#100: Interview with Mark Fearing

Mark Fearing is interesting American author who is not only illustrator of children book. He does them but also adults can love his books because they can find there more deep thoughts. You will be very surprised by his story in "Earthling!". It is not just a grapchic novel for children; the story is more comprehensive and wide. "Earthling!" was published in the Czech Republic as first of Mark's works. For this occasion, I tried to contact Mark and want to do an interview with him. Mark was willing to do it and he provided some of his art, too. I hope that we will meet his books on Czech bookshelves in future. But now, it's time to our interview.

All published arts were provided by Mark Fearing and I thank him for this. Mark Fearing is owner of all rights to them.

Were you surprised how well "Earthling!" had been accepted and reviewed?

It’s always nice to hear good things about what you create! I am happy when people are excited about what I tried to do with "Earthling!". It’s a pretty big story compared to many of the younger reader books here in the United States. I have to remind myself that with any project I do, some people will like it, some won’t. But I get many letters from people who have read it and enjoyed it and that feels great.
The one of first paintings for "Earthling!"

"Earthling!" has many genre overlaps. It is a bit of comedy, dramatic, piece, sport story and of course sci-fi. Reader can find there social issues and interesting view on topics like racism, xenophobia. What was your first intention when you got the idea of creating "Earthling!"?

I write a great deal of science fiction and I was trying to create a big science fiction adventure that both young and old readers could enjoy. I didn’t want it to be too complicated, but I also didn’t want it to be so simple that the story didn’t have any surprises. With everything happening in the world today I think it is valuable to create stories that remind us that many of the difficulties we face are because of the fear we have of one another. And how some people can create fear and turn that fear to hate. Then we find we are willing to accept horrible actions to make us feel safe. But I also like to write comedy and I like to draw funny characters and poses. So even though I want to talk about some serious issues, I try and do it with humor and fun.
The Book That Eats People. 2009. Random House. Written by John Perry. Illustrated by Mark Fearing

You are not only comics author but illustrator, also film maker. What is your main love? What does interest you most?

I love writing and drawing books. I also enjoy making animated short films. But first and foremost I like sitting down and writing a story and then illustrating it, whether it is for a child’s picture book or an older reader comic book or graphic novel. It is hard for me to pick one thing. I greatly enjoy the creative process.
Page from work in progress - graphic novel "Robot Boys"

Could you tell us whether you had (and have) some favorite artists (not only in comics world) that influences you a lot?

There are so many wonderful artists and writers in the world! It seem like I can always walk into a library or bookstore and find wonderful work by people I have never seen before. Here in America I don’t always see the latest European comics, but many of my favorite cartoonists are working in Europe. Lewis Trondheim, Manu Larcent, Cyril Pedrosa are all currently on my reading list. Filmmakers like Hayao Miyazaki ("Totoro") and Chris Sanders (Directed "The Croods" and "Lilo and Stitch") influence me.
Artists whose work I know from picture books like Oliver Jeffers, Oliver Tallec, Louis Joos, Marla Frazee, Valeri Gorbachev, Pascal Biet, AnnaLaura Cantone, Lane Smith, Mo Willems. The list is diverse and long.
And there’s cartoonists like Sergio Aragones, Ronald Searle and from years ago Charles Schulz ("Peanuts"), Charles Addams and Edward Gorey who influenced me. There’s also an American poet and painter named Kenneth Patchen whose work inspires me.
Art from never published adventure story collection

Have you the Favorite One in your own works?

I wrote and animated a short film called "The Thing with No Head", which is probably my favorite project. "Earthling!" is pretty close and with a small press comic book released here in the United States called "Cenozoic".
Super Friends

Could you tell us what are you working on right now?

I am currently finishing a picture book that I wrote and illustrated that will be released next year in the United States. I am also starting two new picture books I will be illustrating written by different authors. I have also started writing and drawing a new graphic novel called "Quest". It’s based in a world of fantasy with wizards, trolls, and strange enchanted weapons. But it’s really a funny book and how the small things on a Quest, just like in daily life, can make things difficult and change your life. I am also working on several other picture books and graphic novels.
Work in progress - graphic novel "True North"

Can you describe us – in a short way – process of creating your comics? When do you start drawing? Do you make a lot of research? Who is your first critic?

I always have lots of stories in my head dancing around. I have to pick carefully because if I start too many things, nothing gets done! I like doing research, usually by reading other books, some historical. As I write a story that I think is bound for a comic or illustrated book, I will start to doodle and draw characters. By the time I am done writing and editing a story I usually have a very good idea of what the art will look like.
I have several friends who read my work and give me notes and my agent in New York also reviews my work and shares his opinion. This is very helpful, as he knows what the publishers are doing and what editors say about my work. So he knows where to go with my children’s books when they are ready for review by an editor.
I spend a lot of time on a manuscript before any editor at a publisher sees the work. Once it is ready my agent sends it to the Editor. Sometimes the editor likes it and they buy it, sometimes they like it, but don’t buy it believing that for some reason the story will not sell. Sometimes they just don’t like it! So you do a lot of work and most often you get a rejection. But you have to tell yourself that next time you’ll do better and sit back down and start again. I don’t know any other way to improve your work than to keep doing it.

Thank you very much!

Mark is always working on several projects and he let me to show you same pages on works he is doing now. First, pages from "Quest":

And last but not least, pages from book that is inspired by Mark's animated short "The Thing With No Head" (also work in progress):

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