When deviantART HQ announced they were Introducing Madefire Motionbooks to deviantART, the writers amongst us were again asking "what about us?". Madefire seems pretty awesome, but what can we do as writers to get involved? The answer is LOTS. In an interview with Writer, Comic Book Artist, Publisher and Madefire co-founder Liam Sharp, we find out a little bit more about what Madefire can do for writers, and a little about Liam himself...
"Madefire is undertaking an epic journey
One that we believe will revolutionize how stories are told, read, and shared. One that will transform a once static medium into an interactive experience that unfolds dynamically on mobile devices, and evolves with each new episode." about
My name is Liam Sharp. I'm mostly known as an artist, but I'm also a novelist and a publisher – formerly in print, recently in the digital realms. I've worked on most of the big-name superhero books at some stage or other at both DC and Marvel, as well as drawing more cerebral fare for Vertigo, adult fare for Verotik, and personal fare for Madefire and Mamtor. I've also worked on a couple of major movies.
What originally got you interested in writing?
I’ve written for as long as I’ve drawn, which is to say – for as long as I can remember! I think my great love is storytelling – myth-making – in pretty much any format.
What was the first piece you ever wrote?
I couldn't say for sure… I remember writing a drawing a comic about a lion-headed man and his friend who had the head and wings of an eagle… I wrote lots of humorous, or ponderous poems – for a while I was hooked on epic poetry and dreamed of writing my own Aeneid. (There’s a bit of that in my novel God Killers. I've never fully shaken it.) I also wrote strange little surrealist plays, and others inspired by Woody Allen, with a character called Horrace Wurt – basically my own down-trodden alter ego…
When did you start realising that you could make a career out of writing and how did you go about the publishing process?
It was a lengthy process, and it remains just a branch of my career rather than the main piece of it. I spent some seven years writing God Killers: Machivarious Point and other Tales. I then had to write it again because I had learnt so much in the process. I read it was a good idea to self-publish in order to get an agent. Thankfully I already had a respected (albeit very small) publishing company, so we put it out through Mam Tor Publishing. I got some great reviews, wonderful feedback from such luminaries as China Mieville, Mike Carey, and Douglas Rushkoff, and a cracking 4 star review in SFX magazine. Very exciting. Ricardo Pinto introduced me at the book launch at a literary convention in Leeds. All heady, exciting stuff! The first print-run sold out, so we went to another printing. Still pretty tiny sales, but it did get me noticed, and I wrote a lot of short stories that were subsequently published, and it secured me a fantastic agent in the US.
How did the transition of publishing your writing differ from the publishing of comic books?
I have to come clean – I LOVE writing much more than drawing. Most of my career I’ve drawn other people’s stories, and generally characters I’m not in love with. It’s relentless, Groundhog Day work. You’re the director, set designer, choreographer, lighting technician, art director, make-up artist, key grip, and all the actors… and it never lets up. It’s hard, hard work. I’ve talked to a lot of artists about this, and we’re all agreed – it never gets any easier! No matter how much you draw, every new drawing is as hard as the last. In writing I can loose myself in the words. It flows through your finger-tips, and hours pass in dreamlike moments. I often look back at what I’ve written and it’s like it’s been channeled - I don’t recall how I wrote it, and it often seems like somebody else’s voice to me… That’s kind of magical! I’m pretty dyslexic, so I don’t have very good skills when it comes to structure of planning. I trust my imagination to take me where I need to go, and I try to write as beautifully as I can. Words matter to me. I love being challenged by great writing!
What has been the highlights of your writers journey?
It has to be my next book, Paradise Rex Press, Inc. It’s a very strange book indeed – part urban horror, part auto-biography, part treatise on being an artist, part free-form rant… It has bits that are plays, chunks of poetry, strange beat sensibilities. It’s the most scary, honest thing I’ve ever created. And it’s important to me because China Mieville fell in love with it and wrote me the most wonderful introduction. China is a genuine great - a literate, intelligent and challenging genius. Having him write my introduction for the love of it touched me very deeply, and made me feel like a legitimate writer for the first time. It’s very exposing, calling yourself a writer. All the creators I know feel like frauds one way or another…
Paradise Rex comes out in September from PS Publishing. I’m so excited – and scared!
