We’re thrilled to introduce author Dan Jolley and cartoonist Jacques Khouri, the brilliant team behind the middle-grade graphic novel Mega-Dogs of New Kansas! This story follows Sienna Barlow as she struggles to connect with the other kids on a strange, faraway planet. She feels most at home while riding around on top of her mega-dog, Gus. So when an official threatens the mega-dog program, Sienna Barlow sneaks away with Gus and begins an adventure across New Kansas.
To get to know Dan and Jacques better, we’ve asked them about their start in the comic business and their approach to projects!
How did you get started writing/drawing comics?
My Dad and Uncle introduced me to Tintin (we are of medeteranian descent). When I got into comic books I loved Todd Mcfarlane’s Spider-man (Amazing Spider-man #312) drawings so much that I would reproduce them and voila! I was hooked. I would always draw comic characters, and eventually comic books pages, and eventually my own stuff.
I always knew I wanted to write, but I never gave much thought to how to do it professionally until I was nineteen. I had gone to visit my older sister for a week, and found myself hanging out in a video arcade at the mall (that’s how long ago this was). I met a girl there and asked her out on a date, and on that first date told her that I liked to write short stories. She said, “Have you ever considered writing comic books?” The answer to that question was “no,” but I had always read comic books. So she said, “I know a couple of professional comic book artists. I could introduce you if you’d like.”
Well, that relationship only lasted another couple of dates, but the artists to whom she introduced me ended up opening some crucial doors for me into the world of American mainstream comics. I got my first contract later that year, and I’ve been writing comics (among other media) ever since.
What does an average day of creating look like?
– Step 1: I read the script and do little thumbnails concentrating on pacing and framing
– Step 2: I do some visual research (if needed) take pictures… google is my best friend at this stage
– Step 3: I draw and layout those thumbnails and add all the speech bubbles in the right format
– Step 4: I cleanup my pencils, tightenned some details if needed.
– Step 5: I ink the pages and redraw needed panels
– Step 6: I color the pages
I used to love working with Pentel Brush pen or a nice Fountain pen on paper. But honestly for the last couple of years I’ve been using mostly my cintiq with ClipPaint and my iPad Pro with an app called “Art Set” and “Procreate.”
I write in bursts. I know there are some writers who sit down at the keyboard and pound out pages for nine or ten hours a day, but the absolute most time I can spend writing at once is about five hours. Usually my sessions are more like two or three hours. However, in that span of time I can crank out ten or fifteen pages, so it’s worked out all right. The other twenty-odd hours of the day that I’m not at the keyboard, though, my brain is still writing.
My wife is very patient with me, since she knows I’m working on a story at some level all the time. She forgives me if I’m particularly scatterbrained on any given day. So, basically, I sleep late, take care of household chores and run errands for a couple of hours, and usually write from around 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon till around 5:00. Then, once my wife has gone to bed, it’s not unusual for me to head back to my office and write for another three or four hours, usually from midnight or 1:00 till 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning. (We don’t have children, otherwise that schedule would be very different.)
What else have you been working on lately, or are there any projects that catch your eye?
Anything that has heart and inspires people to be better in their lives. As far as genres go I like everything from superhero, comedy, existential, to documentary comics as long as they have a good story or message. I’m an animation teacher and I work as a freelance animator by day, but I would say drawing comics is more my passion. Hopefully someday I can only spend my time drawing comics… It’s like my retirement plan, drawing comics and sitting outside drawing people, telling stories. 😉
I’ve got a couple of projects that are either already out or are coming up that I’m pretty excited about, but there’s a chance that only one of them will be available in the US. That one is a middle-grade Audible Original audiobook called House of Teeth. It’s about a twelve-year-old boy from Philadelphia who discovers that his family has a dark, magical heritage that takes him back to his ancestral home in the swamplands of southern Louisiana. It came out on December 5 of last year, and has been received pretty positively.
The second one is a series of middle-grade prose novels for German publisher Fischer Verlag, about a far-future society in a flooded world, where air-breathing humans have to learn to co-exist with the water-breathing Flood Folk. It’s called Bad Tide Rising, and is scheduled to come out in autumn of this year, but it’s getting translated into German. It remains to be seen whether it’ll be available in English.
What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring artists/writers?
Keep doing what you do, and love doing it. Perseverance and practice is key.
This is the same piece of advice I always give, whenever anyone asks me online, or at a convention, or wherever, but it’s incredibly valuable advice, so I’m going to say it here, too. Never read what you’ve written until you’ve written the whole thing.
The reason for this is that the creative part of the brain is not the same as the editing part. If you write your first page, or your first paragraph, or your first line, and then you stop… and you think, “I can make that better…” and you go back and tweak it… then you’re going to get stuck.
I’ve seen it happen over and over, with people who really really want to be professional writers, but can’t seem to finish any of their stories. DO NOT READ WHAT YOU’VE WRITTEN UNTIL YOU’VE WRITTEN THE WHOLE THING. That way, you have an entire story. Now, it will probably be a terrible story, because it’s a first draft, but that’s fine. Truly. It’s fine. First drafts don’t have to be good. It’s rare as hen’s teeth that they’re anything but terrible. My first drafts are embarrassing piles of dreck. But once you have a first draft, then you can fix it. And you can’t fix what isn’t there.