Welcome back to Warrior’s Inn!
It’s been a crazy week here in the desert but I finally got time to deliver the next interview in our fall series to you our loyal readers.
Today we bring you a delightful back and forth with writer/artist Elizabeth Guizette. She is the creative force behind one of my faves, Out for Cookies and Souls as well as the fantasy comics Faminelands and her newest web comic, Lure.
WIC: Hello Beth, and thank you for agreeing to be interviewed for Warrior Inn's, the Inn in Independent comics! Okay, yeah, it's a lame tag line. ;)
So lets start with your origin story; what first attracted you to comic books?
GUIZZETTI: Prior to comics; I was a professional artist/muralist. My own work was not selling well, but I was making money doing baby rooms and churches. Work begot more work, but it was all the same kind of job. It paid well, but I was getting bored of it. I painted so many blue skies with little fluffy clouds... I realized that I was losing my technical skills and even my voice as an artist.
I have always loved horror and fantasy comics. Some of my favorites are the Walking Dead, Dracula vs. King Arthur, [and] The Forgotten Realms/Dritz books. I didn't know anything about how to make a comic and I wanted to stretch myself. So I told my husband that this elf story that I was writing for fun, might make a good graphic novel. It was the beginning of what would become Faminelands.
More than anything, it was a challenge. I had no clue what I was doing and made a ton of mistakes in my first book. Somewhere along the line of writing and illustrating The Carp's Eye, I realized that I didn't want to do murals anymore. This could be my full time job if I threw myself into the way I threw myself into being an artist ten years ago, but I needed help. I cannot self-edit.
I called Maria [Masterson]. She was pregnant with her first child and on maternity leave. I don't think, at that point, either of us knew that it would change our entire relationship. She agreed to proofread, and listen to me hash out my ideas, and a bunch of other stuff. Somehow, she understood that I was serious and became an integral part of the team.
I have written/illustrated two other graphic novels and then the comics. I find each book looks better and better and I am still learning, that more than anything keeps me interested.
PS I thought your tagline was funny.
Okay, now where we? Oh yes, you mentioned your graphic novels and other comics but before we dig into those I'd like ask about Z Bee. How did Z Bee Publications get its’ start and how did the name come about?
GUIZZETTI: OK, lets see where to start... I sort of did things backwards and I never really thought about my name or the company until I found out I needed to buy an ISBN for FAMINELANDS: THE CARP'S EYE since it was going to be a graphic novel. The only thing businessy I knew at all during that year was that FAMINELANDS: THE CARP'S EYE would be released at 1.ECCC '08 and I would have a good booth...and even a give away.
Yes, all that happened.
Since I had an art studio already the setting up of some of the business stuff was pretty easy, I didn't even need to get a new business license just filled out a DBA (doing business as) form for the state and city.
I wish I had a better story for this one - While I knew I was writing a fantasy adventure in Faminelands, I was also sure that my next book would be something else and I wanted a name that had longevity- so I figured making it as simple and all encompassing as possible. ZBee is a nickname my mom used to call me. I also like bees. They are useful and cute but not cutesy. It seemed appropriate.
WIC: Speaking of your next book (the one after Faminelands) could you tell us how you came up with OUT FOR COOKIES AND SOULS?
GUIZZETTI: After Faminelands #1, I wanted to create something much lighter, much more fun. I like to put things that are different together and I enjoy stories with moral ambiguity. Poodles dressed like demons; elfin mercenaries. Just like how I wrote Faminelands to be a story I would like to read - I write OUT FOR SOULS AND COOKIES primarily because I thought it was funny.
I was originally inspired by my husband. Together, we make up these epic adventures about our dogs as jokes - nearly as long as we’ve been married. (Before Rosie and Tycho - there was Ginger and her Golden Poodle Pelt) Anyway we were joking that once Tycho was the emperor of Rome.
(FYI: Dennis did not wish to be credited as a co-writer or concept editor or anything, because the comic was so removed from the original idea of the story we made up. When I asked him, he said I was being silly.)
The real Rosie and Tycho are litter mates. Rosie is definitely the brains of the pair. We are pretty sure she is going to take over the world. She trained Tycho to do things for her. She wants to eat, he goes into the kitchen, she wants outside, he rings the bell. All I can tell you is that she is hedonistic and too cute to be stopped, but she loves her twin.
Tycho has a kingly bearing and the poodle version of OCD. He takes these stuffed squirrels and lines them up in a row and chews off their ears. He only wants the ears. I would find lines of earless squirrels under my desk. It was like a zombie squirrel army or something. Tycho's obsession is how Lord Fluffcakes became part of the story.
Anyway we live in Seattle, my dogs love cookies and I am pretty sure demons love souls - so there you go.
WIC: I always look forward to your answers. They are never just answers but stories in of themselves. LOL.
Lets see now, that will bring us to LURE. Could you tell us a little about your new web comic?
GUIZZETTI: Lure is a horror story of two Stampeders, Jack and Tom, during the Klondike Gold Rush. They head north expecting to scoop gold from the rivers and instead come face to face with a family of sirens. It is to be released March 1st, 2011 and debut at ECCC '11.
