This Friday, Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our spotlight on both our Rainbow Readers Presents guests: Jill Marie Hackett and Rebeckah Murray—the author and artist team behind the wildly popular Magical Boy Basil webcomic that’s now in graphic novel form.
For those unfamiliar with Magical Boy Basil, it’s the story of Basil, who lived a normal life until he met Aaron, the leader of a band of undercover teenage magicians who fight monsters in order to maintain the balance of the universe!
Now Basil has a host of paranormal problems—fantastical mishaps, monsters that want to eat him, and a crew of magical classmates who are not happy Basil knows their little secret. In the meantime, Basil is trying to make new friends, hold his family together, pass algebra, and figure out why Aaron makes his heart pound so hard.
Tenth grade can be complicated.
Jill and Beckah will be at our 65 James Street store on Sunday, July 30, from 12:00 – 4:00 PM. From 12:00 – 2:00 will be an informal chance to meet the creators and look at their work. Starting at 2:00 will be a Q and A, signing, and discussion of the comic.
First in the interview seat is Jill Marie! Thank you for joining us, Jill. What can you tell us about yourself and your writing?
My training is in visual storytelling for animated films (I have a BFA in computer animation from Ringling College of Art and Design), but the skills are transferable to writing for comics. In addition to writing, I also color Magical Boy Basil.
For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you write? What can readers expect from Magical Boy Basil?
Magical Boy Basil is an LGBT+ webcomic about undercover teenage magicians who battle monsters. The story and artistic style sets a light and quirky tone that evolves as the themes develop over time. It’s one of those growing-up stories, but with magic fights and cute boys who hold hands.
What draws you to the particular genre or style that you write? What do you think draws readers to these kinds of books?
Beckah and I love to produce comics that feature LGBT+ leads because they’re the kinds of stories that we wished we had growing up. Either we didn’t have access to the genre at all, or the stories we did have involved sad endings or low production value. Beckah and I put everything we have into our comics as our contribution to quality storytelling for the LGBT+ community.
In addition to being an LGBT+ positive story, Magical Boy Basil is a riff on the “magical girl” genre of anime and manga. (Think Cardcaptor Sakura or Sailor Moon.) Beckah and I both enjoy this genre for its uplifting and episodic nature. The genre is easy to get into and it feels good to read, but it also has massive potential to break down from there and use the safe space created by the genre to explore some heavy topics. We selected the magical girl genre specifically for that quality, since we want to create a story with serious meaning that teens and adults will appreicate while keeping the overall experience fun for the reader.
What do you consider the most challenging part of the writing process? And how do you overcome that?
The most challenging part of writing is sitting down and starting. Honestly, overcoming it is a matter of dicipline. Select a time to write every day, and write at that time every day. Set a timer for an hour, turn off the internet, and write for that hour. Develop habits. Get serious and stay serious about working.
I read an article about Anthony Trollope, who in his lifetime wrote 47 novels and a boatload of other non-fiction and short stories. He said that the key to his productivity was requiring himself to write 250 words in a 15 minute block, on repeat, for the value of three hours in a day, every day. Ultimately, that effort would produce about ten pages of quality writing, which resulted in three novels a year for him. The story of how he works sticks with me because it’s really about mastering the art of starting. If you can learn how to self-start, over and over again, you only need to stick with any project for fifteen minutes at a time. Breaking down massive amounts of work into little segments like that makes anything possible.
Where can people find your work? (Besides ABSW ;)–though they should totally check here first!)
You can read the comic at www.magicalboybasil.com. Most of my personal work for Magical Boy Basil is behind-the-scenes writing and layout, which is all available through Patreon. www.patreon.com/magicalboybasil
How can we follow your work, share your awesomeness, or otherwise stalk you in a totally non-creepy way?
For weekly updates and conversation, our website is great: www.magicalboybasil.com
To follow weekly updates and news, our newsletter: www.magicalboybasil.com/news
For social media fun and weekly update notices:
For behind-the-scenes fun and to support the creation of Magical Boy Basil, our Patreon: patreon.com/magicalboybasil
And finally, to get updates about the publication of new issues, our Kickstarter!: https://www.kickstarter.com/profile/firesidestories/created
Thank you for joining us, too, Beckah! Can you please tell us briefly a little about yourself and your art? How would you like us to introduce you?
I’m Beckah, a freelance illustrator originally hailing from Southwest Florida, super Gay, super Demisexual and I really just like to draw characters, costumes and comics (my motto is: “Line-work line-work line-work!”). If you’re feeling adventurous, you can call me Tyrannosaurus Becks (certifiably the best nickname I’ve ever heard in my life). “They” pronouns are preferable, but I don’t mind “She/her” or “he/him” either!
