Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the release of your graphic novel, Mega Awesome Notebook! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the graphic novel’s premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Kevin Minor: Thank you. It’s been out a little over a year, but it just won the silver medal in the Readers’ Favorite 2020 International Book Awards for the Graphic Novel/Comic category.
Mega Awesome Notebook is about a boy whose notebook becomes radioactive and the pictures he doodles inside come to life. They interact with him as he tries to get through his school day. He finds that even though he is the creator in his little universe that his drawings don’t always do what he wants.
It’s fun and goofy, but the story goes a little deeper than that. It’s also about the importance of becoming a self-actualized person and learning how to deal with your problems.
BD: How would you describe your creative process in bringing the project to life, and what have been some of your creative influences?
KM: I worked with a writing partner on previous comic projects. This was the first comic I’d ever written by myself. So, it was fun to try working solo. Typically, I’ll make an outline, then do several drafts, draw storyboards, and character descriptions. I also usually do a lot of research, and I collect reference for myself and whatever artist I am working with.
However, for this project my process was very different. This story hit me like a bolt of lightning in the middle of the night. I was lying in bed and I was listening to some music on my headphones so I wouldn’t wake up my wife. Then, I had the idea for the character of Dud. In the story, he works as a sort of id-like character to the main protagonist who works as the ego-like character in the story. Mega Awesome Notebook is written in such a way that Dud breaks the fourth wall and talks to the reader throughout the book, as if the reader is the main protagonist or “the creator.”
I was thinking of what their interactions would be like and started laughing out loud. It was late, and I knew that if I went to bed, I’d forget everything I just thought of. So, I got up and went to the kitchen table. I story boarded the entire first 30 pages of the story and drew the first 2-3 pages during the night. My wife came downstairs at about 7 in the morning and looked at me like I was crazy. She had a point because I story boarded it on post-it notes that were spread out across the kitchen table. Also, it was obvious I’d just pulled an all-nighter to do it. I tried to explain to her what I’d just made and failed miserably. I gathered my things and went to my office to work some more. I got some sleep later that day and was able to better articulate what I’d made. After that, my process became a little more conventional, but it was a very exciting start to the project.
My influences in comics are both periodical cartoons and traditional comics. The work of Gary Larson and Bill Waterson had an enormous impact on me. The wonderful absurdity of the Far Side and the wit and heart of Calvin and Hobbes made me want to make my own stories. I also loved super hero comics and the story of “the hero” growing up. I’ve always gravitated towards stories of struggle and triumph. Somewhere between these two types of storytelling is where Mega Awesome Notebook comes together.
BD: At Fanbase Press this year, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Mega Awesome Notebook’s story will connect with and impact readers, and why do you feel that this story was important for you to bring to life?
KM: I’m a teacher in my day job. I find working with teens to be inspiring. So often, they don’t see their own potential. It’s up to you to help them realize what they are capable of, even if the impact you have is just to help nudge them towards that realization.
You get to see how students struggle with real life. I’ve had so many students where I admire their resilience and strength in dealing with difficult issues at a young age. It reminds me of what it was like to be in their shoes. Sometimes as adults we see their problems as trivial but to kids that age, these can be very difficult things to overcome. Other times, they handle serious issues with grace and strength that I know I’d struggle to duplicate as an adult.
Mega Awesome Notebook is very much a callback to what it is like at that transitional age. The silliness and absurdity that makes life so fun when you’re young, coupled with some of the first experiences a person has with real world challenges, like bullying, anxiety, loneliness and rejection.
BD: What makes Schiffer Publishing the perfect home for this book?
KM: Schiffer is committed to telling excellent stories with heart. I was encouraged from day one to tell Mega Awesome Notebook the way I felt it needed to be told and worked with some excellent editors who helped turn it into an award winner. When I came to them with my book, they just started a children’s division called Schiffer Kids and made Mega Awesome Notebook a centerpiece of their rollout. They’ve been flat out amazing to work with. They also surprised me by making the cover of the book glow-in-the-dark. The cover of the book is made to look like the cover of the notebook in the story which becomes radioactive so that extra touch was incredible!
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
KM: I’m working on a new project, but it is in the very early stages and I’m not ready to talk about it - yet!
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Mega Awesome Notebook and your other work?
KM: The best way to see what is coming up next is to follow me on Twitter (@kminor58) or on Instagram (@universemgo). You can also check out my website (www.universe-m.com). Mega Awesome Notebook is available on Amazon, it can be ordered though Barnes and Noble, Walmart, Target, or you can order it at your local comic shop.
Barnes and Noble
Previews/Diamond (Code 191888)