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Fanbase Press Interviews Austin Paramore and Sarah Bollinger on the Recent Release of Their Graphic Novel, ‘Malcolm Kid and the Perfect Song,’ with Oni Press

The following is an interview with writer Austin Paramore and illustrator Sarah Bollinger (Girls Have a Blog) regarding the recent release of their graphic novel, Malcolm Kid and the Perfect Song, with Oni Press. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Paramore and Bollinger about their shared creative experience in bringing the world and characters to life, their goal for infusing the story – narratively and visually – with music, and more!

Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the recent release of Malcolm Kid and the Perfect Song! For our readers who may be unfamiliar with the story, how would you describe its premise?

Austin Paramore: Thank you! I would describe the book as the story of a teenage musician who comes across a keyboard cursed with the soul of an old jazz musician who is trapped inside. And in order to save the musician, Malcolm must figure out how to play the perfect song. But first, he’ll have to reconnect with old friends and dormant life dreams. So, it’s also very much a story about a normal kid trying to find himself, something every teen goes through.

BD: Sarah, did you have a specific art style in mind at the inception of the project, or do you feel that your design evolved over time after working through the script with Austin?

Sarah Bollinger: There were some character illustrations of Malcolm and Ary that came with the original pitch of the book, and when I came in as the artist, I feel like all I really did was interpret those original drawings in my personal style. It was well received, and I just went on designing from there. I would say the thing that really evolved over time was the color palette. We went in not knowing what that was going to be for a while until Austin and I were able to sit down and really reflect on the full story and how the tones could help tell it.

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BD: How would you describe your shared creative process in not only bringing these incredible characters to life on the page, but in visually representing the rhythm and vibrancy of the music that is so ever-present throughout the story?

AP: In a word, inspiring. It was a lot of building on ideas, sharing the new version, and then building even more. I’d write a chapter or character and hand it over to Sarah and just trust her vision for it. And pretty much every single time, I’d get artwork back that heightened those descriptions or added new twists to something that inspired even more ideas. That’s part of the reason why we have bonus artwork in the back – so much fun world building we wanted to find a place for. It was an exciting process.

SB: It was like jazz! I think we worked well in listening to each other’s thoughts and intentions and just improvising with each other from there – building upon each other’s ideas and complementing each other’s talents. I’m grateful that Austin trusted me to interpret and interact with his writing, and I’m grateful for the entire creative team that picked up everything we were putting down and tied up everything so beautifully.

BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Malcolm’s story may connect with and impact readers?

SB: Personally, I was very moved by the various relationships in this story and the degrees in which people are together, apart, and alone. This story really made me reflect a lot on how I cherish my own relationships, especially since I’m in the middle of my own artistic pursuits, and I feel like others might connect with it the same way.

AP: I hope Malcolm’s story feels very relatable to readers. Even for folks who aren’t passionate about music, I hope other aspects of his life make people stop and say, “I’ve been there.” Whether that’s his relationship with his father, his friendship with Ary, his brother, anything. At the same time, I hope there are older-than-teen readers who connect with Malcolm’s father or the older jazz musician. Malcolm’s story is a lot of listening to others and gaining perspective, so I hope anyone who reads it, from 12 to 112, can go on a similarly beneficial journey.

BD: What makes Oni Press the perfect home for this story?

SB: I would say the big thing was their willingness to not only support our vision of the story but also us as creators. Their excitement and their honest opinions always inspired me to push myself on every page, and I hope that came through. I learned a lot from working on this book, and I could only do that because they gave me the space to try new things and the time to do hard things well.

AP: When I think of Oni Press, the word “respect” comes to mind. Their releases always respect a point-of-view, they respect the diversity of stories that need to be told, they respect the audience, and they respect the creators. This is my first graphic novel, but from the jump they’ve been helpful and eager to help me learn how to do this the right way, and I’ve always felt respected and valued. So, for me, that makes a world of difference.

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

AP: Would I like to share upcoming projects with your readers? Absolutely! Am I able to do so right now… not quite. But more projects are in the works!

SB: I don’t have anything I can really talk about just yet, but whatever comes next is gonna be silly. I have some ideas brewing and maybe some day I’ll even post about it.

BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Malcolm Kid and the Perfect Song?

AP: Check out the Oni Press website! Or find more info at your go-to book store. And if they don’t know about it, tell them they’re out of the loop and all the cool kids are talking about it.

Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief




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