Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Interview with a Creator: Hereville writer/artist Barry Deutsch

Super-awesome note: In the time between Mr. Deutsch replying to my interview questions and my actually getting around to posting them, Hereville won the Older Readers category of the Sydney Taylor Book Award, the first comics work to do so. If you needed just onnne more reason to give this graphic novel a read, now you have it!

The cover of Hereville. If you'd like, there's a preview of the first 15 pages available here.

HWC: Let's hear a quick summary of Hereville.
BD: Hereville is one of the best comics about a troll-fighting 11-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl you'll read all year! It's about Mirka, a girl being raised in a very traditional Orthodox Jewish community. But all she dreams of doing is being a hero and fighting monsters, which isn't very traditional for a girl in her community! It's about the magical adventures Mirka has - she meets a witch, and a troll, and an incredibly grumpy pig. And it's also about Mirka's home life and life in her community.



HWC: At what age did you start reading comics?
BD: Since before I was born, my parents had a page of original art from a classic comic strip called "Pogo" on their wall. I can't remember a time when I wasn't fascinated by that page! I'd read it over and over. So I don't know when I started reading comics, but I know it was young.

HWC: Did you ever stop reading comics for an extended period of time?
BD: No, I've always read comics!

HWC: At what point did you realize you wanted to make your own comics?
BD: In junior high school and high school, I started trying to make my own comics. I never got very far, though.

HWC: Is Hereville your first long-form comic?
BD: It's the first one I've completed!

HWC: What is it about Hereville that made you envision it as a comic, rather than a film or novel?
BD: Mainly, I'm a cartoonist, not a filmmaker or novelist, so when I think of stories I think of them being comics.

HWC: What's your favorite feedback you've gotten about Hereville from a reviewer?
BD: Hereville has gotten a lot of great reviews, but one that's special to me is Elizabeth Bird's review on the School Library Journal website. It was the first really big review Hereville got, and she understood everything I was going for. She also had a great eye for small details - like how Rochel has the beginnings of her mom's nose, which is something I did on purpose which I haven't seen or heard anyone other than Bird mention.

But the review was especially important to me because it was such an enormous thrill for my parents, especially my father, who emailed the review to practically every person he's ever met. My father passed away late last year, and I'm so greatful that he got to read Hereville, and to read Elizabeth Bird's review of Hereville. He was so proud and that makes me feel really good.

HWC: How about your favorite feedback from a fan?
BD: I got a really nice email form a reader named "Mirka," who said she loved the book, but she was emailing me because she had never read a book about a character who shared her name before! That made me happy.

HWC: What sort of woman do you think Hereville best appeals to?
BD: I'm not sure! I've noticed that most of Hereville's reviewers are female, though, so there must be some appeal there.

I intended Hereville to be a feminist book - not in the sense of being over-the-top or preachy, but int he sense of writing a book with a kick-ass but not perfect female protagonist, and witha  lot of female characters who actually matter to the story (especially Mirka's not-at-all-evil stepmother, Fruma.) I often read books to my two honorary nieces, Sydney and Maddox, and they're always very aware of is a book has girl characters they can relate to or not; without any prompting from me, they're always asking "is this one a girl?" and pointing to the female characters and saying "I'm her!" So I think it's important.

I think any reader who likes fun, character-based fantasy stories could enjoy Hereville.

HWC: Do you have any big projects planned for the future?
BD: I'm working on the second Hereville book right now!

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