With 10 days to go before the publication of my graphic novel Dan and Sam, Perry Rendell MD at sports agency Creative Midfield conducted a short Q&A…
Perry: So here we are Oli on the verge of your first graphic novel Dan and Sam being published by Picador… first question, how does it feel?
Oli: This is my first graphic novel (or “big comic” if you’re confused by this rather highbrow term) and I am over the moon! I got some of my complimentary copies posted to me last week and they look fabulous! So so good, better than I had expected, but that said it is also weird at the same time. There are going to be promotional events in the months after publication which will be greater highlights, so the actual day – October 22nd, I think is going to roll past as rather an arbitrary date where Amazon start shipping instead of taking pre-orders. I will have a glass or two to celebrate, but the big stuff I think comes later.
Perry: How did the project come about with Mark Watson?
Oli: Ha ha! Myspace! Yes, I first made contact with Mark years and years ago. I was doing a round of self promotion (something you need to do a lot of as a freelancer) and as I love stand up comedy I was hitting all the comedians I love to see if I could do gig posters or flyers or something and he replied to me with this idea for a comic!
Perry: What was your schedule when you were illustrating the novel?
Oli: Pretty loose to be honest. I made contact with Mark, had a few meetings to discus his idea, then off the back of those did a series of initial character designs and a few sample pages. The story was in a very early stage but the basics of what we have in the final book were already there. Then he and his literary agent took the idea to his publisher. I think about a year after my first e-mail to Mark we got the go ahead and a contract was signed. Now, Mark is a very busy man, and so the book was produced over the next few years in spaces between his other projects and my own career in the world of advertising story-boarding.
Perry: How did the characters of Dan and Sam take shape and what was your inspiration for them?
Oli: Mark would give me a detailed character description, physical and emotional, of each member of the cast and I would design them and then show him. We were both pretty much on the same page as to the look and feel of the book so almost all the designs were done in only a few rounds, in fact the only person who I needed to re-do to any great extent was Sam. In my first imagining she looked very different (I might post some of her first design work on my website later). I also have to admit that the image of Dan has a little of myself and a little of Mark in it (though you didn’t here that from me ok!)
Perry: What’s your publicity schedule for the next couple of months for the novel?
Oli: Well, as we speak there is a launch event in the book shop Mr B’s in Bath city centre on Wednesday the 28th of October where both Mark and I will be attending. Picador have also been talking about trying to organise events in London and Bristol as well but there is nothing in the diary at the moment. It is a case of getting everyone involved to be free at the same time, which is harder than it sounds!
Perry: How can readers purchase the novel?
Oli: I think Amazon is the easiest but it will also be in mainstream bookshops as well as specialist comics stores.
Perry: What learning experience from Dan and Sam will you bring into the next graphic novel you produce?
Oli: Ha ha! Well, to be honest I have learnt so much from this. Everything to do with my work has changed and developed, my drawing, my design and my colouring. It has been an amazing experience, but what is the most important and relevant? I think probably don’t rush in, take some time to design it first.
Perry: What current projects are you working on?
Oli: Two different ideas both graphic novels. One is an adventure story about a young Viking princess and her struggle to save her family and kingdom. The other is a punked-up fight for survival in the east end of London.
Perry: Any last tips for aspiring graphic novelists?
Oli: Yes. Plan what you are going to do before you do it! As I say, I have a really bad tendency of rushing into things, ploughing head without putting down some solid foundation. Over a big project your artwork is going to develop and change but you give yourself the best chance of a coherent look and feel if you spend some time in the beginning of the project designing the world you want to show the reader.
Thanks Oli for your time, good luck with Dan and Sam and I can see this being a springboard to future graphic novel projects. Enjoy the launch in Bath on 28 October.