Blogs by L.T. Suzuki
John Kolson Interview
8/21/2011 7:16:49 AM
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Graphic novelist, John Kolson discusses his latest project and the writing life!
LTS: Iíve been making author features a regular part of my blog, but for the first time I am featuring a writer who specializes in graphic novels. Meet author extraordinaire, the multi-talented John Kolsun! He is the creative mind behind ReShoot!
Iíd like to begin by having you share a little information about yourself with our readers, John. When you are not working on this graphic novel, what are you doing?
JK: Iím a big fan of movies, TV shows, video games, and literature, so when Iím not working, Iím usually playing around with one of those things. If Iím not doing that, Iím usually hanging out with friends. Itís been nice around here so I enjoy going on walks while thereís still sunlight, and the gym is a necessity since most of the work I do involves me sitting down for long hours.
LTS: I know you work in post-production on films amongst other things. How different is the creative process as compared to producing a graphic novel?
JK: Post producing films means that you have to make sure that what youíre shipping to the public has literally no errors. In my job, if a DVD menu ships, and thereís one typo anywhere, that means that the DVDs could be recalled, and it could cost thousands of dollars. Even if the typo isnít necessarily a huge part of understanding the entire movie, it can be recalled. You have to make sure that what youíre putting out there is perfect. If itís not, someone will catch the error, even if you donít. And if they donít consciously, they will subconsciously. In movies and in graphic novels, what the mind does behind the scenes can majorly affect the overall experience.
LTS: What got you interested in creating a graphic novel as opposed to a traditional novel?
JK: Thatís a difficult question, since this idea first started off as a film script, then went to a novel, and finally into a graphic novel. Iím not disappointed itís not one or the other. I believe all three to be closely intertwined in nature, since I enjoy and would like to produce all three (novels, films, and comics). The reason why it didnít become a film was because I wanted complete control for this project. If it was a film, I donít think I would be able to create everything my imagination wanted to. It would be too expensive. Especially for someone starting out. The reason why it didnít become a novel was simply because I didnít know how much of a market there would be for a twisted superhero genre like ReShoot. I knew that genre existed in comics already. Also, in the form of graphic novel your imagination can go anywhere as long as the artist can draw it, which is not always true with films.
LTS: Can you explain to our readers what the difference is between a graphic novel and a comic book?
JK: I think itís all semantics at this point. Some would argue that graphic novels are stories that donít deal with your typical superhero fare, like Superman, Spiderman, and X-Men for example. Others would say that graphic novel means that itís a one shoot. Or it has more pages yet goes through less issues as a regular comic. In this case, comics would be around 23 pages and are spread out through issues every so month. A comic would be an ongoing series, while a graphic novel is a closed story. The line has certainly become blurred as ongoing series have been published in hardcovers. I think at this point they pretty much mean the same thing.
LTS: Letís discuss your graphic novel, ĎReShoot Volume One: Death on the Dance Floorí. What was the inspiration behind this story and can you tell us a little bit about your protagonist?
JK: The idea came to me about five years ago, and has been one Iíve wanted to do for a long time. The main inspiration probably came from watching the movie Boogie Nights one too many times. I loved the whole celebrity falls from grace story. I had two other ideas, which were much easier, and everyone in my screenwriting class thought I should write them instead. I chose to develop the more difficult idea of ReShoot. It started off with Sugar White, the main protagonist, a rapper who gets lost in fame. Then it grew to an ensemble of celebrities I wanted to write about. Finally, after years, I was inspired to make them even more out of this world, and made them into superheroes. In Sugar Whiteís case, I had him survive a hit on his life and gave him a supersonic glove for his revenge.
LTS: Without giving away spoilers, can you reveal whatís in store for the readers when they crack open ĎReShoot Volume One: Death on the Dance Floorí once itís published?
JK: I think youíll want to keep turning the page. Itís an introduction to the world, but at the same time, it will leave you wanting more. Iíve already shown people the first five pages, and they say, ďI want to see what happens!Ē If I have them asking that, then Iíve done my job. That means itís something new, and fresh. However, itís still enjoyable in the traditional sense of a crime drama. This is just the beginning, and I hope you can see that I have much in store in how this world will unfold.
