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December 20th, 2011

All about Greg Chapman

I'll admit I haven't done much reading this year. I've had multiple deadlines on one job (which hopefully will pay off in lots of books for 2012), and increasingly frantic run-as-fast-as-you-can business on the other (in what I now think of as simply The World's Busiest Bookstore). Most of what I've managed to get in reading-wise this year was by friends.

But even in a good year, one filled with tons of reading by both large and small presses and in multiple genres, I think Greg Chapman's novella The Noctuary would stand out. I started working with Greg this year on the graphic novel Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times, which I co-wrote with Rocky Wood; Greg was an Australian artist Rocky asked to illustrate the project. As we were corresponding nearly every day for months, we naturally started to talk about writing, and I read Greg's first novella, Torment, which I thought was very good.

But The Noctuary was something else. Just take a look at the blurb I gave Greg: “Both elegant and visceral, violent and darkly witty, Greg Chapman’s The Noctuary is an insightful look at the processes of creation and the birth of horror. His sinister muse, Meknok, is one of the most intriguing new horror characters since Clive Barker unleashed Pinhead, and indeed The Noctuary is occasionally reminiscent of Barker’s grim beauty, while being very distinctly its own beast. The Noctuary is rich, compelling, and unsettling, and Greg Chapman is obviously a writer in complete possession of his own sinister muse.”

Given how much I liked his book, I was happy to provide Greg a little space in my blog (which is something else I hope to get back to in 2012!) to talk about his work. Enjoy!

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You might not know this, but I’m also an artist, specialising in comics and graphic novel illustration.

Lisa recently asked me about how I approach a piece of prose and a piece of artwork and for me I find that the two processes overlap quite easily.Being an artist I find it quite easy to visualise a scene when I am writing. When I create a character in my head for a piece of writing, I can literally see them; I can see where they live and in a way I map out my tales as if they are a comic or graphic novel or even a film. That way I can capture the intended mood of a scene properly.

For about 12 months now I’ve been illustrating a non-fiction graphic novel on the history of the persecution of witches. The script was supplied by two writers and apart from a few rare occasions, it’s been easy to interpret the script into a finished illustrated page.

There’s one particular page that called for a crowd of onlookers watching six women being burned at the stake. The script wanted the focus to be on the onlookers; to emphasise the horror on their face. I decided that the expressions on the onlookers faces were more important than the burning women (and there had already been many pages of witches burning throughout the book) so I pulled the image in so there was only a hint of flame. There are about 8-10 onlookers and I strived to make each person’s expression unique. I needed to put what these people down on paper. It’s probably one of my personal favourite pages from the
book.

With my new novella The Noctuary, I imagined the main antagonist, a hellish creature named Meknok, very early on in my head. Since then I’ve actually drawn several pictures of him. I appreciate the reader might imagine him differently in their own mind’s eye, but I created him artistically so as to make him more whole, more real, which in turn helped when I was describing him in the book.

I enjoy drawing and illustrating, but obviously the act is more labour intensive than writing. But when I'm writing and imaging imagery in prose form, the two processes for me are essentially the same.

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Click here to order The Noctuary - you won't be sorry. I certainly wasn't.