My name is Liam Sharp. I'm mostly known as an artist, but I'm also a novelist and a publisher – formerly in print, recently in the digital realms. I've worked on most of the big-name superhero books at some stage or other at both DC and Marvel, as well as drawing more cerebral fare for Vertigo, adult fare for Verotik, and personal fare for Madefire and Mamtor. I've also worked on a couple of major movies.
I’ve written for as long as I’ve drawn, which is to say – for as long as I can remember! I think my great love is storytelling – myth-making – in pretty much any format.
I couldn't say for sure… I remember writing a drawing a comic about a lion-headed man and his friend who had the head and wings of an eagle… I wrote lots of humorous, or ponderous poems – for a while I was hooked on epic poetry and dreamed of writing my own Aeneid. (There’s a bit of that in my novel God Killers. I've never fully shaken it.) I also wrote strange little surrealist plays, and others inspired by Woody Allen, with a character called Horrace Wurt – basically my own down-trodden alter ego…
It was a lengthy process, and it remains just a branch of my career rather than the main piece of it. I spent some seven years writing God Killers: Machivarious Point and other Tales. I then had to write it again because I had learnt so much in the process. I read it was a good idea to self-publish in order to get an agent. Thankfully I already had a respected (albeit very small) publishing company, so we put it out through Mam Tor Publishing. I got some great reviews, wonderful feedback from such luminaries as China Mieville, Mike Carey, and Douglas Rushkoff, and a cracking 4 star review in SFX magazine. Very exciting. Ricardo Pinto introduced me at the book launch at a literary convention in Leeds. All heady, exciting stuff! The first print-run sold out, so we went to another printing. Still pretty tiny sales, but it did get me noticed, and I wrote a lot of short stories that were subsequently published, and it secured me a fantastic agent in the US.
I have to come clean – I LOVE writing much more than drawing. Most of my career I’ve drawn other people’s stories, and generally characters I’m not in love with. It’s relentless, Groundhog Day work. You’re the director, set designer, choreographer, lighting technician, art director, make-up artist, key grip, and all the actors… and it never lets up. It’s hard, hard work. I’ve talked to a lot of artists about this, and we’re all agreed – it never gets any easier! No matter how much you draw, every new drawing is as hard as the last. In writing I can loose myself in the words. It flows through your finger-tips, and hours pass in dreamlike moments. I often look back at what I’ve written and it’s like it’s been channeled - I don’t recall how I wrote it, and it often seems like somebody else’s voice to me… That’s kind of magical! I’m pretty dyslexic, so I don’t have very good skills when it comes to structure of planning. I trust my imagination to take me where I need to go, and I try to write as beautifully as I can. Words matter to me. I love being challenged by great writing!
It has to be my next book, Paradise Rex Press, Inc. It’s a very strange book indeed – part urban horror, part auto-biography, part treatise on being an artist, part free-form rant… It has bits that are plays, chunks of poetry, strange beat sensibilities. It’s the most scary, honest thing I’ve ever created. And it’s important to me because China Mieville fell in love with it and wrote me the most wonderful introduction. China is a genuine great - a literate, intelligent and challenging genius. Having him write my introduction for the love of it touched me very deeply, and made me feel like a legitimate writer for the first time. It’s very exposing, calling yourself a writer. All the creators I know feel like frauds one way or another…
Paradise Rex comes out in September from PS Publishing. I’m so excited – and scared!
I think it depends on what your criteria for success is - I can’t talk about fiscal success when it comes to writing, but I can talk about what makes you a writer. It’s quite simple – if you write, a lot, and you finish stories, articles, scripts, whatever, well then you are a writer. You have to not want to do it, you have to actually do it. That doesn't make you a good writer, but it’s a start!
The best advice I've had is this – have somebody read your work back to you. That way you hear if it has flow, or if it is stilted. You hear the melody, and you hear the repeat words you didn't notice in the writing. Too much repetition can kill a good book. Rethink all clichés. Clichés really are dead poetry, over-used truths. Find new way to say the same old thing. And be elegant, poetic and hard-working. Craft every sentence. Care about the language. Words are your friends. A good sentence will reveal the meaning of a word you might not know.
Lastly – be brave!
Through a combination of frustration with print – small press is hard, expensive, and time consuming. You have to do it for love, not to make money! I spent a good portion of a few years working for no pay to make the books we created happen. It’s relentless. Ultimately I couldn’t see how to make it work, but there seemed to be an opportunity to create something special in the digital realm. At around that time I hooked up with an old friend of mine, Ben Wolstenholme. He had had great success with his branding agency Moving Brands, but at heart he was a storyteller and a very gifted artist. We started to throw ideas around about what a reat online reading experience might look like, and we just kept going with it… Ben was brought out to California by his work, and that proved to be the best place to chase this dream of ours. We got funded by True Ventures, and they introduced us to our third founder, Eugene Walden, the tech genius who built us an amazing digital story-telling tool. And here we are!
It’s a way to build Motion Books on iOS and the web using our motion book tool, which will be free. You’ll be able to login – it’s in the cloud, so any browser will do – and start making books. It can manipulate images, create an intriguing comic-like experience, or more illustrated text, or just pure text. It really is only limited by your imagination! I’m actually working on a motion book version of my first novel God Killers right now, which I intend to publish in chapters here on dA.
You can make pure, simple text books, with a tap right to progress through the book. Or you can add other elements – word reveals, even a little motion, sound if you want. We’ve found that images aren’t necessary to make it a satisfying experience. I think it’s going to be really fascinating seeing what people develop. And it can be as pure or as experimental as you like – that’s the fun bit!
I hope so! Mainly because it will be something new! And every book will be it’s very own unique experience. You want have any idea what to expect, which I think is wonderful! It’s pioneering, frontier territory!
Yes, and I am doing exactly that with God Killers, as I mentioned earlier! Really enjoying it!
Yes, there will be. Everything you need to know will be on the motion book page – motionbooktool.deviantart.com