The following is an interview with award-winning author Chris Grabenstein regarding the upcoming release of the graphic novel, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, through Random House Books for Young Readers. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Grabenstein about the shared creative process of adapting his novel into a graphic novel with artist Douglas Holgate, what he is most excited for readers to experience with the story in a new medium, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming release of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library!
Chris Grabenstein: Thank you! I just received my first copies. It looks wondermous!
BD: What are you most excited for readers to experience with this adaptation of your award-winning novel, especially as it coincides with the 10th anniversary of its initial release?
CG: Douglas Holgate has done such a fantastic job with the illustrations, I hope readers who know the novel will say, as I did, “That’s exactly how I pictured it!” I also think that readers who know nothing about the world of Lemoncello will be thrilled and delighted. Why, they might even want to read more of the stories in the series. I also think the graphic novel will be especially fun for all those middle schoolers who first discovered the wacky Luigi Lemoncello way back in 2013. If they were 12, like the characters in the story, when they read it the first time, they’re now 22. Out of college. Out in the world. I hope the graphic novel will be a fun treat for them.
BD: How would you describe your shared creative process in working with artist Douglas Holgate to bring the story to life in the sequential art medium, and what did you find to be most rewarding/challenging about the process?
CG: The most challenging part for me, working on the “script,” was deciding what big chunks needed to be cut. Fortunately, after ten years of reviews, emails, and fan mail, I knew exactly which set pieces nobody ever mentioned as their favorite bits in the book. So, that helped me know where to start cutting. Having worked in advertising for sixteen years, I was used to the sequential storytelling of a storyboard for a commercial. I tried to bring some of that training to this project. And, of course, I tried to incorporate everything I’ve ever learned from the several screenwriting courses I have taken. And from picture books, too. Every two pages you need a “page turn,” something that leads the reader into what happens next.
My process in working with Douglas Holgate was, basically, one of constant amazement. He got the characters. He added style. He made the funny stuff even funnier! That was probably the most rewarding. To see it all come together so (seemingly) effortlessly. The figments of my imagination sprang to life.
BD: What makes Random House Books for Young Readers the perfect home for this story?
CG: Shana Corey, my fantastic editor at Random House for close to twenty books, who’s now the Editorial Director of Graphic Novels at Random House Children’s Books, knows the world of Luigi Lemoncello as well as I do. We’ve done six Lemoncello books together. We have a short hand for communicating. And we both know what the characters would and would not do, because we have spent over a decade living and working with them. You’re right. It’s the perfect, loving home!
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 Kyle’s story may connect with and impact readers?
CG: I know that Kyle’s story has impacted readers all over the world. There is something about his winning spirit that kids love – in over twenty different languages. He’s also not a big reader but gets swept away into a world of books where reading (and doing research) is fun. The book has had a tremendous impact on what are often called “reluctant readers.” I can’t tell you how many parents, teachers, and librarians have written to me to say this was “The Book” that turned a non-reader into a reader.
BD: Are there any other upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
CG: Douglas Holgate, back home in Australia, is already hard at work illustrating the second Lemoncello graphic novel, based on the second book in the series, Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics. Look for it as soon as the ink is dry. Also, in 2024, the last book in this arc of the Lemoncello Universe (the 7th book in the series) will hit the shelves. It’s called Mr. Lemoncello’s Fantabulous Finale. Someone is going to inherit Mr. Lemoncello’s entire bazillion-dollar empire.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library and your other work?
CG: Visit ChrisGrabenstein.com for information about books, study guides, and all sorts of fun stuff!