Monday, July 11, 2016

David Miller on his new children's book

by Mike Rhode

A few years back, I interviewed David Miller about his comic book work. He recently sent me a note saying that he has a new book out, so we did a new brief interview via email.

David Miller: I've just launched my first children's book and it can be ordered at Amazon. The title is The Headless Sister. It's about a young girl whose little sister gets all the attention because she has no head. You can see a 4 page preview of the book on its Facebook fan-page.

Mike Rhode: What's the book about? 

DM: It's basically a fantastical take on sibling rivalry. An older sister is jealous of the attention a younger sister gets. In this case the younger sister gets all the attention because she has no head.  And through it they learn timeless lessons like envy can't ruin love. That being different doesn't get in the way of being happy. And that they will always be sisters.

MR: Where did you get the rather macabre idea from?

DM: Macabre? I don't think it's any more creepy than the Addams Family. I always thought the Munsters were a typical TV family, while The Addams Family were GHOULS! (though hugely entertaining). As to the origins of the characters, I was just watching my daughters, who love each other dearly, fight like cats and dogs. And I would just go nuts and say "Will you stop?!? Will you stop treating your sister like a headless monster? Hmmmm. Headless Sister. That's an interesting image." And then the story just took on a life of it's own.

Harry Potter, in the beginning, was supposed to be children's literature and it was chock full of lurid elements. And the kids ate it up.

MR: Why did you decide to do it as a children's book rather than a comic book?

DM: I've wanted to do a children's book for years, but could never come up with a story that felt right.  I can only speak for myself, but I was never able to do a children's story until I had children of my own. I was the youngest of five kids, so I never looked down to see how little kids acted. I could only look up to the older kids. And they seemed to have very adult expectations leveled at them. Once I got to spend time with my own kids, I thought I came up with something that would be entertaining to children without talking down to them.

MR: Without having seen the book yet, I can't get past the 'headless' bit. Four of our five main senses are based in the head - how does she respond to life? She doesn't have a head somewhere else, does she? 

DM: This is a book about relationships. She responds to the world the same as any child who is different and has to adapt to the differences. In the next book, I show that she communicates with everyone through a language of interpretive dance that her family has developed a "vocabulary" for over the years. And while I don't necessarily mean for her condition to be a metaphor for a special needs child, I do think I've accidentally invented a metaphor, so new, that anyone can appropriate it. 

I don't describe the pseudo-science of her condition any more than Cousin It's condition was explained in The Addams Family. So, no, she doesn't have another head.

MR: How long did it take to do? Was there a long gestational period?

DM: The actual writing was completed rather quickly. As I said, the story kind of spun out with a life of it's own. The illustration took about 6 months from start to finish. That included studying children's illustrators, developing my own style for the children's market and then actually doing the interior art. 

MR: How did you do the art? Is it painted, drawn, or digital?

DM: I call the style for this book "controlled chaos." I drew on my 30 years in the cartooning industry and used whatever I thought would look best. I approached each page as its own individual piece of art. Whether it be hand-pulled, digital, dry medium, wet medium, whatever. I'm glad they all worked together under one cover. The foundation was my years in the comics industry where I learned my craft, combined with my study of children's illustration and balanced out with my caricaturing skills. Throw all that into a blender and an illustration style is born.
MR: Is Amazon the only source for the book?

DM: Technically, that's where it all starts, but it's also on the createspace platform and their subsidiaries and available to public libraries through createspace.

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