Category Archives: Inspiring Art

Congrats all ’round!

So here I am madly scrambling to get through the day with work, family commitments and writing then I come home from a course and find good news on the Twitterverse.

A big congratulations to Marianne Delacourt (de Pierres), Narrelle Harris, Rhonda Roberts and me, we’re on the Long List for the Davitt Award. The Davitt Awards are run by Sisters In Crime. The award is named in honour of Ellen Davitt (1812-1879) who wrote Australia’s first mystery novel, Force and Fraud in 1865.

And another big Whoohoo because ‘The Price of Fame’ has made it onto the Long List for the Ned Kelly Award for Best First Fiction (since this is my first foray into crime!). The Ned Kelly Awards are run by the Australian Crime Writers Association. The awards began in 1995 and they say ‘When it came to deciding on a name, co-opting the nation’s most infamous villain seemed a natural fit.’ The awards are known affectionately as the ‘Neds’. Lovely to see so many fellow female authors in the running for a Ned.

72_PoF Wraparound

 

So this has been a good week, with the Long Listing of all three books from The Outcast Chronicles on the Gemmell Awards for their covers (thanks to Clint Langley!) and for the books themselves. And now the Long Listing of ‘The Price of Fame’. With 5 books published last year, (the 5th book was ‘The King’s Man’, an e-book exclusive), last year is all a bit of a blur for me, but it does feel nice now to come home to find four of the books are Long Listed for awards.

Now, if only I didn’t have to work to earn a living or sleep. I could get much more writing done!

 

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Filed under Australian Writers, Awards, Fantasy books, Inspiring Art, Paranormal_Crime, Thrillers and Crime, Thrillers and Mysteries

Outcast Chronicles covers nominated for the Gemmell Cover Award

Kudos to Solaris for choosing Clint Langley to do the covers and mega kudos to Clint for the wonderful job he did on these books!

3covers72dpi copy

As they say on the David Gemmell Page:

‘The Ravenheart Award is to celebrate the hard working artists of the fantasy genre, whose covers tantalise and enchant readers. The award is open for any Fantasy book published in English in the year of nomination with the winner being crowned ‘Ravenheart Fantasy Artist of the Year’ for their work. With so many hours of hard work put into the book jackets that help make a title so special we felt that the artists deserve to be recognised.’

So if you thought Clint tantalised and enchanted readers with these covers, then please drop by (here’s the link) and vote for him! All three covers have been nominated which is a bit of a pity as it will split the vote, but perhaps they’ll add all the votes for Clint and put them in one pile. I voted for Besieged.

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Filed under Awards, creativity, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Inspiring Art

Cat claims Desk, Writer Capitulates

I came into my study to work this morning and found Sassy cat had claimed my desk.

SassyCat_DeskHere she is, sleeping on my notes. This is where I keep my maps, family trees, time lines and list of alliances. So of course that is where she sleeps. She’s keeping company with the two little cat sculptures that sleep on my desk to hold business cards in place. (Thanks Leanne, this is where they ended up!).  And she does go well with the colour scheme, even down to my current desktop theme which is castles of Europe. I use the desk top themes to help me get in the right mood to write about the world of King Rolen’s Kin, with thrones and lives at stake. (It’s pretty hard to think strategic battles and cloaks flying in the wind when it’s 38 degrees with 90% humidity).

So, seeing Sassy cat was happy, I went off to yoga and when I came back she had moved on and I could get to work. I do sometimes work with her beside me. She puts up with me sliding pages out from under her and I put up with sneezing because, wouldn’t you know it, I’m allergic to cats. For several years every time one of my daughters left home and moved into a flat she got a kitten, then she’d move back home with the cat, then she’d moves out and leave the cat with me.

Back to writing…

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Filed under Australian Writers, Cats, creativity, Fantasy books, Fun Stuff, Inspiring Art, Nourish the Writer, Writing craft

Meet Kathleen Jennings….

I’m expanding my series featuring fantastic authors to include fantastically creative people across the different mediums, which is why I’ve invited the World Fantasy nominee Kathleen Jennings who is both a writer and an artist to drop by. 

Watch out for the give-away question at the end of the interview.

Q: In 2009 you won the Inaugural Kris Hembury Encouragement Emerging Writers and Artists Award. Kris attended one of the EnVisions (a mentoring workshop for writers) and worked on the Fantastic Qld committee as well as serving as president for the Vision Writers group. He had such a dry sense of humour. As an emerging writer and artist how did winning this award impact on you?

Kris was a friend, and so it was quite emotional and a huge honour – that’s the personal impact. As a writer and artist, the impact was in realising that what I did was in some way seen by other people. Both writing and art can be (to varying extents) highly subjective pursuits, and realising that it isn’t all happening only in my own head is like opening a window and getting fresh air. I think that sort of combined shout of “we see you!” and “come on in, the water’s fine!” from people further out is a big gift more experienced people can give to those just starting. And one of the best compliments I can give the SF writing scene in Australia is that I have always found them very warm, tolerant and encouraging to awkward and easily startled beginners.

Q: Kathleen has been nominated for the World Fantasy Award in the Art section. When you were a child did you ever think you’d be nominated for the World fantasy Art Award and do your parents finally believe you’re a ‘real’ artist now?

I never even dreamed about it! I recall planning to be an author, or a champion poultry-breeder, or something like that.

As for my parents, they always thought of me as a real writer, so I think the art just required a slight readjustment. I suspect they are slightly disappointed that now they just get to show their friends copies of my pictures, instead of holding them down and reading high-school essays to them. They are recovering gracefully, and fantasy art is sometimes more generally socially acceptable than fantasy writing, but I suspect they’d really like to see my art on a book with my name on it.

Q: Your short stories have appeared in ‘Antipodean SF, the Shadow Box anthology, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #41 and #52,  After the RainLight Touch Paper Stand Clear and a comic in Candlewick Press’ Steampunk!.’ You were the president of the Vision writers group  in 2009, 2010 and 2011. How useful is belonging to a group for the development of a writer?

