A few years ago I found a book in the library called Happyface. It was like nothing I’d ever read before: it’s like a comic mixed with a novel, with the author Stephen Emond creating a font from his own handwriting and drawing all of the illustrations himself. I loved this book and bought my own copy. I then saw on Steve’s website that someone asked him for a drawing in the post (mail), but they never sent their address; I thought I’d be cheeky and ask for it instead. He sent me a personalised drawing and it’s still up on my wall today.
For today’s #BEDM, I have an exclusive interview with Steve. I hope you like it, and have a look at some of his books. They’re definitely worth having a look at, they’re fab!
I must say, some of your artwork is amazing and I love your illustrations, especially in my favourite book of yours Happyface. When did you start drawing and when did you realize you were good at it?
I’ve always drawn, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t draw. When I was a kid every few weekends my grandparents would take me and my brother to see a movie and sleepover, and when I got back I had to start drawing everything I could remember from the movie. Honestly anything I look back on is bad, my art from childhood to teen years looks awful to me, even things from a few years ago I’ll cringe at so I guess I’m my own worst critic, but people around me have always been supportive, I was always “the artist” in school, even though now I look back and think the art I was doing was awful!
And when did you decide that you wanted to become an author?
I always loved drawing, so I pictured myself becoming a comic book artist, or doing a newspaper comic strip. I would make up characters and comic book ideas in high school but never really got far in writing them – once I started my “Steverino” comic strip my senior year (12th grade), I started realizing the outlet writing could be. My next project after that was my comic book Emo Boy, in which I got a little better at telling complete stories with beginnings, middles, and ends. Happyface was the first full novel I ever wrote without needing it to just be a script for my art – although I did still end up using a lot of art in it.
What was your favourite school subject?
I wasn’t any good at gym class, I wasn’t very good with math, I was terrible at social studies. I liked the more creative classes like English and Art. Art class was always my time to shine. I also loved any classes with computer use which was still pretty rare when I was in high school in the mid-90’s.
If a book like Happyface could be made into a film, would you like that? Or do you think it works better as a book?
I think it would be a very tricky book to make into a movie simply because art plays such a big part of it, but I think a really creative and visual film maker would have a ball with it. I’d love to see something I’ve written get to the big screen, the closest I got was with my Emo Boy comic, in which I wrote a screenplay for a producer and even had a director and actors attached. Unfortunately this was in 2008 and there was a financial crisis that prevented us from raising the money to actually film it.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
So many authors I respect can dive in and just write, but I end up staring at a blank screen when I try. But if you put a sketchbook and pen in my hands, I’ll scribble away until the page is covered. I’m a pretty heavy outliner, and though sometimes a chapter will pull me in a different direction when I start writing, for the most part I know exactly where I’m going.
Do you base your characters on anyone you know?
I do, I think most authors do, for one thing it’s hard to avoid, and it also adds a sense of reality to the characters you write because you know their quirks so well. Although I tend to first have an idea of why a character exists, what they bring out of the protagonist, what they’re about, and then I’ll compare the character to several people that could feasibly be that character. That way I’m not straight up writing someone I know, but more pulling from several sources for inspiration in making a character feel real. If that makes sense.
What kinds of books do you like to read?
I try to read some YA, my editor thinks I should read a lot more to see what my peers are doing but I end up feeling competitive and worry I’ll see someone else using my ideas, so it’s kind of stressful to read other YA. I read a little classic literature, I read the Dark Tower books by Stephen King and got really obsessed with those. I read some graphic novels like the Saga series from Image Comics, I read some “Art Of” books, and magazines on drawing and digital painting.
Are you working on anything at the moment that could be published in the near future?
I have a tendency to start and stop a lot of projects in between books until I find the “right” project. I was working on a historical fiction book last year but abandoned it. I’ve tried a few other ideas that didn’t go quite right, and I’m working on something now that I have my fingers crossed on but it needs a lot of work still. Some people can slam out a book every 10 months but it tends to take me a little longer. That said, my third book Bright Lights, Dark Nights came out last August with a paperback release in the very near future, and I had a short story “The Night Of The Living Creeper” in the I See Reality anthology from Roaring Brook earlier this year, hopefully that will keep readers busy until I’m back on the shelves!
Thank you so much to Stephen Emond for answering my questions! To see some of Steve’s books click the images below.