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<<November 2014>>
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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Interviews, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 2,390
26. 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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27. 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

2 Comments on Comics Illustrator of the Week :: Noah Van Sciver, last added: 10/27/2014
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28. Interview with Chrys Fey, Author of 30 Seconds


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

[Chrys Fey] Rock obsessed auntie who writes.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about 30 Seconds?

[Chrys Fey] 30 Seconds is a romantic-suspense novella about a woman who finds herself in the middle of a war between a police force and the Mob.

When Officer Blake Herro agreed to go undercover in the Mob, he thought he understood the risks. But he’s made mistakes and now an innocent woman has become their target. He’s determined to protect her at all costs.

The Mob’s death threat turns Dr. Dani Hart’s life upside down, but there is one danger she doesn’t anticipate. As she’s dodging bullets, she’s falling in love with Blake. With danger all around them, will she and Blake survive and have a happy ending, or will the Mob make good on their threat?

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

[Chrys Fey] Oh there are so many! My favorite action scene is when Dani Hart runs from the Mob. They chase her out of the hospital where she works, down a packed street in the heart of Cleveland, and into an alley. They openly shoot at her, too, not caring that civilians are everywhere. It’s an intense, heart-pounding scene. I also love the scene when Dani and Blake have a snowball fight. It’s light and funny, a moment they desperately needed.

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

[Chrys Fey] Getting to know Blake and Dani. They were interesting characters from the first time they popped into my head. Blake arrived thanks to a dream and Dani showed up shortly after I had a layover in the Cleveland, Ohio airport on my way to Michigan. Dani is a tough doctor who loves rock music and horror movies. Blake is a sexy cop who struggles with his commitment to protect Dani due to his growing desires.

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

[Chrys Fey] Chap Stick.

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

[Chrys Fey] A witch’s cauldron that I turned into a writer’s cauldron with pens, pencils and scrap paper, “Queen of the Damned” by Anne Rice, and my Skull Candy headphones.

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

[Chrys Fey] Sandwiches are my go to meal if I work through lunch, but when it gets to be around two or three in the afternoon anything sweet will do.

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

[Chrys Fey] I would trade places with my character Dani to spend some time with Blake, a sexy police officer. Do you blame me? *wink*

[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?

[Chrys Fey] I would want the power to blink my body from one place to another, so I could go to all the places I’ve dreamed about visiting, like Ireland, Venice, and London.

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

[Chrys Fey] Moonless by Crystal Collier, Butterman (Time) Travel, Inc by PK Hrezo, and Twelve Sharp by Janet Evanovich.

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

Chrys Fey] I am very active on Facebook and my blog. I love to read and reply back to comments from readers; it’s the highlight of my day.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/chrysfey

Blog: www.writewithfey.blogspot.com

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/ChrysFey

Amazon: www.authorcentral.amazon.com/chrysfey

Title: 30 Seconds

Author: Chrys Fey

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Length: Novella (105 pages)

Format: eBook

Publisher: The Wild Rose Press

Published: September 10th, 2014


Chrys Fey is a lover of rock music just like Dani Hart in 30 Seconds. Whenever she’s writing at her desk, headphones are always emitting the sounds of her musical muses -especially that of her favorite band, 30 Seconds to Mars, the inspiration behind the title.

30 Seconds is her second eBook with The Wild Rose Press. Her debut, Hurricane Crimes, is also available on Amazon.

Discover her writing tips on her blog, and connect with her on Facebook. She loves to get to know her readers!

The post Interview with Chrys Fey, Author of 30 Seconds appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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29. Jim Lee and Dan Didio speak! About moving, demographics, royalties and more


dan didio jim lee Jim Lee and Dan Didio speak! About moving, demographics, royalties and moreI imagine that every sentence of this ICv2 interview with DC Comics co-publishers Dan Didio and Jim Lee will be gone over with a fine tooth comb. I think it’s the first time the two have sat down for a somewhat frank interview in six months at least. And what a six months it has been! Certainly, from the scrum of New York Comic Con, the essential public personas come out, Lee, the glass half full cheerleader, DiDio, the without me the glass would break authority figure. Lee addresses the new demographics with a shout out to Batman editor, Mark Doyle, whose future—at DC in Burbank or leaving the company— is still very much up in the air:

7Lee: There’s also a diversification within the audience itself the past couple of years.  You’ve seen more women, more female readers, in general.  When we launched Batgirl and Gotham Academy, those books struck a different note, different tonality, and that was in large part due to editor Mark Doyle bringing these projects together with different kinds of creators (see “Two New Batman Ongoing Series” and “New Batgirl Costume”).  It was our way of broadening the base of the Batman family of books but doing it in a different way to attract a different audience.

But then DiDio refuses to throw licensers under the buss on recent fluffs like those awful shirts:

Who approves DC licensed products with regard to those issues and are you happy with the way that’s going?

Didio:  Actually, we are.  We have a strong relationship with our consumer products division that runs those areas.  You have to understand that they’re seeing tens of thousands of products that they’re proof-reading and checking for information over a period of time.  We have departments that work very closely with them within DC Entertainment, and they’re constantly working the system to make sure they’re aware of our audience and presenting the proper material to that audience.

Lee hints that Vertigo has some big plans and may even be in a position to start competing with Image for creators:

If you look at what we’re going to do in 2015 (which I’m not at liberty to discuss at this moment), possibly first quarter next year, you’ll see that we’re going through a major effort to rebrand the imprint.  That’s going to come about through the projects themselves.

We’re working on a hit list of the top creators in the business and we have some exciting news to unveil in the early part of 2015.

But then DiDio insists that everyone loves the new royalty plan….

When we created the original royalty plan it was based on a periodical model.  We’ve grown from periodicals to graphic novels and adding a digital component, and now we’re working with different types of products combined with books, so we need a level of flexibility and this allows it.  I think what’s important is the talent themselves can feel that they’re truly participating and receiving the benefit of the success of the property.

The response from the creators was positive?
Didio:  Oh, yes.  We’ve had a strong response and it was positive all the way through.

I can say that there has been a strong response from freelancers I’ve talked to, alright, but it hasn’t been all that positive—the net effect has a been a rather large drop in royalties for many folks.

Anyway, Lee and DiDio have overseen a very successful era at DC (whether you want to admit it or not) and the move to the West Coast is bringing many changes. Like…what comes after “Blood Moon,” the pseudo bridging event that is being run by temporary editors which the survivors of the great migration make their way west in a Green Tucson. Props to Milton Griepp for getting them to sit down and talk even if it is the last report from a world that will soon be forever a memory.

(Thanks to all of you who went me the link)

3 Comments on Jim Lee and Dan Didio speak! About moving, demographics, royalties and more, last added: 10/23/2014
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30. Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Stephanie Graegin

Pictured above is the title page illustration from Nancy Van Laan’s Forget Me Not, released by Schwartz & Wade Books in August. This is the poignant and lovingly-rendered story of a young girl whose grandmother is experiencing significant memory loss. It slowly builds in the story — to the point where she is placed in an assisted living center, while her granddaughter watches with concern. The illustrations were rendered by my visitor today, Stephanie Graegin, pictured below.

As you’ll read below, this is Stephanie’s fourth picture book. (Three were released last year.) She’s also illustrated middle grade novels and is working on her own picture book. Graegin’s warm palettes capture the small moments of life, and I wanted to have her over for a cyber-breakfast to discuss her work and see even more art. Normally, she tells me, she’d have a bowl of cereal. But today we are going to splurge by taking a walk to pick up a bacon and egg dub pie from the Dub Pie Shop across the street, along with a coffee.

I thank her for visiting.

* * * * * * *

Jules: Are you an illustrator or author/illustrator?

Stephanie: Illustrator.

I am in the early stages of working on a picture book that I also wrote (although it has no words), but it feels too soon to call myself an author.

Chicken Soup with Rice Sendak tribute

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



Picture Books:


Middle Grade Novels:

Jules: What is your usual medium?

Stephanie: I draw in pencil (mechanical 2B .5) on paper (Moleskine sketchbook, usually). I draw very tiny and scan the drawing in very high-res to blow it up larger, as I have found I just can’t draw as well large. I make many layers on duralar (a clear paper) of texture, shading, and patterns — using colored pencil, watercolor, and ink. I scan everything into the computer, then compile and color everything digitally in Photoshop. Drawing in pure pencil is my absolute favorite, though.

From the sketchbooks
(Click third image to enlarge)

Jules: If you have illustrated for various age ranges (such as, both picture books and early reader books OR, say, picture books and chapter books), can you briefly discuss the differences, if any, in illustrating for one age group to another?

Stephanie: I have done both picture books and middle grade novels. While I love both, I’ll admit that illustrating a picture book is more challenging — but also more rewarding. A picture book’s text is less specific than a novel, and you are given much more room to explore and to create the world inside the book. A picture book is wide open; almost anything can happen. At times the multitude of options for a illustrating picture book can be overwhelming, but I love the challenge of it. It can be a nice balance to be working on both formats at once — to be able to go back and forth between working in color and in black & white.

Jules: Where are your stompin’ grounds?

Stephanie: I’m in Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY, right outside of Prospect Park (the park the book Water in the Park was inspired by). I lived in various neighborhoods in Brooklyn for the last 10 years. I came to Brooklyn to go to graduate school at Pratt Institute. Before I lived in Brooklyn, I lived in Austin, Texas, and Baltimore, MD (where I went to undergrad at The Maryland Institute College of Art). As a kid I lived in Houston, TX; Fort Wayne, IN; and Chicago IL.

“But ever so slowly, like a low tide leaving the bay, a change came along. Grandma was becoming more and more forgetful. First, it was names—of places she’d been or books she’d read or people she knew. Even us. We would joke and tell Grandma she liked to scramble our names for breakfast instead of eggs. And she’d laugh as much as we did.”
(Click to enlarge)

“When she called me Sally or Harry instead of my real name, Julia, I pretended it was a game that Grandma liked to play. After she called out all my wrong names, I’d say, ‘No, silly, my name is Julia!’ Then she’d laugh and clap her hands and say, ‘Oh, silly me! Hello, bright-as-sunshine Julia!’”
(Click to enlarge)

“‘Smells like rain,’ Grandma would say sometimes on a perfectly clear day. ‘Better get out the umbrella.’ Then, a couple of minutes later, she would say, ‘Smells like rain.
Better get out the umbrella.’ And Grandma’s head kept getting worse.”

(Click to enlarge)

Pictured above: Spreads from Nancy Van Laan’s
Forget Me Not

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

Stephanie: I studied Fine Arts, focusing on printmaking in college and graduate school. I made a lot of artist’s books with etchings, which looking back, were essentially hand-printed picture books. Illustrating children’s books was something I have wanted to do since I was about five, but it wasn’t until I was in my late twenties that I focused all my energy on making it a reality. Everything fell into place around the same time. I changed the way I was working — I had been making Edward Gorey-inspired work using pen and ink, but it wasn’t right for me. I started drawing only in pencil and adding the color digitally. Something clicked, and the work became so much better.

When the work was in a place where I felt ready to show it, I spent about a year making children’s book portfolio pieces and then about three months putting together a hand-bound mini portfolio booklet, which fit into a 4×6 envelope.

(Click to enlarge)

I sent these out to around 250 editors and art directors, and the calls for book work started happening. Around this same time, I was extremely fortunate that Nate Williams posted a blog post of my work on illustrationmundo, and literary agent Steven Malk at Writers House saw it. Steven reached out to me, and he’s been my agent since then.

[Pictured below are sketches and final art from Emily Jenkins'
Water in the Park

(Schwartz & Wade, 2013)].

“Very early thumbnail sketches of the first two spreads in the book.”
(Click to enlarge)

“An early sketch of the playground scene.”
(Click to enlarge)

“A later sketch of the same spread, with a new composition and lots of people added.”
(Click to enlarge)

Sketches that became part of the final artwork …
(Click each to enlarge)

“On very hot days, as the sun rises, an orange glow shines in the water of the pond.
Just before six o’clock, turtles settle on rocks. They warm their turtle shells in the light.
Good morning, park!”

(Click to enlarge spread)

“By seven o’clock, two babies have come to the park. One has a bagel in a brown paper bag. The other has a plastic box of apple pieces. The babies want drinks from the water fountain. They point their baby fingers and jump.
Their grown-ups lift them. Up and up.”

(Click to enlarge)

“It is seven o’clock. A stripey cat creeps from beneath a bush and laps a quiet puddle. Tup tup. Tup tup. And now the dogs come.
Rouw! Rouw! Rouw! Time for an evening swim.”

(Click to enlarge)

(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)

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


Website: www.graegin.com.

Instagram: instagram.com/sgraegin.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Stephanie-Graegin/154714944541337.

Twitter: twitter.com/Steph_Graegin.

(Click to enlarge)

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

Stephanie: I’m very thankful that there are a lot of books on the way!

I illustrated a picture book for Penguin (Dial), titled Peace Is an Offering [pictured below], coming out in March 2015. Written by Annette LeBox, the text is a beautiful poem about finding peace in your community.

(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

I’m currently working on a second picture book for Farrar, Straus and Giroux about two young, adorable brothers. The first picture book in the duo is titled How to Share with a Bear and was written by Eric Pinder. It comes out in Fall 2015.

There are three other picture books I am newly working on, including the book I am writing — but its still too early to give details on those.

Character studies and sketches from
Nancy Van Laan’s
Forget Me Not
(Click each to enlarge)

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 Stephanie 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?


: The very first thing I do when given a manuscript is break up the text into pages. When I’m given a manuscript, it’s a Word document with no page breaks. I make very tiny thumbnails (about an inch big) to figure out the page count (32 or 40 pages) and what goes where.

Early sketch
(Click to enlarge)

I keep working slightly bigger as I revise. In the early rough sketch phase, I draw the whole book around 3×3 inches a page. After revising these, I draw larger, more refined sketches. I then send these sketches to the editor or art director. They make suggestions, and then I revise again — usually, a few times before going to final art. During the initial sketch stage, I also do a lot of character studies, drawing them in my sketchbook, which I take everywhere, to get to know what these characters look like before I start the final sketches.

Final art: “And she still smelled like cinnamon and lilac when we cuddled up close.”

The final art stage is the most time-consuming but can be the most rewarding — with the book finally coming to life in full color. I usually spend three months on final art. Those three months are filled with very late nights working, and I pretty much become a hermit. I start with very loose color studies over the final sketches in Photoshop to get an idea of the palette for the entire book. Nailing down the perfect palette for the mood of the book, for me, is one of the more difficult steps in the finals process. Once I have a palette that I’m comfortable with, I start making the layers of texture and shading with watercolors and colored pencil. Those are scanned in, and I start the assembly and digital coloring process. I pretty much keep working and reworking the art until the deadline day.

Studio sketchbooks
(Click to enlarge)

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


: I work out of my apartment, and it’s small. So really my whole apartment is my work space. My favorite spot to draw is at my kitchen table.

(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

With studio assistant, Bustopher
(Click to enlarge)

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


: I was obsessed with the Richard Scarry Busytown books and What Do People Do All Day? He was a major influence in how I learned to draw animals.

I also loved Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad books and Maurice Sendak’s The Nutshell Library; they are still my favorite children’s books to this day.

As for novels, I loved Beverly Cleary, especially the Ramona books. I had the same haircut and attitude as Ramona and felt she was written just for me. One of my prized possessions is a postcard Beverly Cleary sent me when I was six. My older sister and I had written to her to tell her how much we loved the books.

Another favorite chapter book was The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. I reread that book multiple times a year for many years. My copy is held together with tape.

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.)

Stephanie: A glass of wine with Renata Liwska, Isabelle Arsenault, and Benji Davies. I’m very fond of all of their artwork.

[Pictured below are sketches and final art from Liz Garton Scanlon's
Happy Birthday, Bunny! (Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster, 2013)].

“Early thumbnails of spreads.”
(Click to enlarge)

Sketch that became part of the final artwork.
(Click to enlarge)

“Thumbnails of jacket ideas. The final cover ended up being
a combination of the two at the top.”

(Click to enlarge)

Final art
(Click each spread to enlarge)

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?

Stephanie: I listen to many podcasts — Radiolab, This American Life, Freakonomics, Matthew Winner’s Let Get Busy podcast

, along with listening to music. Music favorites at the moment are Beirut, The Dodos, Boards of Canada.

(Click to enlarge)

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

Stephanie: My family called me “Bird,” instead of Stephanie, until I left for college. My older sister gave me the nickname when I was a baby, and it stuck for 18 years.

(Click to enlarge)

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

Stephanie: I think I’ve been asked this before, but its something I’m asked often by students, so it’s good to repeat.

Advice to students/young illustrators starting out? Keep drawing and drawing and drawing. Practice is the only way to get better. Drawing skills are really the most essential thing to being an illustrator; there’s no way around that.

Also, don’t give up! The road to becoming a working illustrator is a long one — expect to still have work a day job for a while, even after you get those first projects.

(Click to enlarge)

* * * The Pivot Questionnaire * * *

Jules: What is your favorite word?

Stephanie: “Caddywhompus.”

Jules: What is your least favorite word?

Stephanie: “Vomit.”

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

Stephanie: A great story, a new sketchbook, a long walk.

Jules: What turns you off?

Stephanie: Negative people.

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

Stephanie: “Crapola.”

Jules: What sound or noise do you love?

Stephanie: My cat Bustopher’s happy meow.

Jules: What sound or noise do you hate?

Stephanie: Annoying street noise I can hear from my apartment — sirens, car alarms, car horns, and the loud movie theater air conditioner next door to me.

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

Stephanie: Something outside — gardener or vegetable farmer.

Jules: What profession would you not like to do?

Stephanie: Retail. I spent too many years doing that already, and I’ve had my fill of it.

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

Stephanie: “The library is right over there.”

All artwork and images are used with permission of Stephanie Graegin.

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

9 Comments on Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Stephanie Graegin, last added: 10/23/2014
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31. Interview with Maya Banks, Author of Keep Me Safe and Giveaway

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

[Maya Banks] Introverted, cave-dweller, book-lover, LOVES-to-dish-romance!, SO grateful to my readers.

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

[Maya Banks] Keep Me Safe is a LONG awaited story for me. I’ve wanted to write this story and book 3 for SO long. I’ve had those two stories in my head for YEARS. But a concise peek (and I’m not very concise!) is that Ramie has psychic abilities, unique abilities, that enable her to track kidnapping victims by touching an object belonging to the victim. She makes a connection to them, but the downside is that she experiences every thing the victim does once she makes that connection. Everything. So it’s rather horrifying. She’s an empath who is only able to feel or detect the evil in people. Never the good. So her “gift” is more of a curse since she’s never able to feel the GOOD.

Caleb hunts her down when his sister is abducted and they’ve exhausted all leads. He knows he’s racing against the clock and when Ramie refuses because she’s at her breaking point, he “forces” her compliance by shoving his sister’s scarf into her hands and holding her hands around it. And promptly sends her to hell.

Horrified by what he’s done, he’s determined to make it up to her. But she disappears and no amount of searching on his part is able to unearth her. Until she contacts him a year later because she’s in terrible danger and doesn’t know who else to turn to.

