The ASTER & THE ACCIDENTAL MAGIC Creators: Thom Pico & Karensac

Congratulations on Aster and the Accidental Magic! For readers who haven’t heard, what’s it about?

Karensac (K): Thank you! We’re pleased to have our little Aster at Random House Graphic with so many other good stories!

Thom Pico (TP): We’re telling the story of Aster and her dog, Buzz, who live on an extremely magical mountain. Aster is used to living in a city and has to learn how to appreciate the surrounding nature. And regardless of what she wants, she’ll have to save the mountain from magical creatures.

K: It’s a beautiful story full of magic and humor–great for every reader.

 

Where did the inspiration for this story come from?

K: Aster’s environment is inspired by my childhood spent in the mountains, by my dog, and by people around me. And also by all the comics and cartoons I watch!

TP: That’s how we decided to work together! We’re both fans of the same cartoons, like Gravity Falls and Star vs. the Forces of Evil . . .

K: Adventure Time, Hilda, Studio Ghibli’s movies . . .

TP: Steven Universe and Over the Garden Wall. . . . Anyway, we had some common references that put us on the same page. From there, the story practically wrote itself. In general, we decided that we’d write comic strips since we can’t create a cartoon (we aren’t animators!)

 

Aster is clearly a force—she’s so expressive and fearless, and she has some strong opinions about her new home. Why were these characteristics important to you, and what are the benefits and consequences of Aster being this way?

TP: It seemed important to portray Aster as fallible—someone who can be wrong or make really big mistakes. Actually, it’s her own impulsivity that creates half the problems she is confronted with.

K: This means she has room to progress. Aster isn’t perfect, so she can always improve—and she can learn from her mistakes. It makes her more human, more endearing, and through her experiences, she can grow.

TP: And all that without considering how fun and funny it is for us to give life to such a strong-willed character!

 

We love that these first two stories take place in different seasons. Is that an important part of Aster’s journey? And if so, why?

TP: As Karensac said, Aster is growing over the course of her adventures. Changing seasons allows us to give a sense of time passing.

K: And we can show Aster growing more and more throughout her adventures. Between the first and the second stories, she has already become more thoughtful and more sensitive of other people’s feelings. Also, visually, it’s nice to change seasons.

TP: Changing seasons is essential to Aster’s adventures—each one has a personality, which becomes an important aspect of the story.

K: We can’t say more, or we’ll spoil the story!

 

The story has a host of great secondary characters, including Buzz and the Chestnut Knights. Who are your favorites, and can you tell us a little bit about their importance to the story and their design?

K: I really like the Chestnut Knights, especially Leaf, their leader. These audacious little chestnuts aren’t scared of anything!

TP: Like Aster, all the characters possess strong personalities, which makes writing them really enjoyable.

K: Same with drawing! And it shows in their design. They’re all unique and important in their own way.

TP: I think that’s why Buzz is my favorite character. He makes mistakes like Aster, but he’s growing, too.

Introducing Bug Boys creator: Laura Knetzger

The creator of Bug Boys explores the world of little bugs and big feelings in her new graphic novel.

Congratulations on Bug Boys! Can you tell readers what the story is about?

Bug Boys is about two best friends who are little beetles. They go on adventures, learn about the world around them, and sometimes, they just stay home to talk about their feelings.

What inspired this awesome tale?

I was doodling while watching a documentary about insects called Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo, and I challenged myself to draw a cute version of two of the bugs I saw on screen—a stag beetle and a rhinoceros beetle. I was so pleased with the designs that I drew them over and over, and decided to make comics about them. Drawing Bug Boys comics was so fun, I kept making and self-publishing them until there were enough short stories for a book.

Stag-B and Rhino-B spend the book exploring and going on adventures. Why did you tell this story from a bug’s point of view?

I wanted the readers to think about what life would be like if they were much smaller physically than they are. I meant this both in an aesthetically cute way—I love little things like dollhouses and miniatures—and in a philosophical way; I wanted readers to consider experiencing the world at a different scale. I really like the work of Ursula K. Le Guin, who writes speculative stories about cultures that have one magical difference from our world that affects every aspect of their culture. I like thinking about how imagining yourself as small as a bug could change your worldview.

One of our favorite things about this book is the vulnerability and honesty you see in the characters. Why do you think this is an important component in kids’ literature?

I wanted to make a comic where the characters’ talking about what happened was just as important as the action—or even where there could be no action at all. I think it’s pertinent for children’s books to discuss feelings in detail so that kids can learn a vocabulary for talking about and acknowledging complicated feelings—I wanted to show that happy days can be tinged with sadness and that you can admire someone and still recognize their bad traits.

Your book is on the inaugural list of Random House Graphic! How has your experience been working with the RHG team?

Working with RHG was great. I’m very impressed with how the final book looks!

Introducing The Runaway Princess creator: Johan Troïanowski

What inspired The Runaway Princess?

The Runaway Princess sprung out of the stories that made an impact on my imagination as a child—Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, the French comics Philémon by Fred, Don Rosa’s Donald Duck comics, and fairy tales like “Little Red Riding Hood.” It’s a mix of fantasy, adventure, poetry, and humor.

 

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