcile family bonds and cherished traditions with personal freedom and happiness.

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

[Sonali Dev] A few summers ago, I was strolling along the riverwalk in my suburban Chicago town with my parents when they started reminiscing about a young couple they used to be friends with in India many years ago. Tragically, the husband died in an air crash just about a year into their marriage and his family from the village showed up with another young woman, who apparently was also his wife. He had been married to her when they were children. The family claimed all his assets, because his wife, who was now his second wife, wasn’t his wife at all because polygamy is illegal in India.

I just could not get that story out of my head. I couldn’t stop thinking about those two women. One was raised to believe she had a husband, when really she didn’t, and the other had a husband and yet really she didn’t. I absolutely had to write this story and trace the arc of the journeys I imagined for these women.

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

[Sonali Dev] This story was actually one of the stories that gushed out of me. Samir and Mili were just fully developed people in my head and they were very cooperative and intent on telling their story. Every time they were on the page together it was magic and I just loved capturing that magic.

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

[Sonali Dev] Trying to research and understand Child Marriage Laws in India was a bit of a challenge because it is illegal for girls younger than 18 and boys younger than 21 to marry in India. And yet because adults can force children into marriage the law does not punish the children who’ve been married nor can it not validate child marriages that have already occurred. It’s all very complicated and it was essential to the story so I had to read through all that legalese and then get a lawyer friend to translate it for me.

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

[Sonali Dev] I know it’s cheesy, but I Hope You’ll Dance comes to mind.

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

[Sonali Dev] My cell phone. I know, it’s awful. Until two years ago I had one of those archaic flip phones and I never even knew where it was. People complained all the time about me not answering my phone. My nephews used to tell me I should get a smart phone and that it would change my life and I used to scoff and be all patronizing about how shallow their lives were if they needed a smart phone to change it. But then my husband gave me an iPhone for my birthday and changed my life. I love it with the zeal of a convert. I mean, I literally feel bereft when it’s not on me. It’s really quite mortifying.

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

[Sonali Dev] The cover of A Bollywood Affair framed in a frame my home chapter of the Romance Writers of America, the Windy City chapter gave me when I made my sale. They’ve all signed it and I love looking at it.

The deflated Mylar balloon from the amazing fortieth birthday party my husband threw for me.

A chart with Michael Hague’s story structure outline.

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

[Sonali Dev] Undoubtedly President Obama.

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

[Sonali Dev] I love Nalini Singh’s PsyChangelling books and I think Shield of Winter, Ivy and Vasics story was one of my favorite books in the series thus far (although I feel that way about so many of the books in that series). It was so sweet and romantic and intense. I just loved it.

I just reread Kristan Higgins Waiting on You and Molly O’Keefe’s Crazy Thing Called Love because I can never read those two books enough number of times.

I also recently read This Is Where I Leave You and it was so well written but so messed up I really enjoyed it.

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

[Sonali Dev] Does reading count? Or is that cheating? When I’m not writing or reading, I mostly hang out with my two teens and try to pry information out of them about their lives. I love to cook when it isn’t a chore. I’m also very handy and painting rooms and hammering nails into walls to hang things makes me quite heady with happiness.

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

[Sonali Dev] I love love love to hear from readers. So please do get in touch with me.

Web: www.sonalidev.com

Facebook: Facebook.com/SonaliDev.author

Twitter: @Sonali_Dev

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Print Copy of A BOLLYWOOD AFFAIR (Three Chances to Win)
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Mili Rathod hasn’t seen her husband in twenty years—not since she was promised to him at the age of four. Yet marriage has allowed Mili a freedom rarely given to girls in her village. Her grandmother has even allowed her to leave India and study in America for eight months, all to make her the perfect modern wife. Which is exactly what Mili longs to be—if her husband would just come and claim her.

Bollywood’s favorite director, Samir Rathod, has come to Michigan to secure a divorce for his older brother. Persuading a naïve village girl to sign the papers should be easy for someone with Samir’s tabloid-famous charm. But Mili is neither a fool nor a gold-digger. Open-hearted yet complex, she’s trying to reconcile her independence with cherished traditions. And before he can stop himself, Samir is immersed in Mili’s life—cooking her dal and rotis, escorting her to her roommate’s elaborate Indian wedding, and wondering where his loyalties and happiness lie.

Heartfelt, witty, and thoroughly engaging, Sonali Dev’s debut is both a vivid exploration of modern India and a deeply honest story of love, in all its diversity.

Advance Praise for A Bollywood Affair:

“Sonali Dev is a fresh new voice in romance. A child bride who’s all grown up, a sexy Bollywood director, and deeply-felt emotions that will keep readers turning the pages. A Bollywood Affair has it all.” –Susan Elizabeth Phillips, New York Times Bestseller

“Deeply romantic and emotional, with characters I fell in love with, A Bollywood Affair is simply unputdownable. It’s sexy, it’s dramatic, but most of all, it’s a sweet, hot love story that made me sigh and smile and want to read it all over again as soon as I turned the last page.” -Nalini Singh, New York Times Bestseller

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Sonali Dev’s first literary work was a play about mistaken identities performed at her neighborhood Diwali extravaganza in Mumbai. She was eight years old. Despite this early success, Sonali spent the next few decades getting degrees in architecture and writing, migrating across the globe, and starting a family while writing for magazines and websites.

With the advent of her first gray hair her mad love for telling stories returned full force, and she now combines it with her insights into Indian culture to conjure up stories that make a mad tangle with her life as supermom, domestic goddess, and world traveler.

Sonali lives in the Chicago suburbs with her very patient and often amused husband and two teens who demand both patience and humor, and the world’s most perfect dog.

Find Sonali Here: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

The post Interview and Giveaway: A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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50. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Eva Eriksson

All storytelling has its backbone in realistic fiction. So many kids, even at a surprisingly young age, are eager to read scary stories. I tried to fill that gap. ‘Scary’ thrills them. It makes their hearts beat faster. … To me, the great sentence is: The door knob slowly, slowly turned. That delicious moment of anticipation, of danger climbing the stairs. I’ve tried to provide those chills, while still resolving each book in a safe way.”

* * *

Over here at Kirkus yesterday, I talked to author James Preller, quoted above, about his Scary Tales series from Feiwel & Friends. The latest, The One-Eyed Doll, was recently released. Perfect for Halloween reading. We also chat about his middle-grade novels and school visits.

Next week, I’ll have some art from the Scary Tales books. They are illustrated by Iacopo Bruno.

Today at Kirkus, I write about some picture book imports — that is, those picture books originally published in other countries but now on American shores. That link will be here soon.

* * *

Last week, I wrote here about two early chapter books, one featured more in-depth on Wednesday of this week. Below are some illustrations from the other book, Rose Lagercrantz’s My Heart is Laughing, illustrated by Eva Eriksson (Gecko Press, May 2014). Enjoy the art.

“It was so high they had to go and find a chair so they could climb up it.
They climbed for hours pretending to be monkeys.”

“‘This is very sad!’ she sighed. ‘Is there anyone else this has happened to?’ It was quiet again. ‘Me,’ said Jonathan finally. ‘Vicky and Mickey keep pushing me all the time!’
And Susie waved her arm furiously.”

“‘I forgive you anyway,’ she said. Everybody breathed out. The drama was over.”

“Dani just sat and waved her pen around and smiled at Ella,
who had been given a sheet of paper to write on.”



* * * * * * *

MY HEART IS LAUGHING. First American edition copyright © 2014 by Gecko Press. Illustrations used by permission of the publisher.

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