And well, thus begins their journey :)

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

[Maya Banks] As stated above, this is a story I’ve literally had in my head for many years. And the first thing that came to me was a single scene where the hero forces the heroine’s compliance when she initially refuses his request for her to help find his kidnapped sister. The hero has no idea what hell he has just unleashed on the heroine and has no idea the toll it takes on her and is appalled when he discovers just what he’s done.

That scene, which is the opening scene of Keep Me Safe, was the basis for the entire story and subsequent series. Book 3 in the Slow Burn series, Safe At Last, is ALSO a story that I have had the idea living in my head for many years and I’m THRILLED not only to get to write Caleb and Ramie’s story, but Zack’s and Gracie’s story in book 3. (Finally!)

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

[Maya Banks] Everything! Every single word. After waiting so long to be able to bring this story to light I loved every scene.

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

[Maya Banks] Honestly nothing. When you’ve had as long as I have to think about this story you don’t encounter many “bumps in the road” simply because you’ve had so long to go over the possibilities, arrange and rearrange constantly until you KNOW exactly what you want to do with the story.

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

[Maya Banks] Uh well I think it changes often or at least I can’t think of ONE song that would fit me all the time. I’m extremely eclectic and my music tastes range WIDELY.

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

[Maya Banks] My laptop.

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

[Maya Banks] While I DO have an office and a desk, I don’t always use it. I tend to switch places (writing spots) and currently my office isn’t it, so my desk is pretty clean!

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

[Maya Banks] Ok as you’re no doubt discovering I’m a really boring person! I honestly can’t think of anyone I’d like to trade places with because I’m a FIRM believer in “the grass is always greener…until you get there”

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

[Maya Banks] I’ve had VERY little reading time this year because I’ve been sidelines by health issues :( I’ve mostly been reading my OWN stories as I write them lol. BUT reading is ESSENTIAL for me. Especially after I come off an exhausting, stressful deadline. Reading helps me recharge the batteries and helps me rediscover my love of romance and it motivates me to go write another kickass book.

But at the same time, sometimes, especially when I DON’T have a lot of time, I don’t want to risk a new author or a new title that I’m unsure that I’ll LIKE. It’s at times like these that I fall back on my “comfort re-reads”  These are books that I love no matter HOW many times I re-read them. I’ve literally read them dozens and DOZENS of time because I KNOW they won’t disappoint me and the make me happy and motivate me to write something truly special.

So after coming off a VERY exhausting, DRAINING deadline a week ago, I was WASTED but I needed a “comfort re-read” so I chose three of Kresley Cole’s books in her IAD series and just went to bed and curled up with my super comfy pillows (I LOVE my down pillows and I LOVE my bed and down comforter and my AWESOME linens) Bed accessories are my one indulgence. So I took two days and just decompressed and read some Kresley Cole books just to give my brain a rest and make it “happy”

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

[Maya Banks] I am VERY close to my family. I have an EXTREMELY close and open relationship with all thee of my teenage children. I know, I know! Shocking, right?? And my favorite thing in the WORLD is simply being able to put my work away after finishing a deadline and even if it’s just all crashing on the couch together and watching a movie, or gathering in the kitchen over a family meal and discussing what’s going on with them and school, these are the times I savor the most. I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world.

I also love to travel and I am NOT a planner. If my husband and I actually try to sit down and plan out a trip down to the minutest detail months in advance, we become overwhelmed and frustrated and can never decide exactly what we want to do. We LOVE taking spur of the moment trips with no more than a day’s notice and we seem to be less frustrated with the “details” when we just GO instead of trying to plan it all out.

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

[Maya Banks] I hang out on Facebook and Twitter quite frequently. And I’m always available via email and my website always contains the latest, up to date information on all my books and releases. Links are below





Keep Me Safe

Slow Burn # 1

By: Maya Banks

Releasing October 7th, 2014


A sizzling story of a woman who risks her life and her heart to find a wealthy man’s missing sister—the first novel in a sexy new romantic suspense series from #1 New York Times bestselling author Maya Banks

When Caleb Devereaux’s younger sister is kidnapped, this scion of a powerful and wealthy family turns to an unlikely source for help: a beautiful and sensitive woman with a gift for finding answers others cannot.

While Ramie can connect to victims and locate them by feeling their pain, her ability comes with a price. Every time she uses it, it costs her a piece of herself. Helping the infuriatingly attractive and impatient Caleb successfully find his sister nearly destroys her. Even though his sexual intensity draws her like a magnet, she needs to get as far away from him as she can.

Deeply remorseful for the pain he’s caused, Caleb is determined to make things right. But just when he thinks Ramie’s vanished forever, she reappears. She’s in trouble and she needs his help. Now, Caleb will do risk everything to protect her—including his heart. . . .

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2014/08/keep-me-safe-slow-burn-1-by-maya-banks.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20910177-keep-me-safe?from_search=true

Buy Links

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Keep-Me-Safe-Novel-Novels-ebook/dp/B00H20H5NG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1408970888&sr=8-1&keywords=keep+me+safe

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/keep-me-safe-maya-banks/1117650167?ean=9780062312464

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/keep-me-safe/id771083448?mt=11

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/keep-me-safe-1

Author Info

Maya Banks is a #1 USA Today and New York Times bestselling author whose chart toppers have included erotic romance, romantic suspense, contemporary romance, Scottish historical romances. She is the author of the Breathless Trilogy, the KGI novels, the Sweet series, and the Colters Legacy novels.
She lives in the South with her husband and three children and other assorted babies, such as her two Bengal kitties and a Calico who’s been with her as long as her youngest child. She’s an avid reader of romance and loves to dish books with her fans and anyone else who’ll listen! She very much enjoys interacting with her readers on Facebook and Twitter as well as in her Yahoo! Group.

Author Links

Website: http://mayabanks.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorMayaBanks
Twitter: https://twitter.com/maya_banks
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/24978.Maya_Banks


Chapter 1

Caleb Devereaux turned out of the sharp switchback and onto the driveway leading up to the tiny mountain cabin, swearing when he hit pothole after pothole. Fury and impatience simmered in his blood but the anticipation of having finally found Ramie St. Claire after an exhaustive search kept his mood from being completely black.

Ramie was his sister, Tori’s, only hope.

The moment Tori was kidnapped, Caleb had begun his search for Ramie St. Claire. She certainly wasn’t the first person on most people’s go-to list when looking for a loved one. Ramie was psychic and had been helpful in locating victims in the past. While many would be skeptical, Caleb absolutely believed in Ramie’s abilities.

His own sister had psychic abilities.

He and his brothers, Beau and Quinn, had always been extremely overprotective of their baby sister. With good reason. Caleb was the head of a veritable empire. Security was always top priority. They’d always feared kidnapping for ransom, but in their worst nightmares they’d never imagined that Tori would simply disappear and be at the mercy of a madman.

There’d been no ransom demand. Simply a video of Tori bound hand and foot and the maniacal laughter of her captor as he told Caleb to kiss his sister goodbye.

He just prayed he wasn’t too late. God, don’t let it be too late for Tori.

It infuriated him that Ramie St. Claire had simply dropped off the map three months ago. No trace of her, no forwarding address. No evidence that she even existed. How could she simply disappear when she was such an invaluable aid in finding kidnap victims and missing persons? How selfish of her to simply refuse, by her actions, to help anyone?

He’d worked himself into a rage by the time he finally pulled up to the small cabin that looked as though it wouldn’t weather the upcoming winter at all. He wasn’t even certain there would be electricity. Only a person determined not to be found would live in a place like this.

He got out and strode to the ramshackle front door, his fist up and pounding. The door shook and rattled under the force of his knock. Only silence greeted him and it sent his blood pressure soaring.

“Miss St. Claire!” he roared. “Answer the goddamn door!”

He beat on the door again, shouting again for her to answer. He likely looked and sounded like the madman holding his sister, but at this point he didn’t care. He was beyond desperation. It had taken every resource available to him to finally track Ramie down. No way in hell he was leaving until he’d gotten the information he’d come for.

Then the door swung open and he was greeted by the sight of a petite woman with wary, gray eyes. He was momentarily taken aback, going silent as he stared at Ramie St. Claire for the first time in person.

The photos he’d seen of her didn’t do her justice. There was a delicate air to her as though she were recovering from an illness, but it in no way detracted from her beauty. She looked…fragile. He felt a brief moment of guilt for what he was about to ask her to do, but he brushed it away. There was no price too high to pay for his sister’s life.

“I can’t help you.”

Her softly spoken words slid like velvet over his ears, a direct contrast from the anger her refusal caused. He hadn’t even made his request yet and she was already giving him the brush-off.

“You don’t even know what it is I want,” he said in an icy tone that would wither most people.

“It’s rather obvious,” she said wearily, fatigue drooping her eyelids. “Why else would you come all this way? I don’t even want to know how you found me. It’s obvious I did a piss poor job of covering my tracks if you managed to find me here.”

Caleb frowned. Had she been ill? Was that why she’d dropped out of sight so she could recover? It didn’t matter why now that he’d found her. He didn’t care what her reasons were.

“With your abilities why would you purposely make yourself difficult to find?” he demanded. “My sister’s life is at stake here, Miss St. Claire. I’m not merely asking you to help me. I’m not leaving until you do.”

She shook her head adamantly, fear chasing the lethargy from her eyes. “I can’t.”

There was quiet desperation to her words that told him there was more to her refusal than what appeared on the surface. Something was wrong and yet he couldn’t summon any regret for forcing her compliance. Not when Tori’s life hung in the balance.

He reached inside his jacket and pulled out Tori’s scarf. The one item they’d found at the sight where she must have been taken. In the parking lot of a grocery store beside the open door of her car. He should have never let her go alone. He’d failed her. Failed to protect her. Failed to ensure proper security.

Ramie immediately backed away, a desperate cry on her lips. He shoved forward, forcing the scarf into her hands and holding her and the scarf so there was no escape. She emitted a broken sob and she looked up at him, stricken, her face going unnaturally pale. Her pupils flared and then clouded, pain and devastation clearly outlined on her features.

“No,” she whispered. “Not again. Oh God, not again. I won’t survive it.”

Her knees buckled and she would have gone down, but he caught her, ensuring the scarf never lost contact with her hands. He watched in horror as Ramie’s body sagged, slipping from his grasp despite his best effort to support her weight. She was simply lifeless, as limp as a rag doll. He quickly followed her down to the floor, determined that she not lose her grip on Tori’s scarf. But it didn’t seem to matter now. Ramie was somewhere else.

Her eyes glazed over and her body began to twitch spasmodically. She curled into a fetal position, the fragility of such a self-protective measure gutting him. She moaned softly and then began to weep.

“Please don’t hurt me again. Please, I’m begging you. I can’t take any more. If you’re going to kill me, just do it. Quit torturing me.”

Chill bumps spread rapidly up Caleb’s nape as Ramie’s voice, which sounded nearly identical to Tori’s, filled his ears. Dear God, was he witnessing what was happening to his sister through Ramie?

The scene Ramie was painting was horrifying. Not only for the fact that his sister was even now enduring the absolute worse. But from all appearances, Ramie was suffering with her.

He’d certainly done his research on Ramie St. Claire’s abilities but there was little information beyond her astonishing success record. No mention of how she managed to help victims or what it did to her. God help them all. What had he done?

Her body jerked and it took only a moment for Caleb to realize what was happening. It was too unmistakable. Bile rose in his throat and he had to suck in steadying breaths to keep from heaving the contents of his stomach on the floor. Tears burned his eyelids as he helplessly watched his sister being raped through the window of Ramie’s awareness.

Ramie’s weeping tore at his heart and he gathered her into his arms, not knowing what else to do but rock her gently. “Tori?” He whispered his sister’s name experimentally, not knowing if a link had been established through Ramie. “Can you hear me? It’s Caleb. Tell me where you are, honey. I’ll come for you. Hold on please. Don’t give up, no matter how bad it is.”

Ramie’s head jerked sideways and the imprint of a hand immediately appeared on her cheek. Caleb was horrified, unsure of what to do now that he’d crossed a line he couldn’t come back from. He tried to push back his guilt, telling himself that anything that helped him recover his sister was worth it. But was torturing an innocent woman worth it?

He hadn’t given her a choice. She’d told him no and yet he’d forced this on her not knowing the heavy toll it would take. He had no idea how her powers worked and now that he did he was sick to his soul. No wonder she’d been so resistant. No wonder she’d told him she couldn’t do it anymore.

“Ramie. Ramie!” he said in a more forceful voice. “Come back to me, Ramie. Come back so you can tell me how to find her.”

Ramie’s eyes were opened but so distant that he knew she wasn’t here. The imprint of the hand on her face was bright and vivid, red against deathly white skin. There was a look of such defeat and despair in her eyes that once again he found himself battling tears.

Suddenly she hunched inward, her entire body jolting as though absorbing a blow. She wrapped her arms around her stomach and he realized that she’d been kicked. Or rather Tori had been kicked. It was a horrific, helpless feeling to know that two women were being victimized, one because of him.

Then she simply rolled away, her cheek lying against the cold floor, her eyes fixed and vacant. She was completely still and terror gripped him. Was Tori dead? Oh dear God! Had he just witnessed his sister’s murder?

“Ramie! Wake up! God, please wake up. Tell me how to find her. Tell me that she’s still alive!”

He picked Ramie’s slight weight up, swearing because she was so thin and fragile, weighing nothing in his arms. He carried her to the worn sofa and carefully laid her down, not wanting to hurt her any more than she’d already been hurt.

He sat on the edge, gathering her icy hands in his, rubbing, trying to infuse warmth. He had no idea what to do. Should he take her to a hospital?

Then after several long moments, she blinked and seemed to come out of her trance. Pain immediately swamped her features and she began to silently weep again, each tear cutting him to ribbons.

“Is she still alive?” he asked anxiously. “Do you know how to find her?”

“Yes,” Ramie said dully.

Hope surged in his heart and he found himself nearly crushing her hands in his.

“Tell me where,” he urged.

Slowly and painfully she whispered the location down to the minutest detail. Chills once again slithered up his spine at the precision in which she described not only the location but the kidnapper. She even provided a license plate number.

He picked up his phone and immediately called his brother, relaying the information that Ramie had provided. When he was done, he stared helplessly down at Ramie, grateful and yet deeply regretful for what he’d just subjected her to.

“What do I need to do to help you?” he asked softly.

Resignation dulled her eyes even further. “There’s nothing you can do,” she said in a flat voice. “Just go.”

“The hell I’ll just leave you here!”

He was already calculating in his head that he could simply bring her with him. He could get her the care she so obviously needed at the same time Tori was receiving what she needed.

“Your sister needs you. Just go. I’ll be fine.”

The lie was so obvious, but it seemed to be all she could muster. He was torn between rushing to be with Tori and staying to ensure Ramie would be all right. But how could she be? Two women would live with this for the rest of their lives. His precious sister and the woman he’d forced to help him never knowing the price she’d pay.

“Please,” she begged, her voice breaking. “Just go and leave me be. I gave you what you wanted. I helped you, now go. It’s the least you can do.”

Caleb stood, wiping a hand over his hair and down the back of his neck in agitation. “I’ll go, but I’m coming back, Ramie. I’m going to make this up to you.”

“You can never take this back,” she whispered. “There’s no making up for what’s been done. Just go and take care of your sister. She needs you.”

She closed her eyes, tears seeping from her eyelids. How could he just leave her like she asked? And yet how could he not go and ensure that his sister was safely recovered? He’d never felt so torn in his life.

“If you have any humanity whatsoever, you’ll leave and never tell anyone where you found me,” Ramie said hoarsely. “Please, I’m begging you. Just go. He plans to kill her tomorrow. At dawn. You don’t have much time.”

Her words proved to be the impetus, driving him to action. But goddamn it, he would make this up to her. Somehow, someway.

Regret swamped him. Worse was the fact that even knowing now what he hadn’t known before, he couldn’t say he would have done anything differently. Not when it meant the difference between Tori’s life and death. But at least now he better understood Ramie’s resistance. No longer did he look at her and think she was selfish and cruel. Now he realized her disappearance had been self-preservation. He didn’t know she’d survived this in the past. He just prayed he wasn’t the tipping point in pushing her so far over the edge she’d never recover.

Caleb closed his eyes and then gently touched her cheek. “I’m so sorry. You’ll never know how much. My family and I owe you more than I can ever repay. I’ll go for now and pray to God I’m not too late. But I’m coming back, Ramie. Count on it. I’ll make this up to you if it’s the very last thing I do.”

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32. Interview with Sidney Halston, Author of Full Contact and Giveaway

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

[Sidney Halston] First of all, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to interview me this morning. I’m so excited. Okay so, this is hard question, isn’t it. I guess I’d say: Mother, reader, daring, daydreamer, playful.

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

[Sidney Halston] I can’t wait for you all to meet Slade Martin! FULL CONTACT is the 2nd novel from my WORTH THE FIGHT series. It is a stand-alone, however, you’ll get a better feel for the entire town and the sub-characters if you first read AGAINST THE CAGE (Book #1, WORTH THE FIGHT series).

FULL CONTACT takes place in Tarpon Springs, Florida. It begins when Jessica Cross is released from the hospital after being horribly beaten by her ex-boyfriend. Ultimate bad boy, Slade, the owner of Worth the Fight Academy, an MMA Training Academy, vows to protect Jessica from her ex. The book is funny and sexy but heartfelt and tender, especially when the dirty talking Slade becomes putty in Jessica’s hand. I hope you all read it love it as much as I loved writing it.

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

[Sidney Halston] My husband is a black belt in jiu-jitsu. I absolutely love the brotherhood between the men at his Academy, and noticed the same kind of camaraderie even with the opponents at matches. It gave me the idea of building this world based on Worth the Fight Academy, where the men have grown up together, and regardless of whether they are tearing each other apart in a cage or hugging it out after a grueling match, at the end, they can all go out and have a beer together. It’s the two sides of these strong males that I love. For this particular book, the plot stemmed from the first novel, AGAINST THE CAGE. It starts off where book #1 leaves off. She’s been beaten and feels broken. Slade’s guilt for not protecting her consumes him. Will she let him in—a bad boy to the core…

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

[Sidney Halston] Oh Slade has a dirty mouth. It was so fun writing it!

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

[Sidney Halston] The fight scenes always give me a hard time. They’ve become easier to write, but I’m so concerned about the accuracy of how to write them, that they take me a long time.

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

[Sidney Halston] Talk Dirty to Me, by Jason Derulo. HEE HEE.

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

[Sidney Halston] My Kindle. I take it everywhere. Hey…you never know when you’ll have a moment to read.

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

[Sidney Halston] A notepad, my cell phone, and photo of my kids and husband.

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

[Sidney Halston] This is a tough question. I’m not really sure. I enjoy my life and it’s gotten so interesting with all the people I’ve met. I don’t think I’d trade with anyone. There are some characters in some of my favorite books, that make me want to jump into the book and be that character for a day, but that’s fiction.

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

[Sidney Halston] I love to read and I read often. Kristen Ashley’s my favorite and I just adore her. I love Jessica Clare’s Hit Man series and Laura Kaye’s Hard Inked Series. I recently discovered Tammy Falkner’s The Reed Brother’s series, which I devoured in less than a week. I loved it. I really like anything Toni Aleo writes. She’s awesome and I also really like Penny Reid’s Knitting in the City series. It’s hilarious!

