Tag Archives: James A Owen

Straight from the Dragon’s Mouth (Interview with James A Owen)

When I first decided to do a blog my original idea was inspired by well known artists who had gone outside of the usual channels of their respective fields, and tried to bring out pieces in collaboration directly with the audience that was consuming it.

Comedians, Writers, Musicians and Film Makers all of them looking to talk directly to their audience and skip the establishment.  Each had their own reasons and methods to accomplish their ends, but all were blazing their own trail.

I then realized that this was only a small amount of information to be putting in a blog that was going to be going out on a regular basis.  what else could I write about, well the only other thing I have to talk about is myself.  And only my readers can be a judge of whether I am of any interest.  So I set out to contact several named creators in order to get them to agree to work with me on this project.  To say the least I have not received a huge swelling of support.  Being an unknown blogger and indie author does not put you high on many a publicist list of important people.  I don’t blame them, however I was thrilled to have one of my personal heroes, James A Owen agree to give me an interview in regards to his experiences.

I first encountered James Owen’s work back in the early nineties when he was doing his Starchild series, His work was one of the things that challenged me to expand my writing beyond the boundaries I had placed on myself.  He followed up his comics with some short prose work with the limited edition Tales from the Two Penny Inn collections of short stories.

After being out of the Storytelling business for several years he seized on an opportunity to work with a German publisher on a series that they were embarking upon. So he branched out into full length novels with the Mythworld series which were released primarily in Germany.  In 2006 he released his first novel in the US through Simon & Schuster, his YA book ‘Here there be Dragons’.  He has since released five additional books in his Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica series, with the Seventh book due next year.  In 2011 he release the first book from his meditations series. Based on the motivational presentation that he gives to schools and libraries.  It was released as a self published eBook through the same imprint that had originally used for his Starchild comics, Coppervale Press.  The book was called ‘Drawing out the Dragons’  he has since done a kickstarter project to finance the hardcover edition of ‘Drawing out the Dragons’ and released a follow up ‘The Barbizon Diaries’ and he will soon release the third book in the series ‘The Grand Design’.

What made you decide to self-publish your meditation books?

Initially, it was because we’d just pulled out of a possible deal with a potential producer on the HERE, THERE BE DRAGONS movie project.

She tried to pull some pretty hardball stuff at the last minute, and I simply walked away from the table. BUT… we’d been counting on that deal going through, so money was tight. I’d been doing the DRAWING OUT THE DRAGONS presentation for a couple of years, and there was a good recording of one of them. I thought if it was transcribed and cleaned up a bit, it would make a fine eBook. I was right. The requests for print editions followed, and so we did the Kickstarter which worked REALLY well. Then I followed up with the eBook for THE BARBIZON DIARIES, and both books have gotten such glowing reviews that I’m now being offered all kinds of deals from publishers. We’ll see what happens.

What was the biggest hurdle you faced and what was the most unexpected reward?

Biggest hurdle? Hmm… that HAD to be the car accident (editors note: for the full story of the accident see Owen’s ‘Drawing out the Dragons’) – because I didn’t even have a name, then. No track record. And to seemingly lose my ability to draw, too, meant that almost NO ONE believed I could build a career. The most unexpected reward was discovering how many comics greats like Will Eisner and Colleen Doran and Craig Russell believed enough in me to help me get on my feet again.

With your prior experience self-publishing the Starchild Comics what was the biggest difference with producing the meditation books?
The availability of Kickstarter to finance the publication, and the fact it was reader-funded. If we had had a mechanism like that in the 90’s, Jeff Smith, Colleen and I would own Mars by now.

You used Kickstarter to finance the hard-copies of the Drawing out the Dragon do you see this as a valid avenue for less known creative types.

Not really, not at first – because it’s not just the cool factor of the project that draws support and money, as much as it is pitching something to the Tribe you already have. If you haven’t already started to build a name and a reputation, then Kickstarter will be harder. But even if you start small, you can build up to it – and it could be part of the expansion plan farther down the road.

 

What advise would you give to someone who was just starting out as a self-publisher?

Get the book done. Then do another. Then another. Do prints. Do postcards. Create your identity, so that you can start to build your Tribe.

Do you think that the advent of eBooks will make a change in the way books get published?

Absolutely. It let me test DotD for basically no cost – and then start getting income again at no cost. It let me build up a market and interest for the book before I had to risk a penny on print. Basically, with webcomics and eBooks, you can start building an audience with a fraction of the expense that it used to take. And you can find out faster if a project has legs, or is simply going to just sit there. And I think a LOT more changes are coming.

