Tuesday, 29 March 2011

An Infinite Universe: an Interview with Madéleine Flores

With a passport almost full to bursting, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the internationally-raised Madéleine Flores resides in Florida, but her debut graphic novel, The Girl and the Gorilla is published out of London. A charming all-ages book about reading, writing, self-belief, and—well—hanging out with a gorilla, it was published by Blank Slate in Autumn 2010 and currently sees her in contention for an award at this year’s Stumptown comics fest.

Not content to simply win our favour by drawing a special dedication in our personal copy of the book, Madéleine provided not one, but two very special illustrations for this mini-interview. A drawing machine—and one of the nicest folks we’ve had the pleasure of talking to—we were excited to hear how the story arose from boredom at work (like all the best ideas), her desire to write something she would have liked to read in middle school, and what her five favourite books of all time are.

To begin with we wanted to ask you a little bit about your background, both personal and creative. We know you’ve studied in at least three different countries and speak several languages, for example. Who’s more well-travelled, you or Carmen Sandiego?

Heehee, Well, to start off at the very beginning, I breathed my first breath of life in Texas -Yeehaw~! But quickly shuffled on over to Germany, where I spent most of my life, then a quick stop in Georgia, then scooted down to Florida and went up north to Minnesota for a bit and decided that I liked the Florida weather more!

I think moving around might have actually helped push me in the direction of becoming an artist, because always changing schools and addresses made it difficult to make new friends, but the one consistent thing anywhere I went was pen and paper.

I think Carmen Sandiego has the leg up on the traveling - but I'm catching up! My passport is almost full now!

Do you consider The Girl and the Gorilla to be an all-ages (in the literal sense) book? 

I certainly intended it to be enjoyed by everyone, but in the back of my head I kept thinking that I wanted to make something that I would have liked to have read in Middle School.

The impetus of the plot regards Aurelie receiving a rejection letter for a submission. Is this based on your experience as a creator? How much of yourself do you see in the characters?

Well, I certainly have received my share of rejection letters,but I'm lucky in that I have a very strong support system of friends and family who always have my back and just when it seems like I'm out for the count they say just the right thing, push me back into the ring and I'm ready to go!

Out of all the characters, I think my personality is mirrored in Elijah D.Slipwitch - he's a positive fun little man. I hope I'm like that - minus the little man part.

How did the land of Creativity develop when you were planning the book?

The original meat and potatoes of the story came around 2007 or so. I was working in a bookstore and we had our regular customers who would gravitate to their favorite sections, so I decided all the different sections were countries and the customers were the citizens. Then I built up from there- deciding that all the different authors lived there as well, it went on and on.

Sometimes being bored at work is fun!

Something we really wanted to talk about is the construction of the comic, itself. You’ve chosen to omit a major part of traditional comic language by using no panel borders. Why was this?

I think that's just something that happened by accident! I read lot of French BD-blogs and my favorite ones never used any panels. I liked the way it opened up the art and kind of created an infinite universe.

What can readers expect next from you? We want more!

WELL! I post little journal comics on a regular basis on my blog and I'm working on another comic project right now and I'm sorting out all the story and art involved in that, I hope I can finish it up sometime soon! I'm really excited about it and I'm using everything I learned from the process of creating The Girl and The Gorilla to up my game this time around.

But what I am most focused on right now is my application to The Center for Cartoon Studies-  I'd like to learn more about comics.

Finally, what are your five favourite books of all time?

Oh boy!

1. The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting ( I read this every year- I don't own a copy of it myself, but I like to pretend that I keep the library in business by checking it out once in a while!)

2. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams ( I was being chased by bullies in 7th grade, ran into the school library and grabbed the first book off the shelf and hid behind it , all nonchalant like- something out of a movie scene, heehee~ Good thing Adams is at the beginning of the Alphabet, I fell in love with the series, I've never laughed harder in my life!)

3. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (This was my favorite in the series because we saw more about the Wizarding World Community and I love Harry Potter. Ha!)

4. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (The wordplay in this book changed my life and how I think about the English language, FOREVER! I love it!)

5. World Mythology (This was a huge Mustard colored book in my Elementary School Library. The Librarian took off the book jacket and I never bothered to look at the title page to get the proper name, but it contained hundreds of creation myths from around the world and had adorable gouache paintings along with each story. Oh Nostalgia!)

Finally... Congrats on your Stumptown award nomination! How do you feel about it?

Super, hyper, mega thanks to Madéleine for not only answering our questions in words and pictures (!), but also drawing that wonderful illustration heading the article for us.  Look at that lettering up there- charismatic, huh? Why not head over to the Stumptown voting page and make your opinion heard? Once you’ve done doing that you should visit her blog, which is updated regularly with all kinds of great illustrations and comics. We’re regular lurkers over there, and you should be too.


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