Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Kickstart This!

What does "family" mean to you?

To me, I think of both the wonderful people I've been fortunate to be both biologically and legally related to, and the amazing people I've gathered around me to build my "urban family." Together with these people, I've been able to build a safe, supportive, loving buffer around me, so that whenever we are all together, it just feels like "home."

I know I am truly blessed in that I have both kinds of an awesome family. I have dear friends for whom their only family that deserves the title is the collection of friends they've made as adults. I also have dear friends for whom growing up in unusual families was a challenge until they realized that the only thing that really mattered was the bonds of love.

I know it might be some heavy thinking for what is supposed to be a blog post about a child's book, but this is what I think about when I look at the artwork and read the blurbs for Victoria Jr. 
Being the only human in a world of creatures and magical things might seem overwhelming to most, but not Victoria. She embraces her uniqueness and strives to create, like her father and her grandfather.

I know I say this for pretty much every project I share here, and at the risk of wearing it out, I'm going to say it again: I just adore this project.
Victoria Jr. is a collection of stories about the only human girl living in a world of creatures that were created by Frankenstein's Monster. The monster took her in and named her after Victor, his creator. She was adopted into the Monster's family. It's a place for her to feel safe and be herself. The book is about her embracing her misfit nature in a loving adoptive home.
And I love the story behind this project.
The Idea was inspired by a local organization called Sally's House. They take in kids who've been removed from their homes. We love what they do in providing a safe haven for children who go through trauma to have safety and protection. With budget cuts and increasing demand Sally's house needs our support, so we're using the success of Victoria Jr. to host a fundraising event later this year as well. 

In fact, I love this project so much I hunted down the creator of this project, Manny Trembley, and asked him a zillion questions. And he answered them!

You just reached your THIRD stretch goal! How awesome is that? You've still got a couple of weeks, and it doesn't look like the number of backers is showing signs of slowing down. What's the next goal going to be?

I'm honestly a little shocked we hit $10,500 in 2 weeks. It's pretty intense. It's ultimately why I do Kickstarters. Putting your art/story in the hands of fans (or hopeful fans) it makes everything more personal. I love that.

My first Kickstarter, Martin Monsterman did a little over 12k and had 279 backers. Victoria Jr. is looking to demolish both of those. I'm nervous-excited.

As I type this I am looking at having 2 branches of further stretch goals. The first is backer numbers. I'd love to see 500 backers before this is over. My wife Lisa said she wants to see double what it is. 600-700. Yikes. If we hit 500 backers we will give buttons, magnets, bookmarks as a thank you to most of the pledge levels. We haven't ironed that out yet.

The second is probably going to be a coloring book at $13-14,000, with 16-24 pages of Victoria, family and monsters. This will probably be a combination of existing book art and other stuff I make. I feel the need to keep making art before work, over lunch and late at night. If we hit that then I have a small art book I want to print that is called Monster Book of Hugs. It's a collection of Victoria hugging and hanging out with all kinds of monsters/creatures. It's all still being formed. So don't hold me to this until you see it on the Kickstarter.

I have seen the illustrations of Victoria hugging different monsters on your Facebook page, and let me tell you, I'd want one of those for myself. So cute.

I really like how Victoria is adopted and finds acceptance and love in a non-traditional family. I think it's important for kids to be able to see their own unique family structures represented in the stories they read. Can you tell me a little about your inspiration for creating these characters and this series of stories?

I was raised in a family where I didn't realize the man I called "Dad" was not my biological father. I learned that in 6th grade. I took my dad's last name at that point and was legally adopted as his son. Stories about fathers and their children is something that is a big deal for me. And now that I am a dad (a 4.5 year old and 3 year old, both boys) I feel an even stronger pull to write and express how I feel about fatherhood.

I also love to pieces Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. It's a personal favorite. I'm a fan of the created/creator discussion at play in that book and it has fueled a plethora of stories in that world of monsters, parents and children. I came up with Victoria almost accidentally. I named her that because The Monster named her after Victor Frankenstein. At the time he named her Junior because he didn't know it wasn't typical to name a girl junior. So, technically her name is Victor Frankenstein Jr.

