Horrorking correspondent Rocky Wood interviews Glenn Chadbourne for Horrorking:
I was lucky enough to have lunch with Glenn, his lovely wife Sheila, and the staff from King 's office in Bangor (or was that Derry?) around this time last year and I have tell readers I was charmed by them both - they really strike you as the sort of down-to-earth Maine residents that populate a King novel. Of course I mean the good guys! We got to know each other a little and Glenn, who also illustrated the end papers on my Cemetery Dance book Stephen King: Uncollected, Unpublished, kindly agreed to a sort of free-wheeling online interview for my favorite King site to celebrate the publication of Secretary of Dreams! For those not up with that book yet, it is a Cemetery Dance published collection of six Stephen King short stories - three completely illustrated comic book style by Glenn and three illustrated in the more traditional sense (see http://www.cemeterydance.com/page/CDP/PROD/king02 ). Sold out almost immediately in Limited Edition but with a small number of Gift editions still available, this book is likely to set a benchmark in King publishing and the genre itself.
So, here we go with Mr. Glenn Chadbourne. Hi Glenn and welcome to Horrorking! Let 's start by asking when you first heard about the Secretary of Dreams project? Who approached you and how did you become involved?
The whole project actually started as a phone conversation between Rich Chizmar at Cemetery Dance and I. We were talking about different SK stories and the idea of "how cool" a graphic novel approach to some of the stories might look. Over time, whenever we spoke or emailed about various projects for CD we were involved in - me on the art end of things, Rich on the publishing end - the conversation always seemed to come back to Steve's stories and the idea of drawing them out in graphic form. Finally, both Rich and I decided to throw caution to the wind and actually ask Steve about the possibilities of taking on such a project. So we both - Rich and I - then wrote separate letters to Stephen asking what he might think of the idea. We waited to hear word back, and after a couple weeks the word came - Steve wanted to do it. I was bowled over! First of all, I never expected it to happen because I figured the poor guy got pole-axed daily with such requests and my main concern was not wanting to bother him, but he was really into doing it. I'd sent some art samples along with my letter and he really liked my stuff, so that sent me beyond ecstatic.
What was your first involvement with anything King?
Actually, my very first involvement with SK was back in the eighties. There was, once upon a time, a newsletter called "Castle Rock" published here dealing with all things King and they advertised a contest asking readers to send in drawings of King related work, cartoons, etc. I drew one up, sent it in to Castle Rock, and won first prize. I received a bunch of nifty items: A signed edition of Creepshow, signed copies of a Batman comic Steve had done an intro for, as well as an Xmen comic. There was also a signed copy of CRACKED magazine that Steve appeared in ala parody.
Tell us about your first meeting with Stephen King? How did you feel?
I'll tell you the truth, I've actually never met him, face-to-face. He's been incredibly kind and supportive of my work, and we've had a couple of side involvements aside from Secretary of Dreams - I've done a lot of design stuff for his radio station here, WKIT, as well as a couple other things - but we've not met face-to-face. As for as how I've felt about everything that's happened, words can hardly describe it. Beyond belief comes to mind.
For those readers who don't know your work (huh?!) can you tell us a little about your career?
I've been drawing, literally, since I could hold a pencil. I was an only child with no other kids to play with nearby when growing up, and so I would draw to entertain myself constantly. Over time I began to submit things to various genre mags and eventually my stuff began to get picked up. I've also done my share of what I call "bread and butter" art jobs - wall murals, signs for businesses, etc - to pay the bills. But my first love has always and forever been the horror genre, and I was lucky enough to get a shot at doing what I love most.
I am writer, not an illustrator, so you 'll excuse my terminology I 'm sure, but I find your work 'angular', particular when you deliver faces. Does that make sense or do I need new glasses?
I guess it's just my style. Over time most - if not all - artists seem to dig in to certain styles when it comes to their given work.
One thing any Chadbourne fan (of whom I claim a front row position) knows is that every panel, every picture comes with incredible detail. One can spend tens of minutes analyzing many of the illustrations in Secretary of Dreams. This is clearly a Chadbourne trademark. How did it come about?
Well, as I've said, as a kid I'd draw for hours on end, and my thing from early years on was always detail. Detail, detail, detail. It's what I strive for, and what I love. I'm quite at peace to spend an entire day on a three by three inch comic panel until it suits me.
When you were delivering a story, say 'The Reach', do you have a particular intent at the beginning of the tale or does it develop as you go along?
The Reach is special . . . Probably my favorite story in Secretary, for personal reasons really. As for intent. All the stories have a different kind of "feel" for me. I read them, think about them - atmosphere etc - then begin doodling out characters and situations. So that's where I begin . . . Then, in sort of a scary SK-esque fashion, the things just seem to play out and draw themselves as they see fit.
In fact I found the drawings for The Reach to be incredibly poignant, certainly the most moving of the book. Can you tell us just a little more about your connection with this tale?
This story enters into the personal arena. The sweet old gal in The Reach - Stella - shares many, many attributes of local ladies I've known in my hometown, including relations such as my own grandmother. I don't mist up easy, but after first reading The Reach some years ago, I fell into a not so subtle sobbing fit. Stella "IS" Coastal Maine. Rock solid, yet tender. Of all Steve's stories she's my favorite character. Very heartfelt.
