Author Interview: Ken Mora Graphic Novelist
JMR- Welcome to the Books Delight, Ken. Tell our readers where you live, what you do for fun and what does the perfect day look like?
KM- Hi Jeanie. First thank you for this interview and your review of Caravaggio: A Light Before The Darkness on GoodReads.com.
I’m a writer living in West Los Angeles, California. My perfect day would be starting with a strong cup of coffee and a good stare into space. Then getting elbow-deep in philosophical media (I’m a huge fan of Closer To Truth, and podcasts like Things You Missed In History, and 99% Invisible), I also like swimming, eating a satisfyingly large meal, playing poker and relaxing with my adorable wife and our dogs.
JMR-What’s your favorite historical time period? Why?
KM- Wow, there are just SO many, but currently I’m exploring the turn of the 20th Century. That time’s explosive insights into Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity, and its titans of mathematics and physics. This era interests me because these giant personalities forcefully advocated for their view of how the universe works. However, unlike in the arenas of politics and religion, these egos could ultimately be persuaded by testable scientific argument.
JMR-Who is your favorite historical figure? Why? If you could ask them one question, what would it be?
KM- Taking a step away from both Caravaggio’s Baroque era or the 20th Century, I would have to say Isaac Newton. Newton had a paradoxical metaphysical obsession at the same time he was pioneering the foundations of our mathematical and practical understanding of reality. I would ask “Did you have a vision for providing the tools for esoteric discovery as well as material exploration?”
JMR- Ken, I read and reviewed your graphic novel earlier this year. How does telling history through this medium differ from writing a novel? What advantages/disadvantages are there?
KM- Truly a picture is worth a thousand words, so the challenge of visual story telling is not to repeat what is seen on the page, but to add to it in a way that entertains on every page. Matching the pace of story development and revelation is a key component, and balancing the sparseness of dialog with informative action, much like screenwriting, is an entirely engrossing balancing act.
JMR- What does the reader gain/ loose in the telling of history through pictures vs. words?
KM- Again, like screenwriting, your window into character is overwhelmingly informed by their actions. We are (largely) not privy to their thoughts except in how they physically interact with people and the world. Among direct actions on the page, all irony, paradox, and interpersonal subtleties are only discernible via expression, posture, and dynamic action, with considerable aid of composition and color. So you gain a greater contextual vision of character, and lose the deep dive into that character’s self awareness.
JMR- Is history told this way more interpretive? Does each reader see something different?
KM- That’s a great philosophical question. While as a pure study guide, visual story telling falls short on deep-dive information, it’s supremely incisive (done well) in conveying how a character lives and is involved in his or her culture. Both writer and reader are more free of the ordering of information that strict prose can impose. In visual storytelling, you can plumb greater depths of tone, motion, and composition when describing your characters world. How do environments mold and restrict character actions and responses. How does the creator exploit visual opportunities to enhance the experience of the reader? The answers determine how each reader interprets and builds their vision of the storyline. The challenge is to guide that chain of subjective experience toward the thematic goal for which you are aiming.
JMR- Ken, tell us about your book, Caravaggio: A Light Before the Darkness.
KM- In my late-in-life return to education I earned my Bachelor’s Degree at USC’s Roski School of Fine Arts. There, my study of painting techniques led me to be enthralled by the works of Caravaggio. He’s described by many in the movie industry as the world’s “first cinematographer.” Then on exploring his choice of derelicts as models for saints and the holy family, I understood the harried artist yearning for compassionate acceptance. An acceptance that his society, and he himself, could not grant. I found huge fault in the shallow characterization of his volatile personal history, portrayed as the hallmarks of a mere ‘dark and brooding artist.’ A stigmatization, as I discovered, that was established when his first biographies were penned by his rivals for Church patronage.
JMR-What projects do you have in the pipeline?
KM- I have three (which I would advise against for any fledgling Graphic Storytellers). The next in queue is Caged Birds, two issues of which are available on Comixology under my own imprint Bella Fe Media, as well as the Markosia Enterprises version, where I will continue the series through its projected sixth issue conclusion. It’s a European cinema inspired “psycho-melodrama” of two women of different races and classes who struggle against sexism in their disparate worlds to somehow come together on their own terms.
JMR- Tell our readers how to find you on social media and the web.
KM- https://BellaFeMedia.com or https://KenMora.com are active, I have a GoodReads author page at https://www.goodreads.com/ken_mora and my social media handle for Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter are all @BellaFeMedia
JMR- What question were you hoping I’d ask but didn’t?
KM- These are all great questions, and the only thing I would add, as advice to fellow authors, would be the question: “What do you think are the value of competitions, reviews and critiques for a writer just starting to grow their fanbase?”
First, I would say that critique in development is crucial to the honing of a work of literature. Few are the creators that can distance themselves from the challenges of clarity, consistency of theme, and credibility of character, without previewing an audience’s reaction to early drafts.
Next, once published, reviews are important because they allow prospective readers to separate ‘signal from noise’ in a crowded and competitive market. Reviews allow a creator’s audience to find them.
Lastly, placements in judged competitions are crucial guides to a writer’s future growth. I’ve been very successful in the arena of screenplay competitions, and those have strengthened this adaptation of Caravaggio: A Light Before The Darkness going in to Graphic Novel competitions. I’ve been honored with a win at the Screencraft Cinematic Book Award, and finalist placements in the Wishing Shelf Independent Book Awards, National Indie Excellence Awards, and the Eric Hoffer Award for Independent Publishing so far, and those accolades give me confidence to continue to create.
JMR- Thank you, Ken, for an erudite and informative chat. It's been a pleasure. Readers, I know you'll be interested in seeing Ken's book, so I've added an Amazon link below. Check it out!