K.A. Gerrard and Emma Dodd: How a graphic novel was born
Published on: 11 Ebrill 2011
Emma and I met through our sons who are in the same class at school and both reluctant readers. It was something we chatted about regularly while waiting for them at the school gates: comparing this author with that one; debating whether non-fiction might be of more interest than fiction; and whether the school offered enough choice of reading material. We also talked a lot about the books that we, and our brothers, enjoyed as kids.
Not long after, I came across an article about the rise in popularity of graphic novels for children. I emailed it to Emma suggesting that she think about doing one. After all, she had mentioned that she was interested in finding a new challenge to compliment the pictures books she'd been doing, and continues to do, so successfully. She emailed me back proposing that we work together on one with me as writer and she as illustrator. This was followed shortly by a second email that simply said: 'I'm serious about this. If you come up with the story, I'll draw it.'
And so, armed with a copy of The Everything Guide to Writing Graphic Novels and some script writing software for my computer, I began drafting a synopsis for what would eventually become A Roman Rescue, the first adventure for Charlie and his dog, Bandit. A couple of weeks later, I sent off the synopsis and the first two chapters to Emma. And then waited nervously for her reaction.
Well, Emma's response was something along the lines of 'Great idea, shame about all the horses. I hate drawing horses.' To help sweeten the deal and provide possible inspiration, I bought her a toy Roman chariot complete with horses from our local toyshop. It now sits on her desk in her studio, when not on the floor being played with by one of her children. And I'm already in search of the perfect toy camel to accompany her as she works on our second book.
When Kelly first suggested I produce a graphic novel for children, I was immediately attracted to the idea. However, I felt that my writing skills might not stretch to the challenge. I knew Kelly had a background in journalism, and I also knew that she and I shared a similar sense of humour, so when I suggested she write it, it was with the conviction that she would come up with something fantastic. She did not disappoint, and within a very short time came forward with the idea for A Roman Rescue.
I have an excellent working relationship with Templar Publishing, who gave me my first real break with What Pet to Get. I knew that they would have the imagination to take on project a like this. Sure enough, they loved it, and so we were off.
When considering the look and feel of the book, we were keen for it to appeal to as wide a range of readers as possible, so opted for a text style that included upper and lower case letters as opposed to the more traditional 'comic book' styling of all upper case. We also worked to ensure that the speech bubbles included sufficient white space, allowing the text to breathe.
One of the very few changes that Templar insisted on was the book's title. Originally Kelly and I had called it 'Hostage to Fortuna', given that the story involves a kidnapping and foiled sacrifice to the Roman goddess of luck. Clever, we thought. And who doesn't like a good pun? Quite rightly, Templar felt it was important to emphasize the book's ancient Roman setting, and so we made the change to A Roman Rescue.
I had not quite anticipated the vast volume of work involved in illustrating a graphic novel. There were moments when I wondered if I would ever finish it, but Kelly's witty writing and the encouragement and excitement of Templar kept me going. As the book grew, I felt that we really were producing something fresh and innovative.
Charlie and Bandit are adventuring in Ancient Egypt at the moment, as I work on book two of the series, An Egyptian Escape. Who knows where they will end up next?