Showing posts with label Guest Post 2021. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Guest Post 2021. Show all posts

Monday, 5 April 2021

Tsunami Girl by Julian Sedgwick (Author), Chie Kutsuwada (Illustrator) - Guest Post Interview - Guppy Books


Hello Everybody! (みなさん、こんにちは) One of my favourite books of the year has been Tsunami Girl by Julian Sedgwick. It has been brilliantly illustrated by Chie Kutsuwada. Told through both prose and manga, it's a fantastic but very poignant cultural reality. If you would like to read my review then follow the link HERE. This post is an interview with Julian and Chie about the partnership between author and illustrator and the origins of this amazing book. We hope you enjoy it as much as we have. 

There is a link at the bottom of the post to watch the live book launch and a place where you can buy signed copies of this special book. Enjoy and see you soon. 

Julian writes: Two things in particular worried me about researching and writing Tsunami Girl. The first was to earn the trust and support of affected communities on the Fukushima coast, and create a story that would do justice and respect to the heavy themes of loss, trauma, damage and recovery. If I hadn’t had such a positive reaction from the towns I visited near the stricken Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear plant, I would have abandoned the idea. 

But secondly - even after winning that trust, and friendship – I also worried a lot about whether my idea of combining a prose and manga story could work. It took many, many notebooks, early abandoned drafts and plot diagrams to find a way to combine the main prose part of the novel  (which tells central character Yūki’s story) with the manga inserts that show another angle – another world even – and highlight Yuki’s own creation, a diminutive superhero called Half Wave. 

Even when I had the main shape of an idea, and a contract with my new publisher, Guppy Books, I still had to convince an experienced manga artist that this would work. It was at this point that a mutual friend introduced me to Chie Kutsuwada, and – after our own discussion about motivations and trust! - our collaboration began. 

Below, we chat about the practical process involved in weaving manga and prose into one book.

JULIAN: Hi Chie! I’m still so delighted that I found you to bring the manga sections of Tsunami Girl to life. For a long time I worried whether the idea would work, and what a manga artist would make of my script. Did you have any worries about the technical aspects of tying prose and manga together? And was there anything that particularly excited – or worried you - about the task?

CHIE: Hi Julian! So do I! I’m still feeling honoured and lucky to be involved in your brave and epic project! 

Well, I actually didn’t have many worries. I just liked the idea of prose and manga together. And when I read your text, I felt sure that it would work well. The aspect I was most careful about was this: I had to make sure that all the characters ‘looked’ the same in both the prose and in the manga parts where readers can actually see the characters’ faces. So, I tried to imagine the whole book visually first. By doing so, I could get an even approach to, for example, how each character makes their facial expressions. How about you, Julian? How did you make the text go back and forth between prose and manga seamlessly?

JULIAN: Through a long process of trial and error! I always knew there would be both manga pages and a manga storyline, but in early versions it was Grandpa who had created Half Wave, and it was the grandchild who helped him imagine one final great instalment of Half Wave’s adventures. At that point the manga story was a separate adventure that mirrored what was happening to our central character Yūki - (who incidentally started out as a boy in the first few drafts!) 

Whilst I could make certain echoes between the prose and manga stories, they just wouldn’t interweave well enough, until I realised the manga story had to be more about the disaster itself, and just show a different, imaginative interaction with that disaster and the recovery. Suddenly I could feel it was going to work. But even then I wondered if the images and text would gel. 

Your early roughs of characters and settings were really convincing and good to see. But I remember it took us a little while to find a version of Half Wave that worked for us all. Maybe you could say a little about developing the characters visually - particularly Half Wave?

CHIE: I know it is not the most practical way to do character design, but I usually wait for inspiration to hit me. In this case, I read the script a few times and repeatedly read some critical parts. I was thinking about the characters, almost all the time, until I started feeling that I knew them.

Usually when I feel I know characters, I can get to see them visually, then I start sketching several different versions. For the Tsunami Girl characters, I did not need to do much planning sketches. As I familiarised with the story, I quite easily started to see them visually because the way you describe them is very clear. I believe you know them very, very well. Because you are the creator, of course to come extent you must know them - but it is beyond that. I feel you really KNOW them, maybe it is because some of the characters were based on your actual friends? Also the image references you showed me helped me a lot.