I found it very useful – it’s another of those things which teaches a distinction between subjective and objective assessment of my work. It took me out of my own head (and writhing self-referential angst) and taught me how to write better, how to be dispassionate about editing (this lesson hasn’t entirely taken yet), how to put my work out there and receive comment on it, and also how to tell the difference between genuine constructive criticism and the personal taste of the reader. But more importantly, it was the beginning of a great many friendships and personal and professional connections, as all the people grew up and out and graduated into new stages of their careers, new pursuits and interests, sharing dreams and ideas and projects. I remember Catherynne Valente wrote a beautiful review of Midnight in Paris, and said of the dream it shows of the literary/artistic scene in 1920s Paris, that as writers “this is what we are meant to get instead of health insurance!”. And it is, but we also get to build it fresh each time for ourselves.

Jason Nahrung

Q: You have done covers and illustrations for Small Beer Press, Subterranean Press, Fablecroft Press, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Ticonderoga Publications, Odyssey Press and the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild as well as individual commissions. Can you walk us through how someone would approach you to commission work?

It starts with an email or a twitter message, although sometimes there have been oblique advance hints given at a convention or over coffee. I panic (either from surprise or scheduling) then say yes, give a quote (once there’s enough information) and get the brief. This includes dimensions, details of style, particular limitations, directions the publisher/client would like to go in and the date. The date is very important! “As soon as possible” is not a date, it is a shifting target on the far side of other dates (this is a public service announcement, in case I forget to ask for one: everyone is happier with dates!). There is a varying degree of freedom – anything from “whatever you want” to “precisely these scenes”. For covers, I do like some idea of preference or at least direction. It helps to narrow my focus and the restrictions give more scope for creativity. Also, the cover is for marketing as well as decoration, and it’s good to know what the publisher’s thoughts are in that direction. Good art direction is invaluable. Then I read the manuscript (although once or twice this hasn’t been an option), weep, angst, do several thumbnail sketches, send them for approval and – sometimes after some back-and-forth (usually by email, rarely and delightfully over coffee) – get started on the final sketch which will develop into the final artwork.

 

Q: I used to work as a graphic artist illustrating children’s books and write. I eventually found the answer to the question: Was I an artist who wrote, or a writer who drew? (See Kathleen’s sketch books). Which do you see yourself as? And do you think it matters?

I see myself as a storyteller (or at least, a lover of stories) who works in words and pictures. My favourite works in all media (art, writing, music, architecture, landscape gardening…) either tell, suggest or provide scope for a story. When I write, I sometimes plot in pictures. When I draw, I try to get a story in there (at least in my mind) – something beyond the purely ornamental. Oddly, although I enjoy comics, I prefer heavily illustrated prose at present – possibly due to circumstances surrounding the last comic work I did (mild heat stroke at one end and floods at the other)! Perhaps the illustrated novel gives more scope for imagination in the space between words and text? I have not analysed this yet.

I do find it difficult to do both, but this is purely because of time constraints (I have a day job, and there are more art deadlines). The writing gets done but I am learning that I have to be much more structured to make the editing happen. But it is happening!

Art and writing complement each other well. It’s nice to be able to switch when I get plunged into creative despair in one area. But I also harbour the hope that the rise of ebooks will somehow elevate the importance of beautifully produced hard-copy books, with elegant design, typography, illustrations, initial capitals and endpapers.

Also, it’s beautiful to be able to interact with my favourite writers as an artist, and my favourite artists as a writer, because that’s pretty much the only way I’m able to string two words together in their presence.

 

 

Q: You have said your influences are Brett, Leyendecker and Sender. I love Leyendecker’s work. (He did the Arrow Shirt adverts and many covers for American Weekly). Eg. Having struggled to make ends meet as an illustrator, this picture is one of my Leyendecker favourites:

Of course, Leyendecker was highly successful and made a good living from his art. But that was back in the day when the American Weekly needed painted covers. (It was also back in the day when a short story writer could make a living as a writer). What is it about Leyendecker’s art that appeals to you?

Truthfully, it’s the hard edge he gives to paintings of soft curls. I had a book of fairytales when I was little, and the illustrations had a similar amazing richness – the “Cinderella” was the three-ball version, each dress was more beautiful and gold-embroidered than the last, but mostly I remember the angular painting of the hair, and the square toes of the stepsisters’ satin shoes. When I discovered Leyendecker, I fell in love with him for that. I also love the visible brush-strokes in sleek pictures, the combination of intense drama with dignity, and the sense that if he took himself seriously it wasn’t in a dull way – there’s this edge either of humour or superciliousness in the most elegant pictures which (for all the formal poses and decorative arrangements) adds tension and therefore an element of story to his pictures.

 

Q: You have done a series of cartoons with Daleks as the central theme (these were shortlisted for a Ditmar). Why Daleks?

They are simple and implacable, which makes them wonderful recurring villains: predictable, consistent, unstoppable. But – well, I never thought I’d draw a connection between Leyendecker and the Daleks! – there is a note in their voices that isn’t robotic. It isn’t “you will be assimilated”, it isn’t unvarying. There’s a rising note of anxiety to it, panic, real hatred. Inside those shells are these neurotic balls of intense, obsessive emotion. It creates that same Leyendecker tension between the presentation and underlying feeling. So – I’m a fan of Daleks.

As for the use of Daleks in the game (it was nearly, and may one day be, ducks) – I like parlour games, word games, lying-around-and-being-silly games, so tossing the Daleks (who didn’t do anything to deserve it) into a series of unlikely scenarios amused me vastly.

The rest of the game is an excuse to muse about books I love, or tropes in genre, or memories of reading around the table when I was growing up.

 

Q: Your art has been shortlisted for a Ditmar and won the Ditmar Award for: ‘Finishing School” in Steampunk!: An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories’. Do you have a favourite amongst your covers or illustrations and if so, why?

