Day 8 of our countdown is with Jaimal Yogis and Vivian Truong, creators of the City of Dragons series. They have graciously agreed to share their journey from film script to graphic novel. Jaimal will be giving away a signed copy of City of Dragons: The Awakening Storm to one lucky winner. See details on how to enter below.
Jaimal Yogis is an author of Saltwater Buddha, The Fear Project, All Our Waves Are Water, and the children’s book series Mop Rides the Waves of Life and Mop Rides the Waves of Change. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, ESPN Magazine, and The Washington Post, and he currently lives in San Francisco.
Tell me about your journey into the graphic novel market?
I was a huge comics fan as a kid, but comics mostly fell out of my life as an adult (sadly). After writing journalism for almost a decade, I started to get all these fiction ideas. I tried to be practical and ignore them, but the stories wouldn’t leave me alone! I was toying around with City of Dragons first as a prose novel, then as a screenplay. The pacing of the screenplay spoke to me the most, but I didn’t want to let go of the book. My agent helped me realize I could make it a graphic novel. I loved the idea of returning to one of my childhood passions but wasn’t sure I’d be able to really do comics professionally. I thought, well, if I find an artist I really love, I’ll give it a shot. If not, I’ll finish the prose novel. I reached out to Vivian because I thought her style was absolutely perfect. Amazingly, she loved the story, was available, and had all these fantastic script ideas. It has become this awesome collaboration that just keeps getting more fun as we develop the series.
How did you go about adapting your story to a GN?
Vivian and I first put our heads together to make improvements on the screenplay I’d written. After I made those adjustments, I set out to convert the descriptions of moving the action into stills, and that was a matter of picturing the movie and choosing freeze frames. The biggest challenge for me was being economical with the freeze frames, or panels, and cutting back some on long-winded dialogues that wouldn’t fit into speech bubbles. I’m lucky that Vivian will scale me back when I overdo it with panel count (generally 4-6 per page) or dialogue. That has been a fun thing about collaborating. I’m a big fan of pithy storytelling, so I love seeing my words disappear and the story get tighter with each draft.
What tips do you have for GN creators who aren’t also illustrators?
I’d say, unless you already have an artist you want to collaborate with, finish your script first so you have something you’re proud to share with an artist. Once you have your script, team up with an artist before you pitch it to agents and publishers. They all want to see how your script will look, which is different than children’s picture books where publishers may want to find the illustrator. It can be super tough to find artists because the great ones are often in demand and these books take a ton of time. But use the time you’re searching for an artist to make your story better. Wait to find that artist whose style you love, and who really likes the story. Artists have to live in the script story for a long time, so it’s important they have a connection and passion for the story too.
Vivian Truong was born in London, England and studied Computer Animation Arts at Bournemouth University. A self-taught artist, a natural storyteller, and an avid lover of cartoons and comics. Her first graphic novel City of Dragons has been an indie-bound top seller for several weeks and is a worldwide hit amongst reviewers. She is currently working on several more graphic novels to come.
What was it about Jaimal’s text or idea that convinced you to take on the project?
I was spellbound the second I read Jaimal’s first script. It has that kind of magical story I knew I would’ve loved as a kid. I felt that if it stirred those feelings for me now, imagine how much this would resonate with kids today. I love that it features Chinese culture (and dragons), and we also have a diverse cast of characters from different backgrounds. It’s so special being able to see yourself in a book, and I knew this was the kind of story I wanted to be a part of.
What can a writer do to make it as easy as possible to adapt a script to art?
Adapting a script for an artist can be tricky and everyone works differently. You want to be able to give as much information as you can for artists to be able to clearly see your vision, but also have enough flexibility to let the artist adapt the story how they feel is right, too. One piece of advice that helps artists a lot is if you’re trying to describe something specific, dropping a link or an image to your reference in your script saves a lot of time for everyone!
What advice do you have for artists trying to break into the GN market?
It seems obvious, but draw comics. Draw short stories, draw gag comics, webcomics, and enter into anthologies. And if you’re not confident in writing a comic yourself, there are lots of writers out there itching to collaborate with an artist.
It’s also important to actually read comics too. And if you’re trying to get into OGNs, make it a habit to read some every now and then! Get familiar with your peers and find inspiration in other graphic novels. It will also help you get a good idea of what kind of graphic novel you want to make and which publishers you’d like to go through –or if not, it could help you decide if you’d rather self-publish.
What’s on the horizon for the City of Dragons series and where can we find more out about the book?
We’re still working hard on book two, but it’ll be out before you know it! We have a lot more from the series to come, so I look forward to that. If you want to find out more about City of Dragons, head over to the Scholastic website to check it out, or feel free to send us any questions through our Twitter and Instagram (@City_of_Dragons).
To enter to win a signed copy of City of Dragons: The Awakening Storm, please comment below with your name (U.S. mailing addresses only). To enter more than once, share this post on social media, then reply to your original comment with the link to where you shared the post. You can enter as many times as you share. This contest will close by the end of the day on Oct. 1, and the winner will be selected shortly after. Thank you, Jaimal! THIS CONTEST IS CLOSED AND THE WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED SOON.