Meet Tyler Page and Cori Doerrfeld, the husband-wife team behind the Cici: A Fairy’s Tale series! The first title, Believe Your Eyes, is available now in paperback and library bound, and two more titles will be released in upcoming seasons.
1. Who is Cici, and what inspired the character?
Cori: Cici is a ten-year old girl who discovers she is a fairy. That being said, I also hope Cici is a girl that a lot of people can relate to in one way or another. At ten, you’re not really a little kid anymore, but you still might not be ready for every situation coming your way. Facing new friends, new family life, new pressures, and new emotions, Cici represents how kids deal with change as they grow up. And like real kids, Cici faces it all from her own unique viewpoint …which just so happens to include the power to make Cici see octopus tentacles on her mom, a pet dragon at home, and chickens at school.
Cici was inspired by personal experiences and people in my life. I, along with several of my friends, have daughters at or around Cici’s age. I have friends who have gone through divorce, live with extended family, or have a culturally blended family. I wanted Cici to reflect the idea that no matter how out of control life can feel at times, we always have the power to decide how to react. Change doesn’t have to be negative … it’s all in how you decide to see it.
|An early Cici illustration by Cori|
2. How did you decide to make Cici’s story into a graphic novel series rather than a picture book or short middle-grade novel?
Cori: I have always wanted to make a graphic novel because they are generally longer than picture books, but still use both pictures and words to tell the story. I think certain stories, like Cici, are best told with a visual element. Graphic novels are the perfect chance to not only tell a story, but show a story.
|Tyler’s logo sketches|
Tyler: I had finished a series of books for Graphic Universe™ (Chicagoland Detective Agency) and was invited to pitch ideas for new books. I had some ideas but Cori has always been the better storyteller/generator so I asked her to come up with some ideas too, so we were only thinking of ideas for a graphic novel. Additionally, Cori had done some mini comics in the past and had been thinking it might be fun to make a longer comics work so she was really interested in the format. After looking at the few ideas we came up with, Cici was the one they decided to go with.
3. You both illustrated the series—how did you work together as a husband-wife team on that?
Cori: It was a learning process for sure! This was the first book I’ve ever written, but had someone else draw. The biggest challenge was letting go and trusting Tyler to draw the story the way he knew was best vs. what I would have done. I also learned to rely on our strengths. Tyler is the expert when it comes to laying out comics pages and panels. He is also much better at backgrounds, perspectives, and technical drawing. I tend to have strengths with characters and emotions. SO smoosh all that together, and you get Cici!
Tyler: This was definitely and interesting experience. We decided early on that I would do all of the page breakdowns, layouts, and pencils since I have more straight comics experience, and then Cori would do touch-ups and coloring.
This was initially Cori’s concept, and she had done the concept sketches of the characters. Then when Cici was picked up as a series, Cori also did the initial final character designs. So my first challenge was “learning” the characters, and drawing them to Cori’s satisfaction. Then we had to figure out a way of working through the whole book. Normally we’re both pretty independent, self-sufficient artists with our own individual work. So at first I would start with rough layouts and show them to Cori and we definitely had some intense “discussions” about what was right or wrong.
After a lot of back and forth I think we reached a place where we had to just trust each other and let go a little bit. Cori had to let go of that initial stage of art that I was doing, and I had to let go of that art after I passed it on to her. As Cori would go through and finish each page, she inevitably fixed some things or made some art edits to satisfy her own artistic senses, and in most cases, I didn’t push back. So it’s really interesting to see this finished product that is in many ways a real collaboration and mixture of both of our styles.
Once we were into a groove, especially with the first book, it was great to have Cori come out of her studio and compliment me on the way I drew a character or their expression. And it was really fun for me to see what an amazing job Cori did of finishing the art—from the way she may have edited some of my art to her coloring choices.
4. #1 Believe Your Eyes is available now, and two more books will come out in the next year. What adventures does Cici have in store?
Cori: I will admit, Cici has a lot to learn as she begins to figure out what being a fairy means, and more importantly, how to deal with the insight her powers give her. Cici will discover just how her magic can affect those around her and how it all stems from her personal attitude. In the process, Cici will find herself face to face with a troll-haired voodoo doll, a new man in her mom’s life, a chance to show off her camping skills, and a mysterious forest creature. But, no matter what, with abuela’s guidance and Cici’s ultimate desire to make her friends and family happy, Cici will begin to see how beautiful her magic can be.
|Cori and Tyler at Gooseberry Falls|
5. Right now you live in Minneapolis, but if you could live and work anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Cori: From a very young age, it has been my dream to help create animated films. If I could live and work anywhere in the world I would head to California to be a part of Pixar Studios. If I could go back in time, I would go work for Warner Brothers but sadly I have yet to grow any magical fairy wings or build a time machine, so until then…
Tyler: I am a native Minneapolitan and I like to think I’ve stayed here by choice. I’ve been to many other cities but Minneapolis, and Minnesota seem to have a great balance of urban versus rural, and lots of culture while still feeling a little laid back. That said, I wouldn’t mind living in Colorado. I like biking, camping, and hiking, and think it would be great to live a little closer to some more rugged outdoor recreation options. Plus, having grown up in the Midwest, the mountains still hold this kind of magic for me.
Thanks, Cori and Tyler!