Generally, the second-last one. The last one is a victim of temporary trauma-induced amnesia, the current one is just traumatic and I’ve learned so much in doing each cover that I get a little eye-twitch looking at some of the earlier ones! My favourite parts of covers are usually anything new I was allowed to get away with, and the back.

Among the covers, my current favourite is probably the cover for Subterranean Press’ 10th anniversary edition of Kelly Link’s Stranger Things Happen. I was very excited to be asked to draw it because I’m a big fan of Kelly’s writing (although I tend to write very fragmented stories after I’ve been reading hers – the structure of “Kindling” in Light Touch Paper Stand Clearwas a victim of speed-reading Stranger Things Happen for this cover), and then to be allowed to get away with a two-tone, wallpaper/toile effect that I’d been wanting to try! Also, there’s a lightness to the linework which I’m always working to achieve in finished work instead of just in sketches, and I’m still fond of the peacocks on the back cover. And I love the typography (which isn’t my doing!). It’s very gratifying to have good typography put with your art – I have a theory that good typography can save bad art, but good art can’t necessarily lift bad typography.

I’m still recovering from the trauma of Midnight and Moonshine, but I am very happy with how (under duress!) it developed the style which Small Beer Press and Sofia Samatar made me discover for A Stranger in Olondria. I learned a lot doing the cover for Olondria, and still view it through a filter of “if I were to do it again I’d…”, but there are parts of it of which I am excessively fond – certain squiggles of colour, the light through a window, the subject matter.

 

Q: I was prompted to start this series of interviews because there seems to be a perception in the US and the UK that fantasy (in books) is a bit of a boy’s club. I’ve come across quite a bit of talk on the blogs recently about female comic artists and writers, and their lack of representation in large companies like DC (where the money is). Have you come across this in your professional life?

I haven’t directly. However, professionally I’ve been raised by writers, which in terms of my illustrations is basically like being raised by wolves. Also, although I’m very aware of the tensions in the comics worlds, I came into comics through short story anthologies so haven’t strayed into that scene. A lot of the women whose work I like are in the illustrative/graphic scene and there appears to be a lot of support and collaboration without regard to gender, so perhaps it is less gendered there? Also, with the fantasy side of illustration the delicate, elegant, beautiful and decorative is highly prized. You’d think something described with those words could easily be segregated into “women’s work” but isn’t at all (think Charles Vess!) and that’s wonderful. And even the sentimental end of that spectrum has a lot of men working in it so there doesn’t seem to be that danger of being “women’s art”. But again, I’m working mostly from printed evidence. I’ll be able to report further once I know more about that community.

 

Q: Following on from that, does the gender of the writer/artist change your expectations when you approach their work?

I’m aware that I have held some of the prejudices I referred to in the answer above! I suspect these are hold-overs from some experiences in the writing scene. So I’m usually trying to hold these at bay, not get exasperated by sentimentality or chain mail bikinis as a knee-jerk reaction, or be thrilled at discovering a harder edge in a picture drawn by a woman, or sensible clothing in pictures drawn by a man. I draw sentimental pictures! I have drawn chain mail bikinis! And my favourite things – beauty anchored by fleshy reality or a low rumble of tension, ugliness liberated by common sense or incredible observation – appear in my favourite pictures by my favourite artists, and are usually fairly evenly gender-distributed.

 

Q: And here’s the fun question. If you could book a trip on a time machine, where and when would you go, and why?

 I don’t think about this much! My father discouraged my sister and I from saying “I wish”, because it meant we weren’t happy with the way things were. And if we said we weren’t happy, well then obviously something should be done about that. Which led to some interesting home alterations. However! although I’m fascinated by much of the past, it’s usually the inconvenient parts, and I’m a big fan of modern medicine, amenities and so forth (I get this from my mother, who refused to go camping as it was primitive enough at the house).

So where would I go? I think I already mentioned Midnight in Paris? But oh! I don’t know. Probably not the future (which is odd, because I always like to be very well prepared for upcoming adventures). So – yes – probably that threshold age of the 1920s, when the world was just becoming recognisably ours, and was damaged and new and leggy, hopeless, hopeful, decadent, rebuilding, pragmatic but still with an eye for beauty, taking to the skies. As for where – England for Sayers, or Melbourne for Lindsays, or anywhere with an active literary/artistic community.

Or else just an evening (last weekend, or the last convention, or home, or some recent café) full of conversation and pen-and-paper games, songs, plotting, coffee, cupcakes, genre snark, story-telling, cider, word origins and drawing on serviettes.

 

Give-away Question: How should words and pictures work together?

 

Give-away: A little ink drawing of a famous quote with a word replaced by “duck” (artist retains right of veto/negotiation on quote, because I don’t have time to draw 14 ducks again – you don’t realise how many ducks that is until you have to draw them, but it is a lot of ducks).

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Follow Kathleen on Twitter: @tanaudel

See Kathleen’s Blog

See Kathleen’s sketchbooks

 

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Filed under Australian Artists, Australian Writers, Comics/Graphic Novels, creativity, Fandom, Fun Stuff, Gender Issues, Inspiring Art

Time for Pretties!

The guys at SOLARIS came up with this advert for the Outcast Chronicles. (With thanks to Clint Langley for the wonderful covers).

I know, so cool. Feel very lucky!

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Filed under Female Fantasy Authors, Fun Stuff, Inspiring Art

Kate Forsyth tells us about Rapunzel…

Today we have the lovely Kate Forsyth visting us to coincide with the release of her new book Bitter Greens. There is a copy of Bitter Greens for one lucky reader. See the give-away question at the end.

 

 

 

 

 

Rapunzel is one of the most mysterious and enduring of all fairytales, telling the story of a young girl sold to a witch by her parents for a handful of bitter green herbs.