What would you advise those who are just beginning their journey as a writer as a key to success? What about those who are trying to break into publishing?
I think it depends on what your criteria for success is - I can’t talk about fiscal success when it comes to writing, but I can talk about what makes you a writer. It’s quite simple – if you write, a lot, and you finish stories, articles, scripts, whatever, well then you are a writer. You have to not want to do it, you have to actually do it. That doesn't make you a good writer, but it’s a start!
The best advice I've had is this – have somebody read your work back to you. That way you hear if it has flow, or if it is stilted. You hear the melody, and you hear the repeat words you didn't notice in the writing. Too much repetition can kill a good book. Rethink all clichés. Clichés really are dead poetry, over-used truths. Find new way to say the same old thing. And be elegant, poetic and hard-working. Craft every sentence. Care about the language. Words are your friends. A good sentence will reveal the meaning of a word you might not know.
Lastly – be brave!
How did you get involved in Madefire?
Through a combination of frustration with print – small press is hard, expensive, and time consuming. You have to do it for love, not to make money! I spent a good portion of a few years working for no pay to make the books we created happen. It’s relentless. Ultimately I couldn’t see how to make it work, but there seemed to be an opportunity to create something special in the digital realm. At around that time I hooked up with an old friend of mine, Ben Wolstenholme. He had had great success with his branding agency Moving Brands, but at heart he was a storyteller and a very gifted artist. We started to throw ideas around about what a reat online reading experience might look like, and we just kept going with it… Ben was brought out to California by his work, and that proved to be the best place to chase this dream of ours. We got funded by True Ventures, and they introduced us to our third founder, Eugene Walden, the tech genius who built us an amazing digital story-telling tool. And here we are!
The literature community want to get excited about Madefire, but we’re not really sure what it is and how it works! Can you tell us a little bit about Madefire?
It’s a way to build Motion Books on iOS and the web using our motion book tool, which will be free. You’ll be able to login – it’s in the cloud, so any browser will do – and start making books. It can manipulate images, create an intriguing comic-like experience, or more illustrated text, or just pure text. It really is only limited by your imagination! I’m actually working on a motion book version of my first novel God Killers right now, which I intend to publish in chapters here on dA.
How will the Madefire tools be used for writers? Especially those who perhaps are not graphically inclined, but would like to use it as a text only based tool, or with minimal illustration?
You can make pure, simple text books, with a tap right to progress through the book. Or you can add other elements – word reveals, even a little motion, sound if you want. We’ve found that images aren’t necessary to make it a satisfying experience. I think it’s going to be really fascinating seeing what people develop. And it can be as pure or as experimental as you like – that’s the fun bit!
Do you think the Madefire tool will encourage people to spend more time reading text onscreen? If so, how?
I hope so! Mainly because it will be something new! And every book will be it’s very own unique experience. You want have any idea what to expect, which I think is wonderful! It’s pioneering, frontier territory!
Although you have written and drawn comics (and examples of your work are already being shown on the Madefire tool), would you consider using Madefire as a writer to show your work?
Yes, and I am doing exactly that with God Killers, as I mentioned earlier! Really enjoying it!
Are there any useful tutorials for using this new feature with literature? If not, who should an interested deviant watch to get those updates as soon as they happen?
Yes, there will be. Everything you need to know will be on the motion book page – motionbooktool.deviantart.com
Where do you see the scope of possibility the new Madefire tools could take a writer, that perhaps they won't find with traditional tools and publication routes?For me it comes down to this: We’re putting creative power in the hands of the creators themselves. What we, as a community, choose to do with these tools will be liberating, exciting, and I’m certain will also contain a heavy dose of the unexpected. As with all new mediums, the promise of what we can deliver has yet to be seen, but whatever it may be, I’m extremely excited to see it!
"The journey toward a new era in storytelling is just beginning. And we don’t consider this path to be ours alone. Stories belong to the world, to everyone, to you. So we hope you’ll join us for the ride—we promise you an adventure unlike any other." about
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- Added to the groups i'm in