In September of 2009, I had the good fortune to meet one of my favorite authors, Sir Terry Pratchett. Through a quirk of emails, I even got a chance to do some work for him, designing t-shirts, pins and plush toys for the merchandise cottage industry that has sprung up around his novels (Hi PJSM prints! I mean Discworld.com!). I became a part of Terry’s unofficial North American Posse, and a couple times when he and his assistant Rob visited the US, I got the chance to eat near them and chat. Cartoonist that I am, I felt it my duty to talk them into doing some more graphic novel adaptations of the Discworld novels, the last one being nearly 20 years ago. The polite pestering began.
Eventually, I pitched an angle that Terry liked. This was in 2012, at the New York Comic Con. Excitement. I work on a script, and character designs. With some minor tweaks, Terry approves both. Rob talks to the publishers on my behalf, and wrangles a deal. This only takes a few more years, during which I don’t say anything, because who wants to jinx a deal that isn’t finalized? Inbetween the ‘we like this idea let’s do it’ and the ‘getting paid enough to get started’ timeframes, I get married and produce a small child.
The contract comes through. The drawing begins. Sir Terry dies. I still haven’t said anything publicly about the project, as it isn’t the time for that sort of thing. Numerous peoples, aware of my fandom and ambitions to adapt, console me that now I never will get the chance. I grit my teeth, wipe my tears, drink some whiskey, and draw draw draw. 2015 was the year of the most amount of drawing I’ve ever done, at least 10 hours a day, 10 days a week. The book comes together. Rob likes it, especially considering I drew him into the background, as jokingly requested.
I finish drawing the book in November of 2015. The last month in a mad panic of deadline. A few things I wanted to go back and touch up don’t happen, and several last minute ideas get implemented through a haze of caffein. Done. Off to the printers.
The book is to come out end of July, and the UK Discworld Convention is in August. No one on the publicity side of things has determined whether or not they need my involvement in promoting the book, but the wife and I, with invaluable input from the baby, decide to spend the summer in the UK, in case they need me. It’s really hot in California, and we don’t have anything else important we need to be working on really.
It’s really hot in the UK too, but we muddle through. Wander up and down the country, to places we’ve been before, and places we haven’t. The baby has a ball, chasing chickens, hugging sheep, jumping in mud, and eating rocks. We don’t lose him or drop him or set him on fire hardly at all.
A book signing is set up for me at Forbidden Planet in London. I arrive slightly late and frazzled due to some of the tube stations being closed, but there is a queue of people waiting for me, and bottles of water, and a very large pile of books to be signed. Usually my book signings at this point consist of convincing people in the bookstore to come and talk to me, so having a throng of people waiting for me to draw turtles on their copies is a welcome change. This sponging off other people’s fan base sure makes things easier. Every single person I talk to in person is unfailingly supportive and wonderful.
The convention agrees to have me on as a last minute guest, and finds stuff for me to do to earn my keep. I give a talk on graphic novels in general, and the graphic novel I just did in specific. I sign more books. I help children paint rocks, which means giving them paint and telling jokes while hiding behind a chair. I draw for everyone who asks me, delighted to get attention. I buy people drinks, and get drinks bought for me. I judge a hedgehog race, possibly for charity. I chase a small child through a hotel at 2 o clock in the morning several nights in a row. I dress up all fancy, but not as fancy as the fanciest fanciers.
And then in the blink of a Gatwick, I am home again, wondering what will happen next.
Getting to adapt and illustrate Small Gods as a graphic novel, to condense the brilliant book into 120 pages was a thrill, a pleasure, an honor, and an awful lot of work. If that’s all I ever get to do, playing with the toys in the sandbox that Terry built, I was a lucky man.
And if I am very very lucky, and it ‘does well’, they may even let me do another one! Which novel would you like to see adapted next?