As a dad the idea of creating a home that is safe and loving is super important to me. I'm no expert in parenting but it seems to me that a home filled with unconditional love and care allows a child to express themselves more, maybe step out a little more, more willing to fall and make mistakes and potentially creates a security knowing that the parents love them no matter what. I love to hear that my boys love "Momma Night" (time with just her) and they love "Boys Night" (Mom's night out). So, for me, Victoria Jr. and its cast is the expression of that home for a child to be confident, daring, bold and empowered. Empowered through support and love and not only through their inner self work. There are plenty of stories about a person, girl or boy that must become these things on their own. And that is admirable and inspiring. But as a parent with the capacity and desire to build a home of unconditional love, I want to embolden my children with and through love. Some might think this is cheesy. But there it is.

Cheesy is good. I like cheesy.

The other important thing that I want to capture is that notion of imperfection in family. I might paint a picture of perfect, unconditional love. I know that we don't live in that world. Parents yell. They get mad. They have baggage and an entire life that influences their parenting as well as all the things that haunt them. The Monster for me is that idea personified. Talk about a rough upbringing. The Monster was not loved at "birth." He was despised. He could not live up to his father. Victoria is being raised by an imperfect man/creature.

Kids eventually learn that mom and dad are NOT perfect. I feel it crucial to apologize to my boys. Ask for forgiveness. Tell them "I don't know" when I don't know. Walk with them instead of pretending I'm SO far ahead of them. So this book rides the two ideals.

I feel like I need to make some comment about making mistakes and being human, but...

Is this the Sally's House you're helping? What's your connection with their work? Why did you select them as your beneficiary?

Indeed that is the place. Last summer I participated in a charity softball event to raise money for Sally's House. It was my first interaction with them. My good friends were the people running that event. And I also exist in a constant quandary regarding the point of my art. Does it have merit? If so, why? I want my art to have meaning without being a "self-help" book or a direct tale of morality. So I made the decision to infuse my stories with my heart's intent to love kids. More specifically, hurting kids. Kids who might not have the type of home I want for my children (and all kids).

In January I decided to just jump in. Make a book that is inspired by the idea of kids in a loving home. I had drawn 24 pages last October of Victoria. It felt like it fit for my next book and it had the same DNA of Sally's House without being a direct story about a child being taken from a home and then being kept safe, etc. That was too on the nose.

I met with my friends, Jason and Ashlee Talley, who ran the softball event and asked for them to help me figure this out. They've been amazing fonts of knowledge and support. I shared my goal.

Step 1: Make a book and get it funded.
Step 2: Run a fundraiser for Sally's House.
Step 3: Do it again every year if they'll have me.

I can see if this fundraiser is successful we'll look for other organizations to help. The world is rife with people to help. So, instead of doing nothing, I am choosing to do what little I can. If I raise $500 for those kids that will be awesome.

After I met with my friends, I posted to Facebook, "if anyone wants to help me run a fundraiser for a non-profit with my book, PM me." My friend Ray messaged me within minutes and he is now a massive help as we barrel forward towards my first fundraiser for kids. It's a dream come true for me.

Yes, Ray is the person who brought Victoria Jr. to my attention on Google Plus!

I can't stop thinking about how loving her relationship with her family is. The image of her and her dad for "Wrong Side of the Bed" just warms my heart so much. Is there an autobiographical aspect to your work as well?

Sure. My boys are a font of inspiration. Wrestling, playing, coloring, going for walks, adventures, pillow floors, "got your nose," etc. When they stub a toe or bonk a head, I offer to swap body parts. It's become quite the game.

Also, we want to adopt. More specifically, my wife is excited to adopt a little girl. And it scares me. Adding another child scares me. Adding a girl to our home scares me. I think this book on a more personal note is me wrestling a little with adopting a girl. I feel the pull to adopt a little girl. My boys say we should but deep down, I'm scared and that fear is something I need to wrestle with.

What has been the most surprising thing that's happened since you launched this project? Has anything fun or interesting come up that you didn't expect?

Well, the success of this Kickstarter has been a little mind-numbing. And humbling. There is a little girl who offered her piggie bank money for Victoria Jr.

I didn't set out to make a girl hero. I've been told numerous times that there are not enough empowered young girl characters in comics or cartoons. And a fair number are seeing Victoria Jr. as that type of inspiration. That's a little scary for me as I set out to make story about family and this little girl is fast becoming more than simply a character in a book.

I can't speak for everyone, obviously, but I think that's exactly what I'm most excited about. She's just a kid, doing awesome stuff, who happens to be a girl. She's not representing the entirety of girl-hood. 

I love Kickstarter. I love making books. And I love the idea that a book can be more than just a book.

Yes. A good book is quite often more than just a book.

So there you have it, folks. If you're not already backing Victoria Jr., you really should be.


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