11 February 2010

It’s a Floor Wax and a Dessert Topping!

This week’s “Notes from the Horn Book” includes editor Roger Sutton’s quick interview with Matt Phelan, creator of The Storm in the Barn. It starts with the news that Storm won this year’s Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction from a panel of judges that include Roger, who wrote:

After some blogosphere discussion about whether The Storm in the Barn, a graphic novel with some ambiguous fantasy elements, was historical fiction [that would be me], I decided to see what the author/illustrator himself thought. . . .

Do you think of The Storm in the Barn as historical fiction?

Yes. I also think of it as a supernatural thriller and a family drama and a Jack tale. But when I was writing it, I only thought of it as a story. It wasn’t until after it was finished that I could step back and try to label it. It was a story first and foremost, even before I decided it would be a graphic novel.
Which is indeed how stories should start out. I’m just not convinced that any book can combine “historical fiction” and “supernatural thriller” at their core, but The Storm in the Barn certainly starts off by recreating life in the Dust Bowl in a most, well, graphic fashion.

Roger also asked about the differences between illustrating a picture book and creating a graphic novel, and this was Phelan’s reply:
From an illustration standpoint, they are fundamentally the same. Both are about rhythm and tone. The page turn is important in both. The illustrations have to convey the beat of the scene (or panel) in a clear and effective way. Of course, the really big difference is the number of illustrations needed for a 200-page graphic novel. The drawing time is much longer, and you need to stay focused and disciplined month after month.
It looks like I might have a chance to ask Phelan such questions myself this May.

TOMORROW: And that could be awkward.

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