Barry Lyga Speaks! Meet the author of Mangaman
August 8, 2012 | Lamb | Comments (0)
Barry Lyga is the author of a number of Young Adult and teen novels (The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, Boy Toy, & Goth Girl Rising to name a few). Manga Man is his debut graphic novel. His books are exciting, fun and creative and we thank him for taking the time to answer a few questions for Word Out!
I wish there were! I wish I could tell you that there was something so awesomely cool and/or disturbingly depraved that we just couldn't let it go into print… But, alas, there's nothing. In retrospect, there are things I wish I'd ADDED to the book, but nothing was cut.
Probably Fanboy, from my first novel (The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy & Goth Girl). I always say that book was way more autobiographical than I should admit in public! Fanboy's life was very much like mine, only sadder and funnier…at the same time.
Where does your inspiration or idea come from? More specifically, what inspired you to write Mangaman?
Inspiration can come from anything. If anything, there's too much inspiration -- there are too many cool ideas, and not all of them make good stories. What's difficult is deciding which ideas are worth mining. Mangaman took a long time to go from "Oh, cool idea!" to an actual project. More than ten years ago, when the J-pop trend hit, I was working in the comic book industry. A friend of mine noted that bookstores were carrying manga, but comic-book stores resisted it. And I wondered if there was a way to get comic book fans and manga fans sitting around the same campfire, singing "Kumbaya" together. That's what I got the idea of a manga character in the "real world." It sat for a long time, because I can't draw. I knew I wanted to call it Mangaman, but it just sat there in the back of my mind. Then, a few years ago, my editor at Houghton Mifflin called and asked me if I'd ever be interested in doing a graphic novel. She was expecting Fanboy–Barry Lyga in graphic-novel form, but I feel like each story has its ideal form, and I didn't want to do a Barry Lyga novel in graphic form. So I thought back to Mangaman and started filling in the blanks. That's when I realized it had to be a romance to bring together the two different art styles. It's Romeo and Juliet with the genders reversed.
What were the challenges writing a graphic novel? How did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge is that you have communicate visually to your artist and trust that the artist will be able to turn that around and draw something that communicates your ideas to the audience. Ideally, the artist enhances your original ideas and story and makes a bigger statement than you could with words alone. So you're giving up a measure of control to someone else, and that's not easy for someone who's used to being in total control of the book! Here's a problem I ran into and how I solved it: In a novel, if you need to add or expand on something, you can just put in sentences or paragraphs or pages. But in a graphic novel, every page only has space for a certain number of pictures. You can't just add another paragraph. That would mean somehow making this page bigger than that page in order to accommodate more art! And you can't just add more pages to make up the difference -- your poor artist can only draw so much! Now, in the first draft of the book, Marissa was not as well developed as I'd wanted. But we couldn't just keep changing stuff and ever hope to publish it. So I finally had this epiphany that, "Dummy, this is a graphic novel. It's got pictures." So I hit on the idea of having Marissa wearing all these different, strange outfits. It isn't till she's happy that she dresses like a regular person. That communicated her discontent, made her visually more interesting to the audience…and it gave Colleen a lot of chances to have fun!
It's such an eclectic mix! I love THE GIRL WITH THE SILVER EYES by Willow Davis Roberts. One of my all-time favorites from childhood. I'm a huge fan of Joe Haldeman, an amazing science fiction author. In comics, it's guys like Alan Moore and Paul Levitz (who wrote my fave comic, LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES). And Stephen King was a big influence. But I'm also a complete and total English Lit nerd -- huge fan of John Milton, Edgar Allan Poe… I love old, old, OLD epic poetry, like BEOWULF and NJALSSAGA. It's a weird potpourri. :)
What advice can you give to young writers?
Don't be afraid to suck! It's OK to write something that's bad, something that's lousy, something that -- upon reflection -- you pray no one ever, ever sees. No one is born a great writer. It takes practice. It takes effort. It takes honing your skills. But if you're worried about writing something bad, you'll never write anything at all and you'll never get any better. So sit down and write something terrible. Then write something a little less terrible. Some day, you'll write something that isn't all that terrible at all! >
What are you working on now and will there be a Mangaman 2?
Right now, I'm working on my new series I HUNT KILLERS. The first book is out now and the second one comes out in April. As to a second MANGAMAN book… It's all a matter of timing. Colleen's schedule is crazy; my schedule is crazy. And it takes a really long time to do one of these. But we'd both like to do more. I already have the first scene of a second book written, so if our schedules allow, yeah, we'll probably take a swing at it one of these days!