An Interview with Sina Grace and Librivox Update

Sina Grace

Sina Grace

[Click on title or photo for interview]

Sina Grace is an artist and illustrator who has published Cedric Hollows in Dial M For Magic, about a sorcerer sleuth in Orange County, and is working with S. Steven Struble on The Li’l Depressed Boy. Most recently he has illustrated the book Among the Ghosts, written by Amber Benson.

In this interview he talks about how he became an artist, what he considers his art style to be, what instruments he likes to use, what it was like working with Amber Benson and Simon and Schuster on Among the Ghosts, and what he’s working on next. He also reveals his favorite TV show and movie.

Among the Ghosts


In other Librivox news, I finally buckled down and committed to a new book project on Librivox. It’s called The History of the Atlantic Telegraph, by Henry M. Field, and is my first nonfiction recording. I’ve certainly been enjoying it so far and am already six chapters into the recording. You can keep up to date on my progress with this recording here.

Until next time, keep reading.

Alex C. Telander.


The Li’l Depressed Boy Among the Ghosts: An Interview with Sina Grace

Sina Grace

Sina Grace

Sina Grace is an artist and illustrator who has published Cedric Hollows in Dial M For Magic, about a sorcerer sleuth in Orange County, and is working with S. Steven Struble on The Li’l Depressed Boy. Most recently he has illustrated the book Among the Ghosts, written by Amber Benson.

Alex: When did you know you wanted to be an artist?

Sina: I think the real question is: when did I know I want to be a storyteller?  I kind of always knew I never had the chops to call myself an artist, because my sister studied it so formally and was in rigorous art programs from high school through graduate school… but to get to the short of it: I was re-drawing and re-telling fairy tales and fables at the age of four on old Xerox paper.  I was always drawn to stories.  Further proof: in fifth grade, my intended career was “comic book illustrator.”

Alex: Who are some of your heroes who influenced you?

Sina: Right now, I die over Craig Thompson.  I look at the work he and Chris Ware do- and by hand at that- and it reminds me that I can always push harder.  I fawn over the artists of the Die Brücke movement (the only time I’ll be super snobby!).  Then there’s Arthur Rackham, and nowadays I absorb all of the Skybound artists: Cory Walker, Ryan Ottley, Charlie Adlard, Jason Howard, Ransom Getty, etc.  Seeing their artwork day in and day out shapes how I draw.

Alex: What was the first book you published and how did it happen?

Sina: In high school I did a zine called The Roller-Derby Robo-Dykes vs. The Cannibals.  It was partially as a project for my econ class, and then it was also to prove that I could finish a comic from start to finish.  I think PRISM has a few copies of it.  I actually did two printings of that book!

Alex: Do you like to write as well, or do you prefer doing artwork?

Sina: If I have a story to tell, I will go out there and tell it.  The past year I’ve really dedicated myself to working with other writers and telling their stories, and it’s been sincerely great, and helpful in learning how to write for myself.  At the end of the day, I would rather be my own boss, but being someone else’s employee helps my work ethic.

Alex: How would you define your style?

Sina: Amateurish!  Hah… I would say cartoony with attention to little details.

Alex: Do you have a preference to what tools you like to use?

Sina: I use micron pens, smooth Bristol boards, and my life would be over if I ever lost access to these Pentel brush pens a classmate showed me during a life drawing lesson.  Seriously, it’s like having a decent brush that you can take with you anywhere!

Alex: How did you get involved with Amber Benson and Among the Ghosts?

Sina: We had been friends for a few years, and she had gotten me Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials for Christmas one year.  As a thank you, I did a drawing of the protagonist Lyra with her polar bear buddy Iorek.  She liked it so much, that when she decided to push forward with pitching Among the Ghosts, she called me and asked if I would do a few pictures with the proposal.  That afternoon I started doing a ton of drawings of this little girl I hadn’t met, and all the ghosts she would be attending school with.

Alex: What was your process for illustrating the book?

Sina: Amber sent me the first draft of the novel, and I found moments that spoke to me, or that seemed interesting to have visualized, and would doodle those out for her approval.  To her credit, she has never once rejected anything (if you can, do a book with Amber, it’s the best!).  Once we had editors, they had me send a list of illustrations I wanted to do with short descriptions.  Once those were approved, I sent in detailed sketches.  There would be some back and forth on notes, and at that point I would work on the final art board.  We got lucky because our editors loved the book and only wanted to make everything as awesome as it could be, so their notes were sincere and only made the book better.  They saw what Amber and I were trying to do, and they were not working against that.

Alex: Do you confer a lot with the publisher and/or with Amber Benson

Sina: In general, or with the book?  Heh!  In both regards: yes.  I love the people I worked with at Simon and Schuster, and it was super rewarding to have them guide the illustrations.  Same goes for Amber.

Alex: How would you compare illustrating a novel to doing a comic?

Sina: A novel was a lot more work because there were more people to answer to.  In comics, I’ve either self-published, or been a part of anthologies, or worked with Image… and every single one of those avenues is very hands-off.  A novel allows you to do awesome illustrations and work around your weaknesses because you’re selling single iconic moments, whereas comics demand a certain fluidity and ability to draw EVERYTHING.

Alex: Do you know if there will be a sequel to Among the Ghosts?

Sina: I can’t say yet.  People seem to like the book, and the drawings, so my hope is that I will be involved if there is a sequel.

Alex: Can you talk about your future projects?

Sina: I have a new comic book series I am drawing coming out February 9 from Image Comics called The Li’l Depressed Boy that I’m super excited about!  Then I am working on a new graphic novel called Not My Bag, which chronicles retail hell in a very Black Swan fashion (pun intended).