What’s your favorite medium as an artist? Do you vary between projects or pieces? How do you choose the best medium?
Absolutely ink! And graphite. Dry medium, honestly. I’m not much of a painter but I love, love, love strong line-work so most of what I do reflects that. For coloring, if it’s traditional, I’ll use markers but most (almost all) of my color work lately has been digital. As for how to choose the ‘best medium’, I automatically default to pen and ink unless a writer or commissioner requests otherwise. Or if the mood of the piece needs something different.
What is one thing that most people don’t realize about you?
I have arthritis (it set in when I was 28, two years ago). Not something people who first meet me know or realize because I’ve got such a baby-face (I swear I am not my best friend’s son) and it’s not something I share often but it’s become a bit of a driving force for me now. The first flare up was so bad, Magical Boy Basil‘s release was delayed because I could barely curl or move my fingers. The knowledge that someday- sooner than for most- my hands won’t work anymore is terrifying but it’s also what keeps me drawing every day. You have to take advantage of your body while you can because you honestly never know if life (or genetics) is going to throw a monkey wrench or three in your plans.
While you’re working, do you prefer music, silence, other? Please elaborate!
Music is a very important aspect of my work process! I struggle with concentration issues so the music not only inspires me but it keeps me a bit more focused (and energized). It’s a great source of creative input, particularly for writing. Some of what you’ll find on my playlists- Prāta Vētra, Imagine Dragons, Vast, Bastille, Jimmy Eat World, Silversun Pickups, AWOLNATION, Half Moon Run, IAMX and so on. I love finding new music to listen to, though, so if anyone has any suggestions, please share!
What do you consider the most challenging part of the artistic process? And how do you overcome that?
Being afraid of wasted time is huge for me. It keeps me from experimenting which in turn fosters stagnation in my abilities. It’s difficult for me to remind myself that I don’t have to show anyone anything if I don’t want to, particularly if they’re studies in some new process. I also don’t produce as quickly as a lot of other artists, so that “wasted time” fear really cuts me deep. I think part of the issue is intimidation factor as well. I’m a bit older compared to some of the people I see with a big art presence online, so it’s also a matter of wrestling with feelings of inadequacy. Yet for as much as I compare myself to others (Don’t do this, guys, at least if it’s not to pump yourself up to improve), I force myself to draw anyway. Lately, I’ve been slowly trying to creep out from under the shadow of “Wasted Time” and try new things- different compositions or small coloring techniques or styles. For me, it’s all a matter of passion and being too stubborn to quit.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned, thus far, in your artistic career?
Practice really, truly does improve your skill set. I know it’s something beginners might get tired of hearing, but there’s just so much truth to it that it’s said for a reason. Likewise, NEVER be afraid to use reference. NEVER be afraid to copy for practice (replicating a masterwork is part of the curriculum at Ringling, for example). If you use reference consistently enough, eventually you’ll reach a point where you don’t need it as often- your brain’s already supplementing aspects of what you’ve learned from repeated visual observation. And, most importantly, NEVER be afraid to challenge yourself. Draw trees even if you hate them, draw hands and feet especially if you’re not very good at them. By drawing what I’m not particularly good at, I do improve. By pushing myself to start incorporating things like reflected light and ambient light, I improve. It’s a slow process, sometimes I can be incredibly unforgiving to myself, but I’m sticking with it.
Where can people find your work? (Books, galleries, online sales?) (Besides ABSW ;)–though they should totally check here first!)
Recently, most of my work is all for Magical Boy Basil, so you’re totally welcome to come check out all the extras on our site, Magicalboybasil.com. Other than that, I’m working on being less eclectic with my posting! You can find everything not Magical Boy Basil related at paradoxfound.tumblr.com, remurray.com/secret-shop (where I sell things!) or even at thissidewaysbox on Twitter because that also exists.
How can we follow your work, share your awesomeness, or otherwise stalk you in a totally non-creepy way?
Following and retweets/reblogs certainly help on Twitter (thissidewaysbox) and Tumblr (paradoxfound)! We’ve also got our Magical Boy Basil newsletter and a MBB Patreon (www.patreon.com/magicalboybasil) so it kind of depends on what you want to see. I’m a bit of a shy guy, but if anyone ever messages me I try my best to respond promptly! If you’d like my private tumblr (warning: where I often put NSFW material, my own or others), feel free to ask!
Thank you, again, Jill and Beckah, for joining us on the Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester Spotlight blog! We look forward to seeing you on Sunday, July 30, from 12:00 – 4:00 PM at 65 James Street in Worcester!