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

[Sidney Halston] Like I said, I love to read. But, I also love spending time with my husband and kids. During the weekend we are pretty much inseparable and we do everything from going grocery shopping together to the movies. I like spending time with them. There’s nothing better that hearing your kids say something silly or completely inappropriate to make your day brighter.

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

[Sidney Halston] WebSite: www.sidneyhalston.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/sidneyhalston

Twitter: @sidneyhalston

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22469198-full-contact

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/shalston/

Thank you so much for chatting with me this morning. I hope you all pick up a copy of FULL CONTACT and let me know what you think. I love interacting with my readers! XOXO


Full Contact

Worth the Fight # 2

By: Sidney Halston

Releasing October 28th, 2014


Sidney Halston returns to steamy Tarpon Springs, Florida, where a hell-raising bad boy prepares to get down and dirty for the woman he loves.

How could she have been so stupid? When Jessica Cross decides to give her violently jealous boyfriend—the otherwise influential and charming Dennis Stavros—a second chance, she very nearly becomes a statistic. After weeks of healing from a broken rib and collapsed lung, and with Dennis behind bars, Jessica finally feels ready to come out of hiding. But will she ever be able to take a chance on love again with someone new?

Mixed martial arts fighter Slade Martin knows he has a bad reputation. Hell, he’s probably earned it. So it won’t be easy to convince beautiful, vulnerable Jessica that she can trust him—that from the moment she walked into his life, she’s been the only one he’s wanted. Powerful and confident, Slade knows he can honor his vow to protect Jessica body and soul. Winning her heart will be another matter . . . but a woman like Jessica is worth the fight.

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2014/07/full-contact-worth-fight-2-by-sidney.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22469198-full-contact?from_search=true

Goodreads Series Link: https://www.goodreads.com/series/135224-worth-the-fight

Buy Links

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Full-Contact-Worth-Sidney-Halston-ebook/dp/B00K4C3RHC/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1410966326&sr=1-1&keywords=Full+Contact%3A+Worth+the+Fight+Series
B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/full-contact-sidney-halston/1119434740?ean=9780553390971

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/full-contact/id889685362?mt=11

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/full-contact-2

Author Info

Sidney Halston lives her life by one simple rule: “Just do it.” And that’s exactly what she did. At the age of thirty, having never written anything other than a legal brief, she picked up a pen for the first time to pursue her dream of becoming an author. That first stroke sealed the deal, and she fell in love with writing. Halston lives in South Florida with her husband and children.

Author Links

Website: http://sidneyhalston.blogspot.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Sidneyhalston
Twitter: https://twitter.com/SidneyHalston
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6916557.Sidney_Halston

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The post Interview with Sidney Halston, Author of Full Contact and Giveaway appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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33. NYCC ’14: Wes Craig Double-Downs with Dynamic Panels and Recurring Symbols in ‘Deadly Class’ and ‘Blackhand’

by Zachary Clemente
IMG 1338 NYCC 14: Wes Craig Double Downs with Dynamic Panels and Recurring Symbols in Deadly Class and Blackhand

In the incredibly crowded Artist Alley of New York Comic-Con, I sat down with illustrator Wes Craig to talk about his work on Blackhand Comics and Deadly Class, both published in print by Image Comics. His work exhibits some of the most exciting paneling structures and dynamic representation of motion, at least to me. I’m pleased to say that our conversation was halted many times as eager attendees came up get copies of Deadly Class signed, buy a copy of Blackhand, or just share a few words. Craig was worked on Guardians of the Galaxy, Judge DreddT.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, Batman Annual, and many more.

Comics Beat: Like many, I first found your work in Deadly Class, then started look at Blackhand [Comics]. I found your panel structure and your ability to move the reader’s eye dynamic and fluid, even when panels doesn’t necessarily exist. How does your process begin and how does that looser form start taking place?

Wes Craig: For years in my sketchbook, I’ve been trying to think of different ways of presenting a page as something you maybe haven’t seen before. Deadly Class was kind of my first opportunity to do that for other people to see. I did a bit of it in Blackhand and my previous work for myself that no one really ever saw, but Deadly Class was the first public version of that.

I take what Rick [Remender] has in the script and I try to figure out what the scene is about. A lot of have people have brought up the first issue – it’s really just a flat-out chase scene. I know that you can’t present motion in comics and that’s a problem with comics: you can’t do music or motion – but I try to make the page dynamic and make it feel like it’s kind of moving. So, I go back to my sketchbooks to come up with as many ideas as I can like breaking the borders or having characters fall into the next panel, and all that kind of stuff helps with that feeling.

CB: With Blackhand, I didn’t realize how it was going to be published in print. It being an object with a horizontal format is exciting.

WC: Those started off as webcomics and I wasn’t sure at first if I was ever going to publish them – that’s why it’s kind of formatted like a computer screen. It makes for an interesting looking thing and not may books have those dimensions. It stands out in a stack of other comics.

TheSeed2 NYCC 14: Wes Craig Double Downs with Dynamic Panels and Recurring Symbols in Deadly Class and Blackhand

Blackhand Comics – The Seed

CB: The three stories in Blackhand all exhibit very different paneling styles each a discussion on three different types of stories. When did you working on Blackhand?

WC: It started around the same time as Deadly Class, I forget exactly. I think I started it just before Rick initially emailed me to work on Deadly Class, so it’s been going on for a while. It just takes a while to get it done, obviously. I do it in between issues; there’s usually a little gap between when I finish an issue of Deadly Class and when the next script comes in. I’ll try to get in as many pages as a I can, sometimes on weekends or whatever. Most of my days are spent on Deadly Class so it’s kind of a slow process, but I still managed to release three stories in this book. I have two new stories online, and I’m working on the thumbnails of the third story. That’ll all hopefully be Blackhand Book 2, maybe next year or something.

CB: Will that be through Image as well?

WC: Yeah, I think this’ll [Blackhand Comics] do well enough that it’ll be good for everyone involved – they seem to be totally up for it.

CB: It does appear to be flying off your table.

WC: I actually had to go back to the Image booth to get more from them. They have so many books there, that this can get lost in the shuffle for them but for people specifically coming to see me, it’s right there. [Gestures to the sole remaining copy on his table]

CB: I couldn’t find a lot about your earlier career, what was the path you took?

WC: I’ve been working professionally for a little bit over 10 years–I keep saying that, but I’ve been saying it for two years now. So 12 years or whatever it may be, but it’s always been an issue of this here, an issue of that there. [I had] a little run on some Wildstorm stuff back in the day, a little run of Guardians of the Galaxy – so I’ve never been known as the guy who does that one thing. This convention’s a very different experience for me now because I’m the guy drawing Deadly Class so I have a constant stream of people that are into it here to see me.

The initial thing with Rick started when I did an issue with Lee [Loughridge] [for DC] – I’m a big fan of his work in Deadly Class and his work in general. I kept on bugging DC with working with with Lee, thinking we’d match up well together; it took a while to convince them, but when we finally got the chance with the Legends of the Dark Knight digital comic. [...] I think Rick used to live down the street from Lee and they’d get together, drink beers, and shoot the shit and when Lee was working on one of the Batman pages, Rick leaned over asking “who’s this guy?” It was pure coincidence – I’m a big Rick Remender fan and I’m a big fan of the artists he chooses to work with; I was flattered that he gave me the shot. We get along well now and it’s kind of the perfect situation.

deadly NYCC 14: Wes Craig Double Downs with Dynamic Panels and Recurring Symbols in Deadly Class and Blackhand

Volume 1 Cover

CB: It looks like you never really had any ownership in your previously published work. How is it having way more of an input within a full story?

WC: It’s great, man. You just feel more invested in it – all that experimental page composition stuff was always in the back of my mind, but I never tried it in the Marvel or DC stuff. People seem to love it and I wonder why I didn’t start doing it earlier, but you just don’t feel the same way. [...] You’re not sure you want to give them your best stuff because once you give them that, they own it. You don’t see as many characters being created for those companies anymore. If they have a great character, they’re going to do it themselves. Once I started Deadly Class, I felt more free to stretch out.

CB: What kind of input do you have on how the story of Deadly Class forms?

WC: That’s part of–not just being co-owners–but being invested. [...] He’ll do the plot, but we’ll talk out ideas a lot, informing what will become the next issues and we’ll talk out where we want to go with it. I feel like the other books that he’s working on are more structured in terms of where they’re gonna go, but with this one we don’t know for sure where we’re gonna end up; we wanted to be a bit more free with it. So he’ll call me up, we’ll talk through ideas figuring out what’s the most interesting way to go with it, he’ll write the script, then call me up again. I think his thing is that he likes to talk it out a few times with not just me until it’s really fully figured out in his mind; he can tell by our reactions what’s working and what’s not.

It’s weird working with him, actually. When I write my own stuff for Blackhand, I’m much more structured, deliberate, and I take my time whereas he’ll give me a scene and if it’s not working right he’ll want to fix it up, asking me what I want to do and I’ll have to be on my toes and come up with something on the spot. It’s not what I’m used to but it stretches a different muscle, spitting out ideas until you find something that works – it’s pretty collaborative.

CB: I feel that’s something we’re seeing with more Image titles than most; the divisions of writer/artist are necessarily as clean cut.

WC: For sure. I’m sure it’s different with each team but there’s a bunch of guys that I talk to who have a great back and forth.

deadlyclass16 NYCC 14: Wes Craig Double Downs with Dynamic Panels and Recurring Symbols in Deadly Class and Blackhand

Deadly Class – Issue 4 internal art

CB: In that same vein, does the conversational collaboration extend to working with Lee?

WC: Well, he’s amazing so I pretty much do let him do what he wants unless there’s something very specific that I have in mind. But when he’s finished with the colors, I might go in and tweak something; it’s very alive as we’re working on it. When Rick gives me the script, the dialogue is just the basic idea of what people say and when he gets the artwork, he goes in and write the actual dialogue. It’s always ongoing and forming as we’re working on it. When I’m working on the art, I have ideas for the colors, but since I like to be left alone and come up with my own ideas, I try to do the same thing for Lee. We set the tone for the colors in the beginning; looking at a Batman: Year One and 80’s colors – it was a good inspiration. I’m [also] a big fan of John Workman as a letterer, so when we’re talking to Rus Wooton, I was asking if he could do the thing with circular balloons with a clipped-off tail that’s kind of John Workman’s way of doing it–Alex Toth did balloons the same way. I thought that would be cool, but aside from that, once we set the tone its hands off and we let them do what they do.

CB: Something I love with Lee’s work on Deadly Class is that he has this amazing perceptive use of black tones.

WC: Yeah, like any good colorist, he understands how to tell a story with the color. He doesn’t like to color until it’s all the artwork is in which can get a little bit tight on the deadline, but just like how I don’t let getting script pages one at a time, he wants to be able to see the whole thing at once.

CB: For Rick, this is a very personal story where he’s bringing in a lot of his own youth. Does any of that happen to you?

WC: Yeah, visual-wise. I get to slip in the occasional thing that’s for me. None of it is obvious, just background things you may not pick up on. I’m a little bit younger than Rick; his teens years were late 80’s and mine were early 90’s, so I’m a bit more of a grunge Nirvana kind of a kid and he’s a punk guy. In that era, my experiences are a little more flowery and nice because I was just a kid with Saturday morning cartoons, but he was a teenager going through the kind of crazy stuff you go through. I just take what I went through as a teenager and relate it back to the 80’s version – it’s all the same thing. He was a punk growing up and I was more of a rockabilly kid, but that sort of comes from a punk thing so we both had very similar stuff happen to us there. His stories are way crazier, but we’ve both been jumped, both been in fights, both done…stuff. Drugs and whatever else.

CB: I think it’s important for people working together to be coming from a unique perspective – from a personal place.

WC: It takes a while to do that, but that’s how it works best. I’m not one of those people who would have a public facebook account for everyone to look at; I don’t put my personal life out there. But to have it matter, you definitely have to put a bit of yourself into the work or else it’s just kind of dry and unrealistic.

CB: Shifting gears a bit – one of the things that really draws people to Deadly Class is the covers. How does a cover form for you and how do you start making it?

WC: Well, Rick likes them to be traditional in style, where the covers have to do with something that’s going on in that issue. The covers need to be done way in advance of the actual pages, so I don’t find that works very well for me. We just need to have them thematically match up with season or that story arc or whatever it is, which is kind of the way it’s going right now. The covers I’m doing right now aren’t exactly about what’s going on in that issue, but they have to do with that time in the school. I come up with a lot of thumbnails–a lot of roughs–trying to think of something visually standout and interesting. I shoot them over to our editor Sebastian Griner and Rick and we talk about what’s hitting us – I obviously push the ones I like the most. The thing with this stuff is there’s no Superman or Batman or Spider-Man on the cover to sell the comic to people. I think a lot of the Image stuff is really interesting cover-wise because you have to do something to stand out from the bunch. Unless you’re Walking Dead or Saga, you have to do something to stand out, so a lot of people have very design-y covers so they don’t get lost in the pack of comics.

DeadlyClass CoverB 72dpi NYCC 14: Wes Craig Double Downs with Dynamic Panels and Recurring Symbols in Deadly Class and Blackhand

CB: It totally works, at least for me. When Deadly Class comes out, I put it on the top of my stack to say “look at this sweet-lookin’ book.”

WC: [Laughs] Yeah, that’s the idea. This is kind of a blood-dripping kind of theme [gesturing to his banner] but it could be paint, it could be blood; it’s just a dripping motif I try to incorporate into some of the covers and stories. I visualize that if it ever became a TV show, the would have to use it in the opening credits in some way.

CB: Along those lines, I’m curious about your use of recurring symbology in both Blackhand and Deadly Class. How conscious are you when creating these and making sure they serve their purpose.

WC: I’m pretty conscious of it. I don’t have as much control over it in Deadly Class since it’s Rick’s story, but if I can find a way to fit in a previously used symbol I will. For instance, when Marcus’s parents are killed, he lets go of a balloon and if you use that enough, it’ll mean something to the reader. You don’t have to show the whole flashback again, you can show just a little glimpse of the balloon and that means Marcus is thinking back about his parents. I saw it in David Mack’s Kabuki a lot; he would reuse these same symbols over and over again. Frank Miller did it a lot too; like the death scene in Dark Knight Returns, where his mom’s pearl necklace is snapped – you see it in slow motion and it becomes little circles. Then, three or four chapters later, all you have to show is that one little panel with those circles, and you know what he’s thinking.

It’s a strong thing that comics get to use, you can make a richer experience for the reader if you layer it that way. In Blackhand, I have full control of that so I try to have recurring elements a lot. It works better in a longer form like Deadly Class or a graphic novel where you have the pages to repeat, repeat, repeat until it means something to the reader. It’s like hitting notes [taps fingers on table], it becomes like a note in a song.

CB: Like hearing two seconds of a song and knowing exactly what it is?

WC: Yeah, there’s certain things we [comics] don’t have. We don’t have music, we don’t have motion. Music is a major thing that’s able to influence or manipulate people’s emotions; we can’t have that, but we can have other things like symbols. Not to hearken back to these 80’s comics, but Watchmen has these recurring elements that are really effective at hitting you. All of them become something more, and they get to play on it with variations, like there’s the bit with Dr. Manhattan with the smiley-face on Mars.

CB: It can add new perspectives to already an already touched-on theme.

WC: Especially with Deadly Class where the story is crazy and all-over-the-place, the use of recurring symbols can give it a form of cohesion.

CB: It’s successful visual storytelling.

WC: [Laughs] Thanks man.

CB: No Wes, thank you.


Wes Craig is an illustrator currently in Montreal and the artist on Deadly Class. You can also see his Blackhand Comics webcomic here.

The first volume of Deadly Class, “1987 – Reagan Youth” and the first volume of Blackhand Comics are available in print from Image Comics.

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34. The Coretta Scott King Awards Book Fair

Ever heard of the Coretta Scott King Awards Book Fair? I hadn’t either till I took my children to one of these fairs in Nashville a few months back.

Today at Kirkus, I talk to the Fair’s organizer, Collette Hopkins. She’s pictured above (second from the left) at this year’s Fair with Angelica Washington, author Sharon Draper, storyteller Mama Koku, and illustrator R. Gregory Christie. Collette talks about what the Fair is and how interested teachers and librarians can bring it to their city.

That link will be here soon.

* * * * * * *

Image used with permission of Collette Hopkins.

3 Comments on The Coretta Scott King Awards Book Fair, last added: 10/17/2014
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35. Interview with Renita Pizzitola, Author of Just a Little Crush

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

[Renita Pizzitola] Um, I can do this in one word: Talkative! ?

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

[Renita Pizzitola] It’s the story of two college students who from the outside seem like total opposites. They went to high school together and have a bit of an awkward history, but after reconnecting at a college party they discover they are facing similar conflicts and just might be exactly what the other one needs.

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

[Renita Pizzitola] There’s this line in JUST A LITTLE CRUSH: “…it took me seven minutes to fall in love with him, and only seven seconds to fall out.” Well, that line popped into my head one day and I knew that was the story I had to tell. From there I wanted to create two characters who seemed very different, but really faced similar struggles. I combined that with a plot idea I’d been toying with (which I can’t share because it’s a bit of a spoiler) and the rest just fell into place.

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

[Renita Pizzitola] Brinley and Ryder’s growth. They both start off so stuck trying to prove who they aren’t, they don’t even realize who they have the potential to be. But as the two come together, they grow so much and create a perfect little balance to one another.

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

[Renita Pizzitola] Ensuring Brinley came across as a strong heroine. She’s young and inexperienced, but I never wanted her to come off as helpless or flaky. It’s easy for any girl to lose herself in her first serious relationship, but I wanted her personality and inner strength to still shine through. Of course, she still needed to be human–mistakes, imperfections, and all. In the end, I’d hoped to create this balance of being swept up in a new romance while still being grounded in reality.

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

[Renita Pizzitola] Good question! I actually asked a friend to help me on this and she said “something sung really fast with lots of energy…and words.” (I wasn’t kidding about that talkative thing.) But—being that I think I should pick something more inspiring—I’m going with Brave by Sara Bareilles. I love everything about it (it’s a song about the power of words, how could I not??) but the opening is just awesome.

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

[Renita Pizzitola] My phone! I hate not being able to check email or be accessible to people. Plus if I get stuck somewhere, I always have books to read, twitter to scroll through, friends to message…

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

[Renita Pizzitola] My MacBook, coffee and phone ?

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

[Renita Pizzitola] Ooh that’s a hard one. I should probably pick someone super interesting and wonderful, right? But that all sounds very adult, and really, I’d love to just go back to college for a day. Though it had its share of stressful moments, it was also a ton of fun! Maybe I could switch places with Brinley because, really, who wouldn’t want a little Ryder action?!?

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

[Renita Pizzitola] My two current I’ll-read-anything-they-write New Adult authors are Christina Lee and Sophie Jordan. Their books are the perfect blend of sweet and steamy! I also loved Deeper by Robin York.

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

[Renita Pizzitola] I love to read! I also spend lots of time with my family and friends. I’m lucky to live in a great city where there is always something new to do!

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

[Renita Pizzitola] website twitter facebook blog tumblr

Just a Little Crush

By: Renita Pizzitola

Releasing October 21st, 2014



Good girls stay away from Ryder Briggs . . . or, at least, they try to. In Renita Pizzitola’s emotional novel of heartache and seduction, one college freshman just can’t get enough.

