I don't even like Fanta
You know how, when you work in an office, you often get cards doing the rounds for colleagues' birthdays/weddings/births of children etc? You know the pressure to write something in the card, something that no one else has already written, and that expectation that you Will Write Something Entertaining because you wrote that funny thing on Elaine from accounts' card that one time? Well I've never blogged before, but it turns out that blogging feels exactly like writing in a card for a near stranger that the whole office will see. In fact, slightly more so.
On the other hand, I'm delighted to have been asked to be Book Trust's next writer in residence. This is an almighty honour and I hope I can do them proud or, at the very least, not give them cause to regret their decision. Bali Rai has set the bar incredibly high with his residency - that panel on which young adult readers were asked what they wanted from books was inspired - and I will do my best to follow his example. I'm approaching the post with a few ideas already in the works: the one I'm most excited about is the project that I will henceforth refer to as The Project, but I'll tell you more about that when the details have been finalised.
Anyway. I'm sure many of you will have no idea who I am, and that's because I'm both a relatively new writer and a graphic novelist. Very niche, we are, and often seen (rather unfairly) as rogues who carve out a living entertaining the wilful semi-literate on the dusty fringes of literature. It's a perception that dogs our every move. It's infuriating.
In reality the comic format is an incredibly varied and powerful medium of communication, teeming with visual potential and overflowing with narrative possibility. There are comics and graphic novels for all ages and all interests, in all styles and all genres. In many countries, most notably in France and Japan, it's a given that comics/graphic novels/bandes dessinées/manga can be equally available for a mature audience, so why not here in the UK too?
Fortunately for all concerned, the tide is slowly turning and comics are popping up where once they were verboten. Most newspapers review graphic novels alongside regular novels, most respectable bookshops have a graphic novel section and most literary festivals feature at least one graphic novel event. (Please note that I am available for your literary festival graphic novel event if you should find yourself short of a graphic novelist. Similarly for weddings, bar mitzvahs etc). Graphic novelists are now even appearing as online writers in residence for forward-thinking national literacy champions! These are exciting times in the world of sequentially illustrated narratives, and over the course of the next six months I will make it my mission to wax lyrical about their wonders and to do my bit to further the comics cause.
Coincidentally, this month will be doubly exciting as not only am I lucky enough to be sharing my non-fiction thoughts here on this very blog, but I also have a new book coming out. Adamtine is a pensive ghost story; a cold slice of thinking man/woman's horror, published by the good people of Jonathan Cape. Despite being a professional graphic novelist for 7 years (which is 1.75 years in graphic novel years), this will only be my second book, and therefore I'm pretty sure I still fall into the 'bright-eyed and wonder-filled' class of writer, all bumbling naivety and enthusiasm.
So as well as comivangelising (not a word, don't use it in Scrabble) and shouting about the oft-overlooked value of visual literacy, I'll be able to tell you about the highs and lows of having a second book released into the world at large. If you've ever wondered how it feels to sip champagne on a yacht as a well-renowned author: keep wondering. It's good to have a dream. In the meantime I'll fill you in on how it feels to sip Fanta on the bus as a well-tolerated one.
More than that, though, as I start to work on my next book I'm hoping to provide some anecdotal insights into kick-starting this overwhelming process; those early fumbling stages floundering in the primordial soup of storytelling. It's a stage every author goes through and one that a lot of potential authors never escape. There are countless books on the subject, but those books are all presumably completed projects - fat and smug on Waterstone's bookshelves. This residency will chart the whole process in motion, as it happens, with that additional exciting risk that I don't want to dwell on that I could fail. (I believe this is what the BBFC refers to as 'mild peril'.)
I'm very much looking forward to the next six months. It's going to be splendid and terrifying in equal measure…
SONG du JOUR
I Like it Like That by Pete Rodriguez
Boogaloo? Don't mind if I do.