Most people think that the ‘Rapunzel’ story was first told by the Grimm Brothers in the early 19th century, but in fact it is a much older tale than that. There are so many ‘Maiden in the Tower’ stories in cultures all around the world that it has its own classification in the Aarne-Thompson fairytale motif index (Type 310).

The first known version is from Christian iconography with the story of Saint Barbara. She was a virtuous young girl locked in a tower by her father in the 3rd century. She was tortured for her Christian beliefs but her wounds miraculously healed overnight and when she was beheaded by her father, he was struck by lightning and killed. Most images of her show her with long, flowing, blonde hair, and in one version of the story her hair miraculously burst into flame when her father seized hold of it.

The first appearance of the motif of the ‘hair ladder’ was in a 10th century Persian tale told by Ferdowsi (932-1025 AD), in which a woman in a harem offers to lower her hair to her lover so he can climb up to her. He is afraid he might hurt her and so throws up a rope instead.

One of Rosetti’s paintings because I love the Preraphaelites

The ‘hair ladder’ reappears in Petrosinella, a literary fairy tale told by a Florentine writer, Giambattista Basile and published in 1634. Basile was living in Venice at the time and so may have heard many tales brought by sailors and merchants from faraway lands. Petrosinella (Little Parsley) is given up to an ogress after her mother steals parsley from the ogress’s garden. The ogress locks Petrosinella up in a tower in the forest, using her hair as a ladder to access the building. Petrosinella escapes with the help of a prince who heard her singing, overcoming the ogress by casting three magical acorns behind her that turn into obstacles that impede the witch and ultimately devour her.

Sixty years later, the story appears again, this time in France. It is told in 1698 by Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de la Force , who has been banished to a convent after displeasing the Sun King, Louis XIV, at his opulent court in Versailles. Locked away in a cloister, much like Rapunzel is in her tower, Charlotte-Rose was among the first writers to pen a collection of literary fairy tales and also one of the world’s first historical novelists. Published under a pseudonym, Mademoiselle X, Charlotte-Rose’s tales became bestsellers and she was eventually able to buy her release.

In Persinette, Mademoiselle de la Force’s version of the tale, the mother conceives an insatiable longing for parsley which her husband steals for her from a sorceress’s garden. When he is caught by the sorceress, the husband promises the sorceress his unborn daughter. The sorceress comes and collects the little girl at the age of seven, names her Persinette, and raises her until she is twelve. Persinette is then locked away in a tower without a door or stair, deep in a forest.

The Bridesmaid by Millais

In time she becomes a woman; the prince hears her singing and chants the rhyme so he can climb up the ladder of hair to her room, where he seduces her. “He became bolder and proposed to marry her right then and there, and she consented without hardly knowing what she was doing. Even so, she was able to complete the ceremony” is how Charlotte-Rose rather coyly describes his seduction.

Persinette becomes pregnant as a result, and in her naivety betrays herself to the sorceress when she complains about her dress growing tighter. The sorceress is furious. She cuts off Persinette’s hair and banishes her to a far-distant wilderness, then tricks the prince into climbing up the braids to the tower. She then causes him to fall from the tower to the ground, and he is blinded by the thorns that grow about the base of the tower. Persinette bears twins in the wilderness, then finds the prince and heals his eyes with her tears. The sorceress continues to torment them, until the young couple’s courage and tender love for each other move her to mercy and she magically returns them to the prince’s loving family.

The story was then retold by the German author Friedrich Schulz (1790). His version is almost identical to Mademoiselle de la Force’s, except that he changed the girl’s name to Rapunzel. It was then retold by the Grimm Brothers (1812), becoming less powerful, mysterious and sexually charged with each subsequent edition. For example, Rapunzel betrays the prince by remarking that the witch is much heavier to pull up, rather than by the witch’s realization that Rapunzel is pregnant.

I love Charlotte-Rose de la Force’s version of the story because of the ardent love affair and the miraculous healing of the prince’s eyes, and also because the heroine takes a more active role than in later versions of the tale. Persinette is imprisoned as a child, but she survives her ordeal, plots her escape, falls in love, and then raises two children on her own. She heals her lover’s wounds with her tears, and she persuades the sorceress to set them free. She becomes a magical agent of healing and salvation, not only for herself and her family, but also for the sorceress.

I am also fascinated by Charlotte-Rose herself. Strong-willed, intelligent and fiercely independent, she once rescued her lover from imprisonment by disguising herself as a dancing bear and entering his father’s castle with a travelling troupe of performers. Her stories were among the first literary fairy tales to be published, and her historical novels are known to have been read and enjoyed by Sir Walter Scott, who many attribute with beginning the historical fiction genre. Her most famous novel, The Secret History of Margeurite de Valois (1697), was also a strong influence on Alexander Dumas’s novel The Queen Margot (1854). She was an early feminist who believed passionately in free love and fought to live her own life liberated from the rigid hierarchy and etiquette of the court of Louis XIV. I find it interesting that her own story echoes the themes of Persinette – she is locked away from society by the king, but she wins her freedom by telling stories.

In my novel, Bitter Greens, I have entwined a retelling of the Rapunzel fairy tale with Charlotte-Rose’s dramatic life story to create a novel of desire, obsession, black magic, and the redemptive power of love. Oh, and Giambattista Basile makes a brief appearance too …

Dornr Schenschloss, Sababurg

Don’t you love it, when someone really knows their stuff? Kate’s currently overseas staying in the Sleeping Beauty castle at Sababurg. She’ll be back mid week.

Here’s the give-away question: What is your favourite fairy tale and why?

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Filed under Australian Writers, Book Giveaway, creativity, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Genre, Inspiring Art, Nourish the Writer, Writing craft

Meet Douglas Holgate…

I’m expanding my series featuring fantastic authors to include fantastically creative people across the different mediums, which is why I’ve invited the talented Douglas Holgate to drop by.

Watch out for the give-away question at the end of the interview.

