Let’s Meet An Author, illustrator and Teacher Mike Gagnon
We recently interviewed Mike Gagnon who started his career creating comics and writing film reviews. Since then Gagnon has worked in comics and graphic novels, journalism, film and television and more. He recently released Crime novel ‘Skidsville’. We had a chat with him about his career and this recent release in particular.
Pro Media Mag : Please introduce yourself to the readers and how and when did you first get into writing?
Mike Gagnon : Well, my name’s Mike and I’m an author, illustrator and teacher that lives in the Niagara Region of Canada. I’ve been working in creative fields professionally since about the year 2000, and I’ve had my work published by firms of all sizes including Marvel, Classics Illustrated and more. I ‘ve written comics, novels, film, commercials, all kinds of stuff. I really got into creating stories as a kid, and I was convinced that I was going to be a full-time, life-long, creator owned comics creator for a long time. Years. I remember along the way my mom actually suggesting “Maybe you should try writing novels?”. Of course in the arrogance of youth I dismissed it, but with the wisdom of age I’ve realized she was right. It happened naturally over time, I just started to gravitate toward and enjoy writing even more and things just seemed to line-up. Opportunities to write became apparent. I worked for some great small press companies like TwoMorrows Publishing for their comic industry magazines, BlueLine Pro for Sketch Magazine and daily newspapers like “The Owen Sound Sun Tines”, the hometown newspaper of where I lived at the time. So I guess I was always into writing since I was a kid, creating my own comic book stories that I would draw, but professionally, it was really those early years starting in 2000, writing for things like the Greyhaven Magazine website, Back Issue Magazine, Sketch Magazine and became the focus of a lot of my work, though I do still do comics and illustration professionally.
Pro Media Mag : What is your favorite part about being an author?
Mike Gagnon : I get to create my own worlds and use fictional settings to examine humanity and tell a story that makes people think about the real world. Sort of like the saying from “V for Vendetta”, “Artists use lies to tell the truth, politicians use them to cover it up.” I’m on the artist end of that equation. I always try to include a message about modern society, visible under the surface.
Pro Media Mag : Tell us about your recently released Crime novel ‘Skidsville’?
Mike Gagnon : Skidsville is the story of Joey DuPlacey, a young man whose father was framed for his mother’s murder, leaving him to survive by becoming a street thief and a hustler. Joey’s driving ambition in life if to make enough money to hire a lawyer that can prove his father is innocent, getting him released form jail. Joey’s fantasy is to leave the urban slums that he lives in with his father and start a new life. To meet this goal, he’s begun a relationship with the daughter of the most powerful mob boss in the city, intent on working his way up the ranks and building up his financial nest egg. Unfortunately for Joey, his new mob associated have something else in mind as well as an unexpected connection to his mother’s murder.
Pro Media Mag : What kind of response the novel received so far?
Mike Gagnon : There’s been a great response from readers and fans of crime fiction. Every once-in-a-while I get an email or an online comment about now much they enjoy the gritty urban settings of the story, or how they appreciate that it’s a crime noir that’s told from a different perspective than expected. I think it’s important for an author to credit their audience with the intelligence to pick up those subtle messages that you want to include and do it, not dumb down your stories. Dumbing down stories makes them generic and forgettable. I want people to feel connected to my work because it speaks to them, making it memorable.
Pro Media Mag : Do you need any certain environment or inspiration for writing?
Mike Gagnon : I’m a natural introvert. Most of the time I like to work alone, privately in silence, generally quietly without being disturbed or interrupted. I hate it when real life, interferes when I’m deep into working on a book, but you know, you have to pay ills and interact with family and go outside some times. Occasionally, when I need a boost of energy or inspiration, I’ll work with background music on or move my work to the living room and put on a documentary in the background. Another great approach I try to do when I have the proper access to exercise equipment, is walking on a treadmill for 3-4 hours while voice dictating my work into my iPad. I feel it’s important to change up your habits once-in-a-while.
Pro Media Mag : You are also a good illustrator. You learned this art from somewhere or its natural?
Mike Gagnon : When I was about 5 years old, my mom took me to the mall while she was shopping. I was bugging and whining and wanting everything, like most kids. She decided to get me a Superman comic (Adventures of Superman #425), and when she handed it to me I was enthralled. I took it home and I was immersed in the world of comics. My mind attached and that was it. I started creating and drawing my own stories and making comics when I was about 5.
Pro Media Mag : What inspired you to start teaching artists and writers?
Mike Gagnon : I was between freelance jobs for freelance clients, like Marvel and Classics Illustrated, and an acquaintance of mine asked if I’d be interested in reviewing the portfolios of his graduating class. I did that for a couple of years and eventually they asked if I’d be interested in teaching some writing and illustration classes, I decided to try it and quickly fell in love with teaching new artists and writers. When it comes down to it, although I have been creating stories since I was 5, I still struggled. I had to work hard and fight and learn and build a reputation. It didn’t happen over night. It took 10 years as an adult of struggle and working in the small press scene, before I ever got my first big break with a major publisher. I want to use my experience to help those new artists and writers, give them an advantage and a head start to making a living with their own creativity, that I didn’t have. I had already been teaching private lessons at that time, specializing in special needs students, teaching at and writing as a form of therapy, and that was a very emotionally rewarding experience.
Pro Media Mag : You also won awards for your work and efforts. What’s the biggest achievement so far?
Mike Gagnon : It’s hard to pick one thing that stands out. I really don’t do this for accolades. I do it because I love it and it’s fun and I have a story to share that I hope will connect with people who need it. That means that I really do appreciate any recognition my work gets at all, and it’s hard to rank one over another. I’ve received a poetry fellowship award back in 2007. My graphic novel “Monkeys and Midgets” was the first ever graphic novel to be included as a part of the celebrity gift bags for the Academy Awards or “Oscars” as well as the American Music Awards, both in 2005. Those stand out because they’re kinda cool, but I do appreciate any acknowledgement, and I equally appreciate every book review and every bit of fan mail or social media contact that I receive. Knowing that my work connects with readers is very uplifting. I’ve always said, “If I’m able to help and inspire one person with my work, that’s most important, and makes everything worth it.”
Pro Media Mag : Are you working on any future projects?
Mike Gagnon : Yes. I’m just about to start the editing and revision phase on the first draft of my next novel, “Uninvited”. It’s a vampire story, but without sounding too delusional I hope, I’ll say it’s a unique and unexpected vampire story. The theme revolves around things like relationships, emotional and psychological abuse, manipulation and sociopathy; things that are deeply personal issues for many who can’t talk about them in the open. Of course, like any traditional vampire story there’s also a healthy dose of sex, drugs and blood. I’m also working on illustrating the graphic novel version of Skidsville. I had originally conceived of the story as a graphic novel and had several false starts on production. Commitments with work and clients meant I had to postpone it indefinitely. I could make time to adapt the script into a novel, much faster than drawing it all, because it was technically already written, and that novel adaptation is what has been published now. Thanks to its success and my schedule having some open time between projects, I’m working feverishly to complete the artwork and release a graphic novel version of both of those. Readers can find samples of the artwork as well as my other books and buy copies at www.gagnonwrites.com