Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!
We’re Dave & Liz Lillie, the owners of Vivid Publishing and our own series, ‘Dreamkeepers.’ An action-fantasy cartoon, it’s an ongoing graphic novel series that has branched out to include a prequel webcomic, spinoff novel, tabletop game, and full orchestral music score.
What is/are the real-life story(ies) behind your book(s)?
The premise is straight-on fantasy, but the real life provides rich inspiration for personalities and scenarios. One would think bloodthirsty nightmares seeking mindless destruction wouldn’t have many real-life parallels, but surprises abound.
What inspires/inspired your creativity?
What is life otherwise? If we weren’t doing this, we’d be doing something similar. I don’t know where the drive originates, but like sharks, we move forward. It’s just what we have to do.
How do you deal with creative block?
With comics, drawing and rendering images takes so long, that it’s easy to have story laid out ahead of time. Sparks tend to fly when we go for long walks together, and we jot down notes for later use. If I’m thumbnailing a specific comic strip and having trouble with dialogue, I just put pencil to paper. Doodle, write silly dialogue, anything. The brain shifts into ‘work’ mode, and then the block is just gone.
What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?
Lacking a point. Know what you’re saying, or you can’t say it at all- much less in a captivating fashion.
Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?
For titles, think of a gripping original idea. Then Google that idea, and try again. Titles and cover design are hugely important. It has to be punchy, memorable, and accurately convey the gist of the content to your potential audience. The simpler and more vivid, the better.
How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?
It’s evidence people care. Use everything at your disposal to improve- especially negative feedback. But remember, only you are the author. Only you understand what you are aiming at, and why. Anybody that can help you hit your target more effectively? Great. The people telling you to aim somewhere else? If they can’t help you, make some observations about human nature to file away for later, and move on.
How has your creation process improved over time?
Experience has made everything tighten up and go smoother. The most difficult parts early on were, when we felt something was off but couldn’t articulate why. Now we can see the underlying reasons faster and with greater clarity.
What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entireprocess of completing your book(s)?
The worst discovery was the wretched state of the overall market. Businesses using monopolized distribution to control shelf space, and every other dirty trick in the book. In my naivete I thought the creative world would function like a marvelous customer-serving meritocracy, but whew. Gatekeepers ensure otherwise. The best thing was connecting with people we never would have met otherwise. Fantastic, kind readers at conventions. Funny people, talented people- composers, voice actors, coders. Our work seems to serve as a gravity well of talent, putting us in contact with the best folks we’ve ever met. It’s humbling and very fun.
Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
It’s a paradox. You cannot write to indulge someone else’s vision, or it will suck the soul from your work. Writing to please someone else will make your work ring hollow. Write for your own satisfaction. But at the same time, you must understand PRECISELY what your vision is, why you are telling this story, what the purpose of that story is. Have a unique vision for the value you wish to deliver, and the message you wish to impart, to your ideal reader. Then give them what they need, what they want- whether they understand it yet or not.
What role do emotions play in creativity?
Great at generating visions and content, but bad at refining and editing it. Go wild to generate raw power, then apply craft and cold analysis to shape it into something that holds together.
Do you have any creativity tricks?
Pencil and paper, or going for walks.
What are your plans for future books?
We’re completing Volume 5 of the Dreamkeepers graphic novel saga at present, with plans for the entire series to encompass 20 volumes total. Prelude is nearly ready for a second collection, and we also have early production rolling for a video game adaptation, and possibly a pilot for an animated series. Delegation is a skill we are developing as quickly as possible.
Tell us some quirky facts about yourself
David used to climb trees too much, but now contents himself to chopping wood in the backyard. Liz plays the harp, when she’s not covering it in marvelous seasonal décor.