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My Next Graphic Novel

The Saga of Selling My Next Comic
I've been holding off announcing this for various reasons, but now's the time, I think. Drumroll pls. Okay! First Second Books, towering publisher of such luminaries as Gene Yang, Nick Abadzis, and Paul Pope (eventually, I assume) has been suckered into - I mean, will be publishing my next graphic novel. Completely written and drawn by ME. HAHAHAHA. Oh man, cool, huh?

The (hopefully) entertaining odyssey of how I and this particular comic ended up at First Second is a story of rejection, crashing comic book imprints, San Diego Comicon and me in search of food. As all my stories seem to end up, strangely enough. Anyway! Back in 2007 I did a pitch for DC Comics now defunct Minx imprint. I was really thrilled about the whole thing as I thought I'd be perfect for the job. Hey, I'm a girl! And I draw comics! These comics are for girls! I'm PERFECT. Yeah, it didn't happen. I was pretty crushed. I don't know if the book still would have been picked up if the Minx imprint hadn't been cancelled, because I never got an official "sorry, this is not what we're looking for" from the powers that be at Minx. But I do know that if I'd gotten the job and the imprint had still been cancelled, my book would have been shot off into limbo, as I was pitching for the 2009 line. So even though I cried many tears over that lost job, it ended up actually being okay, and I was lucky the book was never bought by them.

Of course, I didn't realize it at the time, and was pretty morose for the beginning of 2008. I was working on The War at Ellsmere and that was a lot of comfort. Well, nobody else in comics liked me, but SLG did, and that was awesome. And then First Second emailed me out of the blue, asking if I'd try out for drawing a script then titled The Fielding Course. I did, and got the job. Yeehaw! Moving up in the world! I didn't get to write & draw my next comic, but I got to draw something and be paid a bit of money. So that was good.

Before I got drawing The Fielding Course I started casting around looking for an agent. I didn't really know much about agents, but one thing I'd learned is that I really hate dealing with the business end of comics, and I thought an agent would help me with that. Fortunately, Bernadette Baker of Baker's Mark came recommended, and I fired off a query to her. I was so sold on the idea of having an agent, when we talked on the phone I honestly couldn't think of a single thing to ask her, although she kindly told me about her selling history, who she represented and etc. I mostly wanted to know if she'd deal with the stressful 'dealing with publishers' end of the thing, as I couldn't stand it. I think the only question I asked was "what is your role as an agent?" while in the midst of of a serious case of flop sweat. Dear god I hate phones.

Anyway! It all happened really fast. I went from Minx also-ran to Cartoonist With Agent, Drawing Book for Major Publisher in about the span of a week. Pretty heady stuff.

Aaaand flashback: Previously, my friend [info]karine and a few other mutual friends had plotted to go to San Diego Comicon. I kept waffling on the whole issue, as I was unemployed and not sure how I'd afford the trip. Luckily everything fell into place and I was able to secure a cheap flight and cheap accommodations thanks to [info]karine. At this point, San Diego was simply a "fun trip." I wanted to see the spectacle of the convention, and thought it would be mostly a 4 day thing of wandering around in Nerdvana, nothing else.

So! Newly signed up with my agent, I told her I was gong to Comicon. She said she was too, and why didn't we take any pitches I had to a few publishers? Heck, why not, I thought. I really couldn't see past The Fielding Course, but the idea of pimping out a new project, and hopefully one I'd get to write as well as draw was pretty appealing. And hey, lo and behold, I had this Minx pitch just sitting there, pretty much ready to go.

The pitch had changed quite a bit by the time San Diego rolled around. Shelly Bond (who headed up the Minx imprint) had been very specific in what she wanted for the Minx imprint (this pitch was rejected, as they were looking for stories more grounded in reality), and I had worked within those specifications. But now that it wasn't a Minx pitch anymore, it had evolved a lot. However, the core characters remained the same, as well as the backdrop of "girl goes to high school after being home-schooled," which isn't based on my life AT ALL even though it happened to me. I gave the pitch to my agent, and she liked it and suggested we take it to a few publishers at San Diego.

So that's how I ended up at a breakfast with head First Second guy Mark Siegel, my agent and her business partner at at hotel in San Diego during Comicon. AND BOY WAS I STARVING. Have I mentioned how hard I found it to find food at the convention? SO HUNGRY. Anyway, BEST DAMN BREAKFAST EVAR, because not only did I get some delicious foodstuffs, but I also got a chance to pitch my story to Mark, and a month after San Diego, my agent called to say that First Second had made an offer on the book.

Bernadette was really awesome throughout the whole thing, helping me through the process and talking with me about various options for the book, and I'm very glad to have had her guidance throughout the whole scary thing. I'm always panicked about screwing up, or offending someone or getting blacklisted, and it was fantastic to have someone to help me with the business end, 'cause I just hate that part of it so ... damn ... much. So thanks to Bernadette, to my friend [info]karine, without whom I wouldn't have been at San Diego, and the PTB at Minx, since I wouldn't have had a pitch ready to go if it wasn't for them.

And now here it is, a YEAR later (ah, the glacial pace of book publishing) and I'm starting to work on Friends With Boys. That's the title, and it's nothing to do with the little comic strips I did years ago. I just liked the title enough to reuse it. It's the first time I've used my own life as a jumping off point for a comic, although I'd like to stress the book is not autobiographical, nor is the main character me. It's about a girl named Maggie, who has three brothers (as I do), who was home-schooled (as I was), and is now entering her first year of public high school (as I did). She also is stalked by a ghost (that has yet to happen to me). She gets mixed up in High School Drama, makes friends with the wrong people, and because the story is written by me, it will contain two things: 1) Zombies. And 2) Someone will, eventually, get punched in the face.

Here's some development artwork:

This was the very first image I drew, what I pitched to Minx.

An early version of Maggie. She was a little gothier in early versions of the story. Now she's nerdier. :D

Two of Maggie's three brothers, Lloyd and Zander (gold star for who can guess that reference? C'moooon!). They fight a lot because they're twins.

Maggie makes friends with these guys at school, Lucy and her slightly mysterious brother, Alistair.

There's a lot of male characters in this book (4 or 5 main male characters, 2 female), and I'm looking forward to writing/drawing them, as I've done a couple of very girl-centric graphic novels and want to do something different.

There will be a lot of mohawks in this book.

This is the most recent, assumedly "final" drawing of Maggie. My art has developed a lot over the past year, and I'm looking forward to seeing a new, all-mine book drawn in this style. Viva Winsor & Newton Series 7 watercolour brushes!

Anyway, whoa, that was a novel I just wrote there. But that's the crazy story. It's funny how things end up, yeah? I was really devastated by the Minx thing because it seemed so perfect, and like the job was meant for me, but it ended up being a blessing in disguise. I'm so thrilled First Second is publishing this book, it's been wonderful to work with them. They're pretty damn awesome.

I don't know yet when Friends With Boys will be published. I'm hoping for 2011 (AAAH! So far away!), but I'll keep you posted. Brain Camp is slated for publication in Fall of 2010, even though it's completed now ... ah, book publishing is not made for the impatient. But at least I have this wonderful new project to work on, and I hope you all will read it. I think it's going to be pretty cool. :)