Brinley Dawson doesn’t drink, she studies—and despite the accusations of her alcoholic mother, she’s still a virgin. But if Brinley’s life is so put together, why is she freaking out to be going to college with the gorgeous, green-eyed jerk she kissed on a stupid dare in high school? Ryder Briggs can have any girl he wants . . . and the rumors say that he does. So why, after publicly embarrassing Brinley four years ago, is he suddenly acting like he’s interested?

Ryder never forgot Brinley. In fact, those perfect seven minutes permanently raised the bar for what a kiss could be. The truth is, Ryder doesn’t dare get too close to anyone. He knows how that worked out for his parents. But when his roommate takes a shot at Brinley, Ryder can’t contain his jealousy. Now he must do the hardest thing he’s ever done: forget about sex and convince Brinley his feelings are real.

Brinley isn’t sure whether she believes Ryder, but for the first time, her body isn’t playing by the rules. Then she discovers that she’s an unwilling part of a cruel game, humiliating her all over again—and Ryder might be to blame. Has Brinley’s little crush turned into a huge mistake . . . or has she found the one guy worth trusting with her heart?

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2014/07/just-little-crush-by-renita-pizzitola.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22469198-full-contact?from_search=true

Buy Links

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Just-Little-Crush-Renita-Pizzitola-ebook/dp/B00LDQOZWO

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/just-a-little-crush-renita-pizzitola/1119883834?ean=9780553395105

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/just-a-little-crush/id894376576?mt=11

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/just-a-little-crush-1

Author Info

Renita Pizzitola is the author of New Adult contemporary romance and Young Adult fantasy. When not writing, she can be found feeding her caramel macchiato addiction and reading just about anything she can get her hands on. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and two children.

Author Links

Website: http://www.renitapizzitola.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/renitapizzitolaauthor
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/renitapizzitola
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5816813.Renita_Pizzitola

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36. NYCC ’14: Paul Pope Talks Aurora West & Collaboration In His World

by Zachary Clemente

IMG 1329 NYCC 14: Paul Pope Talks Aurora West & Collaboration In His WorldAs the first day of New York Comic-Con came to close and exhibitors began shutting down their booths, I conducted my third interview with acclaimed cartoonist Paul Pope. This time we discussed his new entry in his Battling Boy series with First Second: The Rise of Aurora West, co-written by J.T. Petty and illustrated by David Rubín. Pope is an accomplished cartoonist, his published works including 100%The One-Trick RipoffEscapoBatman: Year 100Heavy Liquid and is the recipient of multiple Eisner awards. It was a pleasure to speak with Pope again; you can find the first two interviews here and here.

Comics Beat: Paul, have you had a chance to wander the floor or are you only here for the bits you need to be here for?

Paul Pope: That’s the unfortunate thing about working on this side of things, you don’t go as a far anymore. But whatever, it’s not I’m Samuel L. Jackson, I don’t need to sneak in wearing a costume or anything.

CB: So The Rise of Aurora West just came out, how’s the reception been for that so far?

PP: I don’t want to say surprisingly, but I’m very happy to say it’s been very positive. When it came out last Wednesday [9/30] I went out to the west coast and promptly got sick because the tour schedule can be punishing, especially when you’re in airports and schools and you’re not sleeping – it all caught up to me eventually. I was out there for APE but I just couldn’t finished the tour unfortunately, they sent me back and when I got home I slept for 2 days straight. I’ve been rescheduling with all the places I couldn’t get to, figuring out the best to time to get back soon. Hopefully it won’t be too much of a loss.

the rise of aurora west NYCC 14: Paul Pope Talks Aurora West & Collaboration In His World

CB: With Aurora West, you’re choosing to let this world [of Battling Boy] into other creators’ hands. How is the process of – I don’t want to say “sacrifice” – collaboration within this world that you’ve been working on alone for so long?

PP: I talked to Mike Mignola about this not too long ago. [...] You know what he’s done with Hellboy has been great because he’s been able to invite other creators. It was pretty early on that it was looking like Battling Boy was going to be a hit, or at least it would warrant a second series. Since I’m still working on the second book and now promoting it, they asked if I had any ideas and I said we should do a series on Haggard West and Aurora – fill in all the gaps that are implied in the first book as I finish the second book, periodically leave town and come back again.


CB: So not only is it wise for world-building but also strategically a good thing for you.

PP: Yeah, also there is a larger backdrop to the characters and to the world; like, the monsters come from somewhere. In the Aurora series, we getting more of a sense of the mystery of where the monsters come from. It’s more of a pulp adventure.

CB: I thoroughly enjoyed it. It felt very rooted in manga with the printing format and art style.

PP: Well, J.T. understands horror and he gets pulp. David Rubín, like myself, comes from a sort of internationalist style and he likes manga a lot. He was able to keep it within a spectrum of style and approach that’s similar to mine and yet still be his own.

CB: It’s rare to see a very successful treatment of somebody else’s work by another artist who can inhabit both styles at once.

PP: Yeah, it was a lot of fun. He’s really fast too, which is great – he’s kicking my ass at the moment, I have to admit. I’m really happy with the results.

CB: Getting into the themes of the book, something I liked was taking the tropes of the “science” [super] hero idea and the consequence and responsibility of power. Haggard provided for this city for so long, when he turned inward, the city couldn’t handle itself. I found that best discussed in the scene with man on the bridge. How did this theme of power and consequence form?

PP: Well, it was one of the things J.T. and I talked about. I went in with my core idea based on the big, super-bible we wrote – we meaning me – for Battling Boy. We started talking about what the reality would be like, having your children stolen and we decided to try to do something where Haggard gets shaken out of his state of depression by having to help another father. I thought it was a good emotional bit – and it’s something we don’t typically see. [...] In Battling Boy, it’s a little more breezy and focused on the main five or six characters. You see more in the second book about other citizens, but for the most part it’s just Battling Boy, Aurora, and the city planners.

Screen Shot 2014 10 15 at 12.10.14 AM NYCC 14: Paul Pope Talks Aurora West & Collaboration In His World

The Rise of Aurora West

CB: So now we’re getting a larger scope of what’s going on in Acropolis and how it’s dealing with its problems?

PP: Yeah, and obviously Battling Boy, as the name implies, is designed to have lots of explosions and fights and all kinds of stuff like that. Whereas Aurora was more psychological.

CB: It almost felt like the two different sides of Batman books. One’s very detective-based and the other is very action-based.

PP: That was plan going into it, actually. It’s frustrating though. Same with the character Dad in Battling Boy - there were a couple of scenes that I had to write out of Battling Boy that had to do with Dad just kicking ass because for one, that could be its own thing later. I also didn’t want to distract from the core of the story of Battling Boy which was the Boy’s coming of age. In Aurora, it’s the same. Luckily her version of Dad is Haggard; we get to see him without his mask and we get to see him in a family setup.

CB: That leads into my next question which is a big part of both books: would you call Haggard a good father?

PP: That’s a good question, you could ask the same of Dad. I think one of the things that attracted me to writing a story like this was thinking about how being a superhero or war god doesn’t leave you time to raise your kids – you’ll be busy. I’m interested in, fascinated and haunted by that idea of child soldiers. You hear about those types of things in Somalia; to have your child taken away from you. That’s something I find very sympathetic with Aurora and that’s something I wanted to explore with her character – how does she remain innocent?

CB: When we last talked, you said that you had things to say to children with Battling Boy; would you see Aurora as a continuation of that?

PP: One thing people seem to be picking up on with Aurora is that they’re really responding to her as a strong, female lead. She’s a teenage girl; she’s not a sexualized character, she’s not helpless; she’s a sidekick or protégé, but she’s got her own ideas and she does her own things. That’s kind of what her character requires and that’s the kind of personality the daughter of Haggard West would have. It’s been fun. [...] Battling Boy is more about–well, they’re both about abandonment in a sense, even though Battling Boy’s family is intact. I think Aurora’s story is more tragic, even though it’s kind of cloaked in this light, superhero, science-fiction setting. There’s archaeology and mysticism, but there isn’t any mythology in it. It’s the opposite in Battling Boy since he’s from the realm of gods.

Aurora INT Final 100 301 NYCC 14: Paul Pope Talks Aurora West & Collaboration In His World

The Rise of Aurora West

CB: I feel like the archaeology in Aurora is the other side of the coin for Battling Boy‘s mythology. Aurora has this historical scope that I find interesting.

PP: When we went in with the initial pitch for the series, Haggard’s an archaeologist before he’s a hero, and he discovers evidence of an ancient city under the city we know in Battling Boy, and there might’ve been another Battling Boy. The kid is kind of a feral character – it’s implied that Battling Boy has siblings. Imagine, Dad is like a war-god, so he’s probably prolific in line with a lot of mythology. Like with Hercules and Zeus, they have tons and tons of  kids. This god of war, god of conquest – he’s going to be busy fighting battles in the realm of gods, so he needs to have offspring to be able to send them to the realm of humans to take care of basically training-wheel problems. There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on in the background that’s coming out as the series develops.

CB: You touched on how the book came about, but how was the process of sharing the writing and where did duties lie?

PP: We did a sort of back and forth. It was his script and I gave him the liberty to write the voice of Haggard. [...] Part of my job now as being a story director as well as art director, so I don’t want to tell him how to do his job. He already knows what to do, he already knows how to direct movies and he writes video games and graphic novels – he’s really intelligent. It was more of us spending a few months really hammering out a story based on me saying “here’s what I really want to do.” We’d work on a core plot, knowing where the story begins and ends. At that point, I let him go and do his own thing. There were a few things though; his first draft was too violent because he likes horror. [...] There was some stuff with the characterization that I thought was a little off mark from what I was hoping for. Otherwise, I think the script came in really solid and it hit all the things I wanted. I try to give my collaborators room – I got that from Mignola because he told me that’s how he works with people.

CB: You did something like that with Vertigo anthology, Ghosts where you made the story but didn’t write the script.

PP: Oh you mean with Dave Lapham? Yeah, that was a good experiment. [...] I might be doing something else with another guy where I’m drawing something he’s gonna write. The way we worked on the space opera story was I said “here’s what I see: this mini-opera, there are the images I want.” Then we kicked around some ideas and he came up with some interesting stuff. That was more of a true collaboration in a sense because we wrote it together.

MIS01.final  702x1028 NYCC 14: Paul Pope Talks Aurora West & Collaboration In His World

‘Treasure Lost’ in Ghosts #1

CB: How far are you willing to take this collaboration with the Battling Boy world?

PP: Well…it’s easier now after having worked on the film because there’s so many people involved; you can’t be a dictator when it comes to film. With the Battling Boy series that I have been writing and drawing, it’s pretty much my baby; I get minimal editorial input. With the colorist, Hilary Sycamore, she and I have a long conversation before she starts a large stretch of work. I always try to give her the sense of what I’m feeling for a scene. For example, the god realm is always in twilight, the human realm is always Mediterranean with terracotta and aquamarine colors, and the monster realm is like hell so it’s browns and reds.

The place I can be 100% myself is in Battling Boy and as we gradually expand on the series, I want to make sure to pick out people I like and respect and can work with and try to write or direct for their strengths, while being aware of their weaknesses. I think that’s the way to collaborate.

[Spoiler for Aurora West] CB: At the end of Aurora, the monster Coil mentioned that Aurora is his “animus” in the Jungian idea of one half of a whole inside the other and vice versa. Is that a discussion on the origin of monsters and their connection to the children in Battling Boy?

PP: [Laughs] You’re onto something there. Let’s just put it this way: the big boss that we see at the end of Battling Boy who Sadisto is working for is a scribble monster. It’s implied, by the time you hit Aurora, that these monsters might be very old, many of them aren’t even fully formed creatures yet. Yeah, there’s definitely a connection between that and that’ll be coming out as the series develops. Good call on that one.

CB: So, “The Fall of the House of West” – is that the second Battling Boy book itself?

PP: No, that’ll just be called Battling Boy 2. Ultimately, they’ll both be collected – I’m imagining Aurora as a two-parter: Rise of Aurora West and Fall of House West. It’s designed more around this kabuki stage set: tragedy and family. So act one is the rise and act two is the fall; that was definitely very conscious on our part. David wasn’t happy with the title at first; he thought, having come from film and a lover of westerns, he’s seen this type of thing a lot. Like with Battling Boy implies; it’s about a boy who’s fighting. Rise of Aurora West–first of all, it sounds alliterative and The Fall of the House of West has kind of a Shakespearean feel.

CB: I find that both Battling Boy and Aurora are well-described by their titles. As the stories utilize these touchstones in storytelling that people have come to expect, but works with them in such a unique way. The titles end up being evocative for their stories.

PP: Yeah, what’s really fun about it is meeting all these young readers. A lot of them are 10 or 12 years old and they’ve really never read comic books before. They might’ve read Adventure Time or Tintin, but this is the first time a lot of these kids, especially girls, are getting the sense of Kirby Krackle or Moebius. Certainly they know Ghibli’s movies like Spirited Away going into it, but for the first time they’re getting opened up to what we think of as Silver Age comics or awesome French comics from the 70’s.

gfvcslzvqnnbtwtki07v NYCC 14: Paul Pope Talks Aurora West & Collaboration In His World

The Rise of Aurora West

CB: We might be seeing a lot more of those Nausicaä boxed sets flying off the shelves soon.

PP: I love that film, though Laputa is my favorite, but it’s hard to say as there are so many good ones.

CB: I ultimately fall on Porco Rosso as my favorite.

PP: He [Hayao Miyazaki] said he made it for guys our age. Porco Rosso is a big influence on the coloring in Battling Boy.

CB: I totally see that. It’s all coastal, Mediterranean cities.

PP: I was Italy when I was writing Battling Boy, I just really fell in love with the south of Italy; the lighting and the colors, the way the sea looked on the Adriatic coast. At nighttime with the volcanoes in the distance, it’s so romantic and old. It fits with the ideas I had for Arcopolis; it isn’t like Berlin, 1945- dark and scummy. It’s this old and vibrant city that’s fallen on bad times.

CB: That makes sense with your work and European influences, I think. The recorded history there is just so much older.

PP: Even more so for Africa and Asia. That’s why, in Aurora, the analog for the oldest city is Egypt. I was thinking about all this stuff, but I wasn’t really able to put it across. Where Haggard lives in the city, his decor is very Pacific Northwest – it’s a lot of fun to draw.

CB: It’s got a very collector vibe to it, too.

PP: Yeah, something I noticed with some of the heroes from occult fiction, whether it’s Sherlock Holmes or Lamont Cranston – they collect a bunch of ancient artifacts and stuff. Indiana Jones is like that too, but he’s a thief.

CB: It has those classic Campbellian story elements; out of travel a hero is born.

PP: Actually, Haggard belongs to an explorers club like National Geographic and we’ll see more of those characters later. I’m going to do an annual portrait of Haggard with his compatriots, so in that sense, he’s a little like Doc Savage. Like in Buckaroo Bonzai, he’s got his gang if he needs a specialist in this or that.

CB: Wrapping up, other than Mignola’s “Hellboy-verse”, are there any other series with larger built-up worlds that have this kind of multi-thread publication structure that you’re inspired by?

PP: One big influence is definitely the RKO [Pictures] and Universal [Pictures] movie series from the 30’s and 40’s like Flash Gordon. [...] There’s always the classic Universal monster movies, German expressionism and early Soviet-era cinema; whether it’s Eisenstein or Fritz Lang – those are big influences. That’s the fun thing, in the same way that Battling Boy is full of my love of Kirby, Moebius, and Miyazaki, the same of true for Aurora. It’s like a flipped coin – the dark side like Boris Karloff, H.P. Lovecraft – these kind of things, it’s more of a vintage feel.

That works with J.T. because he directs horror movies; he’s writing The Walking Dead video game, I don’t know if you know that. He has a wicked sense of humor and a wicked sense of the wicked, and he also has two children. We got lunch a couple days ago after a signing and we had a long conversation; we got into some dark stuff. [In Aurora] monsters are kidnapping children and we started talking about some really gruesome stuff and it’s like “this is where it’s coming from.”

CB: Thank you very much Paul.

PP: Sure, thank you.


Paul Pope is an Eisner-winning cartoonist currently in Brooklyn, New York. He is actively working on his Battling Boy series with publisher First Second. You can find more of his work on his website.

1 Comments on NYCC ’14: Paul Pope Talks Aurora West & Collaboration In His World, last added: 10/17/2014
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37. Interview with A S Fenichel, Author of Ascension and Giveaway

Please give a warm welcome to A.S Fenichel! She’s here to chat about her new release Ascension.

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

[A.S.] Moody, tenacious and deeply empathetic.

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

[A.S.] Ascension is the book of my heart. Not that I don’t love all my books, I do. I really do. But there is something about Ascension and The Demon Hunter series that sparks giddy excitement every time I think about it.

Here’s the description. Tell me what you think.


The Demon Hunters, #1

When demons threaten London, Lady Belinda answers the call. 

Lord Gabriel Thurston returns home from war to find his fiancée is not the sweet young girl he left behind. She’s grown into a mysterious woman who guards her dark secrets well. When he sees her sneaking away from a ball, he’s convinced it’s for a lover’s rendezvous. Following her to London’s slums, Gabriel watches in horror as his fiancée ruthlessly slays a man. 

Lady Belinda Carlisle’s only concern was her dress for the next ball—until demons nearly killed her and changed everything. A lady by day, and a demon hunter by night, she knows where her duty lies. Ending her betrothal is the best way to protect Gabriel from death by a demon’s hand. 

Gabriel soon realizes, like him, Belinda has been fighting for her country. He joins in the fight, determined to show her that their love can endure, stronger than ever. 

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

[A.S.] Sometimes I get little snapshots of scenes in my head. That’s what happened with Ascension. I had a snapshot (a vision if you will) of a Regency debutant sneaking into a garden in the wee hours. She had six inches of mud at the bottom of her gown and her hair was hanging in a mess. From there the why and how and who just tumbled out.

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

[A.S.] I love creating strong female characters and Belinda is fabulous. Writing her kept me in the moment even when life got in the way.

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

[A.S.] When I set out to write Ascension I wrote the first four or five chapters and hit a wall. I couldn’t figure out how to go forward. It was so much story and I admit to being intimidated by the task. One day I was out for a long walk and it HIT me. There was more than one book. I didn’t have to get everything into this one volume. I had time. After that it went much more smoothly.

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


Can’t Go Wrong – Phillip Phillips


Nothing Is Easy – Jethro Tull

It depends on the day . ?

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

[A.S.] My iPhone

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

[A.S.] My iPhone, My date book opened to this week, A cup of coffee.

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

[A.S.] Oh man… I’m pretty comfortable in my own skin. I might like to be a stupendous athlete for one day. Since it’s something I am soooo not. Maybe Mike Trout, Derek Jeter or Maria Sharapova.

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

[A.S.] I just finished Icing on the Cake by Karla Doyle. It was sweet and spicy. Ms. Doyle excels as witty banter and I love that.

I’m reading Beyond Pain by Kit Rocha. So far The Beyond series has been fresh, exciting and wonderfully touching.

