Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Bookish Update

Hello!

Exciting thing: I have been selected as a Round 1 judge for the Cybils awards in the graphic novels category! Hurrah! That means my fall will be full of rea-rea-reading!

Time for a throwback to that time I hosted GN book club
Fun book: Speaking of graphic novels I enjoyed reading this one recently! Very cute and much more fun to read now that I have been lost in NYC myself a couple of times. If you want to hear about my NYC adventures you will have to start chanting for it in the comment section.

Fun book II: Tonight I read The Hole Story of the Doughnut with Levi and oh man! It's great! Totally adorable and cool and I'm going to have to nominate it for Cybils non-fiction this year.

Do this: Nominate books for the Cybils awards. If it's been published in the last 12 months and it's a children's or young adult book and you liked it, definitely nominate it. Nominations open Oct 1.

Currently reading: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up for book club. Mixed feelings, but it IS helping me get rid of clutter.

Story Club: I think we have a final cover now! Shouldn't be long until you can buy my super awesome guide to storytelling with kids. I hope you love it. I used it tonight at bedtime, myself.

That's all for now!

Share me your bookish updates, plz.

Monday, September 12, 2016

An Interview with John Allison

Good morning! Today I have for you an interview with author John Allison -- the one I promised in my review of the Bad Machinery books.

I've found this a very difficult interview to do because I keep having to go back and read more Bad Machinery and other interviews of John (you know, just so I'll "be ready") and then I find myself up past my bedtime, giggling quietly so as not to wake anyone.

By way of quick introduction, John Allison is the British author/illustrator of many books, including the Bad Machinery series currently being published in the USA by Oni Press. You can find out lots more about him and read massive amounts of his work on his website, Scary Go Round. I definitely think you should do that.

Without further ado, the interview:


So, one of the things I love about Bad Machinery is that the series does such a great job of capturing people in all phases of life. You've got the pre-teens (who age into their teens) as the stars of the books, but you've also got their younger siblings and older siblings and parents and teachers and even some of the elderly represented as the series goes on. I feel like all of the characters are spot-on. The fact that you're so good at representing all these different phases of life makes me wonder what your own life experience is like. To what do you credit your savvy? 

To be a half-decent writer, I think you've got to be such a vampire. I hear it over and over again when I read interviews with other writers. You've got to have your eyes open to the way people interact. And it's harder when you work from home, in quite a solitary job, because I don't actually see that many people. And you can't just transcribe people close to you, because they catch you out! It's easier with teens. They're all over the place, they're noisy, they make the place look untidy. So much grist for the mill.

I find books and TV series that are just about one narrow age group airless. I think I always have. The idea that the generations barely interact, or exist in these separate bubbles! Even if most of the interactions are built on misunderstanding, that's the good stuff that you want to get to. Every generation has something to teach the ones before and after it.

When I heard that Bad Machinery is coming out in a smaller format, I was both pleased and disappointed. I was pleased because the new size it will fit better on my shelves, but I quickly remembered how much I love sitting with the large format on my lap, sharing it with my husband or sister or kids. How do you feel about the new format size? Will it change the way you draw?

The large format will still be coming out, alongside the smaller reprints. I didn't design the comics originally to be reproduced so big, the reprint size is the size I originally pictured them, so there's no call to change how I draw. For the life of the series, I've heard divisive views about the size of the books - older readers struggle with them. I've also seen copies in a few bookshops that are really beaten up because they stick off the shelf.


Who inspires you, in your work or otherwise?
This is a tough question, because I don't sit down and think, I want to be like x or y or z any more, I internalised the people who I modelled my work ethic on in my twenties and early thirties, and now it's just me, a Frankenstein's monster of all these people I admire. I bought all three of IDW's huge Alex Toth retrospectives recently and just chewed through them. For me he's the ultimate comics artist, the ultimate storyboarder, the complete package. But not a great pers
on to the people around him. Still, that's the person who, recently, has inspired me to improve.

I admire the way you're able to make Bad Machinery fun and engaging for both adults and kids. Did you design the series with a multi-generational audience in mind?
Bad Machinery was a completely cynical creation, designed to be very generic, by someone who is completely incapable of steering the ship straight. Kid detectives! What could be easier than that? But I don't know if I ever wanted to write a straight kids' book. I might have thought I did, for a morning, but it was probably pretty mutated out of shape by the time I got to drawing the first page. I didn't like being talked down to as a young reader, so I tried to write in a way that reflected that.

Since you're British, I have to ask; how do you feel about American politics right now?
American politics is sad. The campaign finance, the graft, the pork, it's the cancer in your democracy. That a person would be elected to office, and then spend a considerable part of their time raising money for re-election on an endless 4-year cycle rather than working on behalf of their constituents, is furiously depressing. Candidates advertising on TV, endlessly attacking one another in person or by proxy through PACs, no wonder your government is in bipartisan ruins. The Citizens United ruling! What a disater! Trump is a sideshow, Clinton is a sideshow to a system of government throttled by money and special interests. I guess at some point that particular levee is going to have to break.

Yes, so I don't really have any strong opinions about American politics.

What is your favorite part of the writing/creating process?

Coming up with ideas is a lot of fun. When it's really working, I feel like I'm on the moon. I've trained my brain over nearly twenty years to fly pretty free, and probably broken it in the process. I need a lot of sleep, and I stopped drinking alcohol because (among other reasons) it kind of broke the ideas machinery for a day or two every time I did it. I also love drawing. I've always written just so I have something to draw. It's fun to be in charge of a little world.

What question have you not been asked in an interview, but think you should be asked? (Both the question and the answer, if you like.)

Despite the fact that I've published lists of my favourite albums every year that I've been doing comics, and have lists on the website going back to 1987, no one has ever asked questions about my love of musical list-making. No one has ever asked about my strict rules of best-of-all-time lists. I feel like I am an iceberg and the comics are the bit above the sea and my lists are the bit below the sea, vast and unknowable. Whether I could answer these questions is moot because I am not sure I should be asked them. I won't even put on a record I like when a friend visits any more. It's just for me now.

Haha! Thanks for the interview, John! And thanks for making great books.

Just for fun, here is a comparison of the large edition cover to the smaller edition cover.
This baby measures 9" x 12"

This one will be about 6" x  9"
More info about the new size can be found at Good Comics For Kids. The first 6x9 "pocket edition" will be released on March 17, 2017 and two will be released each year. More of my thoughts on the series can be found here, here, and here.
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