Monday, June 24, 2019

Dylan Meconis Interview - Queen of the Sea

Photo Content from Dylan Meconis

I’ve been writing and illustrating my own stories since the first grade, and I’ve been making comic books since middle school (no, really! Seventh grade was a tough year for me socially, so I had a lot of time to draw). I started my first book-length comic (graphic novel) in high school.

Unlike a lot of people who become professional artists and authors, I didn’t go to art school or a creative writing program in college. Instead, I mostly studied history, literature, philosophy, and French in the College of Letters at Wesleyan University. This means I have a brain full of weird facts, old books, strange art, and the extremely useful ability to read The Tales of Canterbury in the original Middle English. Except for the Middle English bit, it’s all come in very handy for writing and drawing historical fiction and fantasy.

I first started to get paid for making comics when I was still in college, when my first graphic novel was published online. After college, I worked as a graphic designer and visual communications consultant (which means “person who helps teach adults complicated stuff in cool new ways using pictures”). I’ve worked with Fortune 500 companies, global charities, technology companies, libraries, and a lot of other interesting organizations. I’ve made illustrations, animations, information graphics and cool presentations, explaining everything from how microchips work to the ways that clean drinking water can help communities in the third world.

For the last ten years, though, I mostly work as a writer, comic book creator and illustrator! Sometimes I make books totally by myself, and sometimes I get to team up with other writers or artists. It can be lots of fun, but it can also be very hard work. Luckily, I never get tired of making new stories.


Age Range: 10 - 14 years
Grade Level: 5 - 9
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Walker Books US (June 25, 2019)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1536204986
ISBN-13: 978-1536204988


The art, reminiscent of Raina Telgemeier’s style, creates levity during perilous situations. The book is dense with dialogue, often feeling more like a work of prose than a graphic novel. As a result, this complex work will be more accessible to those familiar with graphic novels…Certain to charm sophisticated graphic novel devotees. —School Library Journal (starred review)

Meconis offers an atmospheric alternate history inspired by the childhood and succession of Queen Elizabeth I in this quietly ambitious graphic novel…Art in soft, earthy colors brings this singular story to life in styles ranging from simple line drawings to elaborately styled text illuminations. The island world is richly developed, both in its physical particulars and its close-knit community (fascinating digressions into topics such as convent time, hand gestures used at table, and chess and embroidery flesh out daily life), and Margaret proves herself an endearing heroine with a strong voice full of humor and wonder. Her perspective transforms a storm-wracked rock into a vibrant world of hidden treasures. —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Meconis’ humor and storytelling gifts here wed seamlessly with her evocative pen-and-ink and gouache illustrations, which are rendered in warm earth and sea tones and brim with movement, expressively capturing even Margaret’s interior monologues. With its compelling, complex characters and intrigue-laden plot, this will have readers hoping it’s only the first of many adventures for Meconis’ savvy heroine. —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Weaving faith, love, statecraft, and self-discovery into a tale of palace intrigue relocated to the halls of a convent on a remote island at sea, Dylan Meconis uses the trappings of the history we know to create a high-stakes adventure in an alternate past that feels so detailed and so familiar, you’ll find yourself wondering why you never read about it in school. This beautiful book swept me away from the first page.” —Kate Milford, author of the Greenglass House series

“Dylan Meconis is at the absolute top of her game. A gorgeously rendered, lovingly realized alternate history, full of personal revelations in the midst of political intrigue. A tale of growing up, and of understanding that the world is larger and stranger than it once seemed. (Plus it has a Terrible Recipe for Terrible Gruel.)” —Ben Hatke, author-illustrator of the Zita the Spacegirl series

“This is the book I was always trying to get my hands on in high school that never seemed to materialize. An adventure to lose yourself in, with an attention to historical detail to please the nerdiest among us. I fell easily and completely into this world and its characters, knowing I was safe in Dylan Meconis’s hands, and I’m really excited for more people to find out what I’ve known for a long time—that she is one of a kind.” —Kate Beaton, author-illustrator of Hark! A Vagrant

Can you tell us when you started QUEEN OF THE SEA, how that came about?
I started noodling with the story idea in 2012! I was thinking really hard about what sorts of things I truly love to draw. There’s so much work in a graphic novel – it’s almost guaranteed that there will be a bunch of it that makes you go “ugh.” 

So I asked myself: what would my dream story be? What would have the highest percentage of pages that I would be excited to write and draw? I love learning about historical settings and looking at the art that ordinary people made and owned during those times. I love drawing nature and animals. I love challenging myself to draw in multiple styles. I love stories set inside institutions like universities, monasteries, militaries, and close families – little closed societies! 

I love stories about how women and girls behave when there aren’t a ton of boys around. I love stories about kids on the edge of adolescence discovering their own strength. If you stir those all together, you start to get Queen of the Sea.