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

[A.S.] I love to travel. My husband and I do as much as we can. We also love to cook and have friends over for dinner. We specialize in Italian cooking and even went to a cooking school in Tuscany for our honeymoon. I garden, not well, but I do it. We have a cat and a dog who take up a lot of my time. I’ve always had a cat in my life, but we recently adopted an older dog who needed and deserved a good home. I’ve never really thought of myself as a dog person, but I’m totally in love.

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

[A.S.] I absolutely love to chat with readers. Here are some ways to reach me via social media, but they can always email me at asfenichel@hotmail.com









The Demon Hunters # 1

By: A.S. Fenichel

Releasing October 6th, 2014

Lyrical Press / Kensington


When demons threaten London, Lady Belinda answers the call. 

Lord Gabriel Thurston returns home from war to find his fiancée is not the sweet young girl he left behind. She’s grown into a mysterious woman who guards her dark secrets well. When he sees her sneaking away from a ball, he’s convinced it’s for a lover’s rendezvous. Following her to London’s slums, Gabriel watches in horror as his fiancée ruthlessly slays a man. 

Lady Belinda Carlisle’s only concern was her dress for the next ball—until demons nearly killed her and changed everything. A lady by day, and a demon hunter by night, she knows where her duty lies. Ending her betrothal is the best way to protect Gabriel from death by a demon’s hand. 

Gabriel soon realizes, like him, Belinda has been fighting for her country. He joins in the fight, determined to show her that their love can endure, stronger than ever.

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2014/08/ascention-demon-hunters-1-by-as-fenichel.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22595242-ascension?from_search=true

Buy Links

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Ascension-Demon-Hunters-S-Fenichel-ebook/dp/B00MMMGY2M/ref

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/ascension-as-fenichel/1120138658?ean=9781616505592

Kensington: http://www.kensingtonbooks.com/book.aspx/30949

Author Info

A.S. Fenichel gave up a successful career in New York City to follow her husband to Texas and pursue her lifelong dream of being a professional writer. She’s never looked back.

A.S. adores writing stories filled with love, passion, desire, magic and maybe a little mayhem tossed in for good measure. Books have always been her perfect escape and she still relishes diving into one and staying up all night to finish a good story.

Multi-published in erotic paranormal, contemporary and historical romance, A.S. is the author of the Mayan Destiny series, Christmas Bliss and many more. With several books currently contracted to multiple publishers, A.S. will be bringing you her brand of romance for many years to come.

Originally from New York, she grew up in New Jersey, and now lives in the East Texas with her real life hero, her wonderful husband. When not reading or writing she enjoys cooking, travel, history, and puttering in her garden.

Author Links

Website: http://asfenichel.net/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/A.S.Fenichel
Twitter: https://twitter.com/asfenichel
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5154640.A_S_Fenichel

Rafflecopter Giveaway (Two (2) $10.00 Amazon or B&N Gift Cards)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The post Interview with A S Fenichel, Author of Ascension and Giveaway appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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38. NYCC ’14: Frank Quitely on Visual Process and Cyclical Influence

by Zachary Clemente

IMG 1341 NYCC 14: Frank Quitely on Visual Process and Cyclical InfluenceOn the extremely busy Saturday of this past weekend’s New York Comic-Con, I had the sublime honor of interviewing Frank Quitely (pen name for Scottish artist Vincent Deighan) about his visual narrative process, the cycle of artistic influence, and his once and future work. This was a wild treat for me as Quitely stands as one of my favorite artists in comics. Quitely has worked on We3Sandman: Endless NightsFlex Mentallo, New X-MenJLA: Earth 2Batman & RobinJupiter’s LegacyAll-Star Superman and many more.

Comics Beat: Frank, you’re currently working on Jupiter’s Legacy [with Mark Millar] which is ending after 10 issues?

Frank Quitely: It’s actually two volumes, both five and five.

CB: I see. Something I’ve always loved about your work is how versatile your storytelling can be. Hearkening back to Flex Mentallo, there’s some interesting panel layouts, All-Star Superman is a little more cinematic and straightforward, and We3 deviates a lot. I’m wondering how you approach that you want to train the reader’s eye the way you start talking about the story through your art and panels.

FQ: When I started out, I didn’t know a lot about storytelling because I never got a formal training in comics. It ended up being kind of intuitive and my main thing was about trying to make it clear and interesting. You know, I wasn’t really thinking in terms of narrative flow, it was more just about clarity and trying to make it as good as possible. Gradually, over the years, I just became more interested in storytelling. There was a DC editor I worked with named Dan Raspler – the Lobo editor amongst other things. He was my editor on JLA: Earth 2 and before I did JLA, I did a short Lobo story for them and it was the first mainstream DC thing I’d done; I’d been working for Vertigo and Paradox for a couple years. I sent him the pencils and it was the best thing I’d done up to that point and I thought “he’s going to phone me back and tell me how good this is” and he didn’t phone for a week. I was really panicking by the time he phoned; he started the conversation with “dude, I don’t know how to tell you this…”

Basically what he said was my drawings were really lovely, but my storytelling was really boring. He went through and told me what I should be thinking about and that was kind of a real milestone. As it was, that book never came out for different reasons. For JLA: Earth 2, he made me fax a rough for every page because he wanted to see that I could do art that makes sense in rough with a sharpie, then I could do it properly.

CB: Sort of like doing thumbnails?

FQ: Yeah. In fact, the new version of [JLA:Earth 2 has those thumbnails in it. That was a big leap for me.

CB: There’s a couple panels I’d like to ask you about, the first from We3. The one where it looks like the panel begins to turn across the page.

we3 frank quitely we3 NYCC 14: Frank Quitely on Visual Process and Cyclical Influence

We3 by Frank Quitely & Grant Morrison

FQ: With the cat leaping through?

CB: Yes!

FQ: Grant [Morrison] and I sat together, both of us with pencils, trying to work out a way of doing this. [...] That kind of “turning the panels” was almost like windows that the cat was going though – that didn’t come right until the last minute because Grant was describing something to me but it was like he knew there was something there we could do but he couldn’t quite visualize it. It was just a case of me sitting, drawing stuff and then asking if we were getting closer – it was very collaborative.

CB: Do you think that kind of collaboration is where you find the best of your work coming out?

FQ: Um, sometimes. Sometimes it works that way and sometimes it’s nice just to be left alone and work it out myself. Like in Jupiter’s Legacy, in the first issue there’s kind of cube thing. In the script, Mark said something like “he puts them in this cell” and I got thinking about “cel” as in animation cel as well as “cell” like a prison cell and it just kind of came together very, very organically in a relatively short time. It really goes both ways.

CB: I actually wanted to ask about that panel. It’s beautiful how it breaks down all the way to the linework and builds it back up again. I find it an interesting visual discussion on comics.

frank quitely jupiters legacy NYCC 14: Frank Quitely on Visual Process and Cyclical Influence

Jupiter’s Legacy by Frank Quitely & Mark Millar

CB: Changing gears a bit, I’m curious about your influences. Not necessarily artistic influences, but what comics have influenced the way you want to do comics, the way your approach working on comics?

FQ: An early one was Hard Boiled by Frank Miller and Geof Darrow. I set out when I was maybe 20-something and when I saw that, I was really blown away by that. More recently Chris Ware’s Building Stories, it’s a masterpiece – the guy’s a genius. I’ve gone plenty – Akira, the big black and white collections of Akira. Moebius, particularly [his] short stories.

CB: The sheer breadth of his influence is remarkable and that’s something I wanted to touch on with you. In my opinion, you and your work occupy a peculiar place in the comics “family tree” where your catalog is intensely influential for many contemporary creators, but it’s not like you’ve gone away, you’re still pushing yourself. Do you find yourself in something of a loop, being influenced by people you might have influenced?

FQ: Oh, yeah.

CB: What is that like?

FQ: It’s really cool. It’s actually really cool. Two artist who work I really like a lot who’re younger than me are Amy Reeder and Becky Cloonan and both of them, in some way, found something in my work that they liked and there’s now something in their work that I like. With Amy in particular, she started off at Tokyopop and she was only interested in manga. Brandon Montclare, who she’s working with now [on Rocketgirl], was an editor at Tokyopop at the time and he gave her a bunch of comics that he wanted her to look at to kind of broaden her horizons a bit. When she first saw it, she didn’t like my work at all; there was nothing there that she liked. Brandon told her to ignore that she didn’t like my drawing but to look at was I was doing because I was going about it a different way from her. After a while, she did actually start liking it and that’s the kind of funny thing – she didn’t like it at all at first but once she kind of get into it, she got something from it and now her recent work on Rocketgirl is just phenomenal.

When I see stuff like that, I always feel slightly threatened by a lot of younger artists. Because to me, a lot of this stuff seems really fresh and I keep thinking “shit, man, I’m going to have to up my game.”

frank quitely superman NYCC 14: Frank Quitely on Visual Process and Cyclical Influence

All-Star Superman by Frank Quitely & Grant Morrison

CB: Can that be a little thrilling?

FQ: Yeah – absolutely. I don’t want to get to a stage where I’m kind of quite happy with what I’m doing. Like every other artist I know, I see the mistakes in my work more than the good parts. Even things that work quite well, it always looks slightly better in my head. Every page I start I think “this is going to be the best one yet!” So I don’t want to get to a stage where I’m not influenced or threatened by other peoples’ work.

CB: That’s a very remarkable way to stay relevant. Though something I noticed is your lack of online presence. It seems being active on social media outlets is a big part for many comics creators. Is this something that’s never interested you?

FQ: You know, the thing is I can’t answer all my emails as it is, I answer maybe a quarter of my emails or something. So what’s the point of having Facebook? I’m already insulting enough people by not getting back to them. If I had a Facebook presence, I would never talk to anybody – I’d just never get back to them. Either you just that kind of person or you’re not, you know.

CB: Heading to the end, Jupiter’s Legacy will be wrapping up, what’s next?

FQ: “Pax Americana” – one of the Multiversity books at DC.

CB: And are there any dream projects? Characters you want to work on, people you want to work with, or your own stories you’d like to make?

FQ: I have written a bunch of short stories and some of them are thumbnailed. So at some point I want to get a collection out of just my own dumb stuff.

CB: That sound wonderful Frank, thanks for sitting down to chat.

FQ: Not a problem – thank you.


Frank Quitely lives in Scotland and draws some of the most amazing comics around. I encourage you to watch the 30-minute feature about him, part of a series called “What Artists Do All Day” produced by BBC4. His upcoming works are the next 6 issues of Jupiter’s Legacy and an issue of DC’s Multiversity called “Pax Americana.”

1 Comments on NYCC ’14: Frank Quitely on Visual Process and Cyclical Influence, last added: 10/14/2014
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39. The Picturebooking Podcast

Screen Shot 2014-10-12 at 11.24.42 AMHave you met Nick Patton? He’s the brain behind The Picturebooking Podcast, and he’s super awesome. And not only because he interviewed me. Take a look at his site, and take a listen to his interviews. This is a voice to the kidlit community that will be around for a while. Good stuff.

But it’s true, he did interview me recently. And it’s true, I did talk so much that he split our chat into two parts.

Here’s Part One.

And here’s Part Two.


It’s a bunch of snippets about a day in the life of a library, loud creativity, my debut picture book, and a slew of artists I adore. And of course, there’s lots of love for The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales. Always.


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40. Interview with Sawyer Bennett, Author of ALEX

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

[Sawyer Bennett] Empathetic, funny, creative, honest, procrastinator

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

[Sawyer Bennett] Alex is the first book in my new series with Loveswept, called the Cold Fury Hockey Series. Alex Crossman is a professional hockey player with the Carolina Cold Fury. He’s a bit damaged, a little bit of an ass, and completely averse to developing relationships with people. He’s one of those men that you just want to “fix”. Sutton Price is a social worker that gets sort of gets stuck with Alex to create an outreach program for at-risk youth. Both of them have traumatic backgrounds, but both of them let it shape them differently in their adult lives. This is very much a book about Alex’s journey to really find himself and let the past go. Oh, and it’s pretty steamy and romantic as well!!!

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

[Sawyer Bennett] The concept was easy. I’ve written a few indie books about hockey players that were well received and figured an actual series would be fun. The characters for this story very much grew organically, but I started with this very basic concept… Alex Crossman is a professional hockey player that hates playing hockey. I mean… how messed up is that? I knew I could fashion an interesting story of growth and redemption from that concept.

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

[Sawyer Bennett] Honestly, I loved writing Alex’s voice most. This is dual POV, and I loved writing “asshole Alex”. It’s fun to sort of let go and make a guy distasteful and then try to redeem him later.

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

[Sawyer Bennett] Honestly, not much. I mean, there are some serious issues involving drug addiction and abuse, and I will admit writing the epilogue made me cry a bit. It’s totally my type of swoon, but this book flowed pretty easy for me.

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

[Sawyer Bennett] What A Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong (which is also my favorite song)

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

[Sawyer Bennett] My underwear! Ha ha. Okay, that’s not necessarily true so I’ll say my cell phone! I can’t stand not being able to have access to the digital world.

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

[Sawyer Bennett] Picture of my dog, a bottle of papaya scented lotion that I just noticed and have no clue where it came from, and a check dated August 28th that I just noticed I forgot to deposit.

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

[Sawyer Bennett] Without a doubt it would be the President of the United States. I wouldn’t care who was in office at the time, just the acting President. I’d like to be in charge and have all that power (and stress) for just one day.

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

[Sawyer Bennett] OMG! Black Lies by Alessandra Torre. I read it over a month ago and it’s still plaguing my thoughts.

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

[Sawyer Bennett] I love to read but I don’t have much time for that. I have an 8 month old baby girl so I spend most of my free time with her. The best is when she falls asleep on my chest. *swoons hard*

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

[Sawyer Bennett] I love interacting with readers. They can reach me at:






Cold Fury Hockey # 1

By: Sawyer Bennett

Releasing October 14th, 2014



USA Today bestselling author Sawyer Bennett scores big-time with the first novel in a sexy new series hot enough to melt the ice.
Hockey star Alexander Crossman has a reputation as a cold-hearted player on and off the rink. Pushed into the sport by an alcoholic father, Alex isn’t afraid to give fans the proverbial middle finger, relishing his role as the MVP they love to hate. Management, however, isn’t so amused. Now Alex has a choice: fix his public image through community service or ride the bench. But Alex refuses to be molded into the Carolina Cold Fury poster boy . . . not even by a tempting redhead with killer curves.

As a social worker, Sutton Price is accustomed to difficult people—like Alex, who’s been assigned to help her create a drug-abuse awareness program for at-risk youth as part of the team’s effort to clean up his image. What she doesn’t expect is the arrogant smirk from his perfect lips to stir her most heated fantasies. But Sutton isn’t one to cross professional boundaries—and besides, Alex doesn’t do relationships . . . or does he? The more she sees behind Alex’s bad-boy façade, the more Sutton craves the man she uncovers.

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2014/07/alex-cold-fury-1-by-sawyer-bennett.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21794306-alex?ac=1

Goodreads Series Link: https://www.goodreads.com/series/125350-cold-fury-hockey

Buy Links

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Alex-Cold-Hockey-Novel-Carolina-ebook/dp/B00JTCH5RQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1410967793&sr=1-1&keywords=Alex%3A+A+Cold+Fury+Hockey+Novel

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/alex-sawyer-bennett/1120019672?ean=9780553393002

iTunes: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/alex-a-cold-fury-hockey-novel

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/alex-a-cold-fury-hockey-novel

Order: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iBooks | Kobo

Author Info

USA Today bestselling author Sawyer Bennett is a snarky Southern woman and reformed trial lawyer who decided to finally start putting on paper all of the stories that were floating in her head. Her husband works for a Fortune 100 company which lets him fly all over the world while she stays at home with their daughter and three big, furry dogs who hog the bed. Sawyer would like to report she doesn’t have many weaknesses but can be bribed with a nominal amount of milk chocolate.

Author Links

Website: http://www.sawyerbennett.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bennettbooks
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/bennettbooks
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6950682.Sawyer_Bennett

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41. NYCC ’14: A Conversation with Marc Evan Jackson on the Detroit Creativity Project

by Zachary Clemente

IMG 1337 771x1028 NYCC 14: A Conversation with Marc Evan Jackson on the Detroit Creativity ProjectAbove and away from the crowds of this year’s New York Comic-Con, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Marc Evan Jackson (known for his roles in Brooklyn 99, 22 Jump Street, Kings of Summer, & Drones as well as his role as Sparks Nevada Marshall on Mars in the Thrilling Adventure Hour) who is promoting The 2nd Annual Detroit Party to benefit the Detroit Creativity Project, where he serves as President. This was personally quite a thrill for me being a fan of TAH and hailing from Detroit. Bits where we went off-topic reminiscing about The Hunter House or the Woodward Dream Cruise have been removed, but know they at least happened.

The Detroit Creativity Project (DPC) is a group of working actors, writers, directors, and musicians whose roots are in Detroit. The roster includes artists from across the spectrum of the performing arts: a musical director for a Grammy award-winning pop artist, a rising young film director, and the creators and stars of popular television comedy shows. We are alumni of The Second City Detroit and graduates of Wayne State University. For so many of us, Detroit was the launching pad for our careers in entertainment. We are committed to giving back to the city that gave us so much.

Comics Beat: This is actually very personal to me as I was born and raised near Detroit.

Marc Evan Jackson: Really, where from?

CB: I was little outside in Bloomfield Hills, but moved away when I was 12.

MEJ: That’s not a little outside, my wife is from Bloomfield Hills. Did your family work in the auto industry?

CB: Sort of. My dad worked for a company that worked closely with GM, but we left before some of the major flops; around 2002.

MEJ: I love that you talk about a time very recent as though it were classic.

CB: Well, I’m 24…

MEJ: Gosh, are you really? Good for you. Get me my wheelchair. [Laughs]

PhotoBy Roman Cho Marc Evan Jackson 01 NYCC 14: A Conversation with Marc Evan Jackson on the Detroit Creativity Project

CB: What about Detroit is so important to you and what is your connection to it?

MEJ: I don’t know if you witnessed this in the 12 years that you were there, but there’s something about Detroit; it has a spirit or vibe. I only lived there for about three and a half years; I moved to Detroit to join the Second City and in that three and a half years it became home. I grew up in Buffalo, NY, I went to school in Grand Rapids, MI; I then lived all over Michigan and Maine briefly after college. Only when I moved to Detroit did I feel that draw, that pull; there’s just this underground heartbeat to Detroit. There’s a pulse of vibrance, coolness, and expression of creativity.

So Detroit is a place that has suffered a lot of egress; a lot of people have left. They took a census right before I left and they were hoping not to fall below 1,000,000 people and it ended up being 720,000, so they missed it by more than 25% – there’s just been a lot of flight of every stripe out of Detroit. But there are still students in Detroit and arts funding has gotten cut and cut; Detroit has been so good to me and to my friends and the arts have been so good to me and my friends that we wanted to give back. In 2012, my wife Beth Hagenlocker and I, as well as people I was in the Second City cast with – Marybeth Monroe from Workaholics, Keegan-Michael Key from Key & Peele, Larry Joe Campbell from According to Jim - we got together and asked “what could we to give back to Detroit?”