Q: We met at Supanova and hung out at the cocktail party. Do you get to many of the Supanovas? Is it fun to mix with other illustrators and talk shop?

Doug with Skye, one of the Amazing Supanova Team

I’ve been to Supanova on the east coast fairly consistently over the last 3 or 4 years. I’ve yet to make the trek to Perth but I’m keen (and not just because I’ve never been to Perth).

Absolutely one of the best parts of the shows is mixing with peers, it’s always great to catch up, especially with people out of state and while the internet keeps us all up to date on what we’re up to it’s not a substitute for a drink and chat. I’ve found of late though I actually really like meeting and talking shop with people NOT doing what I’m doing…but working in similar creative fields. I had a ball talking to all the writers just recently at the Brisbane show (where we met), and came away with different perspectives, work ethics and ideas around publishing and the like.

Q: Back in the 80s when I was working as an illustrator in Melbourne we used to have to make appointments with the art directors of publishing houses, lug our folios in and be interviewed in hope that they’d send us work. Now artists have pages on all sorts of sites, as well as their own blog sites, to promote their artwork. (eg. The Loop. Illustrators Australia). Do you still have to do the ‘meet and greet’ with art directors or is it all done over the internet now?

I was saying to someone the other week that I have no idea how I’d work if I didn’t have a scanner, a computer and email. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like to navigate the creative process via the postal system. I do a lot of work for the US market so predominantly I work exclusively with them via the likes of email and sometimes skype. Local clients I do like to try and get a face to face with at some point. It’s nice to put a face and a voice to a name.

As for approaching clients for potential work, when I first started freelancing about 10 years ago it was still a phone call to the AD and physical hard copies of my folio sent to them if they were keen to see it. Now though…it’s pretty much all email and the internet. Which I think is good for ease of breaching that inner sanctum (It makes it less intimidating), and promotion wise you can have global reach instantly. But there is still something about even just talking to someone on the phone and a physical copy of your work in that person’s hands which can’t be replaced (Though I am a bit of a sucker for beautiful printed objects).

Q: You illustrated the Zack Proton (genuine intergalactic hero) books. Was this a chance to let your ‘inner kid’ loose? And how did you hook up with the writer, Brian Anderson, (I see he lives in Austen, Texas)?

I have such a soft spot for Zack proton. Not just a ridiculous, over the top, irreverent and just plain FUN series but also my first big time published work in the US.

All set up through my agent. The way it works is a publisher has a project, they approach my agent and ask if I’m free to work on the series and if I’d like to…and then I (always) say yes.

I then will back and forth with the publishers art director, receive a manuscript, any art direction they’re keen on, cover concepts, internal illustrations etc.

It’s very very rare that I’ll actually talk to the writer at all, especially during the process of putting the books together. This seems to be standard in the industry, which is a bit of a shame…but I can understand it from the publisher’s perspective, they want control of the books and don’t want creative decisions made without being in the loop.

I did however end up after the series was published getting in touch with Brian and we’ve stayed in touch every since, which is great!

Q: You worked on The Amazing Joy Buzzards from Image Comics, which is about an adventure rock-and-roll band. Look like lots of fun. When you work on a project like this how closely do you collaborate with the writer? Are there really tight deadlines?

I sort of already answered this one, but there are always exceptions to the rule. For original material I’m generating with writers to pitch, or self publish then absolutely it’s a complete collaboration.

Of course every writer is different and in some cases they’re happy to let me go away and work on the visual design of these things with minimal guidance. Others I’ve worked with have a strong vision and want to see it realised, from character design and aesthetic through to direction of what is happening specifically in a given scene. Writers like Alan Moore (whom I’ve not worked with) are notoriously specific about their art direction that in some cases almost becomes a novel in itself.

I do like a middle ground though. And there is nothing quite like brainstorming, back and forthing with someone and creating worlds and plots and characters from scratch.

For things like Joy Buzzards there was already an established universe that I was coming in to play around in. So the main characters and the like had pretty much already been fully realised. Which isn’t to say I didn’t have any creative input, it’s just a different challenge to say something original with someone else’s characters.

Q: And you worked on Super Chicken Nugget boy. When you were doing your Post Graduate Degree in Illustration at the University of Newcastle did you think you’d end up drawing animated chicken nuggets? LOL Do you have a personal project that you are madly working on in your spare time?

Haha! YES! Well…sort of. Maybe not chicken nuggets, but certainly I was aiming my sights on comics and material for kids and younger readers. There was a small group of us who were constantly getting in strife with the lecturers for pushing our project work in the comic book, cartooning direction. We were repeatedly told there was no future in it. Ironically I’m pretty sure we’re the only ones from our graduating class now working fulltime as artists and designers.

And I’ve got a list as long as eternity of personal projects. It’s one of the things that frustrates me some about what I do. IT TAKES SO LONG! If only I could snap my fingers, get that thing that’s gnawing at the back of my head DONE and then move onto the next thing. OH…and be paid a gazillion dollars for it…that would seriously not only make me happy but the world!

But yes. Right now I’ve got a couple of things in the works that I’m really excited about. The main one taking up all my time (When I get it) is an all ages graphic novel with a fantastic local Melbourne (though she’s been swanning about the streets of New York for the last 12 months) kids comic writer, Jen Breach.

Q: On Twitter we were talking about fantasy movies we loved like Mystery Men. “We struck down evil with the mighty sword of teamwork and the hammer of not bickering.” What were your biggest influences when you were growing up?

Oh, you mean the list of things that never seems to end? It’s funny, it’s only in the last couple of years since I’ve had a little boy that I’m rediscovering things that I used to love and adore as a kid…and I realise are a direct influence on what I’m doing right now. They’re obviously always in the back of your head, consciously or unconsciously, but tracking down vintage copies of Richard Scarry’s busy town series to introduce to him, looking at them and having this epiphany that he is a major influence is pretty wild. I spent some formative years in the UK and was obsessed with weekly kids comics magazines like Beano and Dennis The Menace. A lot of annuals like Eagle. Was a big fan of Roald Dahl and CS Lewis. And long form comics wise I was reading things like Asterix, Tintin and Lucky Luke a long time before I discovered American comics. Herge and Uderzo definitely are the two seminal influences though. Relatively strict realism of form with a cartoon sensibility inhabiting that world.

