DEB: Here’s the short version:
Kid who likes to draw>art lessons>BFA>designer>art director>filmmaker>author/illustrator picture books>graphic novelist.
Here’s the long version:
I’ve always liked to put words and pictures together. When I was an art director in advertising, I drew many, many storyboards for commercials. I did a short film and noticed people liked the storyboard at least as much as the finished film. After seeing my film, a friend who worked at Scholastic encouraged me to try a picture book. I started with picture books aimed at six and seven-year-olds, although I felt my stories were really meant for older kids because at that time the age 8 and up group would only read chapter books. When graphic novels took off, I suddenly saw how I could use my visual storytelling skills with older kids. I really was excited by what indie comic publishers were producing, and comics I saw from Europe.
It took me a while before I had the courage to commit to the number of years it takes to do a graphic novel on spec. The number of drawings that goes into a 180 page book is daunting. Once I jumped off that cliff, I really got into the long format and developing the characters over many, many pages. I also love how, in comics, you can see inside all the characters’ heads. Even the ones that don’t speak.
A few years into my own experimentation, I realized I needed to know more about the comic form. I took workshops in NYC with people like Danny Fingeroth, Peter Kuper, and Dean Haspiel. I went over and introduced myself to a guy I heard talking about comics in a coffee shop. Chris Duffy turned out to be a comic book editor and has given me lots of useful advice. I think I asked each of them how to change setting within an ongoing sequence. Finally, I had a pitch that I thought worked. I reached out and got a great agent who was working with other author/artists. Funnily enough, I ended up getting the lead that led to The Lunch Witch being published by doing a little research and sending out a postcard to the publisher. My agent then negotiated the contract for me.
So I’ve managed to get my toe in the door of comics, now I have to get my whole foot in. You’ll find me at home working on The LunchWitch, Book Two, and a couple of new things, too.
DEB: I have a thing for White Out. I like that it is so viscous. I like that it was created to erase mistakes. I like to make mistakes in my work and fix them later because it allows me to approach the paper without fear. The same is true for Command Z.
3. Who else should we look at?
DEB: Chris Duffy, Summer Pierre, and Gabrielle Bell.
ArtBlog: Thank you so much, Deb, for taking the time to talk to us. We love your work!