As a teenager, Queenie Chan started drawing out of boredom, but what started as a pastime became a professional career after Chan submitted a portfolio to manga publisher TokyoPop. After a stint working on The Dreaming, Chan found her work in high demand. Among her many projects has been a series of graphic novels based on Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas books. The most recent, House of Odd, is available now. Chan was kind enough to take a few moments out of her very busy schedule to talk with me about Odd.
Where are you right now? What does your studio look like?
I’m in Sydney (Australia) right now, where I’ve been all along! I’m sitting in my studio, which is actually quite small and plain… I have a small computer table where I have my laptop and my big computer monitor, and I draw on that small space with a drawing board. Since most of my work is drawn on an A4 sheet of paper (and the rest digital), I don’t need a big workspace. People are often surprised by my studio for that reason – because I draw really fancy backgrounds, they expect me to be sitting in a cathedral while I draw or something. I do have a lot of soft toys, that I made myself, scattered around my workspace though. I have pictures of these on my website: www.queeniechan.com
How’d you get started drawing? Did your parents think this would be a good career choice?
I only started drawing when I was 18, later than most people by far. I started partly because I found my computing degree at university dull, but also because I had stories I wanted to tell in the form of comics. Turning such a thing into a career was a pipe dream, but when I graduated in 2002 in the middle of the dot-com bust, I found that I couldn’t find a job in the field I was trained for. Eventually I was able to wrangle a job at an LA-based manga publisher called TOKYOPOP, but my parents were apprehensive about it. In their minds, they wanted me to be able to support myself, and being an artist is a surefire way to being financially unstable. However, due to the success I’ve had since, they’ve become really supportive.
You’ve worked on a lot of manga. Who are your favorite artists?
I done work in a lot of different styles, but most of these are manga-influenced, because these were the writers/artists I grew up with. With manga, a lot of these are writer-artists, and even after all those years, I still find Tezuka Osamu (the creator of Astro Boy) the most influential out of all my favourite artists. He wrote and drew a lot of different kinds of stories, and that opened my mind when I first read his work at 15. Apart from, some of my favourite artists include Takehiko Inoue, who does a fantastically-drawn series called Vagabond. There’s also Takeshi Obata of Death Note, who is not a writer at present, but he does very beautiful, clean-lined artwork.
How did you come to be involved with Dean Koontz’s House of Odd?
I started working with Dean Koontz on the first Odd Thomas graphic novel in 2007, called In Odd We Trust. This particular book sold like hotcakes, and so there was interest in doing more. The second book that came out, Odd Is On Our Side, was a #1 New York Times bestseller, so eventually there was a third book as well, which was House of Odd. I like Odd Thomas (the character), and so when House of Odd came about and they asked me to draw the project, it wasn’t hard to say ‘yes’ to it!
What did you most enjoy about this project?
Drawing Odd Thomas the character. I have a lot of affection for Odd (and also his girlfriend Stormy), and it makes me smile to draw him, because he’s such a great guy. His situation is unfortunate, but despite being hounded constantly by the silent dead to solve their problems, he takes it in very good stride. He could have turned out a very different person due to his circumstances, but he actively chooses to be a good person, and to use his powers for the benefit of other people. He’s also a very expressive character, and that makes him fun to draw (him and all of his Pico Mundo friends too).
What are you working on now?
I’m currently doing a project called Small Shen, which is a prequel to a series of fantasy novels by Kylie Chan, called White Tiger. The novels are best-sellers in Australia, and Kylie sought me out to do the prequel, which will be published late 2012. I’m doing something different with this book – it won’t be a straight-forward graphic novel, but will be a mix of prose and comics. This is done to preserve Kylie’s voice as the writer (the novel for Small Shen was finished but unpublished when it was given to me), but also bringing nice art and comics to the table when called for. Kylie’s website is: www.kyliechan.com