What was fun about this book is I let the setting dictate the characters. Fortunately for me, the Goldrush Museum as well as the Museum of History and Industry are both close by. I asked my husband for a guy's perspective nearly a million times. I spent nearly 6 months researching and in the best possible sense I tried to make Jack and Tom men of their era. For example, when the book opens, Tom is 18. As a member of the working class, he has been a fisherman since he was 13. He is an adult and is treated as such.
I'm about two weeks away from Maria's final edit of the book, well what we think will be the final edit. I am sure she will find something that needs to be added or taken out. Last time, we did a mockup and realized we were missing a page due to a spread. Opps!
I really must learn to draw these things in order.
WIC: LOL. Yes, drawing things in order probably helps. You've been working with Maria for quite a while. Do you two always see eye-to-eye and how valuable to you find having an editor is to the whole creative process?
GUIZZETTI: We have always worked well together. I tend to be intense where she is laid back and vice versa. I don't have many artist friends close by and having someone to flesh out ideas with has been integral. She is a good listener; she knows how to ask questions to help me think of new ideas. I am able to take her criticism.
We have the same goal as a company, which is, to create books that interest us and stretch our skills. That being said, Maria and I do not always see eye-to-eye in every detail of the books.
If I love something and Maria has a negative reaction to the characters or the story lines, ultimately I make the final call. However often her concerns have made a story-line that much stronger, because it often just means I need to do more research or recheck a fact or explain something better.
WIC: Is there anything you'd like to share with our readers about entering the wide world of independent comics?
GUIZZETTI: If someone wants to enter the wide world of indy comics, I say go for it!
However, I will say the juggling of business and writing/drawing can be difficult, so be sure that you actually like to write stories, or draw, or ink etc. Be sure you are ready to pound the pavement for your books, because no one else will.
As an artist you need to grow a thick skin. Just remember, there are a lot of different genres, writing and art styles, not everyone is going to like yours and just because somebody hates it doesn't mean the next person isn't going to love it.
Get to know other artists and writers. We tend to be incredibly supportive; because we know how hard it is to do what we do. We cheer for each other and help each other find good sources for printing, getting bookmarks made, and whatever else...
Especially for independent comics - the profits are so low that more than one of us are on the razor's edge of folding any given year. Ask artists what mistakes they made in the beginning: I probably could list a handful of stupid moves that I made. Ask them why they choose the pencil they use or which paper or how to save money of poster pockets... or whatever you need.
It's great fun.
WIC: Okay Beth, what was the most educational blunder you've had since this adventure began?
GUIZZETTI: Well, Ben,
I have been trying to come up with the biggest blunder, but I can't. So I'm giving you four.
First off, I have no real regrets; but I do wish I had spoken to more people prior to jumping in. I wish I hadn't been so shy in the beginning, because the following lists are all things others would have shared:
1) Total inventory. My first run was 250. I made bookmarks, stickers, etc thinking I would hand them out to everyone who passed me by when actually only about a quarter of people were interested at a convention and that includes the people who just wanted a freebee. So I had tons of excess inventory in my one bedroom apartment.
2) The amount of inventory to carry to a show. We used to take everything we had in stock to a convention, we lost a lot to damages that way and if we are flying - books are heavy.
3) How to approach stores:
In '08 I did six conventions, but no other type of appearances. I wasn't in any comic book stores. Why? I did not know how to approach them. I emailed and called and rarely got a response, until one day Adam Watson [Darkslinger Comics] said, "hey you guys should go here and see if they want your book."
The idea that I could just walk into the store never occurred to me. Maria and I sold three books that day.
4) Finally this one, I just had to learn on my own:
Not only are Maria and I a great creative team, but we are also a great sales team. Doing non-local events without her has been the cause of more hassles than any other mistake I have made. (Funny I am saying this when I am going to Jet City this Saturday without Maria, but that's a one-day show, two miles from my house.)
When we went to San Diego in '09, we traveled separately. I did the first day alone and the second half of the last day alone. That was a huge mistake. Maria's luggage ended up being over 50 lbs on one side. That was 50 bucks down the tube. I was exhausted and by the time I left on Sunday. I couldn't get everything in my luggage. I ended up giving a display to a local and dumping 20 books of OUT FOR COOKIES & SOULS #1. Just handing them to random people as I walked back to my hotel, because I knew I couldn't afford another $50 overweight luggage fee.
In '08, I did APE in San Francisco. (Originally we had planned that she would go, but Maria could not get a sitter for the whole weekend.) I did the convention with my brother. He was great, but he did not look at this like a business trip. He even wore a badge that said Maria Masterson on it. It felt like I was constantly nagging. I didn't know anyone so I didn't feel comfortable approaching people to ask for help. And once again, I exhausted myself; between a days’ drive each way, a ten hour day, and a seven hour day.
On the other side, Maria can't do a con without me. It's a booth fee wasted. There is no way to say this without coming off as stuck up. One of the reasons, people buy books at conventions is to meet the artist and author, Maria gets a lot of flack from people who don't consider the editor important enough to talk to or feel she doesn't understand the process. (I wish I was making that up.)
WIC: I can see that as being true, editors rarely get the attention they deserve. This has been fun and educational, something I never thought I’d say when I was just a teen in high school. And speaking of editors, Maria was unable to join us for this Q&A due to being a bit to prego right now. I’d like to thank Beth and wish Maria good health!
But it’s time to get this posted up on the net, already a week behind, yikes!
1.Emerald City Comicon hosted in Seattle, Washington every year since 200?