As for Half Wave, the sketch of him by your son was everything. His sketch, and how Half Wave acts in the story, gave me inspiration - and I think I did not change much from your son’s initial image! What I did was to make him look more manga. That’s it really!  I remember that our discussion was mainly his age and height,  wasn’t it? 

JULIAN: It’s interesting that your process of finding characters as an illustrator is so like mine as a writer. Suddenly - you know they are coming to some kind of life. 

Practically, with Half Wave, getting his height right was really important - he’s an eternal (wise) child, forever on the cusp of growing up, with real wisdom and strength. What we did discuss was how Half Wave should look subtly different from Yūki, Taka, Grandpa and the other people from this world. Half Wave needed to look like he belonged in the liminal space between this world (konoyo) and ‘that world’ (anoyo). After two or three versions, suddenly he was there. A very exciting moment. (And as my younger son comes towards the end of his comic and character design degree at uni, he’ll be glad of that praise!)

It’s interesting, ever since reading Spiegelman’s Maus I’ve been in no doubt that all subject material can be tackled in comic/graphic novel/manga type approaches. I never worried that manga could help carry the weight of the story of the disaster, (especially after reading more widely around  alternative manga or gekiga - and coming across works like the incredible Fukushima Devil Fish by Katsumata Susumu.) Are there any manga series or titles you’d love to see translated and brought into the UK market from Japan? Anything we’re really missing out on?!

CHIE: It was amazing when your visualisation of the characters and mine overlapped and merged to become what they are now…
Well, as for manga which I strongly believe should be translated... all of Yumiko Oshima’s work, especially short stories. She debuted in 1968 and is a very well-established manga artist. She is just one of the best storytellers… (Another manga artist who I think is in that category is Moto Hagio. Her work is getting translated more and more recently.)
Oshima’s work may look quite pretty and delicate, but often the theme is very heavy and philosophical, concerning love (not typical romantic type), birth, death, mental illness, aging, and the end of the world - which are not typical topics for manga works targeting towards young girls. I think this kind of heavy but realistic theme is picked as a theme for manga more and more recently, but she did it more than 30 years ago, and her work does not look dated at all… 

One of many qualities I like about her work is even though she talks about those heavy issues, she does not use bang-in-your-face sensationalism. Her work is very poetic, her choice of words and drawing style is soft, but as you read, it feels like something has gouged at your heart. Very powerful. I hope one day some of her work is properly translated into English. I even want to volunteer to be that translator…!

Click Here if you weren’t able to make the event live – and enter password +aD4@u%4 to watch. Signed copies by both Julian and Chie are available on the Waterstone’s Website Here.

Friday, 26 March 2021

Stuart Atkinson - Guest Post - “I Submit! I Submit!”(Maja’s Dragon) Mr. Ripley's Enchanted Books

Good morning - all aliens and dragons are welcome. Today, we have a guest post from Stuart Atkinson, who is a frustrated martian from Kendal. He is in the process of that stomach-turning event that all authors go through to get their stories published - SUBMITTING a novel to Agents. So calling all agents, calling all agents, you really do have the power to move earth and stars (in the literary sense) and secure this book. 

This is a great post if you are about to go through a similar process yourself. Equally, for those who have been through the process, you may have some tips that you can share with others through this post or social media. We all look forward to your thoughts and comments.  Thank you all for reading and enjoy your day. 

“I Submit! I Submit!”

In the centre of a large empty hall, with tables and chairs stacked up against its walls, a group of people is seated in a circle. One stands up hesitantly, searching the faces around him for understanding and compassion. They smile back at him reassuringly, feeling his torment. They’ve all been there. They know the pain he’s going through. After taking a deep breath he speaks.

“My name is Stuart Atkinson… I’m a writer… and I’ve just submitted my novel manuscript to Agents…”

I’m what’s popularly known now as a science writer. I’ve had ten children’s astronomy books of my own published and worked on dozens more as a consultant and editor. I love teaching kids about space in print almost as I love standing in front of a jabbering, gremlin-like horde of them at the front of a classroom and teaching them in person. But I’ve always wanted to write fiction – to be what my mum and many of my friends call “a proper writer” - and last March, as the Covid tsunami began to roll around the world I decided I’d finally do it: I’d write my novel.

