Andrew Donkin Interview

September 2013

Andrew Donkin is the author of more than sixty books for both children and adults. His work in comics includes Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight for DC Comics, and he is the co-writer, along with Eoin Colfer, of the graphic novel adaptations of the Artemis Fowl Series and ‘The Supernaturalist.’

AFC was recently lucky enough to catch up with Andrew to find out a bit more about what makes him tick, how he got onto the path of writing fiction and a few hints as to what’s coming next…

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 The Interview

Hi Andrew, thanks so much for your time! I think we’ll probably start off with an easy one… what’s your favourite book of all time, and why?

That’s a really tough first question.  There are so many favourites – different books for different reasons.  When I was a kid I loved a book called STIG OF THE DUMP by Clive King.  It’s the story of a boy who meets a caveman living in the local dump.  It’s a lovely story by a real craftsman.  For older readers, it’s hard to overrate A MOUSE AND HIS CHILD by Russell Hoban.  If I had to pick just one book to take to a desert island it would be the remarkable FIRE AND HEMLOCK by Diana Wynne Jones.

What inspired you to write your first book?

I’d wanted to be a writer from when I was six or seven.  I remember looking at the names on the spine of Target books and thinking it would be cool to have my name there.

Can you tell us a little about how the graphic novels are created?

The graphic novels obviously start with the script – which is written by Eoin and myself.  That means we both grab our well thumbed copies of the original book of the shelf and re-read it.  Usually several times.  Then we’ll talk and pick out the key bits of the story.  Which moments are vital for the plot to work?  Which moments change and grow our characters?  Which bits of the action will make the best visuals?

The script itself looks a lot like a screenplay for a film.  It describes what the page will look like and how the panels are laid out.  As well of course, as providing all the narration boxes and dialogue.

What about the artwork?  How is that created?

Our lovely Italian artist, Giovanni Rigano, takes the script and draws a set of storyboards for each chapter.  Everybody takes a look at those and we all work them up to be the best they can.  Giovanni then turns those rough storyboards into carefully crafted inks.  The inks have all the detail and focus that the final artwork has, but are in black and white.  When Eoin and I have approved them, Giovanni passes the inked pages to our colourist who is Paolo Lamanna, who is brilliant. All Paolo’s work is done on computer and he adds the colours that bring the page to life.  After that Chris Dickey adds the lettering  – all the boxes and balloons and we’re finally done.  Each of the graphic novels has been a real team effort.

What was it like working with Eoin, and bringing the Artemis Fowl books into graphic form?

It’s been lovely working with Eoin.  We knew each other before we started working together on the first Artemis Fowl adaptation.  We both grew up reading comics – especially American imports.   I bought mine in London where I grew up and Eoin would try and get some whenever he went to Dublin.  We were both really keen that any comic adaptation of Artemis had to be good comics.  Something we’d both want to read, even if we hadn’t read the books.  So far we’ve adapted five of Eoin’s books – the first four Artemis books and The Supernaturalist.  So after nearly six hundred pages of comics the team all know each other and it’s a very enjoyable working relationship for us all.

Who was your favourite character to visually conceptualize and bring to life?

They’re all great for different reasons.  Visually, there is a look of interesting things you can do with Butler.  He’s so much taller than the rest of the cast.  You can forget that when reading the prose stories, but when he’s on the comic page he sure takes up a lot of room.  There are some nice sight gags centred on Butler in The Opal Deception.

My favourite character for Eoin and I to write new gags for has to be Mulch Diggums.  He’s a great comic creation and there’s almost no scene which can’t be improved with an extra Mulch one-liner.

When can we expect to see The Opal Deception Graphic Novel come out?

The Eternity Code graphic novel came out this July in the States and it will be published by Puffin in November in the UK.  The Opal Deception is due out July 2014 from Hyperion.  I’d imagine that Puffin might well publish it in November 2014.

It’s very interesting to see the different cover designs that different publishers put on the books.  Sometimes there’s hardly any difference, other times it’s a whole new cover.

Have you got any projects up-coming that you’re particularly excited about?

I’ve just finished writing the script with Eoin for the graphic novel of The Opal Deception.  That will be out next year.

Next up is finishing a draft of an original 140 page graphic novel for Walker Books.  I can’t say more than that at the moment.  Except perhaps that it’s fantasy / adventure.  When I can say more and when there’s artwork to see, I’ll show you.

 Do you ever experience writer’s block?

I really want to answer that question but some mysterious force is preventing me from thinking of anything to say.

Which character, from any book, do you feel most ‘aligned’ with?

Mulch Diggums.  Mulch is handsome, under-appreciated, and debonair just like me.

What were some of the challenges you faced while working on the Artemis Fowl graphic novels?  And what challenges will Disney face in bringing Artemis Fowl to the big screen?

The single biggest challenge to anyone doing any kind of adaptation of the Artemis Fowl series is to make sure that they keep the thing that really makes the books work.  In my mind that comes down to one word – “charm.”  Sure the books are brilliantly written, exciting, funny and fast moving.  But it’s Eoin’s writing style that charms and engages readers.  That was the single biggest challenge of turning Artemis Fowl into a graphic novel – making sure that we kept the elements that had made it such a success in the first place.

Thanks SO much for your time, Andrew – it has been an absolute pleasure. We look forward to talking again with you soon! 

Why not check out all of Andrew Donkin’s Books on Amazon, visit his website or follow Andrew on Twitter. He’s always posting snippets of the Artemis Fowl Graphic Novels on Twitter and on his website, so they’re definitely worth a look!

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