I am so happy to be a part of the FIVE QUESTIONS WITH KIDS COMICS AUTHORS BLOG TOUR with First Second Books (Macmillan).
Rafael Rosado and Jorge Aguirre, authors of DRAGONS BEWARE! are interviewing numerous talented graphic novel artists throughout the month! Be sure to check out the schedule daily right HERE on MacTeen Books blog!!!
5 Questions with JAMES KOCHALKA
RAFAEL/JORGE: James, thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. It's pretty cool for us to cyber-meet you after following your work for so long.
JAMES: Thanks! It's a pleasure.
*QUESTION: You jump between work for younger ages and work for adults. Is it easy to switch between audiences? Have you ever started writing something for kids then changed your mind and made it more for adults or vice versa or do you always know who the audience is going to be when you start a new work?
JAMES: It's not too hard for me to switch back and forth between doing work for kids and doing work for adults. I think probably most parents know how to jump back and forth between both worlds in their real life. So, learning how to do it in your work is kinda the same deal.
One of my books, famous for having a swear for the title, could have gone either way. I drew six pages as an all-ages comics, and six pages filled with cussing. I decided to go with the cussing.
Lately, I've tried writing books that sort of straddle the two worlds. Things like FUNGUS: The Unbearable Rot of Being (or Elf Cat, still in progress) are definitely books for grown-ups but they're sort of written in the cadence and style of my kids books. I write them for adults, but with the intention that they might not be entirely inappropriate for children even though they may deal with more adult themes. I did this because they were originally serialized in my local newspaper and I knew kids would be drawn to it even though it wasn't meant for them. It makes the stories sort of weird, actually. My older son loves them.
*QUESTION: What was it like being the first Cartoonist laureate of Vermont?
JAMES: It was incredible honor. I always say it was like being named the state flower. I feel like an honored special snowflake or something.
Mostly it meant that I started being asked by libraries and schools to come and lecture or give cartooning classes. And I did a bunch of that, but I was limited by not having a driver's license. I had to rely on my wife to drive me places and she doesn't actually much enjoy driving either, so I had to decline as many offers as I accepted.
*QUESTION: You make graphic novels, for a while you had your daily comic strip you have a cartoon, video games, you teach, you perform music (have we left anything out?) - how do you switch gears? Is there such a thing as an average James Kochalka work day and if so, what does it look like?
JAMES: Yeah, I also like to do painting, and dabble in prose writing and ceramics. When we go camping I dig clay out of the lake and make little sculptures and fire them in the campfire. I also like making jam and orange peel candy.
My work day... I walk my younger son to school, then do a quick run around the block, do some pushups, have breakfast, read the internet & answer emails for an hour or two, draw a few hours with a break in-between for lunch, pick my son up from school, work a bit more, play with them... video games, drawing games of my own inventions, toys, have dinner, read the boys bedtime stories, and then either read myself something, play a video game, or work some more before bed. But it also depends on where I am in a given project.
After scripting a graphic novel I work very hard to finish it, but between projects I spend a lot of time just sort of puttering around in aimless confusion. It's good to have multiple projects going at once, so the in-between lulls are eliminated, but I always seem to lose steam a few times a year anyways and have to regroup.
*QUESTION: Rafael always has to work with music or a podcast going in the background and Jorge mostly works in silence (except he usually listens to John Williams' score from "Raiders of the Lost Ark" when he's plotting a new story to get in the mood). Do you listen to music while you work? What's in heavy rotation from your music library these days?
JAMES: I never listen to music while scripting, but I do listen while working on the finished art. Lately I've been listening to the Super Smash Bros soundtracks for Nintendo Wii U and 3DS, the soundtrack to the Nickelodeon cartoon Over the Garden Wall, a rock opera called Shiprock and Anchordog that I traded another cartoonish for at the MICExpo, and also a lot of Ariel Pink and old albums by Renaldo & the Loaf and the new album Evermotion by Guster and The Next Instead by a local band called Swale.
*QUESTION: What are you working on now?
JAMES: I'm working on a new animated cartoon for a major kids TV network. It's a new character I invented. I'm afraid they don't want me to talk about it yet. I invented a variation on Chess that I just started working with some guys to turn into an iPad game. I recently finished drawing the 3rd Glorkian Warrior graphic novel... but that won't come out until March 2016, and I just finished drawing Johnny Boo meets Dragon Puncher that should come out this June. I've written a bunch of songs that still need to be recorded. And I'm kind of puttering around drawing Elf Cat while I try to decide what my next major graphic novel project should be. Because I just finished work on two major books I feel like I'm in-between projects and have nothing to do... even though I probably have plenty to do.
Also, I have to do my taxes soon. I find it very hard to work on anything with that looming over me. Pretty much every winter and spring the approaching tax time throws a giant wrench into my creative process. I hate it, but I always do it all myself... no accountant. It's pretty much just simple math, but it's still emotionally draining. When you're self-employed there's all sorts of extra forms to fill out. I used to like to pencil and ink my taxes with a brush and india ink just like I do my comics... but that's rather insane so now I try to resist the urge. Turning my taxes into another art project seems like a gigantic waste of time, but there is some pleasure in it as well.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR - James Kochalka
James Kochalka is an American comic book artist and writer, and rock musician.
His comics are noted for their blending of the real and the surreal. Largely autobiographical, Kochalka's cartoon expression of the world around him includes such real-life characters as his wife, children, cat, friends and colleagues, but always filtered through his own observations and flights of whimsy.
In March 2011 he was declared the cartoonist laureate of Vermont, serving a term of two years.
by James Kochalka
Release date: March 17th, 2015
Published by First Second Books (Macmillan)
Genre: Middle Grade Graphic Novel
Format: Paperback, eBook
Oh, Glorkian Warrior. You were doing so well! You almost had that rampaging space snake under control - when Buster Glark, your villainous rival in the Glorkian Corps, showed up to make fun of you! He laughed so hard at your misfortune that he gave himself the hiccups.
And that was just on the first page of this book.
Things are only going to get worse from here, Glorkian Warrior.
Things are only going to get worse from here, Glorkian Warrior.
But we promise there will be plenty of pie at the end.
5 Questions with Kids Comics Authors Blog Tour is sponsored by:
Children’s Book Week, (May 4-10, 2015) – 96th annual celebration!
Children's Book Week is the annual celebration of books for young people and the joy of reading. It is the longest-running national literacy initiative in the country.
In 2015, official Children’s Book Week events – including appearances by beloved children’s book authors & illustrators, children’s open mic nights, read-alouds, book-themed costume parties, and much more – will be held in all 50 states. Photos from last year here. Event attendees receive complimentary and tote bags. You can see how the celebrations for 2015 are shaping up here.
Children’s Book Week is administered by Every Child a Reader (ECAR) and the Children’s Book Council (CBC) is the anchor sponsor.