So instead of baking banana bread and living on Zoom I spent the previous year doing just that. It was hard finding quality writing time when I wasn’t either writing features for astronomy magazines and websites or working long shifts at a Care Home, first fighting to keep the virus outside its walls and then trying to save as many lives as possible when it finally breached our defences, but I kept at it, I wrote for a year and, contrary to everything I’d heard, I enjoyed it! I built a world I loved and populated it with characters I looked forward to spending time with. I was amazed by the way they had somehow developed and grown when I was away from them. I loved writing my novel! Where was all the weeping and wailing I’d been warned about?

Then the Editing began, and the weeping and wailing began. 

I sought advice from two trusted writing friends and was told my beloved, work-of-genius MS had too many characters and its descriptions were too detailed. Oh, and one more thing: I had to lose 30,000 of its 100,00 brilliant words, cutting it by a third. 

I was aghast. I had thought editing would be done with a scalpel - a nick here, a small cut there - but they were telling me I had to fire up a chainsaw and attack my story like it was an overgrown garden or a diseased tree. But I trusted them and their honesty so I did it. I removed some of those characters I’d fallen in love with; they just… vanished from the world I had created as if I’d gone back in time in the TARDIS and killed their grandparents. I hacked away at dialogue and descriptions like Indiana Jones trying to find a lost temple in an overgrown jungle. And it hurt. I resented every tap of the Delete key.

But they were right. When I read it back, v9 of my MS was better. It was as if my original story, fat and bloated with double decker word-burgers and drunk on its own grandeur, had been taken into Rehab on a stretcher and come out leaner, sleeker and fitter, with all its fat trimmed away, eating salad. 

But now it was time to take the next step. Writing the novel had been hard, but I knew that having finally reached publishing Base Camp I couldn’t just sit in my tent and listen to the wind howling outside. I had to go out and set off for the mountain.

It was time to Submit To Agents.

I took another two months preparing. Ignoring the disapproving glares of my cat I spent hours going through the Children’s Writers and Artists Yearbook like I used to go through the toy section of my mum’s catalogue as a kid, circling the Agents I wanted to approach; with bookshops shut I spent even more hours online, researching which Agents represented the writers who wrote stories like mine; I put out appeals on social media asking for recommendations; I wrote, re-wrote and re-wrote again my synopsis, covering letter and three line “elevator pitch”. I did everything They say you have to do if you’re to even have a chance of getting an Agent to read the second paragraph of the first of your three sample chapters…

Eventually, I was done. Everything was in place. I couldn’t put it off any longer.

I took a day off work and set aside the whole day just to submit my MS to Agents. That sounds very grand but it essentially involved just writing and sending lots of emails, attaching my “submission package” to them, checking everything was just right again and again before taking a deep breath and hitting Send. 

And it was terrifying. My story was out there now. It didn’t belong to me anymore; other people were going to read it. I actually felt slightly ill. But it was done.

Now the waiting. Most of the Agents I submitted to warned that a response would probably take “up to 12 weeks” – which seems like a long time to me but that’s just the way it works – so I’ve started writing another novel; I can’t just sit here waiting for replies to come in, I’ll go mad…

Speaking of replies, I don’t expect replies from all the Agents I submitted to. Past experience suggests perhaps 2/3 will get back to me, which is frustrating (and rude, I think) but it’s a comfort to know that any day now an email will drop into my Inbox from an Agent gushing about my story, asking me if they can have an exclusive read of the whole manuscript and letting me know that my sample chapters excited Steven Spielberg so much he wants to buy the film rights. That’s what happens next, right?

Wish me luck!

Stuart Atkinson - “Maja’s Dragon” out on submission. 

"A Cat’s Guide to The Night Sky” If you look up at the sky on a dark night, what do you see? There's a whole universe staring back at you. In the company of Felicity the cat, discover the phases of the moon, the constellations, and how to spot the Northern Lights and the Milky Way. You can buy HERE