We recently reviewed Warren the 13th & the All-Seeing Eye by Tania del Rio and couldn’t wait to see if she would be willing to be interviewed. We are proud to say she said yes. Enjoy!
Middle Grade Mafia: Do you think your work as a professional comic book writer and artist helped prepare you to write a middle- grade novel? How?
Tania del Rio: Oh, absolutely. I’ve always considered myself a storyteller, regardless of the medium, and working in comics for so many years has really helped me hone my writing abilities overall. One of my favorite parts of the process is world-building and populating the story with a diverse cast of characters who all have their own back stories and motivations – even if they’re not fully revealed in the scope of the book. Being an artist myself has also helped me write stories in a more visual way, which has been helpful for working on Warren, which is a very visual book. Another helpful thing is that my audience has largely been middle grade throughout. My work on “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” and on the illustrated novel “Diary of a Girl Next Door: Betty” were both aimed at a middle grade readers. It’s always been my favorite audience to write for!
MGM: What inspired Warren the 13th and The All-Seeing Eye?
TdR: The character of Warren itself was created by my friend Will Staehle, who also provided the book’s illustrations and design. We went to art school together many years ago, and that’s where Warren first came to be. Will and I were both big fans of the Victorian Gothic aesthetic, and we often collaborated on projects together. So while he worked on making Warren the 13th Victorian-style comic strips, I began working on an early novelization telling Warren’s story. I lacked experience at the time, so my earliest attempt to write a novel was rambling and unrefined, but certain elements and characters have survived over the years to make it into the book you see today!
MGM: The format of this book and the illustrations are amazing. Did you have any input to Will Staehle’s illustrations? Can you share with us how the decision to have a unique format for the book came to be?
TdR: The look of the book is 100% Will, down to the two-column design. He’s always been known for his illustration and design and this book is a perfect example of that. When we pitched the book to Quirk, the design was very much a part of the package and its appeal. Lucky for us, Quirk loves making beautiful books, and our editor and the art director helped bring the book’s packaging to another level.
Overall, the entire process was a collaboration between Will and I, so while Will was reading my writing along the way and sharing his input, I was also seeing his art as he worked on it, and giving him notes as well. However, his art is so amazing, there usually wasn’t anything for me to say other than, “Looks great!”
MGM: Will there be a sequel? Can you tell us anything about it?
TdR: There will be, and I’m working on revisions of the manuscript as we speak! It will be coming out in early 2017, but I can’t reveal much about it yet. BUT! I will tell you this: hidden in the first book are a series of subtle clues that, when strung together, will spell out a big hint as to what book two is about. So look for that if you want to be the first to know!
MGM: What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
TdR: My number one piece of advice is to read A LOT. I credit reading with being the number one thing that has helped me become a better writer. And it’s important to read a lot of different things, to experience different voices and different ways of storytelling. Read outside of your comfort zone, and don’t be a book snob – read classic and award-winning literature AND whatever thriller or romance is on the bestseller’s list. Read high fantasy and contemporary stories about people from different walks of life. Read non-fiction about any subject that interests you. My second piece of advice may sound obvious, but it’s to keep writing, even if you feel like what you’re writing is junk. We all have to start somewhere, and we don’t get better unless we keep practicing – just like anything else. Just look at my own example – I wrote an early draft of Warren over ten years ago that was pretty bad, but I kept writing anyway… and now it’s on shelves for people to read!
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