Micah, can you tell us a little about yourself, about the book, Burdens of Draco, where it came from, how it came to be, and how long it has taken you to get where you are?
I was born in Marion, Indiana. From a very young age I loved super heroes; as a kid, I would play with action figures for literally hours on end. When I got older I started watching cartoons and reading comic books. As time went on, my love of storytelling grew. After I earned my degree in leadership at Indiana Wesleyan University. I then married Maggie Metz; she has been my biggest support and cheerleader during the book writing process. Currently, my wife and I live in Marion, Indiana.
As for the graphic novel, I have been writing it for four years. I have been writing and re-writing, editing and tweaking, making sure the story has an impact on the reader--making sure that it is a story that not only excites the reader but moves them emotionally. With help from a few sample readers and my editor, A.J. Ellis, the story is now complete. The rough page count for the story is 245, which makes for a pretty hefty graphic novel. That is why we are splitting it into four volumes that will each be around 80 pages. I am most excited to see how reader reacts to the twists and turns placed throughout the book and the interesting characters that they will meet.
Not to be negative, but let's be realistic. There are tons of indie and mainstream books out there right now. What makes you think that this one, Burdens of Draco, out of so many others, done by two people that no one has ever heard of, will find a foothold or make an impact? What makes this story so special?
Being realistic implies that my dreams may not come true and that this book may not happen. I know that is a possibility. I also know that there is great potential in the Burdens of Draco to impact the way some people think about comics. This project will be a success if our supporters buy into it. I believe that wholeheartedly. Why do I have so much faith in my story above others?
The impact that comics and cartoons have had on me throughout my life has to do with two main ideas: art and storytelling. With the help of others, I have rewritten this book more times than I can remember, diving into every aspect. Everyone knows hard work does not guarantee success (or even a good story). So, what makes the book so special? The history of Tronun is complex and dramatic. Since the race of people are eternal beings, the timeline for some characters you meet extend back to before the graphic novel's events take place. The history is intended to give the reader a better idea of what the world was like before Burdens of Draco. This rich history and background give characters a more realistic feel. As the reader, you will get to know and love these characters because they are each very unique. Later, if this story does well, readers may see two more 15 issue series going back into the story's history, showing what transpired before the events of Burdens of Draco.
Of all the things you could write, why write comics? Why not something else? What's the allure?
This story actually was a book first. I wrote the 300 page book in about three months. The story came out of me and would not stop till it was finished. Once I was finished a friend read it for me. He stated that it was so packed full of information that he was having trouble grasping everything. I went back to the drawing board like most writers do. Once I realized that books were not my true love but comics were, I knew what needed to happen. In the back of my mind I wanted it to be a comic but I didn't think I could do it. I didn't know anything about formatting, script writing, or storytelling from panel to panel. So I researched and researched; I asked artists who were in the business; and I began to write.
The allure of comic writing comes from the kid within me who looked so fondly at the characters on the screen who were going through hard things. Batman the animated series comes to mind. I remember that the heroes and villains were complex. Batman struggled with revenge and the idea of killing his villain adversaries. Clayface struggled with the idea that he cannot be the man he once was and has to live with the monster he has become. These complex dilemmas made me want to do a comic instead of a book. Seeing on paper the looks of remorse, evil, anger, etc. on faces of my characters has such a huge impact on the reader. That is why I am so attracted to this art medium.
Can you tell us a little about your process?
I start with an outline. The basics are a huge step. I figure out who's in the story, what they want to do, and why they want to do it. Next I take the characters and put their names on index cards and tape them to my wall. I then write a short biography for each one of them to get to know them and make them feel real. Once I have gotten to know them, I start writing the story. I spew it onto the paper without any care for punctuation or sentence structure. I look for flow in that process. As ideas come out, whether good or bad, they come out freely and I don't sit staring at a blank screen.
Once I have finished spewing, I begin to read through it and slowly edit it. Then, when I feel I have a good story, having deleted all the crap that initially sounded cool but wasn't, I get down to the details and see what I need to add and make the grammar and sentence structure correct (my editor helps me with this part). When everything is said and done, I have a couple people read through the story and critique it. The important part here is to find people who are hard to please and will be brutally honest. Then I go back and fix what I need to fix again.
Where does your inspiration come from and how you go about putting words on paper?
My inspiration comes from God and music. The Bible is a very interesting book full of stories that have captivated people for a very long time. I put those inspirations into words by using what I like about the stories themselves and the devices within them. I have always thought that a good story has elements of other good stories in it. There's a reason that people all over the world read the Bible for reasons besides learning the truth within it. The Bible is a book that tells stories of people that we can relate to, people that did amazing things, and stories cause us to pause and think. When I put those elements into my own writing and make it my own, I may be imitating people but that is what makes anyone in their profession good at what they do. For example, look at J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis's work. They sometimes used great story themes from the Bible, history, and other books and tried to make theme different and unique with their own spin. That is my goal as well.
As I wrote, I listened to lots of different soundtracks. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Oblivion, Tron Legacy, Deadspace, Mass Effect, The Last of Us, Man of Steel, 300: Rise of an Empire and more. Music has the amazing power to help me envision things and keep certain a mood I am going for.
What are some of the tools you use to write?
After I tape the index cards to the wall I use string and this helps me to connect what characters have met and what kind of relationship they have. I also use paper taped to the wall around my office. On it I have a long timeline of everything that has happened in the Draco universe from the beginning. Keeping important facts and details makes the universe feel seamless and allows the reader to get sucked into that reality.
What or who are some of your influences?
The influences come from the Bible, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Cowboy Bebop, Attack on Titan, Death Note, DC animated shows, The Matrix trilogy, Alien saga, Hunger Games, Troy, The Walking Dead, The Dark Knight Returns, and Band of Brothers.
Is it difficult seeing something in your mind and then have it drawn in a way that may be completely different?
It can be difficult to let go of certain things I envision a certain way. It depends on how attached I am to an idea or character. That's why we go through the stages of concept art.
What is the most important thing you want people to walk away with after reading this book, Burdens of Draco?
The most important thing is that they don't walk away. My hope is that when they finish Burdens of Draco they will want to turn back to the beginning and start the story over because there was so much they did not catch the first time through and they want to relive it all over again.
Do you have any words of wisdom, or lessons learned, to offer other writers who may also want to journey down the creating-comics path?
If you are writing because you want to make it big or you think that this could be a huge money maker, then stop. The process is so involved and so strenuous that if you do not love what you are doing, then you probably will not finish with a product that someone else will love. A passion for your story has to be on your heart. This style of writing is not like writing a book. If you do not draw and write, then get ready for your story to take on someone else's vision as well.
Lastly, be prepared to spend money. Artists need to make a living. Save what you have and be determined. Money can be your friend. The project is more important than love of money. I want people to share in the story with us. That is my passion and any writer who wants to try this should have the same types of goals if they wish to have a chance of succeeding.