LTS: Most are familiar with Marvel and DC Comics. Is there a reason why you are opting to produce your graphic novel as an indie rather than publish ReShoot through the traditional means?
JK: Honestly, Iíve not been asked by Marvel or DC, but the reason why Iíve not pushed very much is that I like my freedom. This idea has never been one Iíve been concerned about making money from. I just wanted to get my idea out of me. I wanted to share it, and I spent my finances paying for it through my own pocket. If it hasnít made any one else happy, itís made me happy at the very least. It will get out there. The only thing Iím concerned about is getting enough money so that the series can be finished. Without a publisher, I have absolute control right now.
LTS: Iíve had some people tell me my Imago Fantasy series would make for a great graphic novel. What are some of the elements in a story that would make it ideal for this medium?
JK: Theyíre right! I would say if it could be a great film, it could be a great graphic novel. I donít want to say that a great piece of literature without a lot of visual descriptions couldnít be a great graphic novel, but itíd certainly be easier to make a great graphic novel out of writing with great visual descriptions. It would also be easier if the novel was plotted more like a script than what is going on in a characterís head. But I donít want to disregard the power of the graphic novel, since itís basically a novel with accompanied illustrations at its core. The distinction is merely peopleís preconceived notions of the mediums.
LTS: The artwork on ReShoot is incredible! How does one even find artists to create these images that make up a graphic novel?
JK: There are a lot of artists out there who need work. Itís just a matter of posting to the right websites in order to find them. Once youíve found the major websites they frequent, youíll get a lot of replies if youíre willing to actually pay them for their work. Try PencilJack.com, Digitalwebbing.com, ConceptArt.org, and look on social networks. Post an ad for an artist. Youíll get replies. Just make sure you chose the right one.
LTS: Help our readers understand this creative process. Do you write the story first, and then rough out the images? Or do you write the story and create the images in tandem, or am I completely off base?
JK: The script had already been written for issue one. Then I gave the artists at Robekka Studios descriptions of important characters in the graphic novel, such as Sugar White. They did sketches of the characters. After that, they followed the script, which says what should be in every single panel on the page. They would send me an inked page back and if there needed to be any revisions. Theyíd revise it or else color it. We did this back and forth process over and over again. After that, I had to send it over to the letterer Ed Brisson, in order for him to put actual text in. Usually in graphic novels, thereís four separate jobs; penciler, inker, colorist, and letterer.
LTS: Very cool! Itís much more intricate than I first thought. Now, when the artists begin their work, how involved are you in terms of artistic direction? Is it a very hands-on process?
JK: Itís almost like reverse pictionary. Youíre thinking of an image, and you have to make them draw it down on a piece of paper using only your words. The closest you can get them to draw from your imagination the better youíre doing. Every page has to be approached like a new piece of art, and you canít approach every page the same way. Some descriptions 90% of the population will have the same image in their heads. Others, and you really have to describe little details. I usually am very hands on, but not overbearing. If I put a description in it is absolutely necessary.
LTS: Youíre in the midst of raising funds to publish volume one. How can our readers help fund the project to make it a reality?
JK: Check www.ReShootComic.com and see whatís happening on the website. If a campaign is under way, help us out. I know for a fact that the first issue has been inked and colored. All thatís needed is for it to be lettered, so it will soon be available digitally! If you could buy it, and read it, and help spread the word, then we can get more published. The idea is intended as an epic series, and Iíd love to be able to complete it.
LTS: Iím curious about your writing style as you prepare episodes of ReShoot. Are you one of those disciplined writers who must dedicate a certain time each day to producing so many words, or are you more relaxed and tend to write when it strikes your fancy?
JK: I can do either or, depending on the situation. If I donít have a deadline, I prefer to write when inspiration strikes. The interesting thing about writing for graphic novels though, is sometimes you have to write no matter whether you feel like writing or not. The artist might come to you and want you to describe a scene. Or you might get an idea for another promotional art piece, and you have to get that description to the artist right away so he can begin his work. When thereís tight deadlines, I tend to head on back to writing so many words per day.
