Monday, November 15, 2010

Interview with Eric Hobbs

A few weeks ago, I reviewed The Broadcast and now I'm thrilled to share an interview with writer Eric Hobbs.

The Broadcast has such a fascinating premise, can you share with us some background on how this idea came to you?

Most writers can't tell you where they've gotten a particular idea because, in most cases, that's not how we come about them. Ideas are usually born from a complex series of events that all come together in the right way to help you create something new.

This, however, was one of those rare cases where an idea hit me like a ton of bricks. I was in my first year of college when one of my professors played the original Orson Welles' play for us. Almost immediately I had this image of a small community that lost power halfway through the broadcast. It was a concept that would let me go in a lot of different directions.

Also, and this was kind of important to me, it gave me a chance to write a graphic novel for people who don't typically read them. A lot of people walk past that section of the bookstore thinking there's nothing there but the superhero books that we're all familiar with. I'm trying to take my work in a different direction. This is a book that has a beginning, a middle and an end. It's paced more like a novel than a comic book and tells a story that's very accessible to someone who hasn't read a lot of graphic novels before.

The cast of characters is very diverse, which characters were the most interesting to develop for you?

The villains are always the most interesting for me, and that was especially true with The Broadcast.

No one sees themselves as a villain, you know. Everyone's the hero of their own story. When you accept that, it makes them far more interesting. This is a book where things aren't exactly black and white. Most the characters in the book are just looking to protect their kids from the alien invasion they've heard is heading their way. Most people will tell you they'll do "anything" for their kids. This book plays on that a lot. What are people really willing to do in the name of their children's safety? Can you go too far?

The graphic novel format is very different. Can you share with us the process of writing and collaborating with an artist?

I write pretty detailed scripts for Noel in that I break the book down one panel at a time. That's what most writers are doing these days. You describe a panel, craft the dialogue and then move on to the next panel until you've finished a page. But a good artist will always bring more to a project than pretty pictures. An artist real job is to tell a story with his art and the progression from one panel to the next is incredibly important. There were plenty of times when I sent a scene to Noel, but he found a better way to let the scene unfold visually. So, in a lot of ways, it is a true collaboration. He brought just as much to the book as I did.

If a reader wanted more information on what happened around the original broadcast of War of the Worlds what resources would you recommend?

There are some great books out there on the subject. The Complete War of the Worlds by Brian Holmsten and Alex Lubertozzi is on my desk right now. It was a pretty big reference for me when working on The Broadcast.

What other projects are you working on?

I've got a number of things in development. Right now the project I'm most excited about is an all-ages series called The Librarian.

There is a lot of competition for kids' attention right now. We used to worry about the television. Now it's video games and iPods and You Tube and Facebook and on and on and on. Kids just aren't reading like they used to. But it DOES seem like they're willing to pick up a graphic novel every once in a while. That's the only section in bookstores right now that's seeing growth.

Without tipping my hand too much, I think I've come up with a story that will help get kids excited about the classic kids' books that aren't getting read a lot these days. It actually upsets me to think some kids only exposure to ALICE IN WONDERLAND is the Tim Burton movie that came out earlier this year. I don't care if you liked the movie or not, that's tragic. So, it's looking more and more like I'm going to get a chance to write The Librarian and I'm hoping I can use it to remind kids there's actually some real magic in reading if they just give it a chance.

What are some of your own favorite stories?

It's funny, I've gone back through your blog and it seems like we love the same stuff. I was a huge LOST fan. Obsessive, really. I was on the internet after every episode to see what the latest theories were and what little easter eggs I had missed. I'm a big Ray Bradbury fan. I love Stephen King. Elmore Leonard's crime books are fabulous. I could listen to Neil Gaiman read his stories all day, every day. I've always favored stuff that's on the dark side, but I'm also a huge fan of the Pixar movies. I mean, is anyone telling better stories than those guys right now?

I don't know. That's always the toughest question for me because I end up leaving so many people out. I guess as long as you're writing characters that I either fall in love with or learn to loathe, I'm going to be very happy to go along for the ride.

Thanks so much for your time, Eric! And everyone, you can find Eric online at Eric Hobbs and the Comic Book Hustle.

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