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  • Writer's pictureManju Howard

How Author Teresa Robeson Opened Her Latest Graphic Novel with a Bang

For this month’s post, I’m thrilled to feature my dear friend and amazing award-winning author Teresa Robeson. Her latest graphic novel, Who is Tibet's Exiled Leader? The 14th Dalai Lama, was illustrated by Angela Poon, published by Penguin Workshop and released on April 4th.

Kidlit Creatives Members: Penguin will send a copy of Who is Tibet's Exiled Leader? The 14th Dalai Lama to the winner. Plus, Teresa will send a signed bookplate to the winner separately. For a chance to win this special prize, follow the directions at the end of this post.

First, I want to share illustrator Angela Poon’s digital cover art!

About the book: Follow the Fourteenth Dalai Lama’s harrowing escape to India in 1959, as he fled Chinese suppression of a national uprising in Tibet. A story of risk and political tension, this graphic novel invites readers to immerse themselves in the incredible story of the Tibetan spiritual and political leader — brought to life by gripping narrative and vivid full-color illustrations that jump off the page.

Manju: Hi Teresa! Congratulations on your new graphic novel. I believe Who is Tibet's Exiled Leader? The 14th Dalai Lama is your work for hire (WFH) project. Were you given certain criteria for how to write it?

Teresa: Technically, yes, it is a WFH because the copyright belongs to Penguin. But in many other ways, it's like a regular book deal in that I receive(d):

a) a byline

b) an advance

c) royalties

Their criteria were that the book has to be 64 pages and that it focuses on a very specific period/event in a life (can't be a birth to death account). But other than that, we're given fairly free rein.

Manju: Please take us through one spread of your graphic novel. How did you plot each panel?

Teresa: I'm going to share the opening spread. I knew that I wanted to "open with a bang," so to speak, and what better way than with the triumphal parade as the Dalai Lama returns from having successfully completed his doctorate degree in Buddhist Studies? The panel for the parade had to be large because I wanted it to show the glory of the procession.

Next, because the book is short, I wanted to have the inciting incident (or a part of it anyway) right away, so it had to be in the same opening spread. I figured that it would make a good page-turning point, too, and imagined it to be near the end of the spread.

In between the parade and the inciting incident were some filler bits that take the reader from one scene to the other. I played those steps out in my head and then tried them on paper (or, rather, in the Scrivener program). Another thing I wanted to show was the beautiful room in Norbulingka Palace where His Holiness often held audience. Luckily, this melded well with all the necessary intermediate panels.

One thing I had to keep in mind throughout the project is that you can't have too much dialogue because that won't leave enough room for the art, which is vital for this format. There's a reason why it's called graphic. If people wanted huge chunks of dialogue, they can read a novel. 😉

Thanks very much, Teresa!

Teresa Robeson is the APALA Picture Book Award-winning author of Queen of Physics: How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom. Having grown up in the big cities of Hong Kong and Vancouver, British Columbia, she now lives with her family on 27-acres in rural Indiana where she relaxes by birding, keeping up with science, making soap, knitting, baking, and trying to impress the chickens with her bilingualism.

Prize offer: For your chance to win a copy of Who is Tibet's Exiled Leader? The 14th Dalai Lama and a signed bookplate - read the post, leave a comment on our Kidlit Creatives page (must be a member) and share this interview on your Twitter or Facebook.

Deadline to enter is Wednesday, April 12th.

All posts on Manju's blog promote members of Kidlit Creatives: Create, Query & Support

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