Missouri Boy Leland Myrick sheds his skin as a graphic novelist and turns his attention to the fantasy genre with the release of his debut novel, The Ten. The first in a planned trilogy called The Kingdom of Graves, the book follows the warrior Jorophe as he is inducted into a secret corps of elite fighters—the eponymous Ten—tasked with saving the world. Myrick's savvy worldbuilding, in-depth characterization and vivid imagery made this book one of Kirkus' top Indie picks of 2012. As we noted in our review, The Ten is "an examplar of storytelling and character-driven adventure." Kirkus recently caught up with Myrick from his home in Pasadena, Calif. He weighed in on why he prefers writing to illustrating, his favorite contemporary fantasy authors and his longtime love of Dungeons & Dragons.
You're known for your illustrations, and have published several graphic novels. What made you want to try your hand at novel writing?
I not only illustrate, I've also written [these books]. The book that's done the best, Feynman with Jim Ottoviani, that was the only one I've ever illustrated and not written. Every other book, I've written also. I've always been into fantasy and wanted to write. So I decided to dive right in. I've always played Dungeons & Dragons and all those crazy things. It's what I like. I still play, once a week.
Are you the Dungeon Master?
You're a very visual writer, and your imagery is extremely vivid. Was this a conscious choice on your part, or something that occurred naturally?
I think part of it comes from comic book writing. When you write for a comic book, you are describing a scene and trying to make it vivid in the illustrator's head. Even if I'm the illustrator, I write it out as a script first. It comes naturally to me to write that way. I think it reflects the type of writing I'm drawn to, authors like Glen Cook, Joe Abercrombie and Guy Gavriel Kay.
What was it about The Ten that lent itself to words and not images? Were there any scenes you particularly struggled to write?
At one time, after the first draft was done, I thought about adding illustrations to The Ten. In the end, though, it wasn't really what the book was so I decided to leave them out. The book could easily translate into a graphic novel at some point—most novels can.
But no, drawing for me is way harder than writing. Drawing, it's like I bleed over every single page. I find writing more natural. I was an English major in college; writing comes more naturally to me. I only started drawing because I had an idea for a graphic novel. But comic book artists are notoriously flakey, so I figured I'd do it myself. My first comics were very crappy, but they got better as they went along.
Writing is more natural to me than drawing. If I have a choice between the two, I always write.
What was the self-publishing process like, and how did it compare to the traditional publishers you've worked with in the past?
It's fairly simple these days with Amazon and Smashwords and all those kinds of places you can take your work to self-publish. It takes a lot off the writer, but you still have to deal with the marketing. That's the tough end of it if you're doing everything yourself. With the graphic novels, [my publisher] First Second, which is part of Macmillan, has that giant marketing arm behind them and can do all of those things for me. I worked with a few people, friends of mine, who read the same kinds of things who were able to tell me what works and what doesn't.
Was not having an editor difficult to adjust to?
In graphic novels, you don't necessarily have an editor breathing down your back. Even so, I was always aware of having to send my things to my editor and there can be a lot of changes, like there were for Feynman. So it is a very different kind of process. There's no one person who's going to have the final word on the book—it's all up to me. I did play around and send The Ten to a few agents. I had an agent at the time and all of the changes he wanted were pretty bad. He's not my agent anymore, by the way.
But it was a very different process than working with a traditional publisher. I like both, but they're both different. And doing pure fantasy was different than the things I'd done in the past.
Fantasy writing is all about the worldbuilding – for me, anyway. You're building worlds with meaning. We all want to live meaningful lives and fantasy allows us to live meaningful lives in meaningful worlds that we create. It's a life filled with significance. Sitting in my studio in my backyard doesn't have the same kind of significance as sitting around with your friends and comrades, debating philosophy and battling for things that matter.