LTS: Still on the subject of writing styles, do you tend to plot out your story line in great detail or is your writing is more organic with the characters dictating what happens and events unfold as you write.
JK: I brainstorm and hunt for inspiration for weeks or months. In this case, I was letting the ideas come for years. I knew the main story and what I wanted the beginning to be, and what I wanted the ending to be. Then I knew different plot points that needed to happen here and there. After awhile, I fleshed out an outline. The fun part is writing what comes in between those plot points, but I also allow the story room to grow and change as Iím writing. Nothing is set in stone. Iím just headed towards where I would like to go, but if something strikes me as brilliant, it shouldnít be disregarded just because it doesnít follow the outline.
LTS: Some authors meditate, others need to fuel up on coffee or listen to music. Do you have any rituals, ones that can be shared with the readers, that you must do before you hunker down for a writing session?
JK: I used to be a huge coffee drinker, but I came down with a bad case of acid reflux. I used to meditate, but now I donít have enough time to do that. Now I just feel the clock ticking for me, and I do it because if I donít do it, I feel like Iím letting myself down. Iíd say, take a look at the blank page in front of you, and if it doesnít make you feel like youíre letting the world down, you had better get a cup of coffee. Once that doesnít work for you, hopefully youíll have no other choice.
LTS: At one time or another, most writers hit the wall and their work stalls because of the dreaded writerís block. What do you do to get around or over this mental wall to resume writing?
JK: This usually means you didnít spend enough time in the beginning brainstorming, or allowing your subconscious to play around with the ideas. Go out and consume ideas. Every great writer has been a great reader. Honestly, writer block has not been a problem for me recently, since Iíve begun to feel like if I donít write I might be missing out on something great.
LTS: What is your favorite comic/graphic novel and why?
JK: My favorite graphic novel is Watchmen. I donít know what to say other than that Alan Moore is brilliant. Other than Watchmen, I like the series 100 Bullets written by Brian Azzarello. Just an amazingly written story with great illustrations. Itís going to become a Showtime series soon.
LTS: Do you have a favorite superhero and why is he/she your fave.
JK: Growing up, Iím sure every kid would say Wolverine, and yeah, that used to be mine. After awhile, I started to realize how great Spiderman really was. I think heís a great superhero because he doesnít need to be dark like some of the other heroes. When I think of ďgood guyĒ I think of Spiderman. Yet, heís not cheesy or over the top. Heís down to Earth, but not boringly so. Heís so well rounded he seems like he actually exists as a superhero.
LTS: Just out of curiosity, if you could have one super power, what would it be and why?
JK: I think most superpowers would drive you crazy after awhile. Thereís a reason why we donít have them, but Iíd say, teleportation. Just because I hate waiting.
LTS: Who is your favourite comic book/graphic novel creator and how has he/she inspired you to create your own graphic novel?
JK: Alan Moore, because you can tell he really loves to write. He has passion for writing, and a respect for it, which is inspiring. He believes in the power of stories. That is how he inspired me, because he actually cares about the strength that stories have.
LTS: What do you foresee in your future over the next five years and do you hope to branch out from graphic novels to writing for film or a traditional novel? Can your eager fans expect to read ĎReShoot Volume One: Death on the Dance Floorí in the near future?
JK: I really want to do it all. I already have scripts plotted out, more graphic novels, and I really have a great idea for a novel that ties into the world of ReShoot. You can expect another big project headed your way just in time for Halloween. Iíll be announcing it soon, and Iím very excited about it. Also, Iím pleased to announce that fans should be able to read ReShoot very shortly, in one or two months. Thereís so much to do right now. I canít even imagine what five years will be like. I canít wait for fans to get their copy of ReShoot!
LTS: Thank you so much for taking the time to discuss your works and sharing in your writing experiences, John!
For more information about John Kolsun and his works, check out:
Follow John on Twitter: .ReShootComic
Where to fund the production of this graphic novel: http://www.reshootcomic.com
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