Today’s interview is with Boluwatife Oriowo, author of Letters from Midia.
With nothing but a sword, a shield and his trusty steed to help him, the newly knighted Jason fights his way across a myriad of strange environments, savage beasts and magical foes in order to rescue his one true love.
Guiding Jason on his journey are the letters Princess Midia leaves along his path, brief notes left behind as her captors take her across the country side, each one meant to form a trail that may one day reunite the pair.
I’ve heard it be described as the story of the world’s most dangerous long-distance relationship, and I think that’s fairly apt. It is a tale of love, perseverance and the pain of isolation over a period of time.
Letters from Midia is a spin on the age-old tale of the traveling knight, bringing a fresh, new perspective to a familiar plot structure.
In many ways, Letters from Midia is a bit of a video-game book, though it never outright says it. Attentive readers can and have pointed out the many different ways that I have alluded to this video-game inspiration throughout the story.
As I began to develop the story, I was also heavily invested in the works of French illustrator Moebius and Genndy Tartakovsky’s Samurai Jack cartoon. These creations often featured vast, interesting worlds with larger than life characters, and it was in emulating those artists that I was able to give the world of Letters from Midia a quirky charm.
Much of it was made in my free time, in-between jobs and freelance assignments.
In making it, I not only handled the writing duties, I penciled, inked, colored and lettered the whole thing too. As a result, I had to do a lot of learning along the way, picking up things on characterization, action choreography, cinematic lighting and coloring as I went on.
It’s also the first story that I have ever colored, and the jump from greyscale to full color was a whole new beast for me. Developing appealing palettes for print was a major challenge.
I feel that, as an author, it is important to have a hand in all aspects of the creation of a book, especially so that you understand all the different parts that go into making the finished product.
My main one is that you should always have an idea about what your story is about. I don’t mean having a basic idea of what the story is, or a list of all the events that happen, but rather what your story is trying to say. What is the feeling that you want your readers to leave the story feeling? What questions do you want to have raised, explored and answered for them throughout your tale? When you think of this, your stories tend to have a grander feel of connectivity and avoid feeling like nothing more than a series of loosely connected events. It makes you think of themes, character actions, scenes and can only lead to a better final product.
As far as cover art, there are two ways to go about it. You either pick a big, marquee moment to place on the front of your book to reel people in. If your protagonist fights a dragon, find a way to put that dragon on the front. If someone is dangling from a cliff, you put that cliff on the front. It’s a nice, simple way to get attention, which is often the only way to ensure that a reader gets invested enough to follow through and read on.
The other way to go about it is to try to create a scene or image that communicates the major themes and characters of your story, without outright spoiling a key scene. I took this approach for Letters from Midia, opting to showcase the central characters of the story while posting a smattering of the different lands Jason explores throughout his quest. A good amount of the excitement from the book comes from the dramatic reveal of new threats, so I didn’t want to spoil anything plot crucial on the front.
Additionally, never go with the first idea for a visual. Writing requires plenty of drafts and creating compelling imagery is no different. It is important to take an iterative, multi-layered approach to developing your book’s visual identity, as this is almost always going to be what potential readers see first.
Picking my favorite graphic novel of all time is an even harder choice, often depending on what’s really connected to me recently.
Max was a very shy Chihuahua/ Dachshund/ Yorkshire terrier mix and Roxie was an all-too-energetic Jack Russel. The two sadly passed on while I was working on the book, but I definitely tried to capture their behavior in how I wrote Jason’s horse, Argo.
Why a horse would act like a dog is anyone’s guess, but I thought it added a light-hearted nature to the young knight’s loyal steed.