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Fanbase Press Interviews Danica Davidson and Rena Saiya on ‘Manga Art for Intermediates’

The following is an interview with writer Danica Davidson and artist Rena Saiya regarding the recent release of their book, Manga Art for Intermediates. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Davidson and Saiya about the inspiration behind the how-to art book, the team’s shared creative process, what they hope that readers will take away from the book, and more!

Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming release of Manga Art for Intermediates! What inspired this sequel to Manga Art for Beginners, and who would be the ideal audience for the guide?

Danica Davidson: Manga Art for Beginners is for anyone who’s new to drawing and wants to draw in the manga style. I noticed a lot of how-to-draw manga books don’t really look like manga (They look more like a manga/American comic hybrid.), and they don’t show many steps to drawing characters. So, I wanted to create books that looked like manga and showed many more drawing steps. 

Manga Art for Intermediates is for people who have gone over Manga Art for Beginners or who have some background in art. Like the first book, it has many more steps to drawing characters (an average of 15-30 steps), but it also talks about what pens professional manga artists use, what they do if they mess up, how they use brushes, etc. It also talks a little bit about what Japanese publishers look for. 

BD: What can you share with us about your creative process in working with each other? 

DD: I found Rena on LinkedIn. It started with us emailing back and forth. Then, we would set up Skype meetings at 8 p.m. my time and 9 a.m. her time. I wrote the layout of the book and what it would show. Rena did the artwork and also taught me more about how mangaka work, in terms of pens, software, etc. She was teaching me things I had not heard or read elsewhere, and those things went into the book. I worked with a different artist for the previous book, and with that book I did all the writing and the artist did all the drawing. With this one, Rena did more than just the art, and I think the results are very special.

Rena Saiya: When Danica contacted me first, I was exploring what kind of jobs I should undertake since I had just started expanding abroad as a freelance manga author.

She introduced me to the project of Manga Art for Intermediates, and I decided to join it.
  While co-creating the book, I was able to hear from Danica that American manga learners really want to acquire a genuine Japanese drawing style and that some of the drawing materials they are using are different from Japanese ones. So, I tried to put in information they would like to know about drawing techniques and searched for drawing materials which are actually used by Japanese professional mangaka and at the same time are available on the internet. The pen in the cover illustration is the typical pen Japanese pros are using.

BD: What do you hope that readers will take away from your work?

DD: I don’t know of anything else like it on the American market. For one thing, I hope the added steps will be helpful to artists. Also, it’s written from someone who knows the American manga market and someone who knows the Japanese manga market. Usually, books on manga in America are published by Westerners, and they don’t have the insider knowledge that Rena has.  

RS: This book contains various types of characters who seem to be popular nowadays, and you can learn how to draw them, step by step. But the point is that it doesn’t end up just imitating the characters I designed.

I tried to design a kind of typical type of each character, and by learning the characters, you can put archetypes of them in your head and they would help your original character designing. 

BD: Manga Art for Intermediates not only offers artistic education, but also information regarding the business aspects of the manga market. How did you approach balancing these two aspects of the industry?

DD: The majority of the book is about how to draw different character types, but since this is a more advanced book, I thought it would be useful to include information for people who don’t just want to draw manga for fun, but who take it seriously as a career. Rena is the one who supplied so much of the information on business aspects, based on her own experience in the industry.

RS: As Danica said, the majority of the book is for character drawing, step by step. But in some parts, I tried to introduce basic knowledge about what Japanese professionals are actually doing. This is for the learners who are dreaming of becoming professionals someday.

BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?

DD: I also write adventure novels for kids ages 7-12 that take place as if Minecraft is real. They follow the endeavors of Stevie, an 11-year-old Minecraft boy who accidentally finds a portal to Earth. Then, he, his Minecraft friends, and his Earth friends go on all sorts of escapades involving creepers, zombies, Herobrine, and the Ender Dragon. I’ve written twelve books, with ten out now and two more coming out this summer. They go in this order: Escape from the Overworld, Attack on the Overworld, The Rise of Herobrine, Down into the Nether, The Armies of Herobrine, Battle with the Wither, Adventure Against the Endermen, Mysteries of the Overworld, Danger in the Jungle Temple, Clash in the Underwater World, The Last of the Ender Crystal, and Return of the Ender Dragon. 

I’ve also written a Tales from the Crypt comic and a Barbie graphic novel. I like to be eclectic.

RS: I’m creating a plan for my new manga series whose genre is fantasy. I’d like to publish it through a foreign publisher, though the publisher has not been decided yet.

Japanese manga is spreading worldwide, and they are the ones which are first published in Japan and translated later. So, I thought it’s interesting if I can publish my manga books through foreign publishers directly since I can speak English. After I complete the plan, I will search publishers.

BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about your work and to purchase Manga Art for Intermediates?

DD: Manga Art for Intermediates is available in bookstores and off websites like Amazon or Barnes & Noble. They can feel free to check out my website,, to find out more about my books.

RS: With regards to my information, I’d like you to access my website.


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