The following is an interview with Phillip Ginn regarding the recent release of the all-ages horror picture book, The Stalkersnatch. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Ginn about the creative process of bringing the story and characters to life, what he hopes that readers may take away from the story, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the release of The Stalkersnatch! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the book’s premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Phillip Ginn: Thank you! I’m so happy it’s done and out in the world for people to read.
The Stalkersnatch is a morality tale about the perils of becoming the things we hate. The story follows a group of four young friends who set out to stop a beast terrorizing their town and snatching up children. Frustrated by the lack of help from adult leaders, they decide to track down the beast and save the missing kids themselves, making an important discovery in the process.
When I came up with the story and its message, I knew I wanted it to be a little odd, dark, and fable-like. Something for all ages, done in the spirit of Roald Dahl, Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Edward Gorey. I wanted both children and adults alike to be able to enjoy it. I thought this was especially important for parents who should be able to enjoy the books they read to their kids.
BD: What can you share with us about your creative process of balancing the writing and illustra- tive duties of this project, and what (or who) have been some of your creative influences?
PG: I wrote the original poem back in November 2018, and the stanza format was very, very different. Much harder to read. I started the final text revisions and sketches in 2020, when COVID hit and we were all forced to stay home. I wanted to take advantage of the time.
The problem was, I was so gung ho about getting the project done, I burned myself out getting the book dummy ready and starting the final art. After finishing the art for a few spreads, I ended up taking an extensive break. In 2022, I decided it would be the year it gets finished. I knew my next solo book would be a graphic novel and was already planning and writing the script. But, I didn’t want to start any of the artwork until The Stalkersnatch was finished.
On New Year’s Eve, I didn’t let myself order a pizza, watch any movies, or take a break until I’d finished the art for the last spread. Which I did. I was able to release the book at my first major show in 2023. I’ve had a number of influences over the years. In regards to The Stalkersnatch, Roald Dahl, Edward Gorey, Tim Burton, and Neil Gaiman were inspirations for how I executed this tale. They all had/have the ability to create charming, whimsical work with just enough dark, sucking the audience into the other-worldliness of their stories. It’s great balance, and both young people and adults can enjoy their work… although I have to wonder if Edward Gorey could get away with something like The Gashlycrumb Tinies today.
My general artistic and storytelling influences started with Charles Schulz and Peanuts. Along the way, star cartoonists and comic artists like Bill Watterson, Frank Miller, and Todd McFarlane all had a great effect during my formative years. Not because they were stars, but because I loved their work. They were doing something special, and it made them “stars.” As I got older, I discovered other artists and storytellers, both in and outside of comics, that were very highly regarded but didn’t necessarily have the “stardom” that became so prevalent when I started collecting comics. Hiroaki Samura is a huge influence on me, as is Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima’s Lone Wolf and Cub. Jeff Smith’s Bone remains an important work to me. Artists such as Sergio Toppi, Yuko Shimizu, Izumi Kogahara, Tyrus Wong, and Chien Chung Wei also had profound affects on me.
In the last few years, I started to study Chinese ink painting with more intent and came across Liu Haisu, Zhang Daquian, Xu Beihong, and Lin Fengmian. I very recently discovered Hung Liu. They are all worth studying.
I started to keep folders of different artists with samples of their work for easy inspiration and study.
I haven’t even named influences working in other media! There are too many influences and inspirations to name. I love learning and I hate stagnating, so I have to keep discovering.
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 this story may connect with and impact readers?
PG: Not to say that people don’t treat each other well – of course they do – but we all know how badly humans have treated each other throughout history. And in our current times, the Internet and social media not only allow us to see more of it than ever before, but it’s now easier to treat each other badly. To bully each other. To harass each other. To accuse each other. And sometimes worse.
I find this ridiculous, because no one likes a bully. Nobody likes to be accused. Nobody likes to be hurt. And yet, we do it to each other all the time. These days, it’s often done in the open, online, which doesn’t accomplish anything other than making things worse.
There are multitudes of stories that extol the virtue of treating each other with respect, understanding, and kindness. And how, when the need to fight arises, the way we fight is just as important as what we fight for. Fiction often romanticizes these concepts, and I love it. I’m a romantic. But sometimes backing off a bit and stating something simply is necessary, even in the setting of fantasy. Or, even just stating something a different way can help get that message across.
The Stalkersnatch is my way of saying: how we fight is just as important as what we fight for. My book is about the perils of becoming the things we hate. Fighting fire with fire only means more things are on fire, so why become the person to spark the next flame? Life is more complex than this, of course. The grey area is vast, even though people may not acknowledge it all the time. But the concept of not becoming the thing(s) we fight against is, I think, a good foundation from which a person can figure out how to behave towards others.
I’m hoping this basic concept is something that will connect with readers. Hopefully, the vehicle in which it’s delivered – fun, evocative illustrations with odd, rhyming verse – will help facilitate that connection.
BD: Do you have plans to expand The Stalkersnatch world into additional picture books or even other mediums, if given the opportunity?
PG: The Stalkersnatch is a standalone story, so I don’t plan to do other books in that world. I’ll do more picture books, but they’ll be unrelated. Of course, I don’t like to say, “Never.” So, maybe another, unexpected Stalkersnatch idea will pop into my head one day, and I’ll need to create another book.
As for other mediums, well… I don’t think that’s for me to decide right now. I create books to create books and don’t feel the need to actively pursue adaptations into other media such as movies or TV. But if an opportunity comes along and it can be done right, I might take the opportunity.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
PG: As of this writing, I’m in the middle of doing final art for a 28-page comic book one-shot called Finale, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi tale written by Travis Corwin, which will be released in the last quarter of 2023. I’m also working with independent dark fantasy/horror author EM Markoff on something I can’t be too specific about until it’s ready to be formerly announced. In fact, I have a few other things lined up that I shouldn’t talk about until we’re actually in production. The life of a freelance creative… hahaha… Needless to say, I’m pretty busy. As for my next solo book, I am working on the art for a graphic novel titled That Fighter Girl, based on an improv comic I did in 2017. And, of course, I’ll continue to make standalone work of art.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about The Stalkersnatch?