I find fantasy easier because I can set the rules and parameters of that world,’ says author and illustrator Curtis Jobling, creator of remarkable people and memorable parallel universes
Curtis Jobling, whose work includes the cheery, yellow-hatted, dungaree-clad Bob the Builder, the muddled up Frankenstein's Cat and Raa Raa the noisy little lion, describes himself as a 40-something who loves to laugh, likes curry too much, has ridiculous facial hair and spends a lot of time with his fantastic family.
Over e-mail, this author/illustrator talks about his work, journey, dreams and his latest offering Wereworld — a series based on the exploits of 15 year old Drew, a shepherd’s son who suddenly discovers he is the last of a long line of werewolves and the rightful ruler of the kingdom of Lyssia.
How did you conceptualize your characters?
Bob was never my idea; I was brought on board to design the show from scratch, which I did. It was my big break as an illustrator. The other concepts arrived into my head piecemeal, simple ideas that slowly take shape over time. I let them simmer in my mind for a while like a good curry before submitting them to paper.
You graduated from the Cleveland College of Art & Design in Middlesbrough, England and then got into movies. Tell us about your journey?
My first work in television was on the Oscar-winning Wallace & Gromit's A Close Shave, followed by painting work on Tim Burton's Mars Attacks! I then worked on my portfolio as an artist and just as my last pennies were running out I heard about a new studio setting up in Manchester, England. I gave them a call, went to meet with the producer, and there and then she offered me the job to design Bob The Builder.
I am at an early stage of developing a new fantasy series for Penguin to follow on from the success Wereworld, but I’d love to return to that particular world in time too. I just want to keep writing, entertaining people. I can’t see myself returning to film and television - I have too much fun as a novelist to consider that now.
Are there going to be new additions to the Wereworld series?
Like I say, it'd be great to write more. There are six presently, which conclude in fine fashion with War of the Werelords, but we're already getting requests for further novels I've five more books in my head, but they'll have to remain there until my publisher decides they'd like more!
You've always been interested in fantasy and grew up on a diet of Star Wars and Dungeons and Dragons. Tell me something about it and how that influenced your work.
As a child of the 70’s, Star Wars was a seminal part of my life growing up. Dungeons & Dragons was the game my friends and I played throughout my teenage years. I moved onto other role playing games as time went on and invariably ran them when I went to art college. That’s where I learned to tell a tale and spin a yarn.
What goes into writing a fantasy novel? Is it harder/easier than one set in the real world and why?
A large component of fantasy novel writing is the ‘world building’ that is required, in order to make that world believable and accessible for the audience.
It is something that comes naturally to me as I've been doing that for years in my role-playing games. In a way I find it easier because I can set the rules and parameters of that world.
You are also a blogger and are active on social networking sights like Twitter and Facebook. Do you see it as a better way to connect to your readers? How do you leverage those websites to build brand Curtis?
I like to talk and meet fans, so I've made my presence accessible online - it's a great way to let fans reach you as an author and creative. I know it would've made me very happy to be able to speak to my favourite authors when I was younger.
Tell me more about Bada Bling (his company). When did you create it? Also where did you derive that rather interesting name from?
Bada Bling is a cover-all for all my work in film, illustration and publishing. The company is run by my wife and I and the name is derived from my surname (Jo-Bling) which is what I sign on paintings and in books.
It's also a nod and a wink to my favourite film (The Godfather) and the TV show The Sopranos.