Are there any new Authors that have grasped your interest and why?
My studiomate Maria Frantz is an incredible young creator who recently released her debut graphic novel, The Chancellor and the Citadel, through Iron Circus Comics. Her artwork is simultaneously pretty and haunting, and her spare but emotive dialogue is a perfect match. The amount of subtle worldbuilding she does without ever succumbing to an info dump or resorting to a hyper-realistic style is really inspirational to me. I’m so looking forward to her next projects.

What do you hope for people to be thinking after they read your novel?
I always want readers to feel curious about the things that inspired the story. If a reader finishes Queen of the Sea and goes on to watch a documentary about daily life in Tudor times, or take a class in embroidery, or read a book about Queen Elizabeth I, or go tidepooling with a sketchbook…that’s exciting. 

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
My first thought was to put down a silly answer, like “my cat’s fondness for lying down on top of my keyboard,” but in truth, the biggest obstacle was that I was going through some tough mental health struggles at the time. Clinical anxiety can make it very uncomfortable to start any task, much less one where you have to sit down in one place for awhile and deliberately go wandering around inside your head. 

Comics script writing is also very picky and technical, with a lot of stopping and starting and switching between words the reader will see and words that will become images, so it’s harder to drop into that safe, delicious sense of flow that you can sometimes get when you’re writing prose. 

Ultimately, writing the script was very helpful; it gave me a daily task, and I had an outline to follow. I also knew that my characters weren’t having a very easy time in their lives, either. So we helped each other out.

What chapter was the most memorable to write and why?
I spent a lot of time on the very first chapter, where Margaret introduces herself and explains her life on the Island. A lot of it was plain old fun, like figuring out the geography of the Island and the design of the convent buildings, researching what breeds of domestic goats were popular in the Western Isles in the 16th century, deciding what job each nun would have. But the real challenge was that I don’t usually write in the first person. Writing the voice of a young person in a way that feels both authentic to her age and period-appropriate was an tough balance that I knew I would have to strike very quickly. 

So I pulled out my old journals and stories and cartoons from when I was Margaret’s age and reread some of my favorite books from that time, too. Writing that chapter was a bit like having a family reunion with my younger self and collaborating on a project together.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
For teens and grownups, the next thing of mine to hit the shelves will be the second volume of The Long Con, a ten-issue comic book/two book graphic novel series that I wrote with my friend Ben Coleman, with art by the incredible E.A. Denich, coloring by Maria Robado and Fred Stresing, and amazing lettering by Aditya Bidikar. 

It’s a very silly and cheerfully evil story about what happens when the Apocalypse strikes during a comic con and everybody is stuck inside for five years. The survivors start to form warring tribes based around their favorite shows and movies and books. 

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I would introduce Margaret to Princess Cimorene from Patricia Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles. I think they’d get along brilliantly and have a fantastic time talking about the challenges of dealing with princesses, scheming royal advisors, dragons (both real and metaphorical), and sewing lessons. Cimorene would probably have a lot of good advice for Margaret, and Margaret would keep Cimorene entertained with silly stories while they made a giant batch of Cherries Jubilee together. 

It’s possible I’ve thought about this before.

What part of Eleanor and Margaret did you enjoy writing the most?
I really loved the moments where one of them surprises the other. They’re both very smart and very observant, but they’re also both a little arrogant as a result. They underestimate each other! Eleanor thinks Margaret is a clueless bumpkin, and Margaret thinks Eleanor is a spoiled jerk. They spend a lot of time sparring with each other, and I enjoyed the moments where one of them lands an unexpected hit. It’s fun to have character take each other down a peg in a way that actually builds a relationship up insteading of demolishing it. Normally you write that dynamic as an enemies-to-lovers screwball romance, but writing it as a friendship was just as satisfying.

What book would you recommend for others to read?
I always try to recommend specific books to specific people – literary matchmaking is one of my favorite games! I especially love recommending graphic novels to kids. One book that sighted people of all ages can enjoy is Carson Ellis’s picture book Du iz Tak? 

There are very few words, but they’re written in a (very carefully) made-up language. Part of the fun is discovering how much you understand anyway. It really shows how powerful pictures are and how flexible language is, and it’s so fun to read it with kids who aren’t reading on their own yet, because it puts you on almost equal footing! It’s also beautiful and funny. 


