Thursday, November 3, 2022

Mark Fearing Interview - Welcome to Feral

Photo Content from Mark Fearing

MARK FEARING has studied here and there, and worked there and here. He likes ice cream and he loves to draw. He lives outside of Portland, Oregon, with his family and shelves full of mostly well-behaved books.


Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
I write most often for kids. And I am happiest when I visit schools or teach drawing and writing and hear directly from kids about their excitement in reading. And not just my books. But the fact that they are partaking in this crazy, almost mystical exercise where someone can write a story and years later, no matter where the author is or you are, you can ‘hear’ what they have to say. I like encouraging students to create their own comics, books, movies, and video games. I enjoy seeing individuals spark to the notion of developing their work to share with others.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
When you work on a graphic novel you have the writing, obviously, and this includes the story/characters/plot/dialogue - all the issues you have in any novel, or screenplay. But then you add in the visuals which can tell even more story and in different ways than words. The most difficult part of working in this format for me is making them work together. Because neither individual element (writing, illustration) is the final work sometimes problems can be extra sneaky. I can really work myself into circles wondering if something’s not working because of the writing or if I am messing up the illustrations which include the character designs, panel pacing, composition, the choice of ‘shots’ or even the coloring. This can become a huge distraction and lead you down a lot of dead ends and waste a lot of time.

Has reading a book ever changed your life? Which one and why, if yes?
I was not a reader as a kid. I was busy drawing, riding horse, canoeing, making animated films, but I didn’t want to slow down to read. Until 8th grade when a teacher gave me Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Wizard of Earthsea. I loved it. Like, really loved it. I even started a graphic novel version of it, which lead to me trying to write other fantasy stories. After that I began to find authors, often through odd coincidence and luck that motivated me to keep reading.

Can you tell us when you started WELCOME TO FERAL, how that came about?
I wanted to create a middle grade horror graphic novel of some kind. My first drafts were a little dated feeling, but after a few weeks I had a half dozen stories that worked OK. I drew up sample pages and my agent sent them around. When my editor at Holiday House read them she came back with some notes, some thoughts on the structure, and she was dead-on. I revised and crafted them differently, dropping all but one of the original stories and this version of Welcome to Feral was born. The Feral you will read came from this back-and-forth with my editor. The turns in the stories and the world often surprised me as well as my editor.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your characters?
They don’t always do what you need them to! For me character is an interactive process. I wish I had a more academic approach, but I try and follow my characters into the story. I don’t always feel confident in that process as I am, for good and bad, a plot focused writer. But I must follow them and trust them once everything’s in motion. In book two in the series, we get to see a lot deeper into my main characters as they literally dig deeper into the mysteries in Feral.

Your Favorite Quotes/Scenes from WELCOME TO FERAL
Welcome to Feral introduces the reader to a place that’s as important as the characters. That’s why the endpapers are an annotated map of the town which is one of my favorite spreads. The story exposes our main character as an inquisitive, disciplined, curious girl who wants to get to the bottom of the fantastical stories people tell in the town. I have quite a few favorite scenes, but I am happy with the opening of the book where we meet Freya. It’s in an old tornado cellar that she uses as an office. I grew up in the Midwest, and tornados were a big part of the lore. I also remember the dusty dirt roads in the summer, the forests that held more mysteries than could be explored in a lifetime and the nights away from streetlights when it is so dark, you can’t see your hand in front of your face. I tried to bring the fun-fear I had as a kid playing hide-n-seek late at night in the summer when you’d break out of your hiding place to chase fireflies. Every one of the five stories in the book features visuals pulled from real experiences.

What is the first job you have had?
Probably washing dishes. Overall, a lot of restaurant type work in my life. I worked as a baker for 4 years while in college at a restaurants’ inhouse bakery doing breads, croissants, and pastries from scratch. I was offered an apprenticeship at a 5-star hotel as a pastry chef in training. I was very close to taking it when I was offered a job at an advertising agency.

What do you usually think about right before falling asleep?
I listen to audio books to fall asleep. It sometimes takes me weeks to get through a book because I fall asleep too fast and must go back to start the chapter again. I’ve always had problems falling asleep because my mind races with things I need to do, worries about projects or stories that are sticking in my head. Audio books are the best thing I’ve found to stop that.

If you could be born into history as any famous person who would it be and why?
I don’t know about what person I would want to be, but I would love to visit either ancient Athens around 540BC or ancient Rome in, maybe 3o BC. Spending even a few hours in either place would answer so many questions we struggle with today in trying to understand what day-to-day life was like then.

What is one unique thing are you afraid of?
Not properly dealing with regrets. I’ve always struggled with properly placing mistakes I’ve made or steps I wish I had taken (or not!) into the context that -everyone makes mistakes. I’m doing better with it, but sometimes I can feel myself tipping into an obsessive focus on perceived missteps in my life. I’ve learned ways to better cope with this and I hope I can keep these little mosquitoes of thoughts at bay.

How many kids will go missing before this town admits it's haunted? Find out in this freakily fun new graphic novel series!

Feral has everything a small town should have: Main Street, City Hall, a population just over sixteen thousand . . .

But Feral also has secrets. Mysteries. Unexplained disappearances.

In five spooky stories, an intrepid young resident invites readers to look a little closer at this scenic rural town. Are you game to investigate what's going on in Feral? If you pay attention, you might notice something where it shouldn't be.

Be careful, though. Whatever you do, do not go into the Messner Mansion. Don't say we didn't warn you!

With vibrant art, clever humor, and heaps of unsolved mysteries, animator Mark Fearing conjures a fearsome saga out of small-town terrors. The first entry in this inventive new series is sure to scare young readers silly.

A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection

You can purchase Welcome to Feral at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you MARK FEARING for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Welcome to Feral by Mark Fearing.

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