DELILAH DIRK AND THE TURKISH LIEUTENANT (Delilah Dirk #1) by Tony Cliff ***Interview with the Author: Find out why Tony Cliff can't tell us how he chose his name for his story - Giveaway***
DELILAH DIRK AND THE TURKISH LIEUTENANT (Delilah Dirk #1)
Pub. Date: August 27, 2013
Publisher: First Second
Formats: Paperback, eBook
A little bit Tintin, a little bit Indiana Jones, Delilah Dirk is a great pick for any reader looking for a smart and foolhardy heroine... and globetrotting adventures.
An Interview with the Author
Tony CliffWelcome to Character Madness and Musings! We’re excited to be showcasing the DELILAH DIRK Series. Can you share a little bit about the series?
It’s a story about friendship and good tea. There’s no small amount of adventure, and it’s all set in the early 1800s, with its Napoleonic Wars and sailing-ship sea combat and the early days of European archaeology and neo-classical aspirations. I often describe it to people as being designed to fill the Indiana Jones-shaped hole in my own heart. But hey, anyone can go see if it suits their tastes over at http://www.delilahdirk.com/ — there’s a good chunk of each book up there, free to enjoy.
Where did the idea come from, and what inspired you to write it?
Back in the mid-2000’s I’d been reading a lot of Napoleonic War fiction, and I wanted to make something that felt the way Indiana Jones felt to me when I was younger, so I started sketching around. There are a million other little influences and inspirations, but let’s just leave it at: it felt like a challenge I wanted to accomplish.
I had followed Kazu Kibuishi into the FLIGHT comics community, and after a few years some of the folks there started making their own graphic novels. Jen Wang, Kazu, Raina Telgemeier, Jake Parker, etc. etc. And hey: peer pressure is a real thing. So I inched toward my own graphic novel, starting with short stories and expanding from there. If they could do it, I figured I might be able to, so I moved in that direction.
Titles and names of characters are always interesting. How did you choose yours?
Aha! I cannot reveal why Delilah is named Delilah, because then I’d spoil the fun reveal in the still-in-its-early-days-of-production fourth book. But I knew each book would be “Delilah Dirk and the Such-and-Such” because hey, you can’t have an adventure story without that title format. They go hand-in-hand.
Are themes an important part of your writing, or do you allow the story to unfold them?
If you’re asking “do you start writing a book thinking about specific, intentional themes,“ then the answer is yes. Whether or not they make it into the final product is another thing. I wanted PILLARS OF HERCULES to talk about ideas of self-promotion, publicity, public image, and, most importantly, public shaming, and I think the story adhered to that theme pretty well. I know I’ve trimmed away thematic elements from the other two books, but it’s tough to remember the things that aren’t in the book anymore.
I’m working on another project right now that started off driven by one specific thematic idea. Like, I wanted to write a soft musical piece for the oboe. After the end of the first draft, though, that theme wasn’t coming through very well and anyway, the themes that were coming through were more interesting. So it’s a four-on-the-floor club banger now.
What authors and illustrators have inspired you over the years and what is it that drew you to them?
There are a whole bunch, but Mike Mignola is an important one. I stopped reading comics in the late nineties because Bill Watterson had quit, the newspaper comics were becoming less appealing, and the superhero stuff I was reading had become fatiguing. One day in maybe 2004? for no particular reason, I stuck my head into a comic shop and found Mignola’s THE AMAZING SCREW-ON HEAD. It’s just a short one-shot comic, 28 pages or so. It’s a dark, weird, very funny story, featuring Mignola’s dry wit, strong design sense, and dynamic action illustration. It made me believe that you could do wonderful things in comics outside of the familiar molds. Hell, it made me believe in Comics again, no hyperbole.
I don’t know if I happened to enter the shop on the one week when the comic came in. Maybe they had a copy sitting on shelves for a while, so I don’t know exactly how fortuitous I was to stumble upon it. If I hadn’t, though, I’m not sure I would have got into comics, and I might never have made DD. Tough to say, but not implausible.
Who is your favorite character from your own books?
See, I think that if I could pick a favourite, I wouldn’t be doing a good job as a writer. I like them all, or at least I accept them all for what they are.
