Insight from Stephen Emond

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One of our very own Youth Advisory Board Members, Laura interviewed Stephen Emond. Stephen Emond is the writer of Young Adult novels, Happy Face and Winter Town as well as the comic book series, Emo Boy. Continue reading to hear more about Stephen Emond’s novels, life and writing techniques!
1. Tell us a bit about yourself! Who are you, besides an author and illustrator? 
BESIDESan author and illustrator? Darn, that’s my go-to. Let’s see, I’m in my early thirties, I think I had my first panic attack this week, I like most of the things I liked when I was a teenager still, I need lots of quiet time to write or work on my various projects. Umm. I’m similar to characters in my books, if you crumpled them all together it would equal a crumply version of me. I like neat things. My favorite seasons are fall and spring. I live in the northeast. I like bears and Mario.
2. Describe your book “Winter Town” in ten words or less.
Teens who grew up together see each other new.
3. Novel writing and illustrating are pretty different, but you’ve managed to combine them in your book “Winter Town”. Did you face any challenges trying to illustrate a young adult novel?
Not really in this go-round, I had a very clear vision of what I wanted. It was more difficult in HAPPYFACE as we struggled to keep a good balance of art and text, and to integrate them well. It was easy to write blocks of text and then paste in an illustration, but to have the text lead into the illustrations or have the art comment on the text in an interesting way took a few drafts of rewriting.It could be my comic book background but text and image just co-exist for me – I’m a very visual person.
4. How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing professionally since 2005 when I first had my comic  book series EMO BOY published by SLG Publishing. As a kid, though, my focus was always on art and wanting to become a comic book artist. The writing presented itself initially as a way for me to have something to draw. I did a comic strip series for years that I would print out and send to friends every month that I think taught me the basics of writing – each strip has a beginning, middle, and end – and as i went on I would often do longer stories and full issue stories. So by the time I had the idea for EMO BOY I felt pretty confident that I could handle a 24 page story. And by the time I’d done EMO BOY for 2 years I felt confident I could handle a YA novel.
5. You’ve written and illustrated quite a few books/comics. Is there any particular one that you love the most, or are most proud of?
I would have a very hard time picking one, I feel they are all very close to me. It always feels funny even when a fan prefers one book to the other because I feel they all come from the same place. I suppose I wish EMO BOY had gotten a more fair shake, it was my first big-time project so I was still learning how to write and there are things I wished I’d done different, but I do love those characters and the meloncholy tone of the stories. I wrote a screenplay for an EMO BOY movie that we tried to get made for a couple years that I’m really proud of, but unsure if I’ll ever get to share it. I felt like in that screenplay, all the characters really came into their own and strong themes I hadn’t even known I’d been digging at emerged.
6. “Winter Town” is published by an imprint of Hachette, one of the “big six” publishers. Your other book, “Emo Boy” is published by SLG Publishing, an indie publisher. How have your experiences differed working with the two companies?
There’s a pretty big difference. With SLG, it was a very hands-off approach, you’d give them a summary of what you planned to do ahead of time, wrote and illustrated your story, and handed it in – edits were often minor and it was a fairly pure vision. With a company like Hachette you have your editor and your editor’s boss and entire teams of editors, countless proofreaders, sales teams. You have to think strongly about your audience and what it is you’re putting out there, you have to think about how the book will be marketed. If I had written any of my books without my editor they’d have been VERY different books. Even happy-go-lucky HAPPYFACE had some disturbing blood-soaked scenes that were quickly cut out! It may sound like I’m complaining but I enjoy it – I get a lot of edits and do a lot of rewriting but my editor is brilliant and often knows what I’m trying to say before I know. She makes the book far, far better.
7. Do you have any writing “quirks”, or an interesting writing process?
I think my quirks are pretty common quirks. I like to have music playing as I write, but it can’t have words or I’ll get distracted. So I listen to a lot of indie movie soundtracks, jazz, anime soundtracks, classical music. I have a playlist that I’ve used for years now and I just associate the music with “time to write.”
I like to go out to write in cafes too, but sometimes it’s too loud or crowded and I’ll just turn around and go home. I just finished working on my “office” in my apartment, I have a little writing desk and lots of art on the walls and all my books. I’m sitting in there right now and finding I can focus pretty well.
8. Are you working on any other novels/comics?  If so, can you tell us about them?
I’m working on a few things – I started a video game company with a friend of mine that’s a programmer, we call it TACO GRAVEYARD. Our first game THE FOUR HATS should be out soon, I did all the art and animation, basically anything you see on screen, and my friend designed all of the levels and programmed it. We have another friend that is a great musician working on all the sound. That’s being submitted to the iPhone app store very soon. We have a second game I worked on a lot this year that’s very story oriented that I wrote for and animated, hopefully that’ll be out in a few months. That project is a bit of a “return to comics” for me that’s been really fun.I’m also working on a book pitch for a followup to HAPPYFACE and WINTER TOWN. It’ll have more art in it and won’t stray too far from what I’ve done, but I have some really clever ideas that I don’t think have ever been done before, some of them have me cracking up as I write them so I can’t wait to get that project moving. My agent and editor are both on board so hopefully within the next month I can get approval to sit down and write the whole thing.
9. What advice do you have for aspiring young writers? 
I do, I know a lot of talented people and I know a lot of people that want to write books and make movies and draw comics, but I know very few people that actually DO those things. They mostly want a contract to fall into their laps without doing the work. If you want to write, you need to write. You need to LOVE writing – if you think it’s just a way to make money, you aren’t going to make a penny, invest in some stocks. If you LOVE writing, then WRITE. Nothing should be able to stop you. And if you love to write, and you write, you’re going to get good, if you’re good, you’ll get published. I never had a day where I decided I’d become a writer or an artist, I just kept doing the things I’ve loved to do since I was a kid, and eventually I got alright at it, and when opportunity came, whether that’s meeting the right person, or just getting the right idea, I was ready for it. If I had thought up EMO BOY but my art sucked and my writing sucked, I wouldn’t have been published. My STEVERINO comic strip may not have been my life project like I had thought it would be, but it prepared me for an eventual career. So my advice is to do it if you love it, and don’t if you don’t.
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