Friday, April 18, 2008

More about Me! Well, it's almost a full moon; time to bark.

Just when I thought I was out...they pull me back in.

Actually, nobody did. I did it myself. I'm quite happy to revise and I'm happy with the direction that Sunshine on Leith is branching out in, as it began as a little story called Tommy Apple and it really has grown up over this past year. I think part of the reason for that growth is the influence of Brian Fies. I talk with Brian very occasionally about graphic novels and what they could become, but Brian has actually created a work, in Mom's Cancer, that has expanded the scope of the genre, whereas I have only, up until now, theorized and I think, genuinely, that I am, at least in part, trying to write a story that will justify his faith in graphic novels as an expressive medium.

I did encounter a problem or two with Sunshine on Leith that has made me go back to it several times to restructure it. One was, how to write quite a bit of the history of the place into the story without turning some of my target readers away. It's a particular problem with this story because so much of the 'historical stuff' opens the book and what's the point of a picture book, or a graphic novel, if it seems to be page upon page of boring old text? Seriously, the medium is partly responsible for renewing the interest of young people who have been turned-of reading, and I'm not vain enough to imagine they'll all switch back on to it again just for me, so it became a real problem. In my mind at least.

At any rate, what I've done is I've made it unconventional, in parts, by returning to conventional methods. That is to say, in parts, I have resorted to a page of text sitting opposite a page of illustration. I'm actually very comfortable with it and I think it works, overall.

Another problem has been how to stuff some historical research in, without it being boring or without resorting to a cliche like having someone tell the young protagonist stories. In the end I opted for treating the place just like another character in the story, complete with its own personality; and that in turn gave me a clearer view of the sort of character the protagonist was as a result of growing up in that particular place, at that particular time. In Current Trends in the Study of Midrash (Edited by Carol Bakhos), Joshua Levinson quotes a noted Talmudic scholar who advised 'before you search for the historical kernel you must search for the literary kernel and base your historical scholarship upon it.' I think that is wise and I think it applies equally in a little unimportant picture book like mine, which looks only passingly at history.

Anyway, I've been busy reworking the thing, as I said, so I thought that while I was here I might as well post some pages. These are all from the first chapter of the book, all from the Leith part. The text of the story won't be added until I am completely satisfied with it, but you should be able to guess most of what is going on, especially those of you who grew up in a city in the swinging sixties and got much of your information from posters on billboards, and went to the Saturday Morning shows and who, at least once, got lost when your babysitter nipped away for a fly coffee and a ciggy (eh, Valerie?).


Brian Fies said...

Hey, don't blame me! I'm mostly full of hot gas. But thanks for your too-kind comments.

I'm astonished to see that you and I are grappling with some of the same issues regarding historical, literary and character problems. I'm working on something now that's not in any condition to show yet, but when you see it--and compare it to the examples you've shared in this post--I think it'll knock your socks off.

Sunshine on Leith looks like a hell of a thing, I can't wait to see it. Thanks for the preview.

Mark Anderson said...

Wow, Rod! That's fantastic! I can wait to read and see more!

Rod McKie said...

Looking forward to seeing it Brian. I just know it will be great.

Thanks for the kind words.

Rod McKie said...

Hey Mark! Thank you very much. I'm glad you like it.

I'll get more of these on, with words soon.

Your 'Andertalk' Cartoonist Forum is bubbling along nicely. Some good topics there.