Our background is in improvisation and that’s what has gotten each of us our careers, and we decided one easy way to give back is to offer improv instruction free of charge in middle and high schools in Detroit. We started out flagship program, The Improv Project to do just that: to offer this instruction. One big caveat is that we’re not hoping to create more actors or comedians or writers necessarily. Improv is a skill for everybody. In order to improvise well, you have to listen and respect those you’re working with, you have to use your imagination and show up with energy, you have to find yourself saying a lot of “yes” and being overwhelmingly positive, and you have to work well as a team – it’s a great skill set for anybody. Whether you’re going to go be a doctor, a teacher, or anything at all.

Comics Beat: It’s a skill that seems like it can open doors you never thought were in front of you?

MEJ: It absolutely does. It also makes you see doors that you might’ve not been aware of otherwise. It takes the pressure off everything being perfect, it takes the pressure off having the right answer – it spurs curiosity. [...] You’ll do an improv scene about something and realize when you’re done that you may not know much about that subject and find yourself researching it. It inspires a confidence and a communication skill. [...] When you’re in middle and high school, the stakes seem high; everything seems important. There’s such an impetus to be cool or tough or whatever and especially in a hard-bitten place like Detroit that’s the case. Improv erases a lot of that, it makes you feel fine about saying “I don’t know the answer, could you tell me about that?” rather than going “I know.” Instead of the knee-jerking with “you can’t teach me anything,” it puts you in the other direction and makes you think that it doesn’t make you dumb to ask a question.

“Tell me about what you do, I don’t know anything about that. I’m 13 years old, why would I know about that?”

CB: So it can take down that front that people feel they need to put up?

MEJ: Exactly. It crashes through that barrier, in crashes through those obstacles that we put in front of ourselves. The ones that keep you from talking to people, that keep you from asserting an opinion, from finding yourself. It’s such a good communication skill, and again, it’s overwhelmingly positive, it’s good for interviewing skills for jobs or colleges. We are working on measuring our results; doing incoming and exiting surveys with our students, seeing how it affects their test scores. All the schools want to know that this has correlates to the Common Core Curriculum. It really does though, [improv] will make you a better learner; a more curious, more interesting, and more interested person.

CB: How does it feel to lend credence to an enterprise for good with your name and career?

MEJ: My career and my name has become whatever it is currently so gradually that it doesn’t feel like there’s anything to offer.  This is something I’d care about whether I was in the public eye or not, it’s a total no-brainer. I think far more drastic a name are people like Keegan-Michael Key. When we go back to Detroit, we were there last in August for the improv festival; the performances go: middle school, high school, my group The 313 (the area code of the city of Detroit and features Keegan-Michael Key, Larry Joe Campbell, Joshua Funk, Nyima Funk, Andy Cobb, Maribeth Monroe, and Jaime Moyer), and then we had the kids come back and perform with us. To watch these middle and high school students perform with Keegan was something I’ll never forget as long as I live.

For myself and for people far more famous than I’ll ever be, it’s easy. It’s such a good thing to watch the transformation in these kids and I can’t imagine not doing it.

CB: While I’ve never been back, I kind of think that underground pulse you mentioned is expressed in a hope for Detroit. Sort of the certainty that it’ll come back?

MEJ: I think that a Detroit renaissance is inevitable, but if it doesn’t happen now with all that’s going on – all the focus, all the dollars, all the energy – then it never will. My wife and I, representing the DCP, were back in Detroit just a few weeks ago for the 1st Annual Detroit Homecoming. They reached out to expats all around in business, entertainment, sports, government, everything, to come back to Detroit for a summit. They said “let us take you around Detroit, let us show you the changes that have taken place already, and have your input on what you can do.” Beth and I were back as liaisons, sort of, to the Hollywood community, but Warren Buffet was there – there people there that were billionaires who run companies that can decide to put a call center in Detroit, they can decide to open a branch in Detroit, they can look into manufacturing their next product there.

It was encouraging to know that it wasn’t just some underground, improv theatre, artistic thing. People from all walks of life that got their start in Detroit or went to school in Detroit – anybody who has any connection to it looks back and says “I want to be part of the conversation in Detroit, I want to help with what’s next and see what I can do.” This meeting was powerful; so good for connections and networking. We were able to match-make for people who should know each other and people did that for us and it’s been pretty great.

CB: I have some friends who are interested in urban development and urban planning and it’s been such a foundational place for them to go.

MEJ: It’s a laboratory, right? There’s nowhere else like it right now.

CB: People have the opportunity to almost beta-test infrastructure systems like urban farming.

MEJ: Sure, like communal living. I mean, you can buy a house there for $5,000 right now.

CB: Yeah, but you will have to remove the tree.

MEJ: Oh sure, the one’s that’s growing inside your house? No, that’s true. They’re calling it the new Berlin, but they’re also calling it the next Silicon Valley. Companies are moving there because there’s skilled work forces, housing is cheap, and there’s an awful lot of land around.

There’s nothing like Detroit. You have an idea, you’ve been there, but for people that haven’t it’s so hard to describe Detroit and what it looked like. Even in the late 90’s when I was there…to describe the block-after-block of burned out buildings that had been burned since 1967 and nobody’s touched it. It’s hard to convey that to people who haven’t gone.

CB: Looks like we have some overlap, time-wise.

MEJ: Yes, but you were likely in diapers.

140422 TAH 236 734x1028 NYCC 14: A Conversation with Marc Evan Jackson on the Detroit Creativity Project

Credit: Roman Cho

CB: One of the things about DCP that really excites me is that it reminds me of the little movements that ended up spawning things like Motown; these beautiful things that could have only come out of Detroit.

MEJ: I’ll tell you what: this Detroit Homecoming made us aware of other groups doing similar things that we’re doing, people doing complementary things – a lot of puzzle pieces got put together. We’ve met groups of people that are literally doing expatriate fundraising for Detroit. There’s a group called Born and Raised Detroit and there are a number of groups like that without this homecoming, we would’ve never known existed.

CB: Thank you so much Marc for discussing this project.

MEJ: Of course, and thank you.


Marc Evan Jackson is a improv performer, voice, TV, and film actor currently in Los Angeles. He is the voice of Spark Nevada, Marshall on Mars on the monthly live radio show, Thrilling Adventure Hour and is one of the founders of the Detroit Creativity Project, where he serves as President. Find more information on the Detroit Creative Project here.

Find tickets for the 2nd Annual Detroit Party benefiting the DCP, hosted by Second City Detroit alum Keegan-Michael Key from Key & Peele here.

4 Comments on NYCC ’14: A Conversation with Marc Evan Jackson on the Detroit Creativity Project, last added: 10/17/2014
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42. Blog Tour, My Illustration Process

Blog Tour

I wasn’t recently asked by talented illustrator Josh Cleland to participate in a blog tour sharing my work process and answering a few questions. As many of you know Josh is a rock star when it comes to working with Adobe Illustrator which is super cool because I love Illustrator too. Josh and I differ a bit when it comes to our style and how we use the program which is why I thought it would be fun to show a project I’m working on right now done almost exclusively in Illustrator. First however let me get to the questions that go along with blog tour

What am I working on right now?

photo bob ostrom with childrens booksI am working on a host of different projects, unfortunately many of the contracts I have signed keep me from discussing them until they are published. That’s the tough part of working in this industry especially because sometimes it can take up to a year for each project to reach the market. I guess those are just the breaks. So instead of getting into projects that I can’t talk about I’ll mention a few that I can. For many of you who are familiar with what I do when I’m not illustrating you may recall I have another site, BobTeachesArt.com, where I teach artists how to use programs like Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. Right now I’m in the process of putting together a very special new class demonstrating advanced line art techniques using Adobe Illustrator. The great thing about this class is you don’t have to be a rock star Adobe Illustrator user to take the class. It starts right from the beginning with each tool I use. I show how it works and how to combine them to create amazing results.

Why do I illustrate what I do?

photo of the mr. and mrs. wiener truck logo designed by bob ostromIt’s no big secret I’ve always loved cartoons. As a kid I learned to draw by tracing all my favorite comic strips over and over again. It kept my busy for hours. As I got older I knew one day I would find a way to draw cartoons for a living. It took me a few years to figure it out but eventually I found my way into children’s publishing and once I did I knew that was exactly where I belonged. Aside children’s books I also create custom one of a kind cartoon logos. If you asked me to pick one over the other I’d have to say you’re crazy. I love doing both. In fact just about anywhere I can find a market for my art is interesting to me …and that’s where you’ll always find me.

How is my work different from others in my genre?

Every artist has their own style. Cartoonists also have their own special sense of humor that shines through in their art. It’s kind of like a finger print and it originates from a lot of different things… Life experiences, artistic training, what happened on the way home from the grocery store that day, what the cat vomited up (art isn’t always pretty). You name it, it finds its way into a cartoonist’s art and that’s what makes it unique. My style is constantly evolving (and hopefully improving) but at this point I think it’s become pretty recognizable. There are a few other artists out their who have similar styles but in my opinion we are all very unique.

illustration of herbie bear alone in the shallow end of the pool illustration of herbie bear paiting a fnece illustration by bob ostrom of flamingo mrs. garcia from the herbie bear children's book illustration by bob ostrom of herbie bear children's book cover art illustration by bob ostrom of herbie bear at the destist illustration by children's book illustration by bob ostrom of herbie bear with lotts of pets at school

How does my illustration process work?

This is kind of a tough question because I don’t always work the same way or in the same style but rather than give you a long detailed explanation of my process I’ve created a short video that shows an actual project starting from a rough sketch. This is pretty typical of many of the projects I work on using Adobe Illustrator. The first thing you’ll notice is I’ve compressed the time for the video and done a little bit of editing. The things I’ve left on the cutting room floor is all the trial and error experimenting I do with shapes and colors as I work through a project. I am a visual person but I don’t always trust my first instincts so I often try many different color combinations to see if I can find better options. Sometimes it can be a tedious process which is why I’ve trimmed it from this video. Other times things just flow and I get it right the first time. It all depends on which way things happen to be leaning that particular day.

Ok enough with the typing here’s the video. Enjoy

nosferatu-sketch nosferatu line art by bob ostrom nosferatu cartoon illustration by bob ostrom


Next up on the blog tour I’m inviting  two amazingly talented artists and good friends:

photo-fian arroyo Fian Arroyo, with his creative mind and quick draw, has been creating award-winning illustrations and character designs for his clients, including Fortune-500 companies, in the advertising, editorial, toy & game and publishing markets for over 20 years.



photo greg newmanGreg Newman has been a freelance artist and illustrator, designer and developer since 2001. Newman now specializes in portraiture, uncannily realistic caricatures and wildlife illustrations, as well as design and development for the intertubes.



The post Blog Tour, My Illustration Process appeared first on Bob Ostrom Studio - 919-809-6178.

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43. Call for Submissions on Travel or Place: cahoodaloodaling

The online journal, cahoodaloodaling, is seeking writing and art submissions with the common theme of travel or place for its January 2015 issue, Travelogue. Issue #15 – Travelogue 

We are seeking submissions inspired by unique destinations, travel, international adventures, or simply the comforts of home. Send in your best works of “place” by the end of the year. Remember, we are open for all styles and forms of visual and audio art, poetry, literature, as well as essays, non-fiction, screenplays, collaborations and even letters home. Make us stand up and take notice. 

Submissions due 12/31/14. Guest editor April Michelle Bratten of Up The Staircase Quarterly. Issue live 1/31/15. 

Check out previous issues here.

Please review our submission guidelines here.

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44. Interview: Anim’est Festival Director Mihai Mitrică on Romania’s Budding Animation Scene

While animation has been made in Romania for many decades and the country has even produced some internationally recognized figures like Ion Popescu-Gopo, the contemporary animation scene hadn't received much exposure until the founding of the Anim'est festival.

0 Comments on Interview: Anim’est Festival Director Mihai Mitrică on Romania’s Budding Animation Scene as of 1/1/1900
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45. Interview with Sara Jane Stone, Author of Caught in the Act and Giveaway

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

[Sara Jane Stone] Reader, writing, wife, and mom.

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

[Sara Jane Stone] Caught in the Act is a super-sexy contemporary romance set in Oregon logging country. And this story features one of my favorite tropes—revenge. Beyond that, I love the back of the book copy for this one!

Falling for his rivals’ little sister could cost him everything …

For Liam Trulane, failure is not an option. He is determined to win a place in Katie Summers’ life before she leaves Independence Falls for good. But first, he needs to make amends for the last time they got down and dirty.

Only problem?

His professional success hinges on striking a deal to buy Katie’s family business. And after Liam’s relationship with their Katie went south years ago, the Summers brothers are more enemy than friend. If both parties agree to set the past aside, they can reach an understanding. But when Katie welcomes him back into her bed, Liam risks everything to make her his.

After Liam betrayed her trust, Katie Summers will do anything to keep him from walking away with the family business. She decides to seduce him, knowing that when her brothers find out, they will back off from the deal. And she’ll finally have her revenge. But when her plan spirals out of control, Katie learns that payback may come at too high a price …

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

[Sara Jane Stone] Caught in the Act is the second installment in the Independence Falls series, and both the hero and heroine—Liam and Katie—played a significant role in the first book, Full Exposure. Katie and Georgia (the heroine in Full Exposure) are friends. And Liam is Georgia’s big brother. He also works for Eric, the hero from Full Exposure. Lots of connections! I knew as I was writing Full Exposure that Katie and Liam had a history—and chemistry.

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

[Sara Jane Stone] Over the course of the book, Katie is planning Georgia’s bachelorette party. But, she faces a few challenges. Georgia is an Army veteran with PTSD. She doesn’t like crowds, but she loves dancing. And the invite list includes a second veteran, who takes a PTSD service dog with her everywhere. The hunt for the perfect venue and the ideas for certain ‘party activities’ were lots of fun to write, especially when Liam got involved.

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

[Sara Jane Stone] Liam’s desire to buy Katie’s family business and Katie’s refusal to sell is one of the driving conflicts in the story. I was excited to write about how they moved past this conflict to their happy-ever-after ending. But Katie’s family business is a trucking company that hauls timber. I needed to learn a lot about the timber industry, everything from the estimated resale value of a used truck to how much a trucking company might be worth. And before I started writing I knew very, very little. Thank goodness my husband grew up in Oregon. His family and friends in the area were happy to answer questions and make suggestions!

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

[Sara Jane Stone] I think Roar by Katy Perry is the perfect theme song for the Independence Fall series. These stories all feature strong women who go after what they want.

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

[Sara Jane Stone] My phone. I can do anything with it. Write notes for a scene while at the playground, order groceries, or read. I’d be lost without it?

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

[Sara Jane Stone] My laptop, a legal pad, and a stack of romance novels.

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

[Sara Jane Stone] Jennifer L. Armentrout. I love her books and she writes so fast. I would love to live in her world for a day—and spend most of that time writing?

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

[Sara Jane Stone] I’m crazy about Lauren Blakely’s Seductive Nights series! I loved it!! I also enjoyed Samanthe Beck’s Best Friend with Benefits, and Laura Kaye’s Hard Ink series.

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

[Sara Jane Stone] Read and play with my kids. I spent a lot of my non-writing hours at the playground, the zoo, and the aquarium. My four year old discovered Coney Island last spring and loved it. We made quite a few trips this summer.

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

[Sara Jane Stone] I’m addicted to Facebook! I love chatting with readers and encourage them to PM me if they have a question or just want to chat. I especially love talking about my favorite books and series with other readers. Please find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SaraJaneStone. Or visit my website at www.sarajanestone.com.

Caught in the Act

Independence Falls # 2

By: Sara Jane Stone

Releasing September 16th, 2014

Avon: Impulse

Falling for his rivals’ little sister could cost him everything …

For Liam Trulane, failure is not an option. He is determined to win a place in Katie Summers’ life before she leaves Independence Falls for good. But first, he needs to make amends for the last time they got down and dirty.

Only problem?

His professional success hinges on striking a deal to buy Katie’s family business. And after Liam’s relationship with their Katie went south years ago, the Summers brothers are more enemy than friend. If both parties agree to set the past aside, they can reach an understanding. But when Katie welcomes him back into her bed, Liam risks everything to make her his.

After Liam betrayed her trust, Katie Summers will do anything to keep him from walking away with the family business. She decides to seduce him, knowing that when her brothers find out, they will back off from the deal. And she’ll finally have her revenge. But when her plan spirals out of control, Katie learns that payback may come at too high a price …

Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2014/08/caught-in-act-independence-falls-2-by.html

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20359727-caught-in-the-act?from_search=true

Buy Links

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1q9uLm4

B&N: http://bit.ly/1q9uTC2

iTunes: http://bit.ly/1qXu7Ge

Google Play http://bit.ly/1m9AjEH

Author Info

After several years on the other side of the publishing industry, Sara Jane Stone bid goodbye to her sales career to pursue her dream-writing romance novels. Sara Jane currently resides in Brooklyn, New York with her very supportive real-life hero, two lively young children and a lazy Burmese cat. Join Sara Jane’s newsletter to receive new release information, news about contests, giveaways, and more! To subscribe, visit www.sarajanestone.com and look for her newsletter entry form.

Author Links

Website: http://www.sarajanestone.com/

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

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

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7036481.Sara_Jane_Stone

Rafflecopter Giveaway ( Five Print Signed Copies of FULL EXPOSURE by Sara Jane Stone)

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46. Finishing a Trilogy: Interview with Meagan Spooner, author of Skylark

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by Susan,


Meagan Spooner

meagan spoonerToday, I’m delighted to have Meagan Spooner back on the blog. The final book in her Skylark trilogy, Lark Ascending, just released last week, and if you haven’t yet read these books, then now’s the time!

For one, the books are EXCELLENT (and if you’re a fan of my Something Strange & Deadly, then you’ll definitely love Skylark).

For two, the book is only $0.99 on Kindle right now!!

For three, just read this summary and tell me you’re not intrigued:

Now, let’s get down to the interview!

Lark Ascending1. Alrighty, Meg. Biggest author inspirations/influences. Go!

Way too many to count! I’m one of those who firmly believe everything you read (or watch or listen to or see or eat…) goes into the imagination compost and shows up in your work when you least expect it. But some big ones include: Diana Wynne Jones, Garth Nix, Robin McKinley, Neil Gaiman, Peter Beagle, Philip Pullman, Tanith Lee, Tamora Pierce, Patricia C. Wrede, and pretty much every myth or fairy tale I’ve ever heard.

2. You have basically listed all of the authors on MY list as well. ;) Plotter or pantser or…plantser?

Definitely a pantser. When I first started writing Skylark, the first book in this trilogy, I had absolutely no idea where it was headed. There were a few twists and themes I knew I wanted to hit, but part of the joy of writing for me is the act of discovery. Often the ideas that come to me as I write, whether totally out of the blue or as a response or solution to some problem that pops up, are my best ones. Of the three, Lark Ascending is probably the most “planned” of the three, simply because most of the ideas in it came to me while writing Skylark and Shadowlark. I had all these awesome, epic scenes that I knew I wanted to hit in this third book. It was tons of fun.

3. I feel you on the “art of discovery” bit. So now that you’ve finished, how does it feel wrapping up an entire trilogy?

AMAZING. I think it’s no secret that writers often have a love-hate relationship with their books, particularly with their series books, and I’m definitely one of those. Like any long-term relationship, being with someone–or some story–for that many years means you know it inside and out. Its good, its bad, and everything in between. But despite every time I wanted to throw the story–and my computer along with it–out the window, seeing all three books lined up and knowing that I finished telling Lark’s story in a way that feels complete and satisfying—and TRUE—to me… that’s an amazing feeling.