Alex: If you had the choice, what would you like to do most in your work?

Sina: I want to continue doing the kind of stuff I did in Among the Ghosts, where the lines were dense, and the art was still whimsical.  Honestly, I don’t know how I pulled off some of the stuff I did in that book.  Blame it on the author.

Alex: What do you like to do in your spare time?

Sina: I go to coffee shops and draw.  Hobbies and stuff include reading books, and going to concerts and stuff.  Also, I’m that Los Angeles guy who loves seeing movies in the theatre and making a night of it.  Pretty lame stuff.

Alex: Do you have any advice for up and coming artists?

Sina: You’re always a student.  There’s no questioning that.  The minute you admit you have more to learn and are willing to work on improving—that is when you will actually make leaps and bounds.

Alex: What is your favorite TV show and/or movie?

Sina: I loved Pushing Daisies.  That show is the perfect example of how you can push every single aspect of your production – the music, the sets, the costumes, the acting- to the limits in order to create the best looking product.  R.I.P.

As for movie… Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, without a doubt.
Among the Ghosts

An Interview with Andrew Gross (February, 2011)

An Interview with Andrew Gross

Andrew Gross

Andrew Gross is the bestselling author of Reckless, Don’t Look Twice, The Dark Tide, and The Blue Zone. He has also co-authored a number of bestsellers with thriller-writing machine, James Patterson, including Judge & Jury and Lifeguard.

Alex C. Telander: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Andrew Gross: Well, I wrote in high school and college- edited my literary journals at both, but when I graduated I got sucked into the business world, got an MBA, ended up running a couple of large, apparel companies, and never thought in that direction again for twenty years, just trying to single-mindedly succeed in the business world as best I could. Of course, the way business people end up writers is they either cash-in big or get fired and my way was the latter! I guess I always carried the flame—you know, like a million people: if I ever find six months I’m gonna write my novel . . .  And when the time hit and I had no plan for the next stage of life, I brought forth an idea—a political conspiracy novel about an NRA takeover of the White House; married it with the sudden opportunity, and began to get the sense: “I can do this, Andy!”

Alex: What was the first thing you got published and how did it happen?

Andrew: Well, I probably have the most unique path into the business you’ll ever read. I had a #1 bestseller, a movie in the works, and a pretty lucrative contract before I had ever published a word on my own! Of course, all that was due to writing in partnership with Jim Patterson. The aforementioned political conspiracy novel got close, but never quite made the cut. It did, providentially, fall into the hands of Patterson through the head of his publishing house, and even more providentially, he called me up and told me, “You have the goods!” We met, and he said he could tell me how to fine-tune the book and maybe re-submit, but then he described an idea he had for his own new series about this female homicide detective who forms a bond with three other women…. and the result became First to Die and it went on to #1 and became the foundation of the second largest selling crime series in America—after Alex Cross.

Alex: When co-writing a book, how does that work exactly?

Andrew: Well, it probably works differently with every partnership, but in my case, each book idea came directly from Jim, via outline. The rest was a combination of what we did to it, but it’s safe to say when there’s a big name on top and a little name underneath, the little name is doing much of the lifting, except in my case, the names grew equal in size after three books so that complicates my answer. Fair to say they all started with Jim and ended with Jim, as he had last draft. And in between, I felt I made a pretty fair contribution to all our books that was enough to get me some recognition when it was time to go my own way.

Alex: What are you working on next?

Andrew: Well, I’ve written three straight books based in Greenwich Ct and set around a central character of Ty Hauck, a rugged, down to earth, totally tenacious detective in the land of the super-rich and powerful, but this next book will be a break from him. It’s set in central California and is a totally personal story built around two real experiences in my life: the very sad suicide of my nephew last year—a troubled kid who jumped off the Morro Bay Rock; and a chance meeting when I was a kid with none other than Charles Manson. In between, there’s a lot of stuff about the Sixties; sons fighting against their fathers; the garment business; and a thirty year old vendetta by a cult killer against a family. It sort of harkens back to the Blue Zone, my first book, about an ideal family put in peril by an old blood oath. Like I said, it’s very personal and filled with dozens of family anecdotes and lore, and so far, most seem to think it my best so I may well stay in that vein—personal, family based, emotional– going forward.

Alex: Do you have any advice for writers looking to get published?

Andrew: Well, there’s always advice, but maybe not good advice. Or advice one might want to hear. It’s not a fast or easy process—the field is tilted against. I think the biggest problem new writers face is wanting to rush their book out sooner than it’s ready. I know I did. And of course, like in business, that first contact is probably your best shot and you don’t want to blow it. Writers have to have the doggedness and patience to stay with their books and make them the best possible product. All the good material in mine comes in the rewrites! And sometimes, dozens of times until you hit it right! I used writers programs not to learn how to write, but to measure myself and my progress until I felt if they thought I was ready, maybe I was. Of course, the new wave to digital makes the traditional road all the more difficult, but it does level that field just a bit and give writers an opportunity on their own to find a forum and a platform, if – a big if – they can find an audience! Anyway, it’s a daunting process and the rewards are not always there, even once you connect—so you better love the process and have a wife with a good day job! Of course mine was a yoga teacher, so I had to make it work! See, not necessarily what anyone might want to hear.

On the positive side, conferences like Thrillerfest and Bouchercon do give aspiring writers access to authors and agents in a way they never had before, and several have found a home for their books as a result of sitting around the bar or pitching to an agent in the halls. So avail yourself of these opportunities. Like in politics, access is half the battle!