Q: If you could go back and give that starry-eyed kid advice, what would it be?

Get serious sooner. YOU’RE WASTING TIME!

Q: I was prompted to start this series of interviews because there seems to be a perception in the US and the UK that fantasy (in books) is a bit of a boy’s club. I’ve come across quite a bit of talk on the blogs recently about female comic artists and writers, and their lack of representation in large companies like DC. Have you come across this in your professional life?

Not really no. I’d argue that illustration is actually a pretty even spread, in my experience anyway. There are as many female illustrators (if not more) whom I know and love working fulltime and being consistently published by major publishers. Also the majority of art directors I’ve worked with at the major US and Australian publishers have been women.

I’m a little torn on the issue of women in comics. On one hand I think that It’s pretty well established that there is indeed a boys club at the upper echelons of the likes of the major publishers, and obviously being a man I have no idea what that boys club mentality would be like to breach being a female creator. Not to mention the weird curtain wall of fandom thing you have to scale before even making your way to the keep.

But I also think that now is probably the best time in the history of comics for women. I can name you dozens who might not be published by the likes of DC or Marvel but they’re making original comics that are above and beyond in creativity, aesthetic, storytelling and vision than any run of the mill churned out monthly.

The push by established book publishers such as Random House and Scholastic into graphic novels, Independent comics publishers like IDW, First Second and Adhouse, the rise and rise of webcomics, artist sites like Deviant Art, Concept Art and the growing tendency for a lot of animators dipping their toes into comics making are all being driven by some incredible amazingly talented female cartoonists. I don’t see that stopping anytime soon.

This can’t help but change attitudes eventually at the dinosaurs. You know…if working on spiderman is something that you really want to do.

Q: Following on from that, does the gender of the writer/artist change your expectations when you approach their work?

No not at all. If it’s well written, drawn, crafted and published I’m all over it. You know…I read my first babysitters club a few years ago and LOVED it, all because it was adapted by one of my favourite cartoonists (Raina Telgemeier) into a brilliant graphic novel.

There are as many male creators I like and don’t like as female. And none of that is based on gender it’s just about the work they create.

I don’t go into a movie or a novel thinking “oh it’s directed or written by a woman therefore it’s going to be formula X.”

Certainly there are directors and writers and creators who work in specific genres so you’re going to consume that material based on that. But that has little to do with gender and more to do with the genre’s I appreciate.

I think if a creator is specifically broaching topics of gender or social acceptance or struggle and it’s a key part of their approach or the material they’re producing then absolutely you view that work with that in mind. And that’s probably why you’re reading or watching it in the first place.

At the end of the day it should be about creating the best material you can, and letting your story speak for itself regardless of gender.

The best work always will.

Q: And here’s the fun question. If you could book a trip on a time machine, where and when would you go, and why?

Rowena, this isn’t the fun question, this is the HARD question! I’m a pretty mad history buff…can I go EVERYWHERE?!

God…just one?

I love pre history…but I’m not sure I’d want to get eaten by a giant mosquito (It’s not the dino’s you’ve got to watch out for).

Adore American history…from Revolution, The Westward push to Civil war to Cold War and modern politics.

I’m doing a lot of reading and playing around with  Gallo/Romano Britain at the moment for a project. So I’m a little obsessed with that. And Roman history in particular…so maybe Ancient Rome?

Do I really want to gad about in tartan and blue body paint screaming murder at Roman legionaries in their incredibly well drilled formations? Yes…probably. So I think I’ll go there. But only if I can use the time machine again to scoot to medieval England for lunch, then shoot to Aztec south America for a couple of days and then over to Ancient China for tea and then take a break on a circumnavigation of the globe with Magellan, back in time for dinner with Caravaggio.

(And then wake up in WWII occupied France.)

To win a copy of Zinc Alloy and Super Chicken Nugget Boy here’s the give-away Question:

 What was your favourite comic book character when you were growing up?

 

Follow Doug on Twitter: @douglasbot

See Doug’s Blog

My folio is here - http://www.flickr.com/photos/douglasbot/sets/72157627375431276/with/3265305994/

But some of my favourite (read, newer) images are at these links -

http://www.flickr.com/photos/douglasbot/5830416545/in/set-72157627375431276

http://www.flickr.com/photos/douglasbot/6304341159/in/photostream

http://www.flickr.com/photos/douglasbot/5239949004/in/set-72157627375431276

http://www.flickr.com/photos/douglasbot/5308333564/in/set-72157627375431276

http://www.flickr.com/photos/douglasbot/4673721219/in/set-72157627375431276

http://www.flickr.com/photos/douglasbot/4884587173/in/set-72157627375431276

http://www.flickr.com/photos/douglasbot/2208125088/in/set-72157627375431276

http://www.flickr.com/photos/douglasbot/3265305994/in/set-72157627375431276

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Winner Les Petersen Free E-Book Cover!

Shadow Queen by Deborah Kalin

Les very generously says:

There were three very good responses. Andrew Warrilow did the hard yards and researched the web, and then came up with a splendid response; Thoraiya mimed a brilliant answer and gave me a great smile for an hour, and Narelle was right on song with her response.

The other responses from BartBart, Greta and Melissa were well considered.

However, the answer that comes the closest to what I imagined when writing out the question was Narelle’s, therefore she wins the give-away and I’d be delighted to do a cover for her. If Andrew and Thoraiya want to get in touch with me, I’ll see what consolation prizes I can come up with.

So Narelle for your free cover contact Les on this email address:  les(at)lespetersen(dot)com(dot)au

And Andrew and Thoraiya contact Les to see about your consolation prizes!

