May 10, 2012

THE WRITE STUFF: KYLIE'S BIG BOOK OF MONSTERS, OR: HOW TO CREATE A PROPER "GRAPHIC NOVEL" FOR CHILDREN













Here's the thing about "illustrated" novels.

They suck. They have sucked for a long time and will most likely continue to suck in the future. And the reason for this, I shit you not, is that there's no proper collaboration in most of them, especially in the US "publishing industry".

Unless, that is, you are writer and artist in one, but for most writers, well, we suck at drawing or illustrating. And if you have read this blog, you know that I actually believe there should be a union between artist and writer, maybe not quite on the level of gay marriage, but a union nonetheless.

In "professional" surroundings, such unions rarely, if ever happen. The industry is dominated by the most awful of people, the editor, backed by the even more awful of nun humans, the people in the marketing department.

At best, what you get most of the time, it's those "single page" illustrations, usually with a paragraph or two underneath it, taken out of the actual text... looking somewhat isolated and forlorn and without any proper ties to the flow of the story.

I hate that.

In the case of Kylie's Big Book of Monsters, I once had the "shot" at getting it in front of that apparent "publisher's circle" after I had submitted a pitch package to Scholastic USA. I had what I thought was a nice new editor named Adam, he liked it, he had some notes and ideas, which he fedex'ed me back, so I could implement them, if I chose to.

And I did. See, as opposed to the general myth that I'm an asshole, I don't mind working with others. If they have something of value to say. And then I even implement stuff. If they have something of value to say.

So I edited the first chapter of this book.

I did a plot outline to a point where he was happy, even if I wasn't, because it was the mandate to even get published that it should be one book, had to be one book, not a book series of short books, the way I had envisoned it.

But I did it. Because I was told, so many times, that this is what a professional does.

And I sent it off to young Adam at Scholastic.

And said, "listen, I'd like to have to actually the art be married to the text, to have it play off each other in as many instances as it can, because most of the times, it doesn't"

His reply was short and stated, "that's not your concern."

I went, uh, okay... and was quiet. And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

I tried to reach young Adam twice more through email, but he had to small a dick to actually reply.

And yes, I mean it. And no, I would never work with or for Scholastic ever, for that reason.

If you cannot behave professionally (even in just saying "no"), you are on my black list.

Anyway, finally with the iPad and the Android Tablets and the Kindle Fire, I saw a chance to get Kylie's Big Book of Monsters done, and in the way I had originally intended it, as a "graphic novel", and yes, I know that term has been used to describe TPBs of comic books, but I think that something like the pages you see here are more what it is.

A marriage of art and text.

The only one who I trusted with this (all the way back to 2003, to be honest, for another project) was my old buddy and artist Edo Fuijkschot, and I said what I always say, "have fun with it".

Yes, I did very precise layouts for this book that said, "okay, this is what I think should be on this page", but... and here's the important thing, kids, when you can trust somebody... when the artwork came back to me, I re-wrote around it.

Want to know why?

Because text is not holy. No text ist. It always comes down to "how does this read?" and "can I cut text if and when the art does the heavy lifting?", which is something every writer should learn.

Edo's art does a lot of the heavy lifting.

It guides your eye. It draws you in. It makes you smile.

All I have to do? Hey, I just have to keep you turning the page.

That's how a graphic novel should be.

And I am very proud of what's there already.

And know what? It will only get better.