Kazu Kibuishi is the writer and artist of the New York Times Bestselling AMULET graphic novel series, published by Scholastic Graphix. He is also the editor/art director/cover artist of the EXPLORER and FLIGHT Comic Anthologies, and the creator of the webcomic Copper. His debut graphic novel, Daisy Kutter: The Last Train, won a YALSA Best Books for Young Adults Award in 2005. In 2012, he illustrated the covers for the Harry Potter 15th Anniversary Edition paperbacks.
What inspires you to write? Where do you get your ideas?
I gather most of my inspiration from life. Being observant and patient are critical to cultivating good writing material. Once I know what to say, then the fun research begins, where I look to art and design and music for the inspiration of the look and feel of the books.
Tell us about your book.
It’s an all-ages adventure called AMULET that I wrote for both young and old readers. It follows the journey of a family that travels from our world to several fantasy worlds where they learn the value of community and leadership.
Can you pitch your current project?
The final volume of AMULET is what I am focused on finishing now, and I already have my next book lined up and ready to go as soon as this one is done. I typically like to go right to work on a project rather than pitch it, and I ask others if they want to go along for the ride.
Tell us about your writing journey and how you got where you are today.
When I was very young, I was mostly known as someone who draws very well and didn’t think of myself as a writer. When I got to high school, I had a teacher and friends tell me that my writing was even stronger than my art, so I began to commit to writing full-time. I passed on art school to study screenwriting, and then I fused the two disciplines to create the graphic novels I work on today.
What advice do you have for writers?
Just write consistently. Even if it’s for articles or emails. The more you write, the more you will be comfortable in the medium. Eventually, you will gain enough control to create stories.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers & creators? What advice do you have for aspiring writers & creators from marginalized/underrepresented backgrounds?
For marginalized writers, I encourage them to look at their status not as a handicap but as a strength. It may force one to empathize with others more than most, but that empathy can help write stories that relate to a wide swath of people from many different cultures and backgrounds.
How do you weave your culture(s) into your book(s)? How do(es) your culture(s) influence your writing?
I am very inspired by the writing and art of Japanese creators like Hayao Miyazaki and Osamu Tezuka, but I am equally inspired by my American heroes. As a 4th generation Japanese-American I try to make sure my books feel like they are accessible to fellow Americans who still have ties to the countries where their families originated.
What is your writing process like?
My writing process is mostly research, which includes watching films, reading books (mostly non-fiction), and studying all sorts of things that might not seem pertinent to a writer. I throw all that information into my mind and try to cook up an interesting story. While the drawing part of my job feels like something I can schedule, the writing part is something that feels more like fishing. I never know when and where the inspiration will show up, but I just need to keep casting my net far and wide. Eventually I catch some wind and then the writing and drawing all click into place.
What are you currently reading?
The book sitting next to me is The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, but I am also listening to A Promised Land by Barack Obama.
What is your writing style in a few words?
Efficient, emotional, and entertaining.
What’s your favorite part of the writing process? Your least favorite part? Why?
My favorite part is speaking with readers. My least favorite part is working through the first third of a book. It’s what I consider getting “over the wall”.
What superpower would you like to have?
As Uncle Ben in Spider-Man said, “with great power comes great responsibility.” I’m not sure I want a weird superpower. I think many people think writing and drawing comics is a superpower. If that’s the case, then I’m good with having this particular superpower.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Depends on the book. It can take just a few months or it can take a few years.
How do you deal with critiques of your work?
I usually find critiques interesting. I’m going to write what I write, so critiques don’t change my work trajectory, but I do find that people’s opinions change over time. I would be interested in seeing someone change their critiques over time.
If you went on a desert island and could only bring two things, what would you bring?
A boat, and as much long-lasting food (beef jerky?) as I can carry. I figure I can make some kind of paddle. In any case, the moment I’m there I’m going to find a way to the mainland.