  • 1) I once destroyed my glasses while performing a particularly vigorous dance routine/air-drumming rockout to the Buffy: The Vampire Slayer theme music. I was drawing an entire book at home alone over a long, dark winter, binging Buffy in the background, and I had a rule that every time the theme music played, I had to get up and dance. My hand caught the side of my frames and they flipped off my face, across the room, hit the edge of the dining room table and snapped in half. I now only buy titanium frames. 
  • 2) I live in Portland, Oregon, a few blocks away from an extinct volcano. It’s the only volcanic cone located inside of a city’s limits in the 48 contiguous states, and it’s a magnificent wooded park with views of the whole city. Visitors get very excited to see the caldera, and I feel a little bad when I tell them that it’s currently a basketball court.
  • 3) I compulsively name inanimate objects. I have an electric pencil sharpener named Lucinda. She was a Christmas present in high school, and she’s been extremely faithful. I named my first scanner Caligula, and I have regrets about that. 
  • 4) I absolutely suck at console games, but I love really nerdy computer RPGs. I’m particularly obsessed with Tyranny, which came out a couple years ago from Obsidian Entertainment. The premise is a total reversal of the usual “save the kingdom from the invading forces of the evil Dark Lord!!!” trope. The Dark Lord has already conquered the kingdom…and you’re one of their faithful commanders. It’s brilliant.
  • 5) I have an extra set of bones in my feet. I only discovered this by breaking one of them, which is typical of my approach to life in general.
  • 6) I wrote and drew my first graphic novel when I was 13. This is probably (…definitely) connected to the fact that I didn’t have many close friends at school that year. One of the bonuses of being an awkward weirdo: more time to practice your creative skills.
  • 7) I can do a perfect headstand, but I can’t walk in heels without (a) tripping or (b) looking like a flamingo with joint problems.
  • 8) I’m one of those introverts who needs twelve hours of silence to recover from a party at a friend’s house, but I absolutely love being on stage in front of a crowd of five hundred strangers. I love public speaking the way most people love rollercoasters.
  • 9) Whenever I’m out walking my dog, if I hear a hummingbird call from somewhere nearby, I cannot move on until I’ve spotted it. My dog loves to stop and sniff every molecule we walk by, but even he will get impatient with me after five minutes of scanning around for a bird half the size of an apricot.
  • 10) Nine is my lucky number.
Choose a unique item from your wallet and explain why you carry it around.
Buried in the back is a magnetic security card that lets me into the downtown office building that my studio collective, Helioscope, is located in. My studiomate Erika wrote a note on it that says “I love you Dylan! Please don’t abandon me!” She did this because I forget important things constantly, and I had left my keycard behind and locked myself out of the building so many times. But Erika knows that if you give an inanimate object a personality, it becomes alive to me. So now I never forget my keycard. It would be so sad! 

What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?
How to persuade my wife to make the coffee. We make coffee the exact same way, but hers always tastes better. Maybe because she’s made it for me, so I feel special. She’s a really cool person and she takes five minutes out of her busy day to make me a cup of coffee. 

What is the most important object you own?
My wedding ring. Our marriage wasn’t legally recognized at the time of our wedding. That was a terrible feeling, but now the law has caught up with us, at least in the United States. I only take it off when I’m making pie crust, because it has engraving and latticework, and the dough gets stuck inside. Not very romantic.

Which incident in your life that totally changed the way you think today?
I think a lot about the first time that an adult author told me that I could be professional writer. I took a summer creative writing class for teenagers, taught by the author and activist Robert Ellis Gordon. Or rather, he said: “you could do this, couldn’t you,” which is a little different. It was a really quiet and authentic way to tell me that it might be a genuinely good fit, and to encourage me to acknowledge it, too. I was very lucky in that all the important grownups in my life were excited for me to be creative and gave me a lot of praise and encouragement, but hearing that from him was somehow different. It felt like the first time I was being addressed as a peer instead of a precocious kid.

Cult graphic novelist Dylan Meconis offers a rich reimagining of history in this hybrid novel loosely based on the exile of Queen Elizabeth I by her sister, Queen Mary.

When her sister seizes the throne, Queen Eleanor of Albion is banished to a tiny island off the coast of her kingdom, where the nuns of the convent spend their days peacefully praying, sewing, and gardening. But the island is also home to Margaret, a mysterious young orphan girl whose life is upturned when the cold, regal stranger arrives. As Margaret grows closer to Eleanor, she grapples with the revelation of the island’s sinister true purpose as well as the truth of her own past. When Eleanor’s life is threatened, Margaret is faced with a perilous choice between helping Eleanor and protecting herself.

You can purchase Queen of the Sea at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you DYLAN MECONIS for making this giveaway possible.
10 Winners will receive a Copy of QUEEN OF THE SEA by Dylan Meconis.
JUNE 25th TUESDAY A Dream Within A Dream GUEST POST
JUNE 26th WEDNESDAY Triquetra Reviews EXCERPT
JUNE 28th FRIDAY Wishful Endings PLAYLIST
JUNE 29th SATURDAY Movies, Shows, & Books EXCERPT 

JULY 1st MONDAY Nay's Pink Bookshelf REVIEW
JULY 2nd TUESDAY Book Queen Reviews REVIEW 
JULY 3rd WEDNESDAY Sabrina's Paranormal Palace REVIEW
JULY 3rd WEDNESDAY Two Points of Interest REVIEW
JULY 5th FRIDAY Bri's Book Nook REVIEW
JULY 5th FRIDAY Crossroad Reviews REVIEW


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