That said, I do especially enjoy writing “villain” dialogue. With this genre that DD’s in, it’s one of the great joys, and it’s acceptable and expected. Big, blowhardy, grandiose speeches and venomous words. So indulgent. So much fun.
What advice would you give new writers today?
Always start small. Work on something that can be accomplished relatively easily, as opposed to jumping head-first into a thousand-page, multi-threaded epic. Whether it’s short stories or short comics (or even the hardest of all, four-panel comics), there are so many benefits. You get to work out all the steps in the pipeline, figuring out what works for you and what works for your work, from the very first sketchy notes to the final edits. What do you need to motivate yourself? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Do you like plotting? How do you balance your story’s elements? What’s the best story visualization technique at the start, and how do you like to set up your Photoshop files for print at the very end? You get to figure it all out. I started this way, doing short comics for the FLIGHT anthologies, and the method I used for those short comics is basically just scaled up to make my longer graphic novels.
Plus, once you’re done, you’ve finished a complete thing with a beginning, middle, and end. It’s theoretically presentable, no matter how much you think you hate it. Instead of calling yourself an aspiring writer, you can just call yourself a writer. And if you find you hate your characters, setting, original setup, or anything else, hey – you can just start a new project. Small projects are great.
And participate in National Novel Writing Month. A very helpful skill is being able to make yourself perform the work of writing and drawing regardless of whether you “feel like it,” and NaNoWriMo strengthens that skill immensely. Sign up for it. If you’re having trouble getting started as a writer and you haven’t applied NaNoWriMo to that problem, you’re hosed.
Generally I’m opposed to absolute advice. Like, “start small” worked for me, but I know a few starting writer/artists who have tackled larger projects and had success with it. “Start small” is advice that feels true to me, but YMMV. NaNoWriMo is different. It’s the one thing I feel I can advise absolutely. Try NaNoWriMo.
Is there anything you would like to add before we call it a day?
Since it seems like people still seem to differentiate graphic novels from comic books, a little hot take that still seems to be divisive in the Year of Our Suffering, 2019: all graphic novels are comic books, but not all comic books are graphic novels. The only difference is that graphic novels are thicker, generally. It’s all just ink on paper or pixels on a screen, arrangements of shapes to a more or less symbolically representational degree. “Graphic Novel” and “Comic Book” are not genres and are no indicator of a story’s worth. Some people seem caught up in these labels or trappings as if they’re meaningful, but they’re not. Graphic novels, comics, novel-novels, and so on — they exist at all points on the spectrum of literary quality, regardless of how they present themselves superficially. Anyway, ramble ramble ramble, if you need me come find me in the dormitory common area, I’ll be sitting behind a Lucy van Pelt-style “the psychiatrist is in” facade offering even hotter takes, only five cents each.
Thank you so much for joining us today.
Keep scrolling to check out the spotlight of Tony Cliff's books
DELILAH DIRK AND THE KINGS SHILLING (Delilah Dirk #2)
Pub. Date: March 8, 2016
Publisher: First Second
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Delilah will do whatever it takes to clear her good name, be it sneaking, skirmishing, or even sword fighting... But can she bring herself to wear a pretty dress and have a nice cup of tea with her mother? Delilah Dirk may be defeated at last. By tulle...in Tony Cliff's Delilah Dirk and the King's Shilling.
DELILAH DIRK AND THE PILLARS OF HERCULES (Delilah Dirk #3)
Pub. Date: August 7, 2018
Publisher: First Second
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
From vast forgotten underground cities to an elaborate and shocking double-cross, Delilah Dirk and the Pillars of Hercules brings all the drama and excitement that fans of the series crave.
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Tony Cliff – a life-long resident of Vancouver, British Columbia – began his comics work as a contributor to the Flight series of anthologies. His first major published work, Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant, is a NYT Bestseller, a Publishers' Weekly Best of 2013, and was nominated for Eisner, Shuster, and Harvey awards. Delilah Dirk and the Third Pillar of Hercules will be the third book in the series, following 2016's similarly well-received The King's Shilling. He is strongly opposed to bios that conclude with one quirky attempt at humour.
3 lucky winners will win all 3 books in the DELILAH DIRK Series, US Only.
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