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One Writer’s Daydream Directors

Normally, I would put an interview up today, but I figured everyone is probably madly scrambling doing holiday/christmasy things so I thought I would indulge myself. I’ve watched the trailer for The Hobbit.  Who hasn’t?

Sigh … Love that deep, melodic male singing.

Since this is the silly season I’ve compiled a list of the directors I would like to see turn my books into movies/TV series. Here goes:

Peter Jackson. Why? Because he took LOTR and did what I did when I read it for to boys. He picked the narrative high points. He knows how to craft a story. Have you seen The Frighteners?

Allan Ball. Why? Because I’m impressed by his interpretation of Charlaine Harris’s books – the humour, the exploration of prejudice and the humanity. A very perceptive man.

Guillermo del Toro. Why? I find his sensibility fascinating. Look at what he did with Pan’s Labyrinth and the backstory of Hellboy 2. Something can be both beautiful and frigthening.

So there you have it. This is what writers daydream about when they should be writing …

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Meet Tom Taylor …

I’m expanding my series featuring fantastic authors to include fantastically creative people across the different mediums, which is why I’ve invited the talented Tom Taylor to drop by.

Watch out for the give-away question at the end of the interview.

I usually put a photo right here, but I couldn’t resist this:

Artist Harrison Chua draws comicbook writer Tom Taylor

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dCDGPRKdn8A]

Q: Not only do you write for comics, but you’re also an ‘award-winning playwright who has written for radio, musicals, film, magazines, satirical news and sketch comedy. (For a full list of Tom’s works see here). Tell me, did you sit there doodling in your school books while daydreaming about what you’d do one day? Did your teachers encourage you, or tell you no-one ever makes any money from writing? Did you ever dream you’d see your work performed in the Sydney Opera House?

Yes, I absolutely spent all of high school doodling in books, especially in Geography, where I just drew and drew… in-between sleeping. My geography teacher wasn’t very engaging. He’d probably have far less-kind things to say about me.
Outside of the arts, the education system was never really my friend. I did have a few teachers who encouraged me, and one in particular who used to let me leave class and do creative writing up a tree.

No, I can’t say I ever thought my work would be on at the Sydney Opera House or at the Edinburgh Festival. However, being involved in theatre from the age of 12, and in a singing group before that, I probably thought I’d have a better chance of having something on at the Opera House than to be writing in a galaxy far, far away.

Q: I’ve interviewed authors who write books for Star Wars, Star Gate, Doctor Who etc. And many of them start out as fans, so it is no trouble for them to immerse themselves in the world. You’re currently writing for Star WarsBlood Ties with Chris Scalf, Invasion with Colin Wilson published by Dark Horse Comics, with more on the way. Looks like you are thoroughly immersed! Is there a huge ‘bible’ of information you have to refer to? Do you get to add to this ‘bible’ as you develop your stories?

Absolutely. Star Wars canon is immense. On top of the movies, you have the cartoons, computer games, short stories, role playing games, novels, and more, and almost everything that is created becomes canon. So yes, all creators need a bible and I think everybody becomes fast email friends with a man known as Leland Chee, Lucasfilm’s keeper of continuity.  He’ll be called on a lot in the next year as I work on the next instalment of Star Wars: Blood Ties ‘Boba Fett is Dead’ and some other Star Wars work.

Q: You also write your own original material. The Deep: Here be Dragons has just come out from Gestalt Publishing, art work by James Brouwer. In a review on Broken Frontier Kris Bather says: ‘Comedy in this artform can always be tricky, but the pair know what they’re doing and elicit the most laughs out of each comedic moment, thanks to great pacing, expressions, and dialogue’. Comedy can be challenging. Did you have to work at developing your relationship with artist James Brouwer, or did the two of you just click?

I’ve written a lot of comedy over the years – musicals, sketch comedy, and plays, including for the Comedy Festival, and generally I don’t really have to think about, or analyze, if something is funny. With James, I found a guy who also just gets it, and just as importantly, is a fantastic storyteller. I used to direct theatre back in the day, and for me the characters on the page need to react appropriately to situations, and need to react to whatever people are saying, just like actors. There are some fantastic artists in professional comics who think that 22 pages of some dark superhero, switching between the same two expressions tells a story. James isn’t one of those guys. James puts so much character and life into the Nekton family (The main characters of The Deep). No character stands around blank-faced while someone else is talking. Every page he sends me has me smiling. So yes, James and I did just click. And, thanks to that click, The Deep is the most joyous comic I’ve been a part of. Seriously, get this book for Christmas, for yourself and for your children. It will fill your heart with rainbows. It will fill your heart with exactly six rainbows. Any more than that and your arteries would begin to clog with rainbows and that would end messily… but probably very colourfully.

Q: Rombies (written by Tom Taylor, illustrated by Skye Ogden, Colours by Mikiko Ponczeck) is a historical paranormal tale set in ancient Rome. What inspired you to set a story in ancient Rome? Have you always been fascinated by its history?

Skye Ogden inspired me. Honestly, this was originally his idea. I just ran with it, and I’m very glad I did. Gestalt actually asked me to write this very early on in our working relationship and I said no.  I’m not a massive horror fan and I wasn’t sure this was the project for me. The night after I said no, I had a dream about Gladiators fighting zombie lions beneath the Coliseum. I called them the very next morning to say yes. I wanted to see Zombie Lions come to un-life. We made that happen. Where we plan to go next is epic.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=9eVw0wPd7vI#]

Q: Example (written by Tom Taylor, Illustrated by Colin Wilson) is being made into a short film. Newsarama said: ‘This book should be used in writing classes everywhere, and should be the primary example (no pun intended) for aspiring comic writers to reference when trying to learn how to write dramatic and compelling dialogue.’   This is quite an accolade for any work, let alone a graphic novel. (I see it is an adaption of your award-winning play Example. I always tell my kids a play needs to be really well written because it has to hold the audience with the power of the premise, characterisation and dialogue – no special effects).  Do you do a lot of train travel? Do you listen in to people’s conversations or does it all spring from some deep dark part of your psyche?

