Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Lance Ward is the Minnesota Author in the Spotlight here on Booksnob for the month of October. Lance has written and drawn a visually awesome book about his life growing up in Forest Lake, MN. Please take a minute to read this super, cool interview with a very interesting man. Find out a little bit more about cartoonists, comics and Kmart Shoes.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am 44 years old. My wife and I have been together for almost 16 years. I have three children. The oldest from a previous relationship, and my two youngest with my wife. I currently work as a national editorial cartoonist with Kevin Cannon at Crowded Comics.com. We live just south of St.Paul in a little town called St.Paul Park. I carved a hole in the bedrock over there and that's the cave where I spend most of my time.
2. Why did you decide to write Kmart Shoes?
It just kind of happened. I had been doing auto-bio cartoons about my modern life, with a few stories of when I was younger. But my modern life can, at times, suck so bad, that I don't want to write about it. And it's not life changing disappointments, either. It's just the constant drudgery of the mundane. Laundry that never seems to get done, or the everyday piles of dirty dishes that exist in a fluid state on the counter in my kitchen. So instead of carving out my own eyes, I decided to dig deep into my bag of memories and pull out the shit. Because that's what people want to read. They want to read about someone else's shitty life so that maybe they don't feel so bad about their own lives. So I decided to write about the worst moments of my life, because I'd had quite a few. And it just snowballed from there.
3. Can you share with us your writing and drawing process while you created Kmart Shoes?
I developed this loose style for a particular comic character of mine, the "Tatertotdiaperman". I don't even use pencil or predraw at all. Just grab a sharpie pen and go for it. I found that this style worked well for auto-bio. For the honesty. If I sat there and plotted out the action and every frame, and chose the words just perfectly, it wouldn't be real. It would be my polished version of those terrible days. Those days weren't polished. There was no veneer on that shit. So I sit there, and I stare at the blank frames, thinking of that particular moment that I will put down. I try to time travel back into the emotions; back to the feelings of the places. Then I just go for it. I put it down, oblivious to the music in the room, ignoring the sounds of the modern Lance's life. I will draw until that moment has been written, all of it. Even if it means several pages at once. When I'm done, I sit back, and travel back to this Modern world, spent and fractured. After I've settle down, I'll go back and patiently watercolor the fresh pages.
In 2004, I had a heart attack, died, and was brought back to life after witnessing the actual portal to the other side. It changed my life in more ways than one. Turns out I have heart disease. So I had some surgeries. And another heart attack. And more surgeries. It took a toll on my body. Not only has my heart been weakened, but the surgeries left me with nerve damage in my right leg. So I couldn't work in kitchens anymore, as I had been doing since 1997. After struggling with disability and depression for 5 years, I decided that now was the right time to pursue my dream of becoming a cartoonist. I never went to art school or college, but I figured my natural talent, if I worked at it, could take me somewhere. So I drew everyday. And then one day, I noticed that our local paper had lost their editorial cartoonist. I had nothing to lose, so I walked into the offices and told them that I'd like the job. They said "No, no, we can't pay anyone, the economy, blah blah blah, goodbye." As I was walking out, I opened my portfolio to a colorful picture and said "I'm good." He stopped escorting me out and said "Let me see that." Then he called the editor over. I told them my story, and they were so impressed, they wrote a front page article about me and gave me job. This paper was owned by a much larger corporation, who owned other papers around the state. So I they started to syndicate my comics! It was awesome getting paid twice, three times for the same cartoon! So I did that for two years, and began to get noticed by other cartoonists. Then I was contacted by Kevin Cannon to be one of his hand-picked cartoonists for his national editorial site, Crowded Comics.com.
5. Do you plan to write more graphic novels about your life? I
I have, actually. I have two sequels to "Kmart Shoes" already finished. The third one is proving challenging. And I actually should refer to them as 'chapters', as they are all part of the same story.
I do like to read, actually.I read everything I can get my hands on. All books influence me to some degree, good or bad. My favorite book or comic these days, is Aaron Poliwoda's "Low Blow" comic series. You can't find it online. You have to know Aaron, or be one of the lucky few who are able to see him at conventions working a little table. This guy writes about what it's like to have autism. He doesn't hold back.
7. Who are your favorite cartoonists?
Ryan Dow at Introspectivecomics.com is one of my favorites. Danny Hellman, Charles Burns, Dan Clowes, all the biggies. Kevin Cannon is not only my friend, but also a mentor to me. He is a cartoon machine. And of course, Aaron Poliwoda.
8. Share one or two important lessons or advice that you want people to understand from your difficult childhood and/or your book.
Don't give up. Keep going. Life is fluid; it changes all the time. When I was a kid, I could blame my parents for things that happened to me. But at a certain point, the choices and decisions were all mine to make, and I had no one to blame but myself. Take accountability for your own actions, and you will find that you will quickly grow into your life.
9. Tell us in one sentence why we should read Kmart Shoes?
You should read it because I wrung all the shit and anxiety out of my head and agonizingly poured it into this book.
If you like to win a copy of his book Kmart Shoes please enter here: Kmart Shoes Giveaway