4. Wow. I’m even more excited to read now. Okay, here’s a fan question: in the Skylark trilogy, which character do YOU identify most with?

Definitely Lark herself. Skylark was the first novel I ever wrote, and for me, at least, that meant that of all my characters, my main character was the one most drawn from my own thoughts and personality and experiences. Lark is an odd combination of things I wish I was, things I’m afraid I am, and things I one day hope to be. She’ll probably always be the character most like–and most unlike–me in all my books.

5. That’s TOTALLY how I feel about me with Eleanor! She’s both part of me and who I wish I could be. So cool. Now, final question: If Lark Ascending were a literary cocktail, what ingredients would it need?

Equal parts fantasy and dystopian with a shot of steampunk and a sprinkle of moral grey area. Garnish with a rebel uprising, and serve on the rocks.

 HA! Love the “garnish” bit. Nice touch. ;)

Okay, dear readers. To celebrate having Meg stop by, we’re doing a giveaway (international!)! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below, help us spread the word about Meg’s amazing series, and we’ll choose a winner next week.

Also: if you weren’t aware, both Meagan and her coauthor, Pub Crawl’s own Amie Kaufman, have a short story releasing tomorrow. It’s called This Night So Dark, and it’s free!! You definitely don’t want to miss it.
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Meagan Spooner grew up reading and writing every spare moment of the day, while dreaming about life as an archaeologist, a marine biologist, an astronaut. She graduated from Hamilton College in New York with a degree in playwriting, and she currently lives and writes in Asheville, North Carolina. In her spare time she plays guitar, plays video games, plays with her cat, and reads. Learn more about her at her website.

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47. Five questions for Julie Berry

JulieBerry 500pxTall 242x300 by Bruce Lucier Five questions for Julie Berry

Photo: Bruce Lucier

Julie Berry’s 2013 book All the Truth That’s In Me (Viking, 14 years and up) is a dark, claustrophobic — and beautiful — novel set seemingly out of time and narrated (in her own head) by a young woman whose tongue was cut out by a captor she escaped. The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place (Roaring Brook, 11–14 years) could not be more different in tone or content. A Victorian-set, girls’-school, murder-mystery farce with seven distinct young-lady main characters (with names such as Dour Elinor, Stout Alice, and Smooth Kitty), the book is light as air (well, except for all that murder).

1. This book is so different from All the Truth That’s In Me. Where did it come from?

JB: In some sense, from a lifelong love of Agatha Christie mysteries and a deep infatuation with farcical plays and films such as The Importance of Being Earnest and Arsenic and Old Lace. The real catalyst, though, was an audio lecture by Professor John Sutherland, who contrasted the regiments of soldiers in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with the large number of unmarried young ladies in the novel. He called them a “regiment of maidens.” It was a light-bulb moment for me. I knew I needed to write about a regiment of innocent maidens who were, perhaps, not so innocent. The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place was the almost immediate result.

2. How did you keep all the voices straight? Did the girls “talk” to you as you were writing?

JB: It is a handful of voices to keep track of, to be sure, but they were very distinct in my mind. I grew up in a family of seven children so, to borrow from the title of Holly Goldberg Sloan’s beautiful book, I was well accustomed to “counting by sevens.” My five sisters and one brother and I are very different people, with lots of practice living, teasing, eating, working, squabbling, and angling for the last molasses cookie, all in one space. It felt natural to me to let my seven pupils talk to one another, and to me. Their conversations took more playful, naughty, and intriguing directions than I could have planned for them if I were in charge.

berry scandalous sisterhood of prickwillow place Five questions for Julie Berry3. Which came first: the characters’ names or their descriptors? (My favorite is “Disgraceful Mary Jane.”)

JB: Me too! She is always stealing the scene. She was tons of fun to write.

Both the girls’ names and their monikers appeared hand in hand from the very first page of writing. That same day when I had my “regiment of maidens” light-bulb moment, I sat down and wrote the first scene. When Disgraceful Mary Jane first appeared, she was just that: Disgraceful Mary Jane. It was not a device I had ever used before, but it felt right, so I ran with it. As I explored it more, it felt Victorian to me, and fitting for my little farce, since farces are all about exaggerating, and thus challenging, stereotypes.

4. Did you do a lot of research about the time period?

JB: Oh, for a Tardis! What I could do with a time machine.

I did a great deal of research into the Victorian era, and this was one of the chief pleasures of the project. Fortunately, the Victorian era is extremely well documented. We have access to volumes upon volumes of books, journals, magazines, fiction, art, photographs, and moving pictures of this vibrant window of history. The project offered me a delicious cocktail of inquiries: fashion, cosmetics, manners, teacakes, candies, and girls’ schools, alongside poison, murder, police procedure, burial, and grave-robbing. Fun stuff.

Part of my research included a visit to Ely, Cambridgeshire, the setting of the novel. Incidentally, Prickwillow Road is a real place. I did not make it up. I spent a week in the UK, both in Ely, touring the small city and its rambling country roads, and in visits to several marvelous London museums to learn more about travel, banking, schooling, dress, food, crime, and home life during the late nineteenth century. It was great fun, and I can’t wait to go back and do it again.

5. Is a strawberry social a real thing?

JB: Indeed it is. In Jane Austen’s Emma, most of the characters gather on a sunny day to enjoy an outdoor strawberry-picking party and picnic. Closer to home, in my childhood haunts in upstate New York, a church strawberry social is a regular fixture of small-town life. Mounds of biscuits, great tubs of berries, troughs of whipped cream, and plenty of neighborly gossip — I highly recommend them.

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

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48. Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Ben Clanton

Pumpkin granola with vanilla almond milk. Sourdough toast. And a cup of hot apple cider with caramel. Mmm. That’s the breakfast I’m having this morning with author-illustrator Ben Clanton.

Once upon a time—2010, to be exact—Ben visited 7-Imp before he was even a published author and illustrator, and it’s good to have him back. As you’ll read below, Ben has several picture books under his belt and more on the way. His brand-new picture book, Rex Wrecks It! (Candlewick, September 2014), is filled with what the Kirkus review calls a joyous energy. And I know for a fact that it is a story-time hit.

I love, in particular, to see Ben’s pencil and watercolor drawings (there are many in this interview today), and guess what? He recently started a Facebook page showing off his darker doodles. It’s called—you guessed it—”Dark Doodles,” and it’s here. Want to see one? Ben posted this just last night.

Perfect. It is nearly Halloween, after all.

Ben seems to be enjoying the new Facebook page, and so do those who have gone to visit it (including me). “I’m always careful about which sketchbooks to bring to signings and school visits,” he tells me. “Often there are dark things amongst the oodles of cute.”

So, to see both the dark and cute, keep reading below. Ben sent tons of art (which is how you win this blogger’s heart). I thank him for sharing.

* * * * * * *

Jules: Are you an illustrator or author/illustrator?

Ben: Author/Illustrator!

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

Ben: I’ve written and illustrated four picture books: Mo’s Mustache; Vote for Me!; The Table Sets Itself; and Rex Wrecks It! And I’m happy to say several more are in the works.

Books I have illustrated: Jasper John Dooley: Star of the Week by Caroline Adderson; Jasper John Dooley: Left Behind by Caroline Adderson; Jasper John Dooley: Not in Love by Caroline Adderson; Max Has a Fish by Wiley Blevins.

(A 2015 Jasper John Dooley title)

Jules: What is your usual medium?

Ben: Typically, I use a mix of ink (micron pens and dip pens), watercolor (Daniel Smith watercolor sticks), and pencil (6B or HB) — plus a bit of digital magic (Photoshop CS5).

My preferred paper is Strathmore Aquarius II.

Jules: If you have illustrated for various age ranges (such as, both picture books and early reader books OR, say, picture books and chapter books), can you briefly discuss the differences, if any, in illustrating for one age group to another?

Ben: I find that illustrating a chapter book comes with certain expectations — generally the pieces are black and white, have backgrounds and/or depict scenes, and do less of the storytelling than the words. Not always the case! But usually it is.

I find that picture books are much more open and allow for greater creativity. The format is more malleable when it comes to shape, size, color, the integration of the text, content, and design. For me this sort of freedom is both challenging and rewarding.

The above spot illustrations are from
Caroline Adderson’s
Jasper John Dooley series

Jules: Where are your stompin’ grounds?

Ben: I currently live in an old brick mill next to a pond in North Andover, MA. But Seattle, WA; Kalispell, MT; and Portland, OR, will always be home, too.

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

Ben: I first became interested in writing children’s books when I was a freshman at Willamette University. I had a developing passion for social justice and service-learning and figured that I could make a difference by addressing important topics in children’s books. As a result, my original story attempts were extremely didactic. But with some encouragement from my girlfriend Kelsey (now my wife!) and her mother, Teresa Walsh (who happens to be an illustrator), I started to read picture books voraciously and began drawing and painting.

I became hugely passionate about making books. I joined SCBWI (an excellent decision for anyone who has an interest in creating children’s books) and attended conferences and workshops. When I graduated from Willamette (Anthropology major, Politics minor), I moved to Seattle and started to work at a before- and after-school program. My typical day started with reading stories with kids (sometimes my own stories — great opportunity to test them!), working on my stories between shifts, and playing with the kids. I learned A LOT about how to make books of interest to kids because of that experience.

It was during that time that I was featured on this very blog (a 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks post)! Shortly after that post (and because of it!), I received an email from Tara Walker at Kids Can Press saying she would love to see more of my work. I sent her several picture book dummies but none of them were quite right for Kids Can. However, Kids Can was interested in having me illustrate a new chapter book series, Jasper John Dooley by Caroline Adderson. Not very long after that I came up with a picture book that Tara and Kids Can were interested in, Vote for Me! [pictured below].

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

Ben: www.benclanton.com.

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

Ben: I love doing school visits! Generally I prefer to meet with smaller groups (one or two classes) at a time, because that way I can do more specialized hands-on stuff with the kids — like play drawing games or make up stories with them! I enjoy getting the kids involved. Often when I’m making drawings for the kids I’ll have them come up and pose as angry unicats and that sort of thing.

I also really like corresponding with kids. It is fun and inspiring to hear about what the kids enjoy, and I love the drawings kids make.

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

Ben: My latest picture book, Rex Wrecks It! (Candlewick), just came out. The story started out in an unusual way for me. Typically, a story idea comes all at once for me and I start by writing it down. This one started with pictures. I wanted to do a book that featured some of my favorite things to draw — things like dinosaurs, robots, monsters, and unibbits. The narrative came about from a comic I had drawn in my sketchbook about a little Godzilla character who kept messing up playtime for everyone.

My next book will be Something Extraordinary (Simon & Schuster), pictured below. I think I set the bar rather high with that title! It comes out next June.

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I’m also currently working on a graphic novel and just finishing my first draft of the first chapter book I’ve ever written.


A cover mock-up for the chapter book
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Mmm. Coffee.Okay, we’ve got more cider, and it’s time to get a bit more detailed with seven questions over breakfast. I thank Ben 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?


: So far, I’ve found that each book is a little different. But I have noticed that my best ideas usually come in a flash of inspiration. Often this happens when I’m allowing my mind to wander (not an uncommon occurrence). I might be out for a walk, taking a shower, or driving somewhere when suddenly I stumble upon something I find funny and/or interesting. Next thing I know a story is playing out in my mind. Often I’ll let it tumble around my head for a bit and write down the occasional note about it in my sketchbook.

Funnily, some of my best ideas also come about when I’m under pressure. When I was working at a before- and after-school program in Seattle, I would make comics for the kids on the spot. Two of my books (Mo’s Mustache and Rex Wrecks It!) were a result of such comics.

When I feel like it is time for the idea to really get my attention, I sit down at the computer and type up a manuscript. I let it sit for a bit and then start the process of editing and fine-tuning. For me writing a picture book feels the same way as writing a poem. Each word counts, and the way they are organized (or not!) is imperative.

Once I have actually written the story down, I start the process of drawing the characters and exploring the visual style of the story. I also start the storyboarding process at this point. Typically, I start with small thumbnail scribbles and with each revision make it all a bit bigger and more precise. At this point I have to change up a lot of the wording to fit with the visual half. I want the words to be able to stand on their own and for the pictures to be able to as well, but for both to work best when together. The interplay of the two is very important to me.

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When creating a book dummy, I draw all the elements by hand and then assemble them in Photoshop so that I can move them around easily on the spread and try a number of compositions.

I approach final art in a similar way. I draw and paint each character and element individually, scan, and then assemble in Photoshop. It can be a bit of a time-consuming and meticulous affair, but also strangely cathartic. There is the danger at this point in the process of snuffing the life out of the illustrations. I try to allow happy accidents. I want the human hand visible in my work. I often find myself battling the perfectionist in me.

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

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Robot helpers
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View from the studio window
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Ben loves books
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: I work from home and pretty much everywhere I go (always have a sketchbook with me). I tend to be a messy person, but recently I’ve been doing a good job of keeping it all somewhat organized. I definitely feel best when my work space is on the clean side.

I have a number of studio assistants [pictured above]. My dinosaur, Rex, isn’t so helpful. When my workspace is messy, it is usually his fault. My robot helpers make much better assistants.

I also have an intern, who joins me for walks in the woods. Her name is gigi.

Ben and gigi

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


: A lot of the classics! Where the Wild Things Are, The Very Quiet Cricket, Make Way for Ducklings, The Story of Ferdinand, everything by Tomie dePaola, and all the books by Dr. Seuss were frequent reads for me.

And when I say “reads” I mean that I read them visually. I wasn’t too keen on reading words when I was a kid, but I loved the pictures. Recently I discovered some correspondence between my mom and my third-grade teacher in which my mom expressed concern that all I did was look at pictures. She was afraid I’d get too far behind, because I didn’t bother with the words. It was Harry Potter that ended up getting me into the words. That series made me the book addict I am today!

Oh, also, It Zwibble and the Greatest Cleanup Ever! LOVED that book!

[Pictured below are some early images and final art from
Mo’s Mustache,
published last year by Tundra Books.]

Thumbnail doodles
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Pictured above: Early drawings
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Character work
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Cover wrap idea
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Cover wrap
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“Mo’s Mustache Manual”
(the flip side of the dust jacket)

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Dummy image
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Final spread
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Dummy image

Dummy image
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Dummy image
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Final spread
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Final spread
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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.)

Ben: Quentin Blake, David Roberts, and Chris Riddell. I have a thing for those British illustrators!

[Pictured below are some early images and final art from
The Table Sets Itself

published last year by Walker Books for Young Readers.]

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Final spread: “Where in the universe were Dish and Spoon?”
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Final spread: “It looked like Dish and Spoon might never return. …”
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Final spread: “Izzy would have taken off for France right then and there,
but her parents didn’t understand.”

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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?

Ben: I like to listen to audio books, when illustrating. I go through several per week. Currently, I’m listening to Stoneheart by Charlie Fletcher and read by Jim Dale. I’ve got a voice crush on Jim Dale. Kelsey (my wife) and I have all the Harry Potter audiobooks (read by Jim Dale), and we fall asleep to them every night. Many people are surprised when they find out I work while listening to an audio book, but for me drawing is sometimes like breathing and, at other times, a meticulous task. In both cases, it is nice to do something else at the same time.

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When I write, I tend not to listen to anything, but sometimes I’ll listen to music — Jack Johnson, Vampire Weekend, and James Taylor are a few favorites of mine. My book Mo’s Mustache was a bit of an exception. When I worked on that book, I listened to The Bee Gees and anything else that put me in the mood to dance. Drawing and dancing at the same time is lots of fun! I also make sound effects when drawing, but typically when I’m the only one around.

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

Ben: Whenever I mow a lawn, I imagine it is a televised lawn-mowing competition. The announcers evaluate my technique and everything. Speed matters — but so does the quality of the cut. Yep.

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

Ben: What is your dream project?

I really want to start or take part in making a quarterly children’s magazine with 100+ pages, printed on uncoated stock. It would have oodles of random awesomeness — stories, comics, coloring pages, drawing games, jokes, nonsense, and art made by kids. And all of my favorite illustrators would take part, of course. Something akin to The Goods but magazine format — so room for even more.

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* * * The Pivot Questionnaire * * *

Jules: What is your favorite word?

Ben: “Doodles!”

Jules: What is your least favorite word?

Ben: I feel that most words (even the ones that grate on me a bit) have their place. But one that does send a shiver down my spine is “moist.”

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

Ben: Walking in the woods, ice cream, bookstores, hot chocolate, games, drawing …

Jules: What turns you off?

Ben: Apathy.

Jules: What sound or noise do you love?

Ben: The sound of the ocean.

Jules: What sound or noise do you hate?

Ben: Shouting. But that depends on the situation.

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

Ben: Professional basketball player!

Jules: What profession would you not like to do?

Ben: Butcher.

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

Ben: “What do you want to go back as? I think you’d make an excellent dragon!”

All artwork and images are used with permission of Ben Clanton.

REX WRECKS IT. Copyright © 2014 by Ben Clanton. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

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

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49. B. J. Novak is not a celebrity author. (Oh, really?): An interview

novak photo B. J. Novak is not a celebrity author. (Oh, really?): An interview On October 2, the Harvard Book Store hosted B. J. Novak (from TV’s The Office, Saving Mr. Banks, and many others; also a Harvard University grad, thank you very much) reading his new picture book — The Book with No Pictures — at the Brattle Theatre. He invited kids on to the stage for a rollicking reading of his hilarious book. At least I thought that was rollicking, until I saw him read again the next day in front of about two hundred first-through-third-graders at a nearby elementary school. Pure kid bliss, complete with Q&A at the end (Kid: “Did you write books when you were little?” BJN: “Yes! Spooky books for Halloween, stories about the beach when it was summertime…”) and an invitation to send him story ideas (um… Uncle Shelby, anyone?! If you don’t get that reference, read on). We spoke afterward about standup comedy, childhood rebellion, and metafiction.

(BTW, as @RogerReads asked: “Is @bjnovak ‘s THE BOOK WITH NO PICTURES still technically a picture book? I hope it makes the Caldecott committee squirm.”)

novak bookwithnopix B. J. Novak is not a celebrity author. (Oh, really?): An interview EG: How involved were you in designing The Book with No Pictures?

BJN: I was extremely hands on — I think I drove everyone crazy.

EG: Who were the editor and designer on this project?

BJN: I worked with two designers: Lily Malcom at Penguin and Kate Harmer, an independent designer I’ve worked with before, with Hum Creative in Seattle. The editor was Lauri Hornik. My approach is always to ask a million people for advice.

talking B. J. Novak is not a celebrity author. (Oh, really?): An interview

B.J. Novak at the Brattle Theatre.

EG: Were kids involved in that part?

BJN: Not knowingly, not wittingly. I would observe kids as they were read to, not just by me. I would ask parents to read so I could watch what they would naturally do. My original draft of what we call the “mayhem spread,” with all those crazy syllables, was very intimidating for a parent to read, I found. I mean, kids loved it. I showed my original black-and-white version to a two-year-old, and he started cracking up as soon as he saw the page. It had a lot of Hs in it, a lot of silent letters — I wanted it to look complicated. And while kids were delighted, I thought a parent would give up. So I simplified a lot of those syllables. That was a combined design/editorial decision.

