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Guinea PI(G) #3: The Ferret's a FootHere’s a happy occasion for GU Comics Day to return to the blog! Kirkus Book Reviews has announced their 2010 Best Children’s Books, and two Graphic Universe titles are on the list:

Hamster and Cheese


And Then There Were Gnomes

by Colleen AF Venable and Stephanie Yue.

There are of course many other great books on the list, including several fine graphic novels for kids. I encourage everyone to check the list and find more great reading.

The third book in the Guinea PI(G): Pet Shop Private Eye series, The Ferret’s a Foot, will be available in the spring.

Congratulations to Colleen and Steph, and hurrah for the ongoing adventures of Sasspants the guinea pig and her indefatigable koala hamster sidekick Hamisher!

This week I spoke with J. E. Young, the author of upcoming Twisted Journeys #18: Horror in Space, which will be available soon after the new year.

Twisted Journeys #18: Horror In Space cover

Twisted Journeys #18: Horror In Space

Q. What was the first thing you were paid to write?

The first payment I ever got for something I’d written was for a poem, of all things. There was High School writing contest asking for “green” bit of Earth Day poetry. To enter you just had to bring some recyclable soda cans along with the poem. I entered a poem about a kingdom that was polluting the land and went the way of the dinosaurs because of it. I won first prize…and a box of donuts 🙂

Q. What’s your favorite genre to write in? What type of writing do like best – long, short, fiction, nonfiction?

I love to write science fiction and fantasy. I discovered science fiction while in High School, about the same time I wrote that poem. I love the fact that Science Fiction uses scientific facts and theories as its inspiration. And I like writing novels best. Science fiction and fantasy writers spend a lot of thought and time playing “what if?” games and creating universes, and they usually want to really play in them for a nice long time. Novels let you do that.

Q. Did you start off writing prose and switch to comics or vice versa? What’s it like working with an artist? Have you ever been surprised how your artist(s) see your characters or world?

I started in prose, but I have always been a comics fan and writing comics was something that I could well imagine doing. I know some comics writers who have a real partnership with their artists, calling them and working with them personally on the look of characters and scenes. But my experience has been more hands off. The descriptions I send to the artist are more like e-mails, very conversational like “I leave it up to you to make this monster scary.” And yes, I have been very surprised by how artists see both my characters and my world. I remember one comic where I described a castle throne room with knights and ladies and the artist threw in these dancing girls. I was very surprised, but they worked to make the scene dynamic rather than static.

Q. Graphic Universe books are generally for kids; how do you get into the mindset of your audience?

I think like most writers I try to remember experiences from my childhood, like my first time at an observatory looking through a telescope and learning about the stars. I try to re-experience how that felt. I’m hoping that my readers will find the same things fun or scary or interesting that I did when I was a kid.

Q. You write for Twisted Journeys, what is it like working within that strict structure?

It was so much fun! Rather than limiting me the structure challenged me, like working out a puzzle. I really enjoyed putting it all together. The only hard part was keeping track of how many pages of this or that I’d used, and making sure I’d put in enough choices and endings.

Q. Have your relatives bought copies of your books? Do your friends ask you to sign their copies?

Oh, yes. I have close relatives that always buy copies of my books to show off and boast about. And my writer friends and I always exchange signed copies of our books with each other.

Q. Have you ever written someone you know into a story? Perhaps at their insistence?

I know a lot of writers put people they know into their stories, but I almost never do. I think it would keep me from doing mean things to the character if they were based on someone I knew 🙂

Q. Do you write full time?

Indeed I do. And a tough job it is, too. Even weekends and holidays are working days for a writer.

Q. What other stuff have you written outside of Graphic Universe?

I’ve two published novels, Cinderblock and The Bridge, and I actually wrote a Star Trek comic book: Avalon Rising. Our website is going through some revisions, but it should be up again soon:

Q. Which of your comic projects was your favorite to work on?

This one was. I got to write some thirty different stories all within one book! How often does a writer get to do that? I would love to do another.

Q. Do you listen to anything while you write? Lyric-less music? Talk radio? Podcasts? Can you leave the TV on?

If I’m writing I’m oblivious. The house could burn down around me and I wouldn’t know it. Meaning I’m not one of those writers who needs complete quiet to create; to the contrary, I like to work at coffee houses where there is constant activity. I usually listen to music while I write, even if I completely ignore it.

Q. Which college did you attend and what was your major?

I went to UCLA and my major was English. I went on to get my M.A. there specializing in, yes, science fiction.

Q. Do you have a favorite comic writer or prose writer? Who are your influences (in any media)?

I’ve had so many influences it’s hard to pin down one, especially in regards to science fiction where my influences range from Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein (arguably the first science fiction) to Theodore Sturgeon and C. J. Cherryh. Comics is an even harder question as I, like many, have favorite comic book titles and usually my favorite writers are those who wrote an extraordinary story or two with my favorite superheroes. For example, I love this one old group of comic book heroes called the Doom Patrol, and I’d name Grant Morrison as one of my favorite comicbook writers because of the brilliant run he had on that particular book.

However, my all time favorite comic book writer is Doselle Young. I thought his writing, his ideas and scripts for comics so wonderful that I married him 😉

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