The Example was written in the wake of the London Bombing. And it was these events, along with a typically appalling, fear-mongering ad for A Current Affair, which inspired the play. The government in Australia at the time was pushing the ‘Be alert, not alarmed’ slogan and that was also driving me insane. A lot of my writing is a vehicle for vent – an outlet for outrage. Almost all of my short plays stem from this.

On the surface, The Example is a story about a man, a woman and their reactions to an abandoned briefcase on a railway platform. Below the surface, it’s an exploration of terror and racism. It’s essentially a prejudice versus preservation story. And it’s just been optioned and filmed.  Yay!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1KCYq11GHY&feature=player_embedded]

Q: Flinch is a collection of stories including Shaun Tan, Justin Randall, James Barclay, Terry Dowling and yourself among others. The stories all revolve around each person’s interpretation of the word ‘flinch’. One of your stories White Dove 111 is about a colonist ship leaving a dying earth. This looks like an SF mystery from the description. Did you grow up reading Science Fiction?

I did read a lot of sci-fi, but I was far more into Fantasy. White Dove III was another great excuse to work with the man, Colin Wilson.  I also wrote another short story in Flinch called 96,000m, illustrated by Tom Bonin, which was my first published underwater story. It was the first time I’d publicly shown my fascination for all things underwater and squid-like.  Although, that story was a far cry from the joyous all-ages adventure of The Deep: Here Be Dragons. 96000m is pretty disturbing. If you like disturbed, or are disturbed, you’ll probably like 96000m.

 

Q: You are working for DC comics (Green Lantern and Sinestro). Is this one of your childhood dreams to write in the DC universe?

Yes. So many times, yes.

I grew up with DC comics. I loved all of these characters as a kid and never stopped loving them (except outwardly when I was a teenager). Superman is my absolute hero and writing him is one of my ultimate goals. I’m really proud of The Brainiac/Sinestro Corp War which is the story I’ve just written in DCUO Legends #16 and #17 and I was very lucky to get to work with a great artist like Bruno Redondo (another guy who, like James, just gets it). I’ve written something else unannounced, and I’m also still staggered I got to write The Authority for a year. The Authority was the super team that made me realise that superhero comics could also serve as an outlet for outrage.

Q: Looking at your published works you have been amazingly productive. In an interview on HYPERLINK SciFiBlock you say: ‘Like any work, there are times when it’s a hard slog and things get very hard, but then you just have to pick up the nearest blunt object, smash yourself in the face, and remind yourself that you’re writing Jedi and superheroes for a living.’ Do you have a work routine that helps you meet these deadlines?

I’d like to say I have a routine but, really, I have kids, including a baby who doesn’t sleep very well, and that throws all routines out. My only real routine is that I stay up very late to write. The rest of the world needs to be asleep before I can do my best work. The Example was written one night between 1am and 5am. I started writing this very interview at 2am, it’s now 4.27am… and the baby’s already been up twice.

Q: I was prompted to start this series of interviews because there seems to be a perception in the US and the UK that fantasy (in books) is a bit of a boy’s club. I’ve come across quite a bit of talk on the blogs recently about female comic artists and writers, and their lack of representation in large companies like DC. Have you come across this in your professional life?

I have heard this, and I do know this was an issue for DC in the announcement of the New 52, one they’re trying very hard to rectify. I think mainstream superhero comics have the perception of being a boys club, but the comics medium absolutely isn’t.

This year alone, I’ve worked with four female artists on eight different projects, which is possibly more female creators than some of the majors are working with.

I’m not sure superheroes have the same appeal for women. And I’d argue that they are often narrowly written and illustrated with men in mind. For every brilliantly written and lovingly illustrated superhero book like Secret Six by Gail Simone and (Australia’s own) Nicola Scott, there is a book with a scantily clad superheroine tearing her clothing while scratching the face of… probably another scantily clad woman who is tearing her clothing.

But outside of the Superhero genre, there are a lot of women telling brilliant stories.

Keep an eye out for Believe, which is set to be published soon, to see the incredible work of Emily Smith (and two other huge unannounced things we’re doing together). On top of Rombies, Mikiko Ponczek has just handed in the last pages of a 22 page story she has illustrated and coloured. I can’t wait for that one to be announced. It’s a script I’m very happy with and Miki has just smashed it.
Kate Moon has already finished the story Poppins which will be included in Brief Cases (whenever that comes out) and I have a small, but very cool story coming out with someone else who must remain nameless for now. She knows who she is. Hi, you!

Q: Following on from that, does the gender of the writer/artist change your expectations when you approach their work?

Nope. I never really think about it. And, when I do, I actually tend to get genders wrong.

Sorry, Robin Hobb.

Q: And here’s the fun question. If you could book a trip on a time machine, where and when would you go, and why?

I think it’s ridiculous that a time-machine company needs to take bookings. You can be anywhere and anywhen! Why do you need me at the time-machine depot at 9.30am?? It’s a disgrace!

Having gotten over my rant, and glared at the Time Machine operator who apparently couldn’t come to my house at 12, I would take a trip a very long way back.

I hypothesized earlier tonight that a pterodactyl may have eaten a missing link which would have caused humans to have one extra thumb. I would go back in time and ride that Pterodactyl into a live volcano before it ate our three-thumbed ancestor, thereby making all of us fifty percent more opposable.

You’re welcome.

Give-away Question:

For your chance to win a copy of The Deep: Here Be Dragons, and the six rainbows in your heart that come with it, answer this question.

If you had three thumbs, what would you do differently?

 

 

Follow Tom on Twitter:  @TomTaylorMade

See Tom’s Blog

Catch up with Tom on Facebook

 

 

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