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I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing Parabolis recently, my love for this book is a bit overwhelming, I need to spread it around. I would like to welcome Eddie Han, author of Parabolis:
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey in becoming a writer:
As a teenager, I had fantasies of living out my twenties like a Kevin Smith film: creating an indie comic book with a cult following, falling in love with a lesbian, and engaging in pretentious conversations with a bunch of asshole friends. I went to UCI instead. I studied art and graduated with a subpar GPA. Then I got an internship at a comic book company where I discovered the disenchanting power of being a production assistant. I no longer wanted to make comic books… or fall in love with a lesbian. In 2004, I moved to Tokyo to teach English with a missionary organization for 2 years. That's where/when I discovered writing. It started with personal journal entries--a form of catharsis while dealing with the amplified loneliness of culture shock and dense urban living. Then the newsletters I'd send home to my friends, family, and donors. Then essays and short stories about romantic encounters and regret. Then a long story inspired by movies, video games, music and melancholy. It was more of an exercise to hone my craft, to try and capture the scenes in my head and string them together into a coherent narrative. That eventually became Parabolis.
Parabolis is a pioneer in cultivating a new reading experience, what was the inspiration for bridging the world of fantasy novel and comic-zine:
I suppose the most potent inspiration was my own insecurity. It was my first crack at novel-writing so I had concerns about whether or not the narrative could stand on its own merit. I decided then that I'd augment it to be something more than a novel. I wanted it to be a work of art (if not literary, then at least aesthetically). The two conventional platforms that immediately came to mind when considering merging art with books were illustrated novels and graphic novels. But in both cases, the art often serves either as a redundancy or a substitute for the prose. So I looked to magazines and newspapers instead where the prose and visual elements (usually in the form of layout design, photographs and/or editorial illustrations) compliment each other. It made me wonder if it was possible to make an entire novel like that. That's when I called Curt.
Give us some insight into what it looks to take the plunge into self publishing an actual book, not just the digital format we see so often these days:
I read somewhere a few years back that self-publishing was career suicide. Although that seems to be changing, it does have a certain stigma attached to it, even if you're successful--sort of like being a Youtube celebrity. Initially, it was enough to give me pause until I questioned my motives. Was I trying to become the next great American novelist or simply writing for the sheer pleasure of it? Once I had settled on the latter, I saw no harm in trying to make something awesome with or without the validation of industry elites. The only thing I knew about publishing was that making a physical book costs money, especially if you want the quality to be comparable to traditionally published products. So we turned to Kickstarter. After a successful campaign, David David Katzman, the self-published author of A Greater Monster, held our hand and walked us through the process. He first recommended creating an indie publishing house to release the title under. Then we had to sort through the complexities of typesetting, layout, paper weight, grain, and texture before finally bidding on a printer. Once a printer was selected and the finalized files uploaded, we waited for the shipment to arrive.
What does your writing process look like while working so closely with an artist?
Curt and I were already close friends and shared similar artistic sensibilities so working with him was a pleasure. He's a brilliant artist and he's very intentional with his work. When he took on the project, he was adamant about the form having a function--that adding art shouldn't be just a gimmick. Every week, he would first read the post-edit chapters and ask himself, "What can I say with my art that wasn't already said in the text?" As a result, he was able to create an impression of culture and history that wasn't explicit in the narrative. For example, the process of transferring his illustrations using acetone left imperfections and distortions that simulated the effects of the print press. He was conscious of how a 2-column format affected the reading rate, how to proportion just the right amount of negative space and margins to give the eyes rest, which fonts to use and how to alert the reader of a change in POV using visual cues. He's a true craftsman. And he has excellent hair.
When did you first create Dale and what was the inspiration behind his story?
After I returned from Tokyo, I worked as the General Manager of my dad's recycling business. It wasn't a terrible experience but I knew it wasn't what I wanted to be doing. I used Dale as a vehicle to transplant that nagging sense of discontentment into Parabolis--where I could both escape it and address it.
Who has more of you, Dale or Sparrow? Or are they two sides to the same coin?
I was the source material in shaping Dale's behavior (although, that presented its own challenges because I couldn't always distinguish between what I'd like to think I'd do and what I'd actually do). Sparrow on the other hand, is an idealized version of the character I'd want to be if I were represented in a fantasy novel: fearless, pragmatic, cold and calculating. There's a moment toward the end when they switch roles--when one loses their humanity and the other finds his. I suppose in that sense, they could be two sides of the same coin. Sparrow is, after all, a shadow of Dale.
What are you working on now?
Life... you know, in general. And when time permits, a follow-up to Parabolis.