Of the three stories that were fully illustrated, The Road Virus Heads North, Rainy Season and Uncle Otto 's Truck which was the hardest for you and why?
Without a doubt, Rainy Season. Because I had to draw all those *&^%$#@!ng toads!!!
It looks like on paper that you had tremendous fun doing the zombie stuff in Home Delivery and the toads in Rainy Season? Is that right or are they just 'fun ' to look at?
Nah . . . They're definitely all very fun to draw. I particularly like to draw zombies - they're my personal faves!
How long did it take to complete volume one of Secretary of Dreams? With hundreds of panels did you at time find it more work than pleasure?
It was time consuming - the first volume took me two years from start to finish - but I honestly never considered a moment of it "work". It was all, all of it, sheer joy. You have to remember I'd grown up with all these stories. They were like old friends. And to be able to illustrate them . . . Well, it was a feeling of coziness; a feeling of comfort - like sitting around the kitchen table with an old comrade.
Fans may have noticed that all these tales are set in Maine. You are a life-long Mainer (or is that Maine-iac?) and you live on the seacoast. Do you think that helped you illustrate these stories by the Maine-est of writers? If so, how?
Probably the coolest thing about Stephen King's writings, if you're a local fella like myself, is that he tends to mix fantasy with reality in the geography of the area. For instance, there is a "Cumberland" and it lies where it's supposed to on the map. But there isn't any "Jerusalem's Lot". Though there are roads that could theoretically pass by such a town. It lends a local, a familiar creepiness to the stories for us here in the great State-a' Maine that folks in Miami might not share. As for my end, the art end. I live here, so I know the lay of the land and the local architecture. How the fields and woods look, the buildings etc.
The buildings you illustrate for this volume, such as Chapelwaite House in Jerusalem 's Lot are breath-taking. How did you approach delivering King 's vision of such a structure, or the outskirts of Derry (this may be the first time Derry has been illustrated)?
You know, it's really tough to say, though, as I've mentioned, I do live here. I know the general areas SK writes about - the real areas - and Maine is loaded with atmospheric old homes and locales. But when it comes to what I've drawn in the stories, in all honesty I have to say those spots and structures just sort of dripped from my head onto the page.
If there was one part of project where you had artist 's block (if there is such a thing) where was that, why and how did you overcome it?
I have to say I was lucky enough on this gig - as well as excited as all hell - to just blaze through everything with constant enthusiasm and glee. No blocks on this puppy whatsoever.
On a lighter note your representation of Richard Kinnell has more than a hint of Stephen King to, at least, the face. Was that homage or just a natural effect of the tale?
Again, I just started doodling and Steve fell onto the page.
What feedback have you had from Stephen King about your efforts on this project - go on, you don't have to be modest, we're all friends here!
Well, he sent me a wonderful email via Marsha, his personal assistant who I adore - this I had framed I might add - saying how much he loved my stuff. And I've received several compliments since. All this makes it a dream come true for me - a Secretary of Dreams come true. Foremost, I simply wanted to please SK. In my letter I told him that I'd do my utmost to treat him right and take care of his stories, and I've tried my damnedest to keep my word.
Joining the Marsha DeFilippo fan club here for a moment (smiles). I have no doubt fans of the genre are going to just love this work and, of course, you will be illustrating volume two of Secretary of Dreams. What news on that project?
That baby is in the works . . . And I'm about half way through things. Hang in there, I'm trying to pull out all the stops for the grand finale'
As with all artists, your incredible work is set in 'print' for generations to come. What next for Glenn Chadbourne? Where can your fans next expect to see your work? If there was but one more book in the universe you could illustrate what would you choose and why?
Fans can expect to see more of my work in PS Publishing's beautiful production of SK's The Colorado Kid, due out in March. Yet another dream-come-true book! As for what I'd like to illustrate next, there are just so many. Ask me today and I'd name one. Ask me tomorrow and it would be another. The main thing, the true love of it all, is just being asked to do the work.
Thanks Glenn, we really appreciate your time and now we should let you get back to the drawing board!
According to Wikipedia 'Glenn Chadbourne is an American artist based in Maine. He is best known for his work in the horror and fantasy genres, having created covers and illustrated books and magazines for publishers such as Cemetery Dance Publications. Chadbourne is known for his sense of humour and down to earth manner, as well as the stark honesty of his work.'
Rocky Wood lives in Melbourne, Australia and is the co-author of three major King works - The Complete Guide to the Works of Stephen King (2003; 2004); Stephen King: Unpublished, Uncollected (2006); and Stephen King: The Non-Fiction (upcoming). He has spoken at numerous conventions about King, including the SKEMER Con in Estes Park, Colorado (2003), Continuum 3 (2005) and Continuum 4 (2006) in Melbourne, Conflux 3 in Canberra (2006), and the 2nd Annual Stephen King Dollar Baby Festival in Bangor, Maine (2005). He has undertaken two research trips to Maine, rediscovering many of the previously lost or unknown pieces discussed in this volume. He has published non-fiction worldwide for thirty years; and is recognized as one of the world's leading experts on King 's work.