EG: Who reined this book in? Because for all of its wackiness, it is very controlled and subtle. It could have gone crazy…

 B. J. Novak is not a celebrity author. (Oh, really?): An interview

His head is made of blueberry pizza.

BJN: Yeah, controlled rebellion. That was my approach. I looked at the original copy I made — I bought an 8 ½ x 12 moleskin journal and printed out pages and paper-clipped them in, with the font the size that I pictured and typewriter font. I glue-sticked a cover onto the journal so that a little kid would think it was a real book, so I could get a real reaction. It took like fifteen minutes per book, so you can’t just give them away, but I would carry them around places. And when I looked at that original paper-clipped version recently, it is almost identical to the finished book. So when I first had the idea, the tone of it was part of the idea. It was something that’s very rebellious for a three-year-old but actually not that edgy. “I am a monkey who taught myself to read” is very unedgy. “BooBoo Butt” is about as borderline as we get. A kindergartner once asked if he could whisper something in my ear so the grownups couldn’t hear, and he whispered, “I liked when you said BooBoo Butt.” He thought it was extremely rebellious and transgressive that I had said that. Controlled rebellion is the key to enjoyment because it makes a kid feel safe. And I’ve noticed that since I was a kid, trying to make other kids laugh, which I did, that younger kids — and especially, I’ve found, younger girls — can be scared of a book that is too wild. And a way to combat that is to keep assuring a kid that this is silly. This is ridiculous, what’s going on here. So the book repeats many times, “This is so silly,” which is partly to make a kid feel safe. Nothing too crazy is going to happen.

EG: It’s not Sendak.

 B. J. Novak is not a celebrity author. (Oh, really?): An interview

The mayhem spread, mid badoongy-face.

BJN: Yeah, who I loved, but whose work can be a little scary — you don’t know where it’s going. So with this book I wanted kids to feel safe in this rebelliously experimental environment.

EG: Was “preposterous” in your original draft?

BJN: No, “preposterous” I added later because I had said “silly” and “ridiculous” too many times. I was working on the movie Saving Mr. Banks, which was about the making of Mary Poppins, and I was enamored of the way kids learned certain words aspirationally. And I thought it’d be nice to have one word in this book that kids don’t recognize, that sounds funny, and it would be nice if they went around saying “preposterous” because they knew it from the book. So that was the one word I added to give a little… aspirational vocabulary.

EG: The Horn Book’s winter company outing last year was to see Saving Mr. Banks.

BJN: Well, I definitely identified with P. L. Travers, because I had written this book that I had intended to cause nothing but easy joy, and here I was being pretty much a monster the way P. L. Travers was. “No, no, that color is all wrong. This font is ridiculous. You can’t have pictures in the book.” I said no picture of me on the flap jacket. I even asked, at one point, if we could take off the little penguin logo on the spine of the book.

EG: They said no?

BJN: Well, I actually changed my mind on that. I think the brand is so wonderful and inviting that I decided technically the jacket isn’t the book, the jacket is the cover. But I was really a monster in the P. L. Travers mold.

EG: Had you read Mary Poppins?

BJN: I hadn’t, but then I read it when we started making the movie. What I was struck by is that the book is so sweet and clever, that I can only imagine how stunned the Sherman brothers must’ve been to meet this sour, negative person. You’d expect it to be a breeze. It’s not like she wrote The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

EG: Or Where the Wild Things Are. Were you a reader as a kid?

BJN: Yes. My very favorite was Matt Christopher who wrote sort of wish-fulfillment sports books. The Kid Who Only Hit Homers I loved. Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen.

EG: Do you know the story about how librarians used to pencil in little diapers on the kid?

BJN: I think they had a point! Reading it again recently I thought, “This is insane.” But at the time I thought it was spooky and exciting. I loved Amelia Bedelia, Harriet the Spy. I was caught under my covers reading Harriet the Spy with a flashlight. My mom was very angry because I had promised I’d go to bed. Danny, the Champion of the World. Roald Dahl in general but especially that. And Shel Silverstein I really liked. As I write both for kids and adults, he’s someone who comes up, for me, as a role model. Even the way he maintained his aesthetic, so deliberately, with black and white and a certain font.

EG: Do you read those books differently now than when you were a kid?

BJN: Actually, I probably read them the same. I flip through the Silverstein poems, I never read them in order. My book for adults, One More Thing, is influenced by that, too, the different lengths and playfulness, the black-and-white cover.

EG: The slightly transgressive nature… or more than slightly.

BJN: The important thing for me about The Book with No Pictures, and Shel Silverstein embodied it well, and Dr. Seuss embodied it extremely well too, is that it does encourage kids who will inevitably be rebellious to think of books as their allies. I was very lucky to grow up thinking that every time I was sort of angry and ambitious and didn’t fit in and wanted to do something cooler, I thought of books as the place where you’d find that. As a teenager it would be Jack Kerouac and Bukowski. And as a little kid it might be Dr. Seuss. Dr. Seuss was never on the side of your parent or the authority. He seemed completely anti-authority. And even though he’s so rightly accoladed for his educational books now, when you’re a kid you think: this is the opposite of learning. You think: this is freedom. And that, to me, is an extremely important decision that gets made in a kid’s mind, whether books are the ally or the enemy when they are feeling certain feelings. And I think that what excites me about something like The Book with No Pictures is making kids feel words are on their side, not their parents’ side. Words are this incredible code that can make people do things that they want them to do.

EG: It’s really a performance, reading this book, in a way that some picture books are not. You really have to, as a grownup, embody all of it.

BJN: On the one hand you do, on the other hand you don’t. Performers really take to this book, and I’ve especially found it to be good as a dad book. Dads often want to be a little more wild and rowdy with sons, and a lot of picture books are very gentle, so this is a rowdy book. But I’ve also found people who are not performers, who are shy about picking it up, get wonderful reactions, too. A shy or more quiet parent saying these things, even in a flat, straightforward voice, can be especially funny to a kid, because they’re not the type of parent who would normally say, “My only friend in the whole wide world is a hippo named BooBoo Butt.”

EG: Is the experience different reading to groups rather than one on one?

BJN: Well, I love groups because of all the years I spent as a standup comedian. You just want an audience. It’s a universal truth that comedy’s better with an audience. When I was growing up watching Seinfeld with my family we would all laugh, and now when people tell me they watch The Office on their laptop or on Netflix it’s a little sad. I think that’s why there’s so much activity on Twitter and Facebook about TV shows because you want to be watching this with everybody.

EG: You’ve really thought about all this.

BJN: Yes.

EG: It seems like many projects you’re involved in have this sort of meta quality to them.

BJN: Yes! Nice observation. What else?

EG: Well, even Punk’d is kind of meta. The Office goes without saying. Saving Mr. Banks — a movie about a book about the making of a movie. It’s just that you’re really smart, right?

BJN: I think it’s taste. My friend Mindy Kaling, equally smart, has no patience for meta.

EG: Some of it is really poorly done.

BJN: There seems to be a really sort of clever-teenage-boy drive toward the meta. I loved Mr. Show because it was meta. I loved early Simpsons. And when I was a teenager I loved Borges for being meta. So, yes, that’s always been my taste. The Book with No Pictures — even that title is meta. It’s commenting on itself, its own existence as a funny idea. So I’m always drawn to that. The conceptual, the meta.

EG: Could you write an article for us on gender and meta?

BJN: Interesting. Well, it’s a very small sample set, but I’ve tended to find that equally smart, equally literate people of opposite genders — meta is a dividing line, often. That and Bob Dylan.

EG: You are not a typical celebrity author.

BJN: I think the crazy thing is that I’m a celebrity, not that I’m an author. I’m an author by nature. My father is an author. I went to Harvard and studied literature. I was an ambitious and successful television writer. And then I started doing stand-up and acting, and for years I think the quiet nudge from my friends was, “Are you sure about this acting thing? You’re so clearly meant to be a writer.” And so now I actually take it as a compliment when people are skeptical about celebrity books. I’m like, “Really? You think I’m a celebrity? Wow! No one ever thought I could do it.” No one ever doubted I could be an author growing up, they doubted that I could be a celebrity.

EG: Do you have both these introvert and extrovert sides to you?

BJN: I’m very much both, in the way that very many comedy performers are, famously. And really this is my  ideal career. Most of the time I love being alone, writing, in my own mind, no one bothering me, dreaming up things, like a teenage boy in his basement laboratory. Plotting about how the world is going to crazy with excitement about what he’s writing.

EG: Sounds like your next middle-grade novel.

BJN: And then I want to go out and show it to the world and see people’s faces. So I really feel that what my real goal is, and always has been, is to be a public author. There was an era in which Mark Twain was America’s author. Everyone knew he was a writer. Dickens, too, performed live. All these guys performed their writing live and were public personas as writers. And in Europe there’s still something of a public persona as a writer. But it’s not really the case in America. You’re an author or a celebrity.

EG: Although now with Twitter, John Green and people like that…

BJN: Yes! I think it’s changing somewhat. And I would like to be that. What John Green is for his audience and his genre, I would like to be for mine. Which is meta comedy, I suppose. I would like to be the representative of it. Someone who is a hero of mine that I also want to be like is Rod Serling. He presented his writing, looked like his writing, embodied his writing. He wasn’t an actor, he was a public writer. So that’s what I want to be.

EG: So, picture book is your niche? Or are you going to come out with a YA — what was that toilet zombie book the kid suggested during the Q&A?

BJN: My first book, the short story book, is very personal expression. And this book is an expression of what I want to write for kids. Yeah, I would like to write YA as well, and middle-grade…

EG: See, you know what the words “middle-grade” mean. That’s great.

BJN: Well, again, I’m not a celebrity. That’s our secret.

Liz (the school’s hip librarian; cameo appearance): HA!

EG: He knows “middle-grade.” He used it in conversation! Oh, Shel Silverstein… Liz sending you all the kids’ story ideas… it makes me think of Silverstein’s ABZ book.

BJN: Yes! I loved it as a kid.

EG: As a kid you read it?

BJN: My father gently introduced me to it with the explanation that this is a fake kids’ book. I got the joke, I loved it…

EG: “L is for lye…”

BJN: I remember: “Steal your parents’ money and mail it to Uncle Shelby.”

EG: So there weren’t any books that you weren’t allowed to read as a kid? Was everything up for grabs?

BJN: Everything was up for grabs, in fact probably more than for most kids because my father had a library at home of all the books he would do for research. He had written a book on marijuana use. There were books on heroine in our house. There were books on Iran-Contra. Books on all kinds of things. And he never stopped me from reading any of that. I think he was secretly quite happy. Again, if your rebellion comes… look, rebellion’s going to come, for every kid. And if it comes in the form of literature, you’re much better off than if it comes in opposition to it.

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50. Jen Wang Aims To Give Gaming A Real World Context For ‘In Real Life’

Jen.Wang  695x1028 Jen Wang Aims To Give Gaming A Real World Context For In Real LifeBy Kyle Pinion

IN REAL LIFE, a graphic novel collaboration between journalist/author Cory Doctorow and comics creator Jen Wang, centers on a young gamer named Anda who becomes enraptured by an massively multiplayer online game (MMO) called “Coarsegold Online”. While logged-in, she makes new friends, including a gregarious fellow gamer named “Sarge” and a “gold-farmer” from China named Raymond. It’s the latter whose activities, which center on illegally collecting valuable objects in the game and selling them to other players from developed countries, begin to open up Anda’s perspectives on the concepts of right and wrong, and the power of action towards civil rights.

The book was a true eye-opener for me, as I’m not a gamer by any stretch of the imagination beyond the occasional dalliance on my console system at home. I was delighted when I received an opportunity to chat with Jen Wang about the origins of this project, its underlying themes, and how much of her own gaming experience played into the development of the narrative.

How did IN REAL LIFE (IRL) find its genesis? Did you know Cory Doctorow prior to working on this project?

Prior to IN REAL LIFE I was familiar with Cory Doctorow as a blogger and activist but I hadn’t read his fiction. ANDA’s GAME, the short story IRL is based on was actually the first piece I read. My publisher First Second sent me a link to the short and asked if I’d be interested. After reading that, it was hard to say no!

What is it about the subject matter that drew you in initially?

I like that it takes gaming, which many people see as frivolous entertainment, and gives it a real life context. The internet is inherently a social platform and it makes sense that it reflects our darker tendencies, such as exploiting people. I also like that it touches on the tension between China and the West. There’s just so much interesting material to explore and at the end of the day it’s still a simple story about two teenage gamers from different countries who become friends.

Your previous work, KOKO BE GOOD, also published through First Second, was solely written and illustrated by yourself. Do you find that there are inherent advantages in the collaborative process, and is there a method you prefer over the other? 

It’s definitely a lot easier to illustrate your own work, that’s for sure. The collaborative process is more challenging, but you also get a second point a view and a direction to work towards. Sometimes in your personal work it takes a lot of soul searching to figure out what you’re trying to say but a collaborate project allows you to bounce off other people’s ideas and that’s really refreshing.

InRealLife 2P 12 1000x670 Jen Wang Aims To Give Gaming A Real World Context For In Real Life

On the day to day work on the graphic novel, what was the working relationship between Cory and yourself? Were you in constant contact? 

During the scripting phase of the book we were sending a lot of emails. I would write a draft, send it to Cory, and he would send some notes and bounce some ideas back. We went through maybe 8 or so drafts so it took a little while to nail down the final. I was pretty much left alone at the drawing stage, however.

How much of a specific vision did Cory have in the initial “Anda’s Game” script, and how much input did you have on character design before the development of IRL? Do you feel like Anda specifically has your “stamp” on her?

I had pretty much free reign as far as design went, so that part was fairly easy. When First Second approached me to do the project they wanted me to feel comfortable writing my own take, so mostly it was me pitching ideas to Cory and him giving me notes. I do feel like I have my stamp on Anda but then again I don’t know how it wouldn’t have happened naturally. She’s a nerdy teenage shut in and having been one myself I can relate to that a lot.

The gaming details throughout are very specific, do you have a significant gaming/MMO background as a user? If not, is that an area where Cory contributed significantly?

I don’t really have a background in MMOs but I played World of Warcraft for a couple weeks prior to starting the project. That plus a combination of sandbox games I’ve played were the inspiration for Coarsegold online. I mostly tried to create a game that felt familiar and yet tailored it to things I like in games. I’m very much into customization and resource management so it was fun to add things like to the book.

How do you sense that communication has changed for Generation Y and The Millennials? Do you find that you side more with Anda or her mother in what technology brings to social interaction? 

I’m definitely on the Millennials side. I can’t imagine what my life would be like now if I didn’t have access to the internet as a teenager. I met so many other young artists online and they really motivated me to create and challenge myself. Without it, I would’ve had to seek these people out in college in person and I would’ve been a lot more lonely and isolated. There are risks to putting yourself online but there are risks to be alive in the real world as well.  The best you can do is exercise caution and be smart about your privacy in the same way you would anywhere.

Is there anything from your own experience pulled into Anda’s story, at least from a characterization standpoint?

 Do you see Anda as a role model? Was that the intention all along?

I was a lot like Anda in high school. I was a teenage hermit who spent a lot of time connecting to peers online within my community of choice. Like Anda, I found my identity online because I was able to meet other people like myself. I see Anda less as a traditional role model and more as someone readers could relate to. Like Anda, most young people now are discovering the world through the internet and it can be a difficult place to navigate.

InRealLife 2P 14 761x1028 Jen Wang Aims To Give Gaming A Real World Context For In Real Life

What drove the design of the world of Coarsegold? Any specific influences?

World of Warcraft is the main one, but I also looked at the Final Fantasy games, Skyrim, and more open world games like Animal Crossing, The Sims and Second Life.

What was the thought process on the color-design that differentiates Coarsegold from “the real world”?

I definitely wanted Coarsegold to be more bright and colorful by contrast as a reflection of Anda’s feelings toward both realities. I used different filters and colored textures so that real life was a little more tan and monochromatic while Coarsegold looked lively and exciting.

When Anda somewhat bridges the gap between the two by changing her hair color to match her avatar, what kind of sea-change does that indicate for her personally?

At that point in the story Anda has finally found purpose and confidence in her role as a Fahrenheit. Not only has she befriended Raymond and discovered this world of goldfarming, but she’s taken on the task of helping him. It’s a decision she’s been able to make for herself separate from what her peers have led her to believe, and changing her hair color is a symbol of this newfound confidence.

IN REAL LIFE defies expectations a bit in that it shifts a bit touching briefly on females in gaming (with the very succinct hand-raising scene in the classroom and some of the concerns of “Sarge”) and then moves into an area centering on economics and specifically civil rights. Do you sense a strong correlation between the two themes?

Oh, for sure. As in real life, the conflict within Coarsegold comes from who is considered an “other.” As a young girl in gaming, Anda is a minority, yet she’s in a position of power compared to Raymond who is not only a foreigner who doesn’t speak English, but also a goldfarmer. They’re able to connect as outsiders of this gaming establishment and both are fighting for the right to be themselves and be seen as equals.

I have to admit that the term “gold farming” is fairly new to me (as a non-gamer), and IRL paints a very morally grey picture around that activity, what do you feel as though readers should take from the book’s portrayal of that subject?

Gold farming was new to me too until I started researching for this book. There is a lot of grey area and it’s still evolving. What I do hope the readers takes away from IRL is the ability to keep an open mind about the people on the other side of the tracks and be empathetic to their struggles. On the surface the gold farming community appears to be taking advantage of game-makers and the “purity” of the game. On the other hand the gold farmers themselves are actually big fans who can only participate by being taken advantage of.

What inspired the creation of Raymond? Both in the look of his avatar and the character’s plight in China?

I wanted the goldfarmers to look small and vulnerable compared to everyone else.  They haven’t been able to level up their characters and they’re not customized so Raymond doesn’t look any different from his peers. I also wanted them to not look human so as to “otherize” the goldfarmers in the eyes of Anda and Lucy at the beginning of the story. For Raymond’s human backstory I took a lot of inspiration from a book I read called FACTORY GIRLS: FROM VILLAGE TO CITY IN A CHANGING CHINA by Leslie T. Chang. It paints these very compassionate portraits of young female migrant workers and the everyday victories and struggles they face.  Raymond comes from a very disadvantaged background but he’s also clever and ambitious enough to get what he wants (to play Coarsegold) with the means that he has.

Do you feel a sense of responsibility to educate as a creator publishing a book within the Young Adult literary genre? Does that affect the kinds of stories you hope to tell?

I don’t make it a point to be an educator, but I hope my stories reflect the world I’d like to see and the problems I’d like us to overcome.

If there was one-key take away or message from IN REAL LIFE that should highlighted, what would that be?

Be compassionate to others and be aware of how your role in the community may be inadvertently hurting others less privileged than you.

What’s next on the horizon for you post the release of IRL next month? Any new projects that you can share?

I have a couple new projects I can’t really talk about yet, but I’m excited to share I’m co-organizing a new comics festival in Los Angeles called Comics Arts LA. It’s a one day event that will take place on December 6th. We’ve got really great exhibitors lined up so it’s going to be fun. If any readers out there are in Southern California that weekend, I encourage you to come check it out! http://comicartsla.com

IN REAL LIFE will be available in a bookstore near you on October 14th through First Second

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