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Inspirations & Mentors

One of the things that I have always thought that was seriously lacking in the modern world was mentors and apprenticeships.  Being able to work for a master of a trade and learn your craft from them.  the passing down of skills that could make you a success in the world.

I have learned as I have grown older that Mentors and Apprentices don’t always take on the forms that we recognize.  For those that do not know me I am many things two of which are a practicing Pagan (Druid) and a Meade Maker.  The crafts for both of which I learned my earliest lessons in from an ex-girlfriend of many years ago named Sara.  At the time I would not have called her a mentor and their are many things that I have learn in both areas since my break up with her, but in the purest sense she was truly a mentor to me.

Today I came across a story in a blog by the Author Mark Evanier where he related the story of the first meeting of Author Ray Bradbury and EC Comics & MAD Magazine Editor Al Fledstien, who adapted many of Bradbury’s short stories into comics.  The meeting occurred at the 2002 San Diego Comic Con during a panel Mark hosted with Ray and DC Comics editor Julius Schwartz.  Mark had planned to have the two meet for the first time but needed to steer the conversation toward comics.  When asked about his history with Comic-Con and it’s growth Ray decided to talk about his personal history with comics.
RAY BRADBURY: When I was nine years old, Buck Rogers came into the world. October, 1929. I was immediately in love with that comic strip and I started to collect it every day of my life for three months. I stopped collecting that because the kids in the fifth grade made fun of me. That was 1929, the beginning of the Depression. I listened to these kids and I tore up the comic strips. It’s the worst thing I ever did because three days later I broke into tears and I said to myself, why I am crying? Who died? And the answer was me. I killed myself. I’d torn up the future. I listened to these stupid people. So I said, how do I cure this? I went back and collected Buck Rogers strips for the next seven years, every day, and never listened to one more stupid sonofabitch after that. And that’s why I’m here. I collected Prince Valiant and all the various comic strips, and Tarzan drawn by Harold Foster in 1932. Incredible work. And when I published my first book in 1947, I sent a copy of the book to Harold Foster with a note saying, “You’re one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, and I love your work and I love you.”

Now to most people this would be a sweet story about the inspiration of one of the greatest American writers of all time, but several weeks ago I read a story in a book called ‘The Barbizon Diaries’ by James A Owens.
I’d agreed to do a signing at Comicon for one of my favorite galleries, Every Picture Tells A Story.  About an hour into the signing, the owner, Lee, came over to where I was sitting with the other authors and told me someone wanted to buy my book.   I responded with a puzzled look (be cause that was, after all, why I was sitting in his booth), and he smiled and pointed to the other end of their floorspace.   “It’s Ray Bradbury.”   I jumped out of my chair and flew over to him.   “Ray!” I said. “It’s
James Owen!”   He took my hand (with his left) and shook it.   “James! But you do comics! This is a book.” (I’ve sent him copies of StarChild for years — to which he always responded with a counter-gift of his latest book.)   “Now I’m doing books, too!” I told him.   “It’s a beautiful book!” Ray told me. “I want to buy it ! Right now!”   “I have one for you,” I said, and hopped back to my chair where I had a copy with a dragon drawing already done. I signed it to “Uncle Ray ”, and handed it to him.    “It’s such a beautiful book,” he said again. “Your drawings are wonderful! I can’t wait to read it!”    “I hope you like it,” I told him. “You’re one of the reasons it exists. Thank you for the inspiration.”

Once again I can hear my reader saying this is a great story, but what does that have to do with anything.  That is going to require the telling of one more story.  This one of a much more personal nature.  In the fall of 1993 I was visiting my family in central New Hampshire.  My older brother and I drove over to the mall in North Conway because they were having a small comic book show.  Dealers from around the area had set up in the food court to sell comics.  My brother had just graduated from Massachusetts College of Art.  His interest in comics was based on the art and he found a book that had some of the greatest art that either of us had ever seen.  It was called Starchild #0, it talked of myths and legends and stories as great things that change the fabric of the world.  And it changed the way I looked at Stories.  I have had the amazing joy of corresponding with James A. Owen several times in the last year or so and even though we have never met face to face, I consider him a great inspiration on my work and life.

And now I see I am part of a great tapestry of inspiration that stretches from James Owen, to Ray Bradbury and to Harold Foster, and I would suspect back to Edgar Rice Burroughs and from him I suppose Rudyard Kipling.  I have to wonder if somewhere there is a battered copy of The All-Story magazine from Oct 1912 with a hand written note saying  Rudyard, You’re one of the reasons it exists. Thank you for the inspiration.  Edgar.

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