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Fox & Rabbit Q & A with Beth Ferry

We’re lucky to live in a world with rapidly expanding graphic novel options. Every time I turn around there’s something new.

One of the most unique graphic novels I’ve read recently is Fox & Rabbit. The second book in the series, Fox & Rabbit Make Believe, just came out, so I talked with author Beth Ferry about it.

Travis: Hi Beth! Thanks for taking my questions.

Beth Ferry: Hi Travis! Thanks so much for having me.

Travis: These books have such a distinctive voice – how did that come about?

Beth: This is my first foray into graphic novels and I was hoping to create characters that were likable and memorable as well as a friendship that was relatable and believable and most of all, fun! Because I was writing for emerging readers, I wanted to reinforce the stories with repetition.

This was the first time I’ve written a story with no narrative and it was challenging, but surprisingly fun, to use only dialogue. I think the distinctive voice might come from the repetition – it was satisfying to give the characters some catch phrases and callbacks that the readers could anticipate and appreciate.

Travis: I love the recurring joke of Tortoise showing up late for every story. Where did that idea come from?

Beth: I’m not really sure. I was looking for a silly way to wrap up each story and the idea of a tortoise always being late and missing everything, although a little cliché, worked really well. It’s a little sad, but pretty funny too. I hope it’s impossible for readers not to empathize with poor Tortoise.

Travis: I think people have a good idea of how fiction and picture books are written, but not so much about graphic novels. What is something about writing in this format that people might not realize?

Beth: Graphic novels are all dialogue and illustration which is what makes them so fast and fun. So much of the story is told through the art – setting, emotions, and interactions, but the dialogue holds its weight by conveying plot, tension, character development and often, resolution.

Writing a graphic novel is a lot like writing a screen play (not that I’ve ever done that) so reading a graphic novel is similar to watching a movie – it’s just dialogue and pictures. Unlike picture books, there is a place here for copious art notes! In Book 1, I had over 100.

But ultimately, as a writer, dialogue is the only tool available to get everything done – it needs to introduce the characters, give insight into who they are and what they want, develop and explore relationships and conflict, all while constantly moving the story forward. Oh, and it also has to sound completely natural!

Travis: How does the collaboration work between you and illustrator Gergely Dudás?

Beth: Gergely’s art inspired the entire idea of Fox & Rabbit. He is fantastic at conveying expressions and relationships through facial expressions and body language with characters that have NO mouths. It’s amazing!

As I said, I wrote the stories based on his characters. He then sketched them out and we tweaked from there. But there really wasn’t much tweaking on his part because he immediately got the personality of the characters and was able to create an environment that suited them perfectly. He was also able to so beautifully underscore their relationship and to make the whole idea work. He is extremely talented and easy to work with and has no problem revising something until it is exactly right.

Travis: Key Question: What snack puts you in peak creativity mode?

Beth: Chips and guacamole always make me feel like writing. And eating.

Thanks, Travis!

Travis: Thanks for taking my questions, Beth!

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.