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Hope Larson, creator of Salamander Dream, lists favorite books

Readersvoice.com aims to give people a few good reading tips. You might want to check the article list for more reading suggestions.Hope Larson’s graphic novel Salamander Dream was originally published in its entirety on a website, and was subsequently spotted and published by AdHouse Books. Currently living in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, 22 year old Hope Larson has had a love of nature since her early years in North Carolina.“I spent a lot of time playing outside as a kid, looking under rocks in the creek and exploring the woods.”This love of nature is evident in Salamander Dream.

In Salamander Dream, a young girl, Hailey, lives on the edge of a forest, and journeys into this magical forest where she encounters Salamander, a kind of anthropomorphic salamander nature spirit, inspired by Hope Larson’s childhood daydreams of a Salamander King. But as the years pass, Hailey and her friendship with Salamander change. She returns less and less to the forest to hear Salamander’s stories, preoccupied with growing up in the real world.

Salamander Dream has a strong visual flow, and innovative layouts. Some of the art work is highly detailed, too, like the illustrations of the American chestnut and the polyphemus moth. The book features black and white illustrations with lime- green spot color to emphasise the nature theme.

See Salamander Dream at :

READERSVOICE.COM: You originally had your story Salamander Dream displayed on a website, and still do, and it was subsequently published by AdHouse Books. Would you recommend this approach to other comics creators seeking to get their comics published in print, or is it a long shot?

HOPE LARSON: As an unknown, putting your work online is an important way to build an audience and get your work out there. Most editors I know spend at least a little time trolling the internet for new artists and creators.

RV: When writing your book Salamander Dream, did you plan the whole story before starting to draw it or did it just evolve organically?

HL: I wrote a pretty detailed script before I started drawing pages.

When I first started drawing comics I thought I could get away with writing and drawing at the same time, but when I break the process up I’m able to create a much stronger book.

RV: You’ve lived in quite a few places (France, North Carolina, Chicago, New York, and Toronto). I was wondering how you came to live in France as a child.

HL: My dad teaches economics at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, and he was translating a scholarly text from French into English, so he took a sabbatical and we moved over for a year. We lived in the country about an hour from Paris, and I have many fond memories of that area-especially the wildlife, of course.

RV: Did your study of printmaking in your BFA from the School of Art Institute of Chicago have a big influence on the look of your comics, or the way you draw them, and if so, how?

HL: Absolutely. I studied screenprinting and offset printing, and I gained a huge appreciation for the ways ink and paper interact. Screenprinting reinforced my love of flat graphic shapes, which I play with constantly in my compositions.

RV: Your illustrations were spotted on a website by comics researcher Scott McCloud who said you should draw comics. This led to an offer to draw comics. Despite your training in art and illustration, what were the major lessons you had to learn before you could draw comics?

HL: The main thing I’ve learned about comics is to relax–when you’re drawing a 100-page book, you can’t be uptight about every minor error or you’ll never get through it.

I’ve learned to do my best, accept the extent of my artistic abilities at a given time, and move on.

RV: Can you talk a bit about your recent promotional tour for Salamander Dream at places like the Baltimore Comic Con, and the Small Press Expo in Maryland, in September? Was this your first promotional tour and was it what you expected?

HL: This was my first tour, and by tour standards it was pretty minor: two conventions and one bookstore signing. It was a good experience overall; meeting people who are excited about my work is really rewarding, because when I’m drawing I have no idea if anything I’m putting into the story will come through.

RV: Where do you go next to promote Salamander Dream?

HL: I might be at the new convention in New York City this February.

RV: You get involved in a lot of the business side of things, with selling t-shirts, drawing custom-made pictures for people, selling screenprints. Is it worth the hassle? How did you learn the business side of comics?

HL: Unfortunately comics don’t pay a living wage, so my husband and I support ourselves with odd art jobs and by selling anything that isn’t nailed down.
Better that than having a day job and eking out drawing time on evenings and weekends, though! I don’t claim to